After the end of the cold war submarine fleet, the United States became the undisputed master of the deep sea. Sailors of the nuclear submarine fleet, which is the elite of the Navy, witnessed the boat as their potential enemy rusting at the piers, because the newly formed Russian Federation was not in a position to service and repair.
But after 20 years of American supremacy from the ocean’s depths rose a new rival. He had some knowledge of American sailors, and in its construction took nearly two decades. This highly unusual challenge to the naval supremacy of the United States, however, that submarines of project 885 “Yasen” the long and formidable genealogy. As this new-old upstart looks in comparison with the current basis of the submarine fleet of the United States — the boat of the “Virginia”?
The concept of the submarine project “Ash” was developed in the mid 1980-ies in the Central design Bureau “malachite”, were part of the Soviet Union in the three main creators of submarines. The construction of the first boat of this project, “Severodvinsk” started in 1993 in Russia the enterprise “Sevmash”. However, due to lack of funding the delivery of the boat was detained for 10 years. In 2010, “Severodvinsk” was finally launched, and in 2013 joined the Navy.
The length of the boat project “Ash” is 119 meters, and displacement 13 800 tons. Her crew of 90 people, much less than similar American submarines. This indicates a high level of automation of systems and mechanisms. In form it resembles an older boat of the project 971 “Pike-B”, but the length behind the cockpit it has more, and there is also a hump, which houses the vertical pad. As noted by the authoritative edition of Combat Fleets of the World, “Severodvinsk” is equipped with a nuclear reactor OK-650КПМ capacity of 200 megawatts, which is enough for the whole lifetime of the boat. It allows the “Severodvinsk” to reach a speed of 16 knots surfaced and 31 node in a submerged position. Other sources report that the boat is slightly faster and reaches speeds of 35 knots. At speeds of 20 knots under water, it can go silent.
Sonar weaponry “Severodvinsk” is presented acoustic system “Irtysh-amphora” with an overall spherical antenna side sonar antenna arrays and towed antenna for search and discovery back. The boat has a radar of navigation and surface search MRK-50 Albatros, and a set of electronic support electronic warfare.
Armament of the submarine consists of four 533-millimeter torpedo tubes and four torpedo tubes caliber 650 mm. One can start self-guided and remote-controlled torpedoes and 3M54 missiles of the “Caliber”, which are presented in different versions (anti-ship, anti-submarine and combat ground targets). Additional firepower the boat project “Ash” provide 24 vertical missile launchers located behind the cabin. Each capable of carrying supersonic anti-ship missiles P-800 “Onyx” with ramjet engine.
Submarine type “Virginia” was conceived as a affordable replacement of short-lived boat of the “Seawolf”, which although had a great performance, but was exceptionally expensive. In this sense, “Virginia” was very successful and eventually formed the backbone of the American submarine fleet.
With a length of 115 metres, “Virginia” just four meters short of “Severodvinsk”. But the displacement of it in half. The crew of the submarine 113 people, and as the power plant uses a nuclear reactor SG9 manufactured by General Electric. The propeller of the boat ducted. The surface speed of her 25 knots, and a speed underwater of 35 knots. At a speed of 25 knots she is as silent as “Los Angeles”, standing at the wall.
“Virginia”, as the Russian boats, the main acoustic station with a spherical antenna, placed in the bow. But since boats series Block III, sonar BQQ-10 was replaced by krupnooptovye sonar-Large Aperture Bow having the shape of a horseshoe. Additionally, at starboard and port side mounted wide angle antenna arrays Light Weight Wide Aperture Array, consisting of two blocks of three fiber optic acoustic sensor in each. These wide angle antenna arrays is primarily designed to detect diesel-electric submarines. Rear radar detection provides a towed passive antenna array TB-29(A). And finally, installed in the fairing of the bridge and in the bow of the high-frequency sonar allows you to “Virginia” to detect and avoid sea mines.
“Virginia” only four torpedo tubes, which produce heavy launches homing torpedoes Mk.48 Advanced Capability (ADCAP) with improved characteristics, used against surface ships and submarines. It also has anti-ship missiles UGM-84 Sub-Harpoon. The first version of the submarine of this type was equipped with 12 Tomahawk missiles to destroy ground targets, which were placed in vertical launchers. In a series of Block III they were replaced with launchers, turret type, with the same number of missiles. The version of the Block V the number of launchers will be increased, and each boat will host up to 40 “Tomahawk”.
Who will win in a direct collision between the “Virginia” in Block III version, which at the time of commissioning of Severodvinsk was under construction, and the Russian sub? The two submarines is the crown of the advanced technologies of the two countries, and their strength in fighting one-on-one will be approximately equal. “Severodvinsk” is slower, but this boat is sinking deeper. Virginia faster, but Combat Ships of the World reports that her body was tested when submerged only up to 488 meters. Perhaps Virginia will have the advantage in sonar detection krupnoizmelchennom thanks to the sonar.
As for weapons, the force, the two boats are about equal, although the “Severodvinsk” is anti-submarine version of the missile “Calibre” allowing him to quickly strike at the enemy submarines using lightweight torpedoes delivered to the target by a missile, very similar to the retired American anti-submarine missile, submarine-based UUM-44 SUBROC.
Submarine type “Virginia” has a higher quality sonar equipment than its Russian opponents, and also lower noise. In submarine warfare it’s just the perfect combination. She moves and conducts the search in such a way that it gives the boat “Severodvinsk”. But one of the important advantages of “Severodvinsk” is the fact that the submarine responds quickly to suddenly appearing targets, having armed with supersonic anti-submarine missiles “Caliber”. As for the near term, the usability of sonar equipment “Virginia” is constantly being improved by upgrading the software. It seems that the “Severodvinsk” there are no opportunities for modernization of sonar equipment, and to make Russian submarines quieter very difficult. Overall, the palm should be given to the class “Virginia”.
In the future the rivalry between these two submarines can take part uninhabited underwater vehicles and many other advanced military equipment. After the end of the cold war, US interest in the submarine war is somewhat faded, but after the events of September 11, they began to pay even less attention to its submarine fleet. But now, when the United States again focused on the strategy of war between the major powers and in particular to underwater combat, U.S. submarines probably will again outperform their Russian competitors.
Kyle Mizokami is a specialist in the field of defense and national security. Lives and works in San Francisco, and his articles are published in such publications as the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009, he became one of the founders of the blog Japan Security Watch.