For 2013, the Russian Navy is continuing its programs that will see all-new nuclear-attack submarines, missile-minded frigates, advanced helicopter carriers and fast missile corvettes join the modernization initiative. Decades removed from the disastrous turnover experienced at the end of the Cold War, the Russian military budget is consistently growing in an effort to reassert Mother Russia's will in the Asia-Pacific and central Asian regions. One procurement program has produced fruit to become the Borei-class ballistic missile submarine which has since yielded its first vessel-in-class - the "Yuri Dolgoruky" (K-535). The Dolgoruky was laid down on November 2nd, 1996 and officially launched on February 13th, 2008. She was formally commissioned on January 10th, 2013. Construction of the boat was handled by Sevmash in Northwest Russia.
Outwardly, the Dolgoruky exhibits a conventionally-arranged exterior with a largely cylindrical hull design capped by a bulbous nose cone, the hull running rearwards in a long grand shape before tapering at the stern. The sail is set ahead of amidships while the tail consists of dorsal and ventral vertical tail fins to serve as the rudder with horizontal planes straddling either side of the rear hull. The propeller extends a short distance away from the tail unit. Dimensionally, the Dolgoruky is a massive machine, measuring 170 meters from bow to stern while showcasing a beam of 13.5 meters with draught of 10 meters and carrying a submerged displacement of 24,000 tons. The boat is crewed by 130 officers and sailors divided into shifts with access to onboard shower, dining and sleeping facilities as standard. Power for the Dolgoruky is primarily served through a single OK-650B series nuclear reactor which provides for essentially unlimited operational ranges and decades of service following proper maintenance routines. The nuclear propulsion system is coupled to an AEU steam turbine and the configuration drives a single shaft at the extreme rear of the vessel. A maximum surface speed of 25 knots is listed with a suggested submerged speed of 32 knots being estimated.
Overall, production of the Dolgoruky was slow by modern standards as showcased by its laid-down year of 1996 and its launch date of 2008. Some public issues regarding its hastened construction were revealed before the vessel was brought to sea as various equipment and sensor packages had yet to be added. Regardless, construction eventually completed to the point that sea trials were underway by the end of 2009 as a base crew and engineers ironed various issues out of the design. Delays in the program ensured a formal handover did not occur until 2011. After successfully passing her evaluation period, the Dolgoruky was officially handed over for Russian Navy service by late 2012. Since early 2013, the boat has been undergoing limited operational service that will most likely range throughout the year before large-scale service begins in 2014.
Key to the design of the Borei-class submarines is her armament which consists of no fewer than 16 x Bulava Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs). The Bulava type missiles are an advanced family of new submarine-launched missiles having entered service only recently in early 2013. These weapons were developed through the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology with production handled by the Votkinsk Plant State Production Association. Each missile measures approximately 40 feet long and weighs in at 40 short tons, powered by a three-stage solid propellant and liquid-based fuel system providing a range out to 5,000 miles. Each missile yields 150 kilotons of lethality with guidance supplied by an inertial and GPS-based system. Originally, the Borei-class was to be outfitted with the "R-39M" series missiles but the project was cancelled after lackluster results. The Dolgoruky also fields 6 x 533mm torpedo tubes for anti-ship/submarine sorties and supports the SS-N-15 "Blizzard" cruise missile.
The Borei-class of submarine will eventually number ten in all. The second boat - Aleksandr Nevsky - is expected to join the Dolgoruky with commissioning sometime in late 2013 or, more likely, early 2014. The third boat - Vladimir Monomakh - is expected to be commissioned sometime in 2014. Other sister boats will follow as completed, all expected to have entered operational service by 2020.
The arrival of the Dolgoruky is rather significant to the future plans of the Russian Navy, who now sees a renewed expansion in its capabilities thanks to a greater political (and therefore financial) commitment by Russian authorities. With President Vladimir Putin at the helm for another term, the Russian military expects to further expand the lethal reach of her ocean-going force in the decades to come with some $132 billion dollars already earmarked for various ongoing naval programs.