Submarines With Hypersonic Missiles: Russian Most Advanced Yasen-Class Subs To Be Armed With Zircon Missiles

Russia’s highly advanced Project 885M Yasen-class submarines are set to be upgraded with Zircon hypersonic missiles, signifying a massive stride in the country’s naval technology and capabilities. 

In an interview with RIA Novosti, Alexei Rakhmanov, the general director of the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC), said that the nuclear-powered submarines belonging to the Yasen type of the 885 (M) project will be equipped with Zircon hypersonic missiles, with efforts already in progress.

The Yasen-class nuclear submarines are armed with Kalibr and Oniks cruise missiles alongside Fizik-type torpedoes. 

“By decision of the Ministry of Defense, Russia’s multipurpose nuclear submarines of the Yasen-M project will also be regularly armed with the Zircon missile system. Work in this direction is already underway,” Rakhmanov stated. 

He highlighted that the first Russian vessel outfitted with Zircon missiles was the frigate Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov, a part of project 22350.

Russian Yasen class submarine
Russian Yasen class submarine

The integration of this hypersonic missile system onto successive frigates will be carried out in accordance with the plan of the Russian Defense Ministry during both their manufacturing and operational phases, Rakhmanov explained. 

The nuclear-powered submarines of the 885M Yasen-M project represent an enhanced variant of the 885 project. 

Armed with “Caliber” and “Onyx” cruise missiles, these submarines, referred to as “Ash,” are a testament to advanced naval technology. 

Presently, the Russian Navy boasts one vessel from the 885 projects and two from the 885M series, while the construction progress of an additional six upgraded “Ash” submarines is at various stages. 

Zircon missile
Zircon missile

The Yasen-class submarines, also known by their NATO reporting designation as the Severodvinsk class, were crafted to engage carrier battle groups and possess the capability to neutralize adversary ballistic missile submarines, attack submarines, and various types of ships. 

Beyond this, the Yasen-M variant can strike coastal targets like naval installations and ports, showcasing its versatile and formidable prowess.

Meanwhile, the general director of the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) didn’t disclose a precise timeframe for achieving this goal. 

However, a prior report suggests that the first Project 885M (Yasen-M) submarine armed with Zircon hypersonic missiles could potentially become operational within the Russian Navy by 2026.

With such hypersonic missile-firing capabilities, Russian submarines would pose a substantial challenge to the US Navy. 

The Yasen-class submarines’ capacity to effectively target land-based targets is a matter of significant apprehension for Western military analysts and officials, underscoring the potential impact of these advancements on the strategic balance between major naval powers.

Yasen-Class Submarines

The Yasen-class submarines, weighing approximately 13,800 tons, were conceived by the Malakhit Marine Engineering Bureau and constructed at the Sevmash Shipyard in Severodvinsk.

An enhanced iteration known as the Yasen-M variant has been developed, encompassing novel sensors, advanced noise reduction technology, and an upgraded nuclear reactor to minimize acoustic emissions.

Regarded as the “crown jewel” of the modern Russian Navy, these submarines are widely acknowledged as the zenith of modern Russian military technology. 

The Yasen-class submarines are armed with (3M55) Oniks missiles boasting an operational range of 320 nautical miles (equivalent to 592.64 kilometers) for engaging enemy carriers. 

Conversely, in their land-attack role, these submarines house (3M14K) Kalibr missiles that exhibit a significantly extended range of 1,600 nautical miles (equal to 2963.2 kilometers). Furthermore, the Oniks missiles can also be employed for land-attack missions, adding to their versatility.

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A Yasen-class submarine can launch these missiles from the mid-Atlantic and potentially strike targets along the US East Coast.

The Yasen-class submarines incorporate a total of eight vertical launch tubes, designated as the СМ-346 complex (3Р-14В), designed to accommodate both Oniks and Kalibr cruise missiles. This launch system enables missile deployment from both surfaced and submerged submarine positions.

Furthermore, the Yasen-class submarines feature eight torpedo tubes, encompassing four standard-diameter 533-millimeter tubes and an additional four 650-millimeter tubes. 

These tubes can house both homing torpedoes and 3M54 Klub missiles and serve as deployment points for mines.

Complementing these capabilities, the submarines incorporate six countermeasure launchers positioned externally beneath the casing. Among these, four are situated forward above the torpedo tubes, while the remaining two are positioned aft of the Vertical Launch System (VLS). 

It is speculated that these launchers are equipped with compact 324-millimeter torpedoes, akin to the ‘Barrier’ system seen on Typhoon and Akula class submarines.

These specialized torpedoes serve as hydroacoustic decoys strategically designed to divert and counter incoming torpedoes, thus augmenting the submarines’ defensive capacities.