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Russia’s Ship Killers Pt. 1

November 17, 2008


Recent news from the Pacific might give you a negative view of the state of the Russian Navy these days, specifically its fleet of nuclear submarines. The death of 20 sailors on board a recently built Akula class boat brings back images of the even worse Kursk disaster of 2000 with the loss of all hands, and only adds to the image that the former Soviet Fleet is still in a state of decrepit decline.

History is replete, however, with nations which are perceived to be weak that unexpectedly lay hold of a revolutionary military weapon, drastically and suddenly upsetting the balance of world power. The German Blitzkrieg on Poland and later Western Europe with the tank comes to mind. More recently American advances in computer weapons, radar and precision guided bombs and missiles managed to turn what was a noticeable decline in the 1970s to one of global dominance for the past 3 decades.

We think that the Russia Navy, in contrast to its outward appearance of inadequate funding and poor maintenance has laid hold to a true Revolution at Sea. While most of this new technology comes from the latter days of the Cold War, given the advances in submarine technology during the last half of the 20th century, the they have seized on the proper use of such high performance vessels as ship killers par excellence. Russian Third Generation undersea boats have larger torpedo tubes, faster cruise missiles, can dive deeper, and are swifter than American 4th Generation boats, including the mighty US Sea Wolf class.

Max. Diving Depth:

  1. USS Los Angeles-290m
  2. USS Sea Wolf-396m
  3. USS Ohio-300m
  4. Russian Oscar-600m
  5. Russian Sierra-600m
  6. Russian Akula-600m

The former Soviet Union was forced into building such ominous warcraft by necessity. Unable to create a proper fleet of aircraft task forces to defend their homeland (though not for lacking of trying), they chose instead to fashion various classes of ever more powerful and quieter submariners to deal with this Western menace. In so doing they inadvertently hit on a most revolutionary weapon, a perfect stealth ship, when coupled with super-sonic cruise missiles threatens to displace the surface ship as the primary decider at sea.


This is not to say that US nuclear submarines are not very good boats. The principle current problem is a design philosophy on American boats that gear them more toward defensive warfare. Their tubes are smaller when compared to their Soviet counterparts, neither are they as survivable, lacking double hulls which are common building practices for their adversaries. The single exception to this rule are the Sea Wolf class, the sole American attempt to at least match the greater capabilities of Russian heavy subs like Sierra, Oscar II, and newer Akula undersea battleships. Sadly, only 3 of these powerful and fast US subs were built, the last, the USS Jimmy Carter geared toward the littoral warfare with the ability to carry Navy SEALs. The newer Virginia class has an even greater ability to haunt the littorals, which, given its nearly 8000 ton light cruiser size hull is a dangerous place to be where there are mines and deadly silent conventional submarines.

In a next major blowup at sea, we think the Russians and perhaps their new-found ally and weapons-buyer the Chinese might have an advantage with their single purpose ship-killing submarines, in comparison to the multi-mission US boats. the Americans might be better off learning a lesson here, by sending her submarines back to the Blue Water, allowing cheaper (and expendable) littoral type patrol ships and corvettes to secure the shallow seas.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 6, 2014 6:50 am

    An interesting discussion is worth comment.
    I think that you need to publish more on this issue, it might not be a taboo matter but generally folks don’t speak about
    these issues. To the next! Many thanks!!


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