Russia’s ‘robust’ Sierra II-class sub leaves U.S. Navy best in awe

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The Sierra-class submarines, conceived by the Soviets in the turbulent period of the Cold War, were designed to rival their American counterparts on the ocean battleground. 

Photo credit: Reddit

This intense competition to generate state-of-the-art military technologies ignited an era of considerable innovation, with results that continue to astound engineers and analysts alike. The Sierra series of nuclear-powered attack vessels indeed continues to play a significant role in Russia’s modern-day navy. 

The moment the U.S. Navy heralded the arrival of their formidable Los Angeles and Seawolf-class submarines during the Cold War, it turned into a challenge for Soviet engineers. They got down to business to set a new standard in submarine warfare.

First titanium hull

In the swinging ’60s, the Soviets unveiled Project 661 “Anchar”, pioneering the world’s first nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine with a titanium hull, laying the groundwork for the future. This grand vessel was tagged as the “Papa-class” submarine by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO], a testament to its singularity. 

Following this groundbreaking innovation, the Soviets capitalized on the power of titanium to birth the Projects 945 Barracuda and 945A Kondor ships. Blessed with durable titanium hulls, these imposing sea behemoths earned their stripes as “Sierra I” and “Sierra II”, respectively, courtesy of NATO. 

Photo credit: Reddit

The reason behind the Soviets’ fascination with titanium is simple – it’s a game-changer in submarine technology. Boasting durability that overshadows steel and a lighter weight, titanium transforms submarines into noiseless, agile creatures capable of plunging into fathomless depths. They withstand harsh impacts and achieve incredible speeds. 

Despite its impressive attributes, titanium is not without its drawbacks. The steep cost and sophisticated production processes present substantial challenges. Adding another feather to their cap, the Sierra ships introduced an unusual feature. They came outfitted with a single reactor, echoing the innovative design of their predecessor, the Charlie-class cruise missile submarines.

About Sierra II-Class subs

Tracing back to 1979, the first submarine of the Sierra-class was built at the Gorky shipyard. Four years later, after undergoing additional fittings in Severodvinsk, the submarine named Carp was launched. The Kostroma, designated as the final Sierra I ship to join the squadron, was commissioned in 1987.  

Photo credit: Reddit

In 1990, the arrival of the Nizhniy Novgorod added a new unit to the Project 945A Sierra II-class fleet, and subsequently, in 1993, the Pskov joined the ranks. Among the remarkable features of the Sierra II submarines was their larger size compared to their predecessors in the Sierra I class, along with a distinctive flat, square leading edge. Powering these maritime giants was an OK-650 pressurized water reactor, a power source shared with the Sierra Is. 

The formidable submarines under this class are recognized for their diverse range of weapons systems. Anticipated armaments include the P-100 Oniks anti-ship cruise missiles, the Type 96R Vodopad and RPK-6 Vodopad anti-ship cruise missiles, as well as the powerful Type 40 torpedoes.

Shrouded in secrecy

There is limited documented information available about the sailing patterns or firepower of Sierra II-Class vessels that remain in active service with the Russian Navy today. 

In 2019, TASS, the state-managed media organization in Russia, made an announcement that shed some light on the activities of these vessels. The report revealed that the two Sierra II ships had participated in “scheduled tasks” in the Barents Sea. The narrative emphasized, “The most demanding and critical part of the combined underwater maneuvers was the execution of torpedo exercises against above-water targets.” 

The statement further clarified that the submarine teams from Nizhny Novgorod and Pskov, which are both nuclear-powered and versatile in their operational scope, from the Northern Fleet, carried out these exercises in a combative mode.


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