Russia Navy Developing ‘Carrier Killer’ Subs

Targeting American aircraft carriers similar to Chinese strategy in Pacific

Russian nuclear submarine, Yuri Dolgoruky, is seen during sea trials near Arkhangelsk, Russia. The submarine was commissioned by the Russian Navy on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013
A Russian nuclear submarine during sea trials near Arkhangelsk, Russia / AP

The Russian Navy is investing in two new submarines, one of which is being described by the head of Russia’s state-owned shipbuilding corporation as a "carrier killer," according to the independent Moscow Times.

The second boat would be designed to protect Russian ballistic submarines from enemy attack.

The announcement continues an active period in Russian submarine development.  Following the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, the Russian Navy, like the country’s other military services, went into decline as resources were stripped away by a collapsing economy, poor morale, and inept leadership.

David Rutz breaks down the most important news about the enemies of freedom, here and around the world, in this comprehensive morning newsletter.

Sign up here and stay informed!

Vladimir Putin ran for the Russian presidency in 2012 on the promise of rebuilding the Russian military. The Navy’s building program is part of Putin’s broader $356 billion military upgrade program, intended to run through 2020, according to the report.

In 2013 new fourth-generation class submarines were deployed by Moscow: the Borei, which carries ballistic missiles capable of striking intercontinental targets, and the Yasen-class attack boat.  Both submarines are significant upgrades to previous, Soviet-era counterparts.

According to Anatoly Shlemov, the head of the United Shipbuilding Corporation, the new fifth generation submarines will be similar in overall configuration but will have different armaments.

Shlemov says the main purpose of one of the new submarines will be "to protect the groups of ballistic missile submarines and do battle with enemy submarines."  He is describing what Western experts call attack submarines.

The other submarine "will carry cruise missiles for defeating coastal and surface targets.  One variant will be a carrier killer."

Russia’s government has a history of announcing planned new weapons systems with fanfare, but does not always later deliver them, or deliver them within a realistic timeframe.  Nonetheless, Shlemov’s announcement provides insight into the Russian Navy’s strategic priorities.

By pursuing these designs, Russia is working to protect its ballistic missile-launching submarines, primarily in the Pacific and waters around Russia’s northwest coast, and to deny or deter America’s use of the extensive capabilities of its carrier battle groups, the U.S.’s most potent conventional—and if required, nuclear—force-projection weapon.

Russia’s strategy has similar features to the area denial strategy being pursued by the Chinese military, which also views US aircraft carriers as a perennial threat to its efforts to control much of the South China Sea.

Russia, unlike China, appears to have no plans to develop its aircraft carrier capability for force projection.