‘Gala Day For Navy’: Russia’s New Diesel Electric Submarines Finally Enters Service Despite All The Troubles

Though marred by trouble for a long time, the Kronshtadt diesel-electric submarine of Lada-class project 677 was finally inducted by the Russian Navy at the Admiralty Shipyard in St. Petersburg on January 31.

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“It is a gala day for the Navy, as we accept a new-generation submarine based on new physical principles and armed with powerful weapons. The submarine will operate in a brigade of the Northern fleet,” Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Nikolay Yevmenov said at the ceremony.

The submarine joined the Northern fleet’s Kola flotilla, the Russian Defense Ministry announced. The submarine’s reliability, maneuverability, and stealth features were validated during trials, according to Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Nikolay Yevmenov.

Russian state television Zvezda covered the commissioning of the Kronstadt into the 161st Submarine Division of the Northern Fleet.

Project 677 submarines are fourth-generation, non-nuclear vessels. They are authorized to conduct autonomous operations against surface combatants and submarines within the defined region and cruise missile attacks against terrestrial targets and coastal areas under anti-submarine defense.

Long delays have plagued the development of the new vessel. Still, its acceptance by the Northern Fleet indicates that in contrast to the rival US Navy, the Russian Navy is still committed to fielding new nuclear-powered and conventionally powered submarines, with an eye on far-seas operations.

Besides the diesel-powered submarines, Russia is also building eight more nuclear submarines – three Borei-class and five Yasen-class. The Kronstadt, for one, has had a troubled development phase and took several years to be commissioned after the keel was laid.

After the Sankt Peterburg, the Russian Ministry of Defense halted work on the Kronstadt, Project 677’s first serial submarine, in 2009, and it wasn’t finished until 2013. The Sankt Petersburg, a prototype for the Lada class, encountered issues when it was put into service in 2010 and appeared to be about to be retired, but it’s unclear exactly what went wrong.

The Lada submarine was finally launched in 2018, but its sea trials weren’t initiated until 2021 due to ongoing maintenance. The vessel Lada was supposed to enter service with the Russian Northern Fleet by the end of last year, but the authorities pushed even that deadline.

The Russian Navy has experienced increased activities, particularly those far out into the Atlantic, over the last ten years, following a protracted period in which its primarily Cold War-era submarine force stagnated. The Russian Ministry of Defense reports that the navy has acquired 24 submarines of differing designs in the previous ten years, which is eight times more than it did in the ten years prior.

“If 20 years ago the delivery of each boat was unusual, today we are beginning to get used to the fact that this happens regularly,” stated Viktor Evtukhov, Russia’s deputy minister of industry and trade. He emphasized, “Almost every month, either a surface ship or a nuclear, diesel-electric submarine is transferred to the fleet.”

The Project 677 Lada class was planned to succeed the archaic Kilo-class submarine, which makes up most of Russia’s conventional submarine force. Even in confined coastal constraints, the Kronstadt and her future sister vessels — two already undergoing trials — remain a force to reckon with.

Furthermore, it is noteworthy that the Lada class is capable of firing land-attack cruise missiles, much like the Kilo-class vessels, which have been deployed to the Black Sea Fleet and used to carry out cruise missile strikes on Ukrainian targets.

Russia’s Non-Nuclear Lada-Class Submarine

The vessel’s length is 68 meters, and the surface displacement is 1,750 tons. The maximum underwater speed is 21 knots, while the surface trim range is 6,000 miles at 7 knots. The six 533 mm torpedo tubes and Kalibr cruise missile systems aboard the Lada-class submarines allow for 18 torpedoes and tube-launched missiles combined. 

It could also include the Oniks (SS-N-26) anti-ship cruise missiles or the Alfa multi-role cruise missiles. The vessel can accommodate 35 people, including officers and sailors.  A vertical launch system (VLS), which would increase the capability for such weapons, is absent from the Lada class.

Although the boats can also be used for patrol and surveillance duties, such as anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface warfare (AsuW) activities, their original purpose was to defend naval bases, coastal installations, and sea lanes from hostile ships and submarines.

File:Lada class S.Peterburg.svg - Wikimedia Commons
Lada class submarine art- Wikimedia Commons

Igor Vilnit, the general director of the Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering, the submarine’s developer, said, “We have created a whole series of new equipment, more than 130 units, which were created on new principles, to make this boat more advanced and more combat-ready.”

The Lada has a new design with a towed array sonar, single hull construction, and other contemporary characteristics. It is believed that the Lada is equipped with a conformal array around the bow and the towed sonar. 

Although it’s unknown precisely what the newest Russian sonar technology is capable of. The Lada sonars could offer a significant edge in identifying hostile submarines before they are spotted and acted against.

An air-independent propulsion (AIP) system was intended to be installed on these boats, extending their submersion time and increasing their detectability. If AIP functions as intended, it can give diesel-electric submarine capabilities that can be achieved, though not relatively as high as those of nuclear-powered attack submarines.

The induction of the new diesel-powered submarine in the northern command is evidence of Russia’s commitment to expand its power in the north, which is emerging as a potential flashpoint with Moscow’s rivals.