Russia Submarine Ballistic Missile System Series: Delta III/SS-N-18 (STINGRAY), Delta IV/SS-N-23 (SKIFF) , Typhoon/SS-N-20 (STURGEON), Borei/SS-NX-28 and Bulava-30
Russia currently has three primary SLBM platforms: the Delta III, Delta IV and the Typhoon class submarines. These nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines, referred to as SSBNs, are based on the Kola Peninsula in northern Russia and on the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East. Current Russian doctrine dictates that ballistic missile submarines should deploy in waters close to Russian landmass, since these patrol areas (known as bastions) can be protected by aircraft, sonar networks, surface ships and Russian attack submarines. Additionally, it should be noted that the Russian SSBN force is capable of striking most of the CONUS from pier-side, reducing the need to deploy well away from Russian shores.
Delta III/SS-N-18 (STINGRAY) Submarine Missile
The Delta III carries the two-stage SS-N-18, the first MIRV’d Soviet SLBM. This submarine carries 16 missiles, each with three MIRV warheads. Following implementation of START I and II, it is expected that some of the SS-N-18s will be withdrawn from service. There remain questions regarding the future size of the Russian SSBN force. A revised Russian plan suggests that the entire Delta III class may be retired in the next decade.
Delta IV/SS-N-23 (SKIFF) Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile Systems
A three-stage liquid-propellant SLBM was tested in 1983 from a submarine designated the Delta IV. This SLBM was designated as the SS-N-23 and is more accurate than the SS-N-18. The SS-N-23 is about 47 feet long, carries up to 10 MIRVs and has a range of 4,500 nm.
All seven Delta IV submarines are based on the Kola Peninsula, with protected bastion patrol areas in the nearby Barents Sea and easy access to the Arctic. Even though the SS-N-23 has the capability to carry 10 MIRVs, it is counted as carrying four MIRVs under the START agreements. Four is the number of warheads per missile postulated for future deployment.
Typhoon/SS-N-20 (STURGEON) Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile SystemsThe SS-N-20 SLBM was first identified in the early 1980s. The missile test program was unsuccessful during its early stages. However, following the first Typhoon submarine launch in September 1980, subsequent successful missile tests from the submarine moved the program ahead. The Typhoon’s SS-N-20 weapon system was declared operational by Western sources in 1984.
The SS-N-20 is a three stage, solid-propellant missile capable of carrying between 8 to 10 RVs, with a maximum range of approximately 4,300 nm. This range gives it the capability to operate within Russian waters and still strike targets on the North American continent.
The Typhoon is the largest operational SSBN in the world. This submarine is approximately one third larger than the U.S. Ohio Class SSBN. It is estimated to have been designed to conduct missile patrols under the Arctic Ocean ice cap. Six Typhoons are estimated to be operational, each with 20 launch tubes and a total weapon capacity of 120 SS-N-20 missiles carrying 960 warheads. Delta IV with missile hatch open A unique feature of the Typhoon is that its missile bays are located forward of the submarine’s sail. All other Russian and U.S. SSBNs have their missile bay behind the sub’s sail.
Borei/SS-NX-28 and Bulava-30 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile Systems
that a follow-on to the SS-N-20 was being developed, the SS-NX-28. Little is known about this system, however there have been reports of numerous difficulties with the system. There have been four test launches of the SS-NX-28, the latest in November 1997. None of the launches have been successful. Like the ICBM's, much of the former Soviet SLBM systems were build in the Ukraine, so Russia has had difficulties in building such missile systems.
A new class of SSBN was envisioned for this new missile system, the Borei. The first of these fourth generation submarines was started in 1996 but lack of funding and the SS-NX-28 problems has significantly delayed construction. Both the SS-NX-28 and Borei programs have been cancelled due to technological and economic roadblocks. Russia has announced a replacement system called the Bulava-30. A new SSBN, called the “Dolgoruky” will carry the new missile, which has a range of 8,000+ km.