A St. Petersburg-based shipyard on Thursday floated out the first of six Varshavyanka-class diesel-electric submarines to be delivered to the Black Sea Fleet in the next two years.
The much-anticipated delivery of these submarines, dubbed by the US Navy as “black holes in the ocean” because they are nearly undetectable when submerged, is a key part of Russia’s naval strategy in the Mediterranean, where Moscow has recently deployed a permanent task force consisting of some 10 surface ships.
Construction of the Novorossiisk submarine started at Admiralty Shipyards in August 2010, followed by the Rostov-on-Don sub in November 2011 and the Stary Oskol in August 2012.
The Varshavyanka-class (Project 636) is an improved version of the Kilo-class submarines and features advanced stealth technology, extended combat range and the ability to strike land, surface and underwater targets.
These submarines are mainly intended for anti-shipping and anti-submarine missions in relatively shallow waters.
The vessels, crewed by 52 submariners, have an underwater speed of 20 knots, a cruising range of 400 miles (electric propulsion) with the ability to patrol for 45 days. They are armed with 18 torpedoes and eight surface-to-air missiles.
The Russian Black Sea Fleet has not received new submarines for decades and currently operates only one boat – the Kilo-class Alrosa, which joined the navy in 1990.
Commenting on the floating out of the Novorossiisk, Russian naval expert Capt. 1st Rank (Ret.) Mikhail Nenashev said Russia needs at least 10 Varshavyanka-class submarines in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean to protect the country’s interests in the region.
The expert specifically cited the presence of US warships equipped with the formidable Aegis integrated missile system in the Mediterranean and the deployment of US missile defenses in coastal countries around the region.