After President Putin came to power, the Kremlin embarked on an ambitious naval modernization program that involved deep refits as well as entirely new designs

At the top of the Russian Navy’s power is the Petr Velikiy cruiser, of the Kirov class. Commissioned in 1998, the Petr Velikiy remains the largest surface combatant ship in the world and serves as the flagship of Russia’s Northern Fleet today. Petr Velikiy is equipped to the teeth. It is armed with 20 P-700 Granite cruise missiles, anti-submarine (ASW) missile systems, several different surface-to-air missiles, and ten 533 mm torpedo tubes. And yet, Petr Velikiy continues to be more heavily armed. According to some sources, Petr Velikiy has been equipped with the S-400F naval air defense missile system and the 3M22 Zircon hypersonic cruise missile.

Regarding submarines, Knyaz Vladimir is the first submarine of the Borei-A class, which is an upgraded version of the Borei class nuclear-powered strategic submarine. Knyaz Vladimir entered service in 2020, and the Russian Navy is expected to add six more Borei-A submarines by 2027.

Russian Navy
Russian President Vladimir Putin, second left, reviews a Navy parade in Baltiisk, western Russia, Sunday, July 26, 2015 during celebrations for Russian Navy Day. (Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

The Borei-A class submarine is substantially smaller and lighter than the iconic Typhoon class submarine, which it replaces; but Borei-A is faster and has more power. The Borei-A class submarine is armed with the RSM-56 Bulava ballistic missile. This is a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) variant, developed from the Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile, considered the pinnacle of Russian missile technology.

In terms of strategy, the Russian Navy still follows the philosophy of the Soviet Navy, based mainly on the strength of nuclear submarines carrying strategic missiles. The Kazan submarine, of the Yasen-M class, represents Russia’s next generation of nuclear-powered cruise missile attack submarines.

Kazan was the first of the Yasen-M class, a more powerful upgrade than the original Yasen class. It is expected that by 2027, seven submarines of this class will be put into operation. The Yasen-M class submarines are significantly quieter than Soviet submarine designs. But the difference of Yasen-M is in its diverse and dangerous arsenal, especially Russia’s new Kalibr-M cruise missile, with a range of up to 455 km and compatibility with the 3M22 Zircon hypersonic cruise missile.

Regarding surface ships, the Russian Navy continues to put its trust in cruisers from the Soviet era, including the missile cruiser Marshal Ustinov, belonging to the Slava class. Marshal Ustinov was designed with the philosophy of destroying aircraft carriers, similar to the Kirov-class cruisers.

The cruiser Ustinov has recently been upgraded, especially the sensors and weapons. The P-500 Bazalt anti-ship missile system has been replaced by a more modern P-1000 Vulkan cruise missile, capable of destroying enemy surface ships at a distance of up to 600 km. Regarding air defense, Ustinov is equipped with 40 sea-to-air missiles, improved from the 9K33 Osa short-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. Ustinov is also equipped with a naval variant of the S-300 air defense missile system, consisting of 64 missiles, arranged on 8 launchers.


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