Throngs gather in Cuba to witness the Russian Kazan sub up close

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Ships from Russia’s Northern Fleet have already made their way to Cuba, and the buzz around this news hasn’t died down. Right now, the Russian Yasen-class nuclear-powered submarine, K-561 Kazan, carrying the Zircon hypersonic missile, is docked at Havana Harbor. It’s quickly becoming quite the spectacle for curious onlookers. 

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People are flocking to the coast, eager to get a close-up view of this impressive vessel. Russian media highlights that this is a unique opportunity, even for Russian citizens. “Cubans are getting a chance that many Russians haven’t had,” noted the Russian RT platform. 

It’s worth mentioning that a group of four ships from Russia’s Northern Fleet, including the submarine Kazan and the frigate Admiral Gorshkov, has arrived in Cuba for scheduled events. Currently, the frigate is serving as the command ship for the Russian Navy’s task force in Cuba. 

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The video footage

RT’s report on the Kazan submarine visit to Cuba appears to serve more as promotional content than showcasing anything particularly “extraordinary” or “significant.” But, the video does highlight a few intriguing moments worth noting. 

First, let’s talk about accessibility. Citizens can get surprisingly close to the submarine. This suggests that besides curious locals who are eager to see the Russian Yasen-class submarine up close, there could also be “foreigners” with more than a passing interest. The close proximity to the public implies that Western intelligence operatives stationed in Cuba wouldn’t miss the chance to scrutinize the Russian vessel. 

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Another notable aspect is the security checks. The footage captures what appears to be a pat-down mode. While it’s unclear if this pertains directly to accessing the submarine, it clearly grabbed the videographer’s attention. Individuals are being checked for what they bring along, and in one instance, a man takes a sip from a drink to prove to a Cuban customs official that it’s safe. Interestingly, people are allowed to take photos with their phones, indicating that the Russians likely assessed the risks and deemed them acceptable.

All kinds of lines

CNN sheds light on the situation in Cuba through the eyes of Havana-based correspondent Patrick Oppmann. He describes how standing in line is a typical scenario in this island nation, albeit for an unusual reason this time. Long queues are a familiar sight for Cuban residents. 

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In his twelve years living in Cuba, Oppmann has experienced all sorts of lines: buying food, paying bills, even joining lines without knowing what they are for, just in case they’re worth the wait. But this time, he found himself waiting for something completely different: the chance to board a Russian warship docked in Havana’s port. A Russian diplomat had told him that, starting Thursday, the Admiral Gorshkov frigate would be open for public tours over the next three days, and he was initially skeptical. 

The Gorshkov made quite an entrance when it arrived in Cuba on Wednesday, marking the occasion with a thunderous 21-gun salute. In response, Cuba fired cannons from an 18th-century fort built by the Spanish to defend Havana from pirates. Cuba’s defense ministry reassured that none of the ships carried nuclear weapons and posed no “threat to the region,” an apparent nod to the United States, situated just 90 miles to the north.

The K-561 Kazan

Photo credit: VKontakte

The Russian submarine K-561 Kazan is part of the Yasen-M class, an advanced series of nuclear-powered cruise missile submarines developed by Russia. The dimensions of the K-561 Kazan are notable for their size and capability. The submarine measures approximately 139 meters [456 feet] in length, with a beam of 13 meters [43 feet]. This substantial size allows for a variety of sophisticated systems and a large payload of weaponry to be housed within the vessel. 

The propulsion system of the K-561 Kazan is nuclear-powered, utilizing a single OK-650V reactor. This reactor provides the submarine with a virtually unlimited range, limited only by the endurance of the crew and the need for periodic maintenance. The nuclear propulsion system also allows for high sustained speeds and the ability to remain submerged for extended periods. 

In terms of displacement, the K-561 Kazan has a submerged displacement of approximately 13,800 tons. This significant displacement is indicative of the submarine’s robust construction and the extensive array of systems and weaponry it carries.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

K-561’s characteristics

The technical characteristics of the K-561 Kazan include advanced sonar systems, electronic warfare capabilities, and state-of-the-art navigation and communication equipment. The submarine is designed to operate with a high degree of stealth, utilizing anechoic coatings and other noise-reduction technologies to minimize its acoustic signature. 

The K-561 Kazan is equipped with a variety of integrated systems, including modern combat management systems, automated control systems for the reactor and propulsion, and advanced life-support systems. These integrated systems enhance the submarine’s operational efficiency and effectiveness in various mission profiles. 

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The types of weapons carried by the K-561 Kazan are diverse and formidable. The submarine is armed with a mix of torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, and land-attack cruise missiles. Notably, it can launch Kalibr and Onyx cruise missiles, which are capable of striking both sea and land targets with high precision.


The maximum depth of immersion for the K-561 Kazan is estimated to be around 600 meters [1,968 feet]. This depth capability allows the submarine to operate in deep ocean environments, evading detection and enhancing its survivability. 

Photo credit: Naval Post

The maximum stay underwater for the K-561 Kazan is largely determined by the endurance of its crew and the capacity of its onboard supplies. Thanks to its nuclear propulsion, the submarine can theoretically remain submerged for several months, limited primarily by the need to resupply food and other consumables for the crew.


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