The second Poseidon-carrying sub, the Project 09851 nuclear-powered special purpose submarine Khabarovsk, will be launched in the spring of 2020, according to Russian media reports.
It will be the Russian Navy’s second submarine capable of carrying the the nuclear-capable underwater drone “Poseidon,” alternatively referred to as an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), or simply an intercontinental-range, nuclear autonomous torpedo.
According to a Russian defense industry source quoted by TASS news agency, the new submarine is expected to be handed over to the Navy in 2022 and will be able to carry up to six Poseidon UUVs, also known under Ocean Multipurpose System Status-6 or “Kanyon” by the U.S. intelligence community.
It is still uncertain whether the Poseidon UUV will be solely deployed as a nuclear-warhead delivery platform or could be used for other purposes including intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. In total, the Russian Navy is slated to receive over 30 Poseidons with the first batch ready for operational deployment in the late 2020s.
The Khabarovsk is purportedly a downsized variant of the Borei-class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN). The Russian Navy currently deploys three Borei-class boomers. The Yuri Dolgoruky is in service with Russia’s Northern Fleet, while two other Borei-class SSBNs – Alexander Nevsky and Vladimir Monomakh — are deployed with the Russian Pacific Fleet.
Next to the Khabarovsk, the Poseidon will also be carried by the Project 09852 Special Mission Submarine KC-139 Belgorod, which was launched at the Sevmash Shipyard, located in Severodvinsk in northern Russia, on April 23. The submarine is based on the 949A Oscar II-class nuclear-powered guided missile submarine (SSGN) design.
As I wrote last month:
The submarine was laid down at the Sevmash Shipyard in July 1992 but its construction was suspended in 1997. Work on the unfinished 949A Oscar II-class SSGN began again in 2012 following a redesign of the sub undertaken by the Rubin Central Design Bureau in St. Petersburg as a special purpose submarine. With a reported lengths of 184 meters, the Belgorod is set to become the Russian Navy’s largest submarine by its length. (The sub has a reported displacement of around 15,000 tonnes when surfaced.)
The boat will be operated by the Main Directorate Deep Sea Research (GUGI) organization and will likely be deployed under the Arctic for covert special missions, which purportedly will include the installation of a Russian underwater sonar network.
In addition to the Khabarovsk and Belgorod, two more 949A Oscar II-class SSGNs are expected to be retrofitted to carry the Poseidon UUVs by the mid 2020s. Two of the subs are reportedly slated for service with the Northern Fleet, while the remaining two will be deployed by the Russian Pacific Fleet, according to a Russian defense industry source.