Russia Floats Out First Nuclear Sub That Will Carry Poseidon Strategic Underwater Drones
(Source: TASS; published April 23, 2019)
Russia on Tuesday launched Belgorod, a special-purpose, nuclear-powered submarine that is capable of carrying nuclear-tipped underwater drones, that when fully developed, could threaten coastal cities, adding a new potential threat. (TASS photo)
SEVERODVINSK, Russia --- The Project 09852 special-purpose nuclear-powered submarine Belgorod that will be the first carrier of Poseidon strategic underwater drones was floated out at the Sevmash Shipyard in north Russia on Tuesday, TASS reports from the scene.

Russian President Vladimir Putin watched the submarine’s launch ceremony via a TV link-up.

As Sevmash Head Mikhail Budnichenko said during the ceremony of floating out the submarine from the slipway, "the enterprise’s shipbuilders will fulfill all the tasks of building ships within the established timeframe and with high quality." After that, Ship Commander Captain First Rank Anton Alyokhin traditionally smashed a bottle of champagne against the ship’s board.

The submarine’s construction will be completed afloat. A source in the defense industry earlier told TASS that the tests of the submarine’s nuclear reactor and its dockside trials are scheduled for this year. The Belgorod will undertake shipbuilders’ sea and state trials in 2020, after which it will be delivered to the Navy by the end of that year, the source noted.

Another source in the defense industry told TASS that the new submarine would be able to carry six strategic underwater drones.

The nuclear-powered submarine Belgorod was initially being built under Project 949A ‘Antey.’ The submarine was laid out at the Sevmash Shipyard on July 24, 1992. On December 20, 2012, it was laid down again under Project 09852. The exact operational characteristics of the special-purpose submarine have been classified and are unknown today. Russia’s Defense Ministry reported in November 2018 that the Belgorod sub’s crew had been formed.

The underwater drone later named Poseidon was unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin in his State-of-the-Nation Address to the Federal Assembly on March 1, 2018. The Russian leader said that Russia had already developed drones capable of moving at very large depths and to an intercontinental distance at a speed multiply exceeding the speed of submarines, the most advanced torpedoes and all types of surface ships. As the Russian president said, these drones can be armed with conventional or nuclear munitions, which will allow them to strike a broad range of targets. The Poseidon drone will feature an unlimited operating range and an operational depth of over 1 km.

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Russia Launches New Submarine Believed Capable of Carrying Nuclear-Armed Drones
(Source: Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty; posted April 23, 2019)
Russia has launched a special-purpose, nuclear-powered submarine that is believed capable of carrying nuclear-tipped underwater drones that when fully developed could threaten U.S. coastal cities.

The submarine Belgorod was launched on April 23 in the northwestern city of Severodvinsk. Russian President Vladimir Putin watched the proceedings via video link from the Severnaya Shipyard in St. Petersburg.

State-run TASS news agency said development work on the Belgorod will continue and that tests will begin next year with a goal of deploying the vessel by the end of 2020 or early 2021.

It measures 184 meters long, the longest submarine ever built, and will be capable of carrying six underwater drones. The drones themselves are expected to be ready for service in 2027, according to media reports citing a U.S. intelligence assessment.

Construction on the vessel started in 1992 but was delayed several times due to financing issues.

Journalists were not allowed to photograph or film the launch as the submarine's operational characteristics have been classified.

Russian media reports say the Belgorod will carry deep-water rescue vehicles and autonomous underwater drones.

In November 2015, a state television channel briefly showed a document with drawings and details of a planned, nuclear-capable, submarine-launched drone.

The document said the purpose of the drone was to "strike important enemy economic facilities in coastal areas" and create "zones of extensive radioactive contamination that are unfit for military, economic, or other activity for a long period of time.

The Kremlin quickly dismissed the report as a mistake, although analysts speculated the reveal was deliberate.

In his annual state-of-the-nation address on March 1, 2018, Putin discussed a number of new weapons undergoing testing and development, including a nuclear-capable undersea drone.

Using colorful graphics and video, Putin said the high-speed drone could target both aircraft carriers and coastal facilities with nuclear weapons. Putin claimed the drone would be impossible to intercept. The drone was later named Poseidon.

In his most recent state-of-the-nation address on February 20, Putin announced that the first submarine equipped to carry the Poseidon would be floated out before summer.

TASS reported that Moscow plans to eventually deploy more than 30 underwater nuclear-capable drones carried on four submarines.

Putin's bellicose 2018 speech came at a time of high tensions with the United States over sanctions imposed after Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and Moscow's support of separatist formations waging a war in eastern Ukraine, as well as a U.S. intelligence assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

At the time, U.S. President Donald Trump was warning that the United States could withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, citing alleged Russian violations. Washington made that move in October 2018.

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Key Facts About Russia’s Special-Purpose Nuclear-Powered Submarine Belgorod
(Source: TASS; published April 23, 2019)
MOSCOW --- The Sevmash Shipyard in Severodvinsk in the northern Arkhangelsk Region is set to float out the special-purpose nuclear-powered submarine Belgorod on April 23. TASS has put together material on this ship.

The Belgorod is a nuclear-powered special-purpose and research submarine. Its exact operational characteristics have been classified. Russia’s Defense Ministry did not officially comment on media reports on this submarine.

Project’s history and specifics

The shipbuilders are building the submarine based on an incompletely constructed Project 949A ‘Antey’ nuclear-powered underwater cruiser. The submarine was laid out at the Sevmash Shipyard on July 24, 1992 but its construction was suspended in 1997. In the 2000s, attempts were made to restart work on completing the sub’s construction under the improved Project 949AM but a lack of financing frustrated this effort. In the early 2010s, a decision was made to rebuild the Belgorod under the new Project 09852 developed by the Rubin Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering (St. Petersburg). The renewed keel-laying ceremony for the sub under construction No. 91664 was held on December 20, 2012 with the participation of Admiral Viktor Chirkov (the Russian Navy commander-in-chief in 2012-2016).

Initially, Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) and Sevmash stated in their press releases that the Belgorod was a research submarine intended to carry out diverse explorations in distant areas of the World Ocean, take part in search and rescue operations, provide for installing underwater parts of equipment and conduct their inspections, test new types of research apparatus and monitor underwater transport routes.

As reports suggest, the nuclear-powered submarine will be the carrier of rescue deep-water and autonomous underwater drones. The Russian daily Izvestia reported on April 21, 2017 citing the Navy’s command that the Rubin engineers had re-designed the sub’s central part. As the daily’s material suggests, instead of the missile compartment, the engineers have designed a new and longer hold for special equipment and airlock chambers for divers and the crews of deep-water submersibles. Izvestia observer Dmitry Litovkin specified at the time that the sub’s re-designing would increase its length from the initial 154 m to 184 m (11 m more than the Soviet largest Project 941 ‘Akula’ sub). Thus, the Belgorod will become the Russian Navy’s largest submarine by its length.

Carrier of Poseidon underwater drones

On November 1, 2015, Russian central TV channels delivered reports from a government meeting in Sochi on the development of the country’s defense industry, showing the presentation of "the Status-6 ocean-going multi-purpose system" designated to "strike an enemy’s important coastal economic facilities." The presentation pointed to the Belgorod and Khabarovsk submarines that were being built as the carriers of this system. No official comments followed.

On March 1, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia had created a deep-water nuclear-propulsion underwater drone. On March 22, the autonomous underwater drone was named Poseidon, following the results of open voting on the website of Russia’s Defense Ministry. Poseidon underwater drones have an intercontinental-range capability and can be armed with conventional or nuclear munitions.

In November 2018, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported that the Belgorod sub’s crew had been formed.

On February 20, 2019, Russian President Putin announced in his State-of-the-Nation Address to the Federal Assembly that the first submarine, the carrier of the Poseidon underwater drone, would be floated out in the spring of 2019.

Presumably, the Poseidon has been developed as a result of R&D work under the Status-6 program. A source in the defense industry told TASS on April 12, 2019 that the Belgorod would be floated out in Severodvinsk on April 23. The source specified that the sub would be the first carrier of Poseidon drones. Another source in the defense industry told TASS that the new submarine would be able to carry six strategic underwater drones.

The completion of the submarine’s construction afloat, the tests of its nuclear reactor and its dockside trials are expected to be implemented during 2019. A TASS source said the Belgorod would undertake shipbuilders’ sea and state trials in 2020, after which it would be delivered to the Navy by the end of that year.

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