Russia New Stealth Submarine Is Armed with 72 Nuclear Warheads (Source nationalinterest.org)
On May 22, 2018, the Russian submarine Yuri Dolgoruky slipped beneath the waves of the Arctic White Sea. Hatches along the submerged boat’s spine opened, flooding the capacious tubes beneath. Moments later, an undersea volcano seemingly erupted from the depths.
Amidst roiling smoke, four stubby-looking missiles measuring twelve-meters in length emerged one by one. Momentarily, they seemed on the verge of faltering backward into the sea before their solid-fuel rockets ignited, propelling them high into the stratosphere. The four missiles soared across Russia to land in a missile test range roughly 3,500 miles away. Like the nuclear-powered ballistic missile operated by United States, China, France, the United Kingdom, and India, the primary purpose of Borei-class submarines is almost unimaginably grim: to bring ruin to an adversary’s cities, even should other nuclear forces be wiped out in a first strike.
Each of the submarine’s sixteen R-30 Bulava missiles typically carries six 150-kiloton nuclear warheads designed to split apart to hit separate targets. This means one Borei can rain seventy-two nuclear warheads ten times more destructive than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima on cities and military bases over 5,800 miles away.
Throughout most of the Cold War, Soviets submarines were noisier than their Western counterparts, and thus vulnerable to detection and attack by Western attack submarines.
This problem was finally appreciated by the 1980s, when the Soviets managed to import technologies from Japan and Norway to create the Akula-class attack submarine, which finally matched the U.S. Navy’s workhorse Los Angeles-class attack submarines in acoustic stealth.
Concept work on the Project 955 Borei began during the 1980s. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1996 cash-strapped Russia decided to lower costs by taking three incomplete Akula hulls and convert them into a revised Borei design.
Lead ship Yury Dolgoruky (named after the Russian prince who founded the city of Moscow) launched in 2008 and was commissioned five years later in January 2013. An SSBN’s primary purpose is to remain undetected long enough to unleash its terrifying firepower—a strategy made easier thanks to their nuclear reactors allowing them remain submerged for months at a time. Towards that end, the Borei is designed to higher standards of acoustic stealth than Soviet-era designs, and is more capable of evading enemies that do get an inkling of its position.