Both the United States and Russia are deploying new advanced surface attack cruise missile submarines. On the Russian side is the all new Yasen-M Submarine, while the U.S. Navy is deploying a larger and more capable version of the Virginia Class – the Block-V Virginia. One submarine expert provides an excellent overview and intriguing analysis of how they compare, at least in weapons capabilities.
#Submarine Wednesday! Yasen-M versus Virginia Class Block V.
— H I Sutton (@CovertShores) August 4, 2021
Naval historian and submarine savant, H. I. Sutton, notes in Naval News that:
Russia launched its newest submarine, the K-571 Krasnoyarsk, in a ceremony on July 30, 2021. The submarine will be armed with three types of cruise missiles as well as regular torpedoes and anti-submarine missiles. The cruise missiles should include the new Zircon hypersonic anti-ship missile which is currently being tested in the Arctic. In total, 32 cruise missiles can be carried.
Krasnoyarsk is a Project 885M ‘Yasen-M’ class boat (aka Severodvinsk-II class), the 3rd of 8 planned. These represent the most modern and powerful attack submarines in the Russian inventory. And they are often described as being on a par with the latest western types.
The US Navy is building at least 8 new submarines which are closer equivalent to the Yasen-Ms in terms of weapons load. Eight out of ten of the new Block V Virginia Class will have additional missile tubes. This will give them an impressive 76% increase in weapons over the current Virginias. All these extra slots are in a new vertical launch systems which is optimized for cruise missiles.
This will increase the number of cruise missiles in a standard load-out from 12 to 40. Added to this the slots in the torpedo room (which would not normally carry cruise missiles) and there are a total of 66 weapons aboard.
The Yasen-M however still has more total slots at around 72 torpedo-sized weapons. Fewer of these are in the vertical launch tubes however. The torpedo room is much larger and has 10 torpedo tubes (some reports 8) versus 4 on the Virginias. A comparison can be made to the Seawolf class in fact which has a similar torpedo layout. The Yasen’s torpedo room will extend over two decks.
Significantly though, the Russian subs will carry the new 3M22 ‘Zircon’ hypersonic anti-ship missile which ADN reported here, and here. Zircon will set the Russian submarines apart for the next several years, particularly in anti-ship strikes, until the U.S. Navy is able to field its own hypersonic missiles.
For now, the U.S. does have a surface attack submarine advantage with its four massive Ohio class ballistic missile submarines converted into conventional SSGN missile attack boats. These carry an unmatched weapons load thanks to the massive capacity of their prior ballistic missile silos. This advantage may be short-lived, however, as these boats are facing retirement in the next few years.
Until the Block V, when it enters service, will be the closest that the US Navy has to an SSGN.
Naval News concludes the comparison by noting:
The Yasen-M Class boats are larger and carry more weapons than their western equivalents. They will also be quicker to field hypersonic weapons (although service introduction is going slower than previously reported). But they carry fewer cruise missiles than the enlarged Block V Virginia Class. This will significantly narrow the gap even before the US Navy adds hypersonic weapons and the anti-ship capable Tomahawks.