Remember the submarine scene from The Fate Of The Furious when the armed vessel surfaces out of the ice sheet after firing torpedoes and missiles. The Russian Navy seems to have enacted the same scene with its nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines in Arctic exercises named ‘Umka-2021’.
Held last month, the exercises witnessed three Russian Navy nuclear subs surfacing out of the ice sheets near Alexandra Island of Franz Joseph Land Archipelago, armed with enough firepower to wipe out multiple cities.
These submarines were taking part in a drill where the Russian Navy demonstrated its capabilities with live-fire drills, while a Severstal class of Project 941 sailed to the North pole, surfaced in the ice and launched a missile.
Two of these submarines were of Delfin-class Project 667BDRM, and the third being Knyaz Vladimir – the latest Borey-A-class SSBN of project 955A.
The three submarines carried 48 ballistic missiles in total- which gets more weightage as these are capable of launching MIRV-equipped warheads. The Borey-class are some of Russia’s most advanced submarines and are projected to replace the Soviet-era Delta III, Delta IV and Typhoon classes in the Russian Navy service.
The main armament of the Borei-class boats is the RSM-56 Bulava intercontinental submarine-launched ballistic missiles, intended as a cornerstone for the Russian Nuclear Triad- and is also one of the most expensive weapons in the Russian inventory.
The submarine can carry as many as sixteen Bulava missiles, each of which is equipped with at least six independently targeted re-entry warheads, having about 100-150 kt yield each.
Independent Military Review, a Russian defense&security newspaper, estimated that the three submarines totaled a potential number of 288 reentry vehicles, including the RSM-54 Sineva missiles which equipped the two Delfin-class subs.
These Delfin-class Project 667BDRM boats, also called Delta IV by the west, are equipped with the R-29RMU (aka RSM-54) ‘Sineva’ intercontinental submarine-launched ballistic missiles having 4-10 independently targeted re-entry vehicles each tipped with a 100-500 kt yield warhead. Similar to the Borei-class, every Delta IV submarine can carry up to 16 Sineva missiles. Interestingly, The R-29RMU Sineva is seen as a rival to the solid propellant Bulava SLBM. Originally, the Russian Navy was slated to receive the Sineva missile in 2002, but the first test was conducted only in 2004. The missile was eventually commissioned in 2007.
These large-scale exercises in the Arctic also raised eyebrows of Western generals, who were keenly eyeing the drills in look for new developments and updates on the Russian inventory- particularly the Poseidon nuclear-armed and nuclear-propelled torpedoes which can bypass most, if not all, of the defense systems employed by Europe and the Americas.
During the exercises, the Russian MiG-31 fighters also conducted their first-ever historic flight over the North Pole. These supersonic fighter-interceptors are also the primary carriers of the Kinzhal hypersonic nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missile.
This show of strength in the Arctic was surely a morale booster for the Russian Navy while also strengthening the training of their troops and establishing better synergy amongst different forces.