Roaring In US Backyard, Meet ‘Crown Jewel’ Of Russian Navy, ‘Silent Killer’ Kazan Submarine Stationed In Cuba

Ahead of their arrival in Cuba, the Russian missile frigate Admiral Gorshkov and the nuclear-powered Yasen-class cruise missile submarine Kazan conducted military drills in what has been deciphered as a message to the West amid rising tensions.

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The Russian Ministry of Defense (RuMoD) announced on June 11 that the nuclear submarine Kazan and the frigate, Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov, are conducting an exercise on the use of high-precision missile weapons in the Atlantic Ocean, RIA Novosti reported.

The message from RuMoD read: “The tactical ship strike group of the Northern Fleet, consisting of the multi-purpose nuclear submarine missile cruiser of project 885M “Kazan” and the frigate “Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov,” performing long-range tasks, began to conduct an exercise on the use of high-precision missile weapons in the Atlantic Ocean.”

The report (machine translated from Russian to English) stated that the submarine and the frigate’s crews rehearsed high-precision missiles on marine targets using computer models. The marine targets were ship groups of the notional enemy located at a distance of more than 600 kilometers.

Interestingly, the drills coincide with Russian forces kickstarting the second phase of the tactical nuclear drills with Belarus. The Russian state media, RIA Novosti, published a report titled: ‘From Belarus to Cuba.’ Russia sent a message to Washington,” on June 11 to emphasize Russia’s military maneuvers.

Analysts have observed that the exercises portray Russia as a major world power with influence that extends well beyond its borders. The drills come when several Western officials and observers have inferred that Moscow’s global influence is waning. surmised

There have been reports that the Russian flotilla headed for Cuba was shadowed by US and Allied warships and planes as it made its way to the Caribbean. According to publicly available ship and flight tracking data, Russia’s ships may have come within 30-90 miles of the Florida coast while sailing south.

Cuba reportedly welcomes the Russian flotilla on June 12 for naval exercises in the Caribbean Sea until June 17. The Ministry of Defense of Cuba noted that the exercises are related to historically friendly relations between the two countries and comply with all international rules.

Although both the ships that will participate in the drills in Cuba are nuclear-capable, Havana specified that none of them will be armed with nuclear weapons as it docks in the Caribbean country. Washington has also claimed that the exercises “pose no direct threat to the United States.”

This is not the first time that Russia and Cuba, both criticized and sanctioned by the West, have conducted military drills. The joint drills were conducted every year between 2013 and 2020, which is essentially why Washington views this week’s port call as “routine.”

It may be mentioned that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s warning that his country would arm unnamed nations with weapons capable of striking Kyiv’s Western allies, analysts have now dismissed those concerns.

However, it may be noteworthy that Russia’s Kazan Yasen-class submarine, counted amongst the quietest in the world, will conduct maneuvers in the US’s backyard. It could potentially worsen tensions between the two biggest nuclear powers despite the US underplaying its presence.

Kazan In The Caribbean

Kazan is a Russian Yasen-class submarine, which US officials previously described as sophisticated. It is an extremely quiet vessel “on par with” the US modern submarine fleet. Three Yasen/Yasen-M class submarines—Severodvinsk, Kazan, and Novosibirsk—are currently in service with the Russian Navy.

File Image: Kazan

Five more Yasen-Ms are currently under construction, and Russian officials had earlier declared their intention to purchase three more.

While Russia’s surface fleet is in disarray amid Ukrainian drone attacks, its Yasen-class submarines are still regarded as some of the greatest in the world. The Yasen-class submarine, in conjunction with the Russian Navy’s Borei-class ballistic missile submarines, is believed to be essential for Russia’s defensive and deterrence strategies.

Edward Geist of the US-based RAND Corporation describes Yasen-class submarines as “the crown jewel of the contemporary Russian Navy and perhaps the pinnacle of present-day Russian military technology.”

The 13,800-ton Yasen-class submarine was designed by the Malakhit Marine Engineering Bureau and built by Sevmash Shipyard in Severodvinsk. Another upgraded version, the Yasen-M, has a quieter nuclear reactor, additional sensors, and new quieting technology. The submarine is 119.8 meters long and can travel 31 knots when submerged.

Since the Yasens are effectively cruise missile submarines, they are frequently assigned the unique vessel classification “SSGN” rather than “SSN.” The letter “G” stands for “guided missiles.” The Kazan is capable of attacking other submarines and ships and taking out enemy ballistic missile submarines. It can quickly hit ports and naval sites and is designed to take out carrier battle groups.

Analysts have determined that the Virginia Class of the US Navy and the Astutes of the Royal Navy, the primary Western equivalents of the Russian Yasen-M class, are substantially smaller.

The Kazan can carry the (3M55) Onik missiles, which have a range of 320 nautical miles (or 592.64 kilometers). Submarines used for land attacks can carry the 1,600 nautical mile (3963.2 km) range (3M14K) of Kalibr missiles. Land-attack missions can also be carried out with the Oniks.

Russian submarine Kazan (K-561) - Wikipedia
Russian submarine Kazan (K-561) – Wikipedia

There are eight ΡМ-346 complex (3-14B) vertical launch tubes for Onik and Kalibr cruise missiles on any Yasen-class submarine. The system can launch missiles using the submarine’s surface and underwater positions. The sub can also be equipped with hypersonic missiles.

Alexei Rakhmanov, general director of United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC), had previously stated that the 885 (M) project would deploy Zircon hypersonic missiles on nuclear-powered Yasen class submarines, with preparations already underway.

Writing for Naval News in 2021, OSINT and Naval Analyst H.I. Sutton said, “The Yasen-M Class boats are larger and carry more weapons than their western equivalents. They will also be quicker to field hypersonic weapons (although service introduction is going slower than previously reported). But they carry fewer cruise missiles than the enlarged Block V Virginia Class. This will significantly narrow the gap even before the US Navy adds hypersonic weapons and the anti-ship capable Tomahawks.”

That said, the Yasen-class submarines are notorious for operating close to the United States. When questioned about the threat posed by Chinese and Russian cruise missile submarines operating close to the US mainland, USNORTHCOM commander Gen. Glen VanHerc stated last year that Russia had been deploying its Yasen-class nuclear cruise missile attack submarines more regularly in recent years.

“[The risk is] absolutely increasing. Within the last year, Russia has also placed their [Yasens] in the Pacific,” he said. “Now, not only the Atlantic, but we also have them in the Pacific, and it’s just a matter of time – probably a year or two – before that’s a persistent threat, 24 hours a day. That impact has reduced decision space for a senior national leader during a crisis.”

While the US officials have downplayed the deployment of Kazan and noted that the submarines do not pose a risk as they practice with Cuba, military analysts have said there is always an overarching concern about hostile submarines conducting electronic warfare and collecting intelligence by intercepting signals from adversaries’ vessels.

With its lethal missiles and cutting-edge capabilities, the deployment of these submarines in the Atlantic and the Pacific could also pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies in Europe.