I've noted the Russian plan to modernize its submarine fleet before
, but a Russian Navy commander provided the focus
"We are allocating most funds for construction of new submarines," Admiral Vladimir Masorin told a news conference after a meeting with heads of defense industry companies in the Volga region of Tatarstan. "We should be able to replace strategic submarines with new ones in the near future."
He said that the new Bulava ballistic missile had been designed specifically to equip new strategic submarines.
Bulava missiles, a sea-based version of the Topol-M, could be deployed on Borey-class nuclear submarines as early as in 2008, a leading missile designer said earlier.
Last year, Russia conducted two successful test launches of the Bulava. The first in-flight test launch was conducted on September 27, 2005, from the Dmitry Donskoi, a Typhoon-class ballistic missile submarine.
On December 21, 2005, another Bulava was launched from the Dmitry Donskoi in the White Sea before traveling thousands of miles to hit a dummy target on the Kura test site on the Kamchatka Peninsula. It was the first time a Bulava had been launched from a submerged position.
A recent article in Foreign Affairs
provides a quick sketch of the effects of lack of money and attention to the Russia's ballistic missile submarines (and gives you an idea of what a Russian news agency believes is a "successful" test).
The third leg of Russia's nuclear triad has weakened the most. Since 2000, Russia's SSBNs have conducted approximately two patrols per year, down from 60 in 1990. (By contrast, the U.S. SSBN patrol rate today is about 40 per year.) Most of the time, all nine of Russia's ballistic missile submarines are sitting in port, where they make easy targets. Moreover, submarines require well-trained crews to be effective. Operating a ballistic missile submarine -- and silently coordinating its operations with surface ships and attack submarines to evade an enemy's forces -- is not simple. Without frequent patrols, the skills of Russian submariners, like the submarines themselves, are decaying. Revealingly, a 2004 test (attended by President Vladimir Putin) of several submarine-launched ballistic missiles was a total fiasco: all either failed to launch or veered off course. The fact that there were similar failures in the summer and fall of 2005 completes this unflattering picture of Russia's nuclear forces.
On another note, the Russians may be onto something with their plan for their surface fleet.
Masorin also said Russia would continue building small- and medium size surface ships, rather than "huge missile cruisers."
"We already have them [the cruisers], and we will keep and modernize them," he said. "But we will continue building ships that are under construction, from small gunboats ... to frigates."
Those folks in the Pentagon could use advice like that.