Russian shipbuilder Admiralty Shipyards (a subsidiary of the United Shipbuilding Corporation) has launched the third Project 636.3 ( Vashavyanka-class, NATO reporting name: Improved Kilo-class) diesel-electric submarine for the Pacific Fleet on March 26. The improved Project 636.3 Kilo-class SSKs is known for its quietness and features some of Russia’s most advanced submarine technology, referred to as “Black Holes” by the U.S. Navy.
The Project 636.3 Kilo-class is an improved variant of the original Project 877 Kilo-class design. The updated version is slightly longer in length — the sub’s submerged displacement is around 4,000 tons — and feature improved engines, an improved combat system, as well as new noise reduction technology. The submarine has a crew of around 50 and can conduct patrols for up to 45 days. The improved Kilo-class can fire both torpedoes and cruise missiles, launched from one of six 533 millimeter torpedo tubes.
The submarine has primarily been designed for anti-submarine and anti-surface ship warfare. However, it can also attack land targets. In December 2015, a Project 636.3 Kilo-class sub fired four M-54 Kalibr (NATO designation: SS-N-27A “Sizzler”) cruise missiles against targets around and near Raqqah in Syria. “The 3M-54 Kalibr is a supersonic cruise missile available in land-attack, anti-ship, and anti-submarine variants. It is specifically designed to evade active air defenses and electronic countermeasures.
The decision to build six Project 636.3 Kilo-class submarines for the Russian Navy is partially caused by repeated delays in the Project 677 Lada-class diesel-electric attack submarine program. The Russian Navy initially wanted to operate the first three Lada-class subs by 2018. As of now, however, only the lead ship of the class has been commissioned and is currently undergoing sea and weapons trials. The contract for six Project 636.3 submarines for the Pacific Fleet was signed in September 2016.