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Capability of Russian SSBN Force Questioned

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Capability of Russian SSBN Force Questioned

Postby Tom Dougherty » Mon May 20, 2013 4:13 pm

from the Ottawa Citizen

The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) recently obtained information from the U.S. Navy suggesting that, though Russia is undergoing a much-publicized push to modernize its ballistic missile submarine force, the actual patrol rate amongst vessels in service remains extremely low. Figures suggest that the entire fleet of nine operational nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) made just five deterrent patrols in all of 2012, according to the organization.

FAS analysts noted that this was likely not sufficient to sustain a constant deterrent presence, and the overall tempo of patrols has continued to decline since the end of the Cold War, when the SSBN fleet reached a record of 102 patrols in 1984.

There was a slight resurgence 2008 with ten patrols (up from 3 in 2007), but these again declined, despite Russian pronouncements that they were ready to maintain a constant at-sea deterrent. The overall number of patrols also suggests that there are long periods in which boats go without extended deployments, meaning SSBN crews lack hands-on training, according to FAS.

Russian Navy planners are currently working to replace the currently in-service Soviet-era Delta III and IVs with Borei-class vessels, which are expected to be fully operational by the mid-to-late 2020s.
Tom Dougherty
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