Russia’s most powerful and quiet Yasen nuclear attack submarines could be patrolling U.S. waters in 2 years

The 13,800-ton Yasen-class assault boats, also known by their NATO reporting name Severodvinsk class, are among the world's most capable subs.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

Thursday, March 23, the chief of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Russia’s most powerful and silent nuclear attack submarines might conduct consistent patrols near both U.S. coasts within the next two years. USNA News, the news portal of the US Naval Institute, reported this.

General Glen VanHerck, the commander of NORTHCOM, responded to Senator Joni Ernst’s (R-Iowa) questions about the threat posed by Chinese and Russian cruise missile submarines operating near the United States by stating that Russian Yasen-class nuclear cruise missile attack boats have been deploying more frequently. 

The risk is increasing. He explained that Russia has also deployed [Yasen Class Submarines] in the Pacific in the past year.

The Russian submarines are not just in the Atlantic but also in the Pacific, and it is only a matter of time – perhaps one or two years – before they constitute a 24×7 threat. In a time of crisis, this effect has constrained the decision-making space of a senior national leader, he said.

The 13,800-ton Yasen-class assault boats, also known by their NATO reporting name Severodvinsk class, are among the world’s most capable subs. Specifically, the three current boats in the class are equipped with a mode of silent operation that makes them difficult to identify in open water. According to published accounts, the Severodvinsk escaped U.S. efforts to locate it for several weeks in 2018.

Navy officials have informed USNI News that the service has become increasingly worried about the efficacy of the Russian submarine force.

Nuclear boats cannot keep standing at the pier. Each Russian nuclear boat has two shift crews, and a long cruise can last up to six months. There is also a nuance: submarines often serve in pairs in combat, a strategic nuclear missile carrier is joined by a multi-purpose boat, and this is a strike group.

In 2018, the Navy reactivated U.S. 2nd Fleet and established a command for anti-submarine warfare throughout the Atlantic in response to the rising capacity of Russian subs to operate undetected in the Atlantic.

According to Russian press reports, the Russian Navy intends to construct ten Yasen-class attack boats, with the fourth scheduled to enter service later this year

Yasen-M multifunctional nuclear submarines (project 885M) are the carriers of Onyx and Kaliber cruise missiles. The Russian Navy intends to arm them with Zircon hypersonic missiles, a newly tested Russian hypersonic missile manufactured by the Tactical Missile Armament Corporation.

In addition, the Russians have delivered two new strategic nuclear submarines.

Generalissimus Suvorov, a 24,000-ton Borey-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine, was commissioned by the Russian Navy in January 2022. In July of the same year, the Russian Navy received Belgorod, a strategic weapons platform equipped with nuclear torpedoes the size of school buses and capable of carrying a 100-megaton nuclear warhead.

VanHerck also emphasised the need for the United States to increase its Arctic activities in light of Russia’s modernisation of its regional assets and China’s continued northward expansion.

He added that Russia had updated their fleet of icebreakers. The Russians have updated both their submarine units and their strategic defence. He stated that China is sailing into the Arctic under the guise of research missions, while the United States is aware that they are conducting military operations and seabed surveys.

As Russia and China continue to develop their operations in the Arctic, VanHerck asserts that the United States lacks assets there.

The United States lacks the organisation, training, and equipment to operate and respond in the Arctic. Whether it’s runway links, buildings, weapons storage, or fuel storage, infrastructure is a major concern, he said.

He said the United States demands to resolve, which necessitates icebreakers. In regards to icebreakers, the United States is in poor shape, and the General totally supports the Coast Guard’s strategy. We need to go faster, he said.

Currently, six new polar icebreakers capable of operating in the Arctic are authorised for addition to the U.S. Coast Guard’s icebreaking fleet, and there are no plans to retire either of the Coast Guard’s existing icebreakers, according to a Coast Guard spokesperson. In contrast, Russia has approximately 40 icebreakers.

At the height of their supremacy, Soviet submarine forces controlled over seventy per cent of the oceans around the world. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, for almost 30 years, the United States has held a dominant position in the deep sea.

The presence of Russian submarines close to the coast of the U.S., according to Russian experts, constitutes an invitation to the U.S. to engage in a detailed discussion on the problems pertaining to zones of influence, including who, where, and how they can be present. This is a continuation of the conversation about the red lines, but this time the Russians will be discussing them in relation to underwater means.


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