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Outside View: Russia's next navy -- Part 2

By
NIKITA PETROV, UPI Outside View Commentator

MOSCOW, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- During his recent trip to Severodvinsk, Russian First Deputy Premier Sergei Ivanov was shown plans for a new $500 million dock designed to build large-tonnage ships at the Zvyozdochka ship repair yard. Earlier, such large ships could only be built in Nikolayev, Ukraine. The dock, the Russian shipbuilding agency said, is needed to build gas carriers -- ships to transport Russian liquefied natural gas to Western partners.

The same dock could also build aircraft carriers. At any rate, the project is already on the drawing board. Adm. Vladimir Masorin said the craft would be a nuclear-powered ship not less than 100 meters long and would carry an air wing of 30 combat fighter jets and helicopters. But this is not going to be soon.

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The outlook is best for submarines. Recently, two Project 667BDRM boats have been modernized, and two more submarines are being repaired and upgraded at Severodvinsk. A new sonar system is being installed to enable them to "see" and "hear" better. Other equipment includes new firefighting systems, nuclear reactor protection devices and the RSM-54 Sineva strategic missile system. Unlike its predecessor, the Skif, the Sineva carries 10 independently targetable re-entry vehicles instead of four. The new missile has a longer range and a modern control system.

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It was a Sineva intercontinental ballistic missile that was fired in the summer of 2006 from the North Pole by the submarine Yekaterinburg commanded by Capt. Sergei Rachuk. An underwater launch, especially from under the ice, is a challenging task. The jumbled magnetic fields render ship and missile navigation instruments inoperable, and the crew needs special training for working under ice. But there are also advantages -- under a thick ice cap the submarine remains invisible to hostile observation satellites till the last moment. As a result, a retaliatory nuclear strike would be sudden and unavoidable. Many submarine commanders who managed to do this were later made Heroes of the Soviet Union and Russia. Sergei Rachuk, too, received the Gold Star of the Hero from President Vladimir Putin.

But modernization of existing vessels is only part of the rebuilding program. The Sevmash engineering plant at Severodvinsk is building a series of new fourth-generation submarines. These are Project 955 Borei boats. It is for them that the new Bulava sea-launched ballistic missile is being developed.

"Three nuclear submarines of the fourth generation are currently under construction," Masorin said. "They are the Yury Dolgoruky, Alexander Nevsky and Vladimir Monomakh. In comparison with previous boats, they will have much better armaments and equipment."

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A Project 885 Yasen-class multipurpose attack nuclear-powered submarine is preparing to hit the water at Severodvinsk. It is another new fourth-generation submarine able to replace several classes of submarines used in the Russian navy. Professionals say this ship will cause a revolution in submarine building. Russia's third-generation Project 971 Akula submarines are already undetectable in ocean depths. The Yasen will outperform even the latest U.S. Sea Wolf in underwater noise level. In addition, it will be a multipurpose boat. Thanks to its armaments (several types of cruise missiles and torpedoes), it will be able to carry out diverse missions. It will be able with equal ease to chase enemy aircraft carriers and deliver massive missile strikes on coastal targets.

Experts believe the new nuclear submarines and "floating airfields" will mean a quantum leap for the Russian navy and its combat capabilities.

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(Nikita Petrov is a military commentator. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)

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(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interest of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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