A Yasen-class submarine has been spotted en route to St. Petersburg. The weapon-ridden “Severodvinsk” is intended to underscore Russia’s nuclear power. Their missiles can hit targets across Europe. Among other things, it can launch hypersonic missiles of the Zircon type.

The Russian nuclear submarine Severodvinsk has been spotted in the Baltic Sea. The visit was announced, the boat ran on water – accompanied by two Russian ships, it was then also escorted by Danish warships. The “Severodvinsk” is on its way to St. Petersburg.

Not uncommon

Business as usual – the presence of “Severodvinsk” on a parade in St. Petersburg has nothing to do with the war in Ukraine. The flat and small Baltic Sea is also not an ideal area for the mighty boat of the Yasen class. And yet the passage is a clear reminder of Russia’s status as a nuclear power.

The “Severodvinsk” is one of the most dangerous submarines in the world. Its construction falls into the post-USSR era and dragged on endlessly due to the economic crises of the Yeltsin years until the boat undertook a sea trial on September 12, 2011. The “Severodvinsk” is the first ship of the Yasen class. It is considered a multi-purpose submarine and thus does not follow the classification of attack submarines and boats with strategic armament. This means that the “Severodvinsk” can do both: it can hunt down and destroy enemy ships and submarines, but it can also carry strategic weapons.

In addition to the “Severodvinsk” is another attack submarine of the Akula class.

Among other things, it is said to carry 3M-14 missiles that can attack enemy submarines. Against surface ships, it can use 3M-54 Kalibr cruise missiles and P-800 Onyx anti-ship missiles. The Severodvinsk is the first submarine to launch 3M22 Zircon hypersonic weapons. The “Severodvinsk” is 140 meters long and submerged displaces 13,800 tons. Powered by a nuclear reactor, it can remain operational indefinitely as long as the crew’s food supplies are replenished. The Yasen class is particularly dangerous because it is still very quiet even at high speed. The ships are difficult to spot. Boats of this class are said to have successfully evaded detection by the US Navy on several occasions.

Kalibr as the main armament

Since the rockets and cruise missiles can also carry nuclear warheads, the Severodvinsk’s potential for destruction is very high. “It is the unit of the Russian Navy that is giving NATO the biggest headache right now. The armament consists of long-range missiles that can attack almost all NATO supply ports in northern Europe in one fell swoop,” said Johannes Peters, Head of Maritime Strategy and Security at the Institute for Security Policy at the University of Kiel, the “Kieler Nachrichten”. The Kalibr cruise missiles have a range of 4500 kilometers, but due to their high speed it is currently not possible to intercept the Zircon missiles.

Displaying a Yasen-class boat is always a reminder of what Putin has in his nuclear arsenal. However, it is not a real threat. It hasn’t changed since the Cold War. To really scare the enemy, several submarines leave their bases in plain sight. The navies of the NATO countries are warned in advance. Then the boats dive and hit the open sea. The aim of such a maneuver is for the boats to break through the NATO defense lines undetected. And then continue to reach their attack areas undetected. The high range and precision of the cruise missiles make maneuvers easier than in the Cold War. At the end of 2019, the Russian Navy also carried out such a maneuver with the “Severodvinsk”. The maneuvering area was east of the “GIUK gap”, the line between Greenland, Iceland and the United Kingdom.

All of Europe in sight

The Kalibr system “gives the Russian Navy a long-range strike capability never before possessed,” Andrew Metrick, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, wrote at the time in Proceedings, the US Naval Institute’s journal. “Russian submarines no longer need to pass through the gap to have a dramatic impact on the European military balance,” Metrick continued. “Rather, they can operate from the relative safety of the bastions in the Norwegian and Barents Seas and attack targets throughout northern and central Europe.”

Put simply, once you stop “seeing” the submarines, things get really dangerous.