July 3, 2009:
Russia is reactivating two of its retired Typhoon SSBNs (ballistic missile nuclear subs, or "boomers") [PHOTO], to help maintain some semblance of a SLBM (Sea Launched Ballistic Missile) force at sea. The 24,000 ton Typhoons (the largest subs ever built) entered service in the 1980s, but were very expensive to operate, and were gradually decommissioned through the 1990s. The last one in service, the Dmitry Donskoi, was refurbished and had new launch tubes and electronics installed for tests of the new Bulava ICBM. The second SSBN to carry the Bulava is the first of a new class of ships, the Yuri Dolgoruky, which has been under construction since 1996, and might enter service later this year or, more likely, in 2010.
Currently, only eight of the twelve existing Russian Delta IV SSBNs [PHOTO] are available for service. The Delta IVs are getting old, and have only about a decade of useful service left. At the moment, it appears that the navy may only get eight Boreis. These new boats are expensive, and the navy also wants to build some aircraft carriers.
The Boreis are the first new Russian boomer to enter service in 18 years, and the first new Russian sub design since the end of the Cold War. The second ship in the class, the Alexander Nevsky, is also nearing completion. Construction on the third, the Vladimir Monomakh, began two years ago.
The Boreis are closer in design to the Delta IVs, than to the more recent, and much larger, Typhoon boats. The Boreis are 558 feet long and 44 feet wide. Surface displacement is 15,000 tons, and twelve Bulava SLBMs (Sea Launched Ballistic Missile) are carried. Work on the Yuri Dolgoruky was delayed for several years because the first missile being designed for it did not work out. A successful land based missile, the Topol-M, was quickly modified for submarine use. The Bulava was a larger missile, cutting the Boreis capacity from twenty to twelve missiles. The boat also has four torpedo tubes, and twelve torpedoes or torpedo tube launched missiles. The Borei also sports a huge sonar dome in the bow.
The Boreis have a crew of 107 (compared to 163 on the Typhoons), with half of them being officers (a common Russian practice when it comes to high tech ships like nuclear subs). Each of these boats will cost at least two billion dollars. This high cost, by Russian standards, is partly because many factories that supplied parts for Russian subs were in parts of the Soviet Union that are not now within the borders of present day Russia. So new factories had to be built. All components of the Boreis, and their missiles, will be built in Russia.
It's not clear how long it would take to get the two remaining Typhoons back in shape, but the Russian navy apparently believes they can make it happen before the end of the year.