Be careful what you read, but be even more careful how you read it (or who translates it).
The Russians won’t put both SLBMs and SLCMs on their fifth generation submarines. Would that really make military sense? What they apparently intend is to build a multipurpose hull to fit out as either SSBN or SSN. Now does that raise interesting arms control verification issues?
Several days ago, in advance of March 19 – the 105th anniversary of Nikolay II’s designation of the submarine as an Imperial Navy ship class (i.e. Submariner’s Day since 1996) – a “highly-placed RF Navy Main Staff representative” elected to tell RIA Novosti about work on Russia’s fifth generation submarine.
Production of the fourth generation proyekt 955 SSBNs and proyekt 885 SSNs is just really now reaching the ramp-up stage. But design and development of fifth generation submarines is included in the State Program of Armaments, 2011-2020, according to RIA Novosti’s Navy Main Staff source.
When you Google “Russian fifth generation submarine,” you get a string of English-language news and blog items that say things like:
“. . . a high-level Russian navy insider said a future ballistic-missile submarine would also carry cruise missiles.”
“Russia is planning to equip its fifth-generation nuclear submarines with both ballistic and cruise missiles, a media report said.”
Even RIA Novosti’s own English-language site bollixed it:
“Russia’s proposed fifth-generation nuclear submarines will be armed with both ballistic and cruise missiles, a senior Navy source told RIA Novosti on Saturday.”
RIA Novosti actually wrote:
“The fifth generation submarine will be standardized for ballistic as well as for cruise missiles.”
And RIA Novosti’s unnamed admiral actually said:
“The concept for creating a new nuclear submarine (APL or АПЛ) envisages a unified hull both for multirole [i.e. attack] as well as for strategic submarines, therefore design bureaus Rubin and Malakhit which today specialize in designing strategic and multirole submarines respectively are working on its development.”
Rusnavy.com got it right.
As always said about new submarines, the unknown admiral said the fifth generation will be distinguished for its lowered noise, automated control systems, reactor safety, and long-range weapons. But he added:
“I’m not talking about ballistic missiles, we’re talking long-range cruise missiles and torpedoes.”
The most urgent task for Russian leadership regarding the Navy’s sub fleet is to accelerate up to the max the process of ships’ building that now is painfully slow in comparison to Western countries’ rate. This appears, under a political view, a worriing gap! To the task of increasing the pace of
sub-building and deploying, which for a medium class size sub of 5/7 thousands tons should be contained in 3 years maximum, it appears to be
necessary not only the “standardization” of the designs, but also: 1) a quick
construction of new shipyards as well as a convenient enlargement of the
existing ones; 2) a rational distribution of the complex of ships to be assigned among the different shipyards.
Only by changing the present speed of shipbuilding, Russia could be perceived a credible threat by its possible enemies!