The next-generation nuclear attack submarine Laika will be met by new variants from the U.S. and the U.K.
By Jurica Dujmovic-MarketWatch
Russia’s submarine fleet is one of the largest in the world, but it is in dire need of an upgrade.
The majority of its submarines in commission date between the 1980s and 1990s, and after being in service for 35 years, even those with the best maintenance crew are bound to squeal under the burden of age.
This is especially true for submarines, as they’re quite expensive to build and maintain. This is one of the reasons why the latest addition to the Russian fleet, the next-generation nuclear attack submarine Laika (also known as Project 545) will be much more than a new coat of paint for the aging armada.
The new model will replace the existing Akula and Sierra classes of attack submarine, which date to the Soviet Navy in the Cold War era. The new class is also a direct response to the U.S. Navy’s Virginia-class attack submarine.
Here’s how the two compare: Publicly available data for Laika indicate it will displace 11,340 metric tons when submerged. For comparison, the U.S. Virginia class attack submarine displaces 7,900 metric tons while fully submerged.
The Russian submarine will be capable of reaching a speed of 35 knots (40.3 mph), which is matched by its U.S. counterpart. Laika will be able dive to 1,969 feet, and while this data aren’t available for the Virginia class, it is speculated that the maximum depth the submarine can reach is 1,600 feet.
Submarines use sonar to “see” under the water. Sonar arrays are crucial for navigation, exploration and combat positioning. The Laika will be equipped with a modern main sonar array, which is also standard in the U.S. Virginia class.
Forbes reports that Laika will have a more versatile arsenal than that of the Virginia class. Since it’s designed as a hunter-killer, Laika will be equipped with an array of anti-submarine armaments, such as high-speed Khishchnik torpedoes, USET-80 universal homing torpedoes and the MTPK-1 universal mine-torpedo anti-submarine complex, similar to the U.S. CAPTOR Encapsulated Torpedo.
To expand its capabilities, the Laika submarine will come in anti-submarine and strategic variants. The latter will be able to launch ballistic and cruise missiles, including the hypersonic Zircon, making it a versatile asset in the theater of war.
The first Laika-class submarines are expected to be built in as few as seven years from now, with construction scheduled to begin in 2023. With this model, it seems like Russia will be back in the game. However, according to submarine authority H.I. Sutton, the race is far from over — both the U.S. (SSN(X)) and the U.K. (SSN(R)) are working on next-generation of attack submarines of their own.