As part of its ongoing modernization the Russian Navy has just launched the massive K-329 Belgorod submarine in Severodvinsk to begin sea trials. It is larger than any western submarine ever built (including the U.S. Navy’s Ohio class), and second in size only to Russia’s Typhoon class sub.
This ‘Special Mission’ submarine will add significant new capabilities to the Russian Navy and is expected to be operated on behalf of the secretive Main Directorate of Undersea Research (GUGI) for intelligence gathering.
However, the sub will eventually also carry the intimidating new Poseidon nuclear torpedo. This makes the Belgorod a strategic weapon delivery system as well.
It is rare to have a vessel conduct both intelligence and covert missions while also carrying nuclear weapons. The one-of its-kind Poseidon torpedo is still several years from becoming operational. It is designed to be used against ports or coastal targets and could create tsunamis in addition to the nuclear blast effects.
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— H I Sutton (@CovertShores) June 25, 2021
— H I Sutton (@CovertShores) June 18, 2021
Noted naval expert H I Hutton provides an excellent overview of this dangerous new Russian submarine in Naval News:
Belgorod’s intended purpose presents Western analysts with an enigma. She will combine two seemingly contradictory roles. The first is as a host submarine (read ‘mothership’) for deep diving nuclear powered midget submarines. These are capable of working on cables and other objects on the sea floor.
The concern in NATO is that these could include the undersea internet cables connecting Western countries. This is termed a ‘special mission’ in navy parlance (which is full of euphemisms for covert activities).
… For the Special Mission role, Belgorod is intended to host the Project 10831 Losharik submarine (AS-31). This suffered a serious accident on July 1 2019 however, just two months after Belgorod’s launch…
The second role is one of nuclear strike and deterrence. For this she will be armed with six ‘2м39′ Poseidon torpedoes. These are a whole new category of weapon not fielded by any another navy. They have been described as ‘Intercontinental Nuclear-Powered Nuclear-Armed Autonomous Torpedoes’.
At over 20 meters (65 feet) long they are in effect they are giant underwater drones with practically unlimited range and a nuclear warhead. And their expected performance (around 70 knots and 1,000 meters depth) mean that they cannot be countered with existing weapons.
Although detailed specifications have not been revealed it is clear that Belgorod is the largest submarine to be built for 30 years. In fact the only submarine type which is larger is the Typhoon Class. Her enlarged Oscar-II class submarine hull is estimated to be 178 meters (584 feet) long and about 15 meters (49 feet) across. Her displacement will likely be significantly more than the ~19,000 tons of the Oscar-II class on which she is based. This is bigger in every respect than the largest Western submarine, the U.S. Navy’s Ohio Class. ADN