Russia A New Patrol Submarine on the Market
Russia will display its latest patrol submarine at a trade show under way in Malaysia. Already set to be sold to Indonesia, the submarine could see a significant uptick in sales should the design prove to be of sufficient quality and if Russia can produce the submarines efficiently.
Russia will exhibit its new Amur-1650 patrol submarine at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace 2007 exhibition in Malaysia Dec. 4-8, according to Rosoboronexport, the Russian arms exporter. Also on display will reportedly be an improved variant of the Kilo class (Project 636) patrol submarine. While the quality of the new design remains to be seen, a capable patrol submarine -- both its design and fabrication -- is within Russia's demonstrated capabilities. Sales have already been announced to Indonesia and Venezuela.
Amur is the export designation of the Project 677 Lada class intended for service in the Russian navy. The Amur-1650 and the Amur-950 are the two initial variations being marketed by Rosoboronexport. Their single hull is a significant departure from the double hulls that characterized Soviet submarine design (the additional hull was intended to make the sub more survivable). This move to a single hull makes the Amur-1650 much more comparable in terms of displacement (size) to German and French designs now on the market. Both Amur designs are reportedly capable of being extended to include an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system, though the exact nature of Russia's AIP design, or how close it is to being ready for testing, is not clear.
AIP is now available in the German Type 214 design, which is widely exported and includes such advanced customers as Israel and South Korea. However, even if the Amur series proves uncompetitive with that design, it could still be an attractive option. Both Indonesian and Malaysian defense spending has risen lately, and Indonesia has already ordered four Kilos and two Amurs. Meanwhile, Russia has high hopes for the Chinese and Indian markets.
Rosoboronexport is marketing both Amur designs and the variants of the Kilo class on the market fitted with the Club-S (NATO designation: SS-N-27 "Sizzler") anti-ship cruise missile. The Club can be launched from torpedo tubes, and the terminal phase of its flight is supersonic.
The Amur-950 is especially interesting in this regard. Fitted with 10 vertical launch tubes to the rear of the sail, it reportedly will be able to quickly launch 10 anti-ship missiles in a salvo (launching that many from the torpedo tubes would require reloading, which can take several minutes). While both Russian and U.S. nuclear attack submarines have been built with similar capacities, this is the first time that vertical launch tubes have been incorporated into a patrol submarine design and made available on the open market.
With this modest salvo capability, the Amur-950 design increases the chance of a successful strike against a well-defended target; it can also quickly hit more individual targets while minimizing the sub's vulnerability. Russian naval thinking has long been informed by the need to penetrate the U.S. Navy's superior defensive systems. One of the ways the Soviets settled upon to do this was to overwhelm that system with missiles, and the Amur-950 can at least partially trace its design to that long-standing consideration.
This is not to say that 10 missiles necessarily have much of a chance of overwhelming a modern Aegis-equipped surface combatant (should it be at a sufficiently high state of alert). But the capability is also not one to scoff at; it is one that naval powers in the market for asymmetric challenges to U.S. naval dominance might find attractive.
The vertical launch cells might prove even more attractive for India in particular, as they could be a means of making the Brahmos anti-ship missile a viable export product for the submarine market (the basic Brahmos design is too wide to be launched from the standard 21-inch torpedo tubes, or even the larger 26-inch tubes). Some reports suggest this has been the plan for some time. However, India -- and China -- ultimately are pushing forward with their own domestic production capabilities (and New Delhi has no shortage of troubles with Moscow).
In either case, the Amur is already on the market and comes well armed -- if only Russia can produce them efficiently.