Military


Project 949 Granit / Oscar I
Project 949A Antey / Oscar II

The Oscar-class nuclear-powered cruise missile attack submarine, which displaces more than 18,000 tons when under water, is one of Russia's largest and most capable submarines. As with earlier cruise-missile submarine, the Oscar was designed primarily to attack American aircraft carrier battle groups.

As with other Russian submarines, the Oscar features a double hull -- and inner pressure hull and an outer hydrodynamic hull, with eight inches of rubber between them to muffle sounds. American submarines have a single pressure hull, with additional hydrodynamic fairings, such as the cap that encloses the bow sonar dome. The 3.5 meter separation between the inner and outter hulls on the Oscar provides significant reserve buoyancy, and improved survivability against conventional torpedoes. These large submarines are said to be slow to dive and maneuver, though they are credited with a submerged speed of about 30 knots - sufficient to keep pace with their targets. The improved Oscar II is about 10 meters longer than the Oscar I, possibly making room for a quieter propulsion system, and feature upgraded electronic systems. The Oscar II is also characterized by a substantially enlarged fin, which should improve underwater manueverability, as well as the substitution of the Oscar-I's four-bladed propeller with a [presumably] quiter seven-blade propeller.

The Oscars are rather poorly characterized in the open literature, with substantial discrepancies in reported submerged displacement [the upper estimates are probably closer to the mark] and maximum submerged speed [reportedly classified intelligence estimates have tended upward over time.

The submarine is equipped with two dozen SS-N-19 missiles with a range of 550-kilometers -- three times as many anti-ship cruise missiles as earlier Charlie and Echo II class submarines. The missiles, which are launched while the submarine is submerged, are fired from tubes fixed at an angle of approximately 40 degrees. The tubes, arranged in two rows of twelve each, are covered by six hatches on each side of the sail, with each hatch covering a pair of tubes. The launchers are placed between the inner pressure hull and the outer hydrodynamic hull. The torpedo tubes fire both torpedoes and shorter range anti-ship missiles, and a combination of some two dozen weapons are carried.

The Project 949A submarines have a total of at least ten separate compartments, which can be sealed off from each other in the event of accidents. The compartments are numbered sequentially from fore to aft, with the two separate reactor compartments numbered V and V-bis [which is accounts for the fact that there are ten compartments, though the numbers only run through nine].

    I - Torpedo room
    II - Control Room
    III - Combat stations and radio room
    IV - Living Quarters
    V and V-bis - Reactors
    VI - propulsion engineering
    VII - main propulsion turbines
    VIII - main propulsion turbines
    IX - electric motors

Access hatches are believed to be located in the 4th and 9th compartments. In common with the larger Typhoon-class ballistic missile submarine, the Oscar-class boats are reported to have an emergency crew escape capsule located in the sail.

In the 1980s the Rubin Design Bureau was responsible for developing a number of third generation nuclear submarines with cruise missiles, including Projects 949 ("Granit", "Oscar I") and 949A ("Antey", "Oscar II"). The Bureau took the lead in using naval cruise missiles, designing the first cruise missile nuclear submarine -- Project 659 ("Echo I"), then Project 675 ("Echo II") and related modifications.

Construction History

To manage the impact of its resource problems, the Russian Navy, in the early 1990's, made a series of hard choices aimed at preserving its core submarine force capabilities. These included early retirements of older and less capable units, strict controls on operating tempo, and focused maintenance on its best submarines. The first Oscar I units were decommissioned in 1996, though the Russian Navy continued to invest in new construction. In the late 1990s it completed several new submarines of the larger third generation Oscar II SSGN.

Considering the importance of the Oscar II submarines for the Russian Navy, the level of confusion concerning the designations and status of the units of this class verges on the astonishing. There is almost complete disagreement among all authoritative sources concerning the correlation between pennant number, name, construction sequence and current status. Allowing for the unavoidable uncertainties inherent in assigning "commissioning" dates, most sources are in general agreement as to the unit chronology and pennant number chronological sequence of the first ten units, through K-141 Kursk. There is however, rather general disagreement among sources as to the names associated with these units, and the status of particular units.

All sources agree that at least eleven of the Oscar II submarines were built between 1985 and 1999 at the Sevmash yard in Severodvinsk.

The status of a twelfth Oscar-II [K-530 Belgorod #654] was somewhat uncertain, as some sources suggest it was comissioned in late 1999, while most agree that outfitting was suspended after it was launched in September 1999 [the boat might eventually serve as a replacement for the Kursk ]. On 20 July 2006 Russia's defense minister said the ministry would not allocate funds to finish building a nuclear submarine in the same class as the Kursk submarine and hinted it could be sold. "The Defense Ministry does not need the Belgorod nuclear submarine," Sergei Ivanov said. "Therefore it will not finance its further construction." The Oscar-II class Belgorod was laid in July 1992. Its construction, frozen in 1990s, was resumed after the K-141 Kursk nuclear submarine of the same class sank about 100 miles from the Russian northern port of Murmansk. Ivanov said several options were being considered for the submarine to be commissioned by another country. "We are considering options to finish the submarine's construction, but not for the Defense Ministry," he said. The submarine was reported to be 80% complete and to require $100m to finish construction.

Some Western sources suggest that construction was suspended on a thirteenth unit, and that as many as 15 units of the Oscar II class were planned, but Russian sources maintain that the Oscar-II class was never intended to consist of more than twelve vessels.

A fourth-generation follow-on to the Oscar was planned, but reduced defense spending forced the cancellation of the project.

Operations

In 1994 an Oscar submarine conducted operations off the East Coast of the United States. In July 1997 when the Oscar II submarine K-442 Chelyabinsk [aka Pskov] shadowed several US aircraft carriers off Washington state. The Tomsk transitted to the Pacific under ice after being commissioned on 28 February 1997, and arrived at Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy on 24 September 1998. This brought the Pacific Fleet class inventory to seven, with four others in the Northern Fleet.

On 26 January 1998 a moored nuclear-powered Oscar II submarine suffered a cooling system accident. During routine tests aboard a cooling system pipe broke, releasing ammonia and nitrogen gas into the compartment. A total of 5 crew members were injured, one of whom, a Captain of the 3rd Rank, died two days later. The Oscar II submarine was reportedly the K-512 St.Georgy Pobeditel [formerly named Tomsk]. This eleventh unit of the 'Oscar II' SSGN class had been launched in July 1995 despite irregular materiel and component delivery problems.

In February 1999 an Oscar-class submarine was observed monitoring a NATO exercise off the coast of Norway. In August 1999 NATO sonar detected the presence in Western Atlantic waters of a Russian Oscar class submarine belonging to the northern fleet, based in the Arctic ports. In the mid-1999 an Oscar II-class submarine sailed from northern Russia to the Mediterranean, the first Russian SSGN patrol in the Mediterranean in a decade. It then sailed on to areas off the eastern United States. In early September 1999 the crew of the Jose Maria Pastor, a fishing trawler registered in Almeria [southeastern Spain] reportedly snagged an Oscar submarine in its nets. The incident occured some 27 miles (50 kilometers) from the Tarifa coast (Cadiz Province), and continued for over half an hour before the submarine broke free. Another Oscar II deployed from the Russian Far East, sailing to the area around Hawaii before arriving in waters off San Diego by October 1999. It reportedly spent a week following the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and the amphibious landing ship Essex.

Operational Status

Considerable confusion exists as to the names of some units. During the Cold War essentially no information was publicly available concerning the names of Soviet submarines, and with the end of the Cold War the Russian Navy has exibited an annoying tendency to rename ships [a very un-American practice]. And unlike the American practice, in which hull numbers are generally assigned in a consecutive numerical sequence which corresponds to the chronological sequence of construction, the pennant numbers assigned Russian submarines [eg, K-141] do not conform to an apparent set pattern.

Generally these vessels are named for Russian cities. K-456, yard # 649, Vilyuchinsk [not Viliuczinsk] is named after the closed city -- Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy-50. The Vilyuchinsk-3 Nuclear Submarine Base is the Pacific Fleet's main nuclear submarine base on Kamchatka. It is located across Avacha Bay from the much larger city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. The town was founded in 1968 and is 404 km˛ in area. It is to host a modern base for the submarine forces of the Pacific Fleet, designed for the new Borei strategic submarines. This boat is nicknamed "Kosatka", the proper name for "killer whale" [Kosatka dravá (Orcinus orca)] in Russian. "Kasatka" is a Russian word for "darling" and it's also the name of a type of bird.

In January 2004 Sevmash started dismantling the two Oscar-I Granit subs K-525 Arhangelsk and K-206 Murmansk in the dock-chamber of the Zvezdochka. These two are financed by the UK under the Cooperative Threat Reduction program. As of 2006 it was reliably reported that Oscar class submarines No 605 and 606 had completely dismantled, leaving the 3-compartment unit for each boat. These were the two units of the Project 949 Granit Oscar-I class submarines. The UK had successfully financed to time and cost the dismantlement of these two Oscar class submarines at Zvezdochka, and in mid-2005 dismantlement of a third submarine was under way at the Nerpa shipyard.

Sources generally agree that at least two and probably three of the initial nine Oscar II units were inactivated in the late 1990s. As of late-2000 three were laid up awaiting refueling or disposal. Considerable confusion surrounds the identity of the third and fourth units -- Krasnoyarsk] was reportedly deactivated in 1998, but sources differ as to whether this name was assigned to K-119 or K-173.

The active Northern Fleet units are homeported at the Zapadnaya Litsa base (Bolshaya Lopatka). The disposition of units between the Northern and Pacific Fleets is uncertain. As of September 1997 Bellona placed six units in the Northern Fleet, four in the Pacific. As of September 2000 the warships1.com analysis also placed 4 units in the Pacific Fleet, and the remaining 6 in the Northern Fleet. However, World Navies Today reported that ten active units [as of late 2000] are evenly divided between the two fleets [but the unit list seems rather unreliable, casting doubt on this assessment]. The two sources appear to disagree on the location of K-119 Voronezh. Jane's reported eight active as of August 2000. In 2001 there were reported to be 9 active submarines of this class, five in the Northern Fleet and four Pacific Fleet submarines, including K-132 Belgorod, commissioned in 1987.

As of 2002-2003 Naval Technology reported that three hade been decommissioned, with two Oscar II submarines active with the Northern Fleet and five with the Pacific Fleet. World Navies Today reported that there were eight active units as of March 2002. [As of August 2003 Periscope reported only three in commission, but this seems wrong.] As of January 2003 it was reported that there were 6 Six Oscar II SSGNs operational.

Reporting is very sparse, but one might conjecture that the unit withdrawn from commission was K-512 St.Georgy Pobeditel, since on 04 March 2004 it was reported that K-433 Svyatoy Georgiy Pobedonosets [Saint George the Victorious], a 667BDR DELTA III class SSBN, had returned to service. It seems improbable [even in Russia] that two ships with effectively the same name would be in commission simultaneously, though it seems quite sensible that the Russian navy would want to have one ship with this illustrious name in commission.

As of 2007 the International Institute of Strategic Studies reports that there were seven Oscar IIs in service, with one additional unit "in reserve". This suggests that possibly of yard hull numbers 617, 618 and 619, [the 1st, 2nd and 4th Oscar II] one might have been written off, one remains "in reserve" while one has been restored to active service.

As of 2008 the International Institute of Strategic Studies reports that there were five Oscar IIs in service, with one additional unit "in reserve" and one "in refit" for a total of seven units, down from eight the previous year. There is some uncertainty as to whether K-119 remains assigned to the Northern Fleet, or whether it is possibly serving in the Pacific Ocean.

According to submarine.ru the submarines are expected to remain in service past the year 2020, though the existing Granit missile armament needs replacement. "Complex "Granit", established in the 1980s, already is obsolete. ... At the same time, rapid development of a new missile complex currently is not possible for economic reasons. The only real military capability by maintaining domestic forces is obviously an upgrade of the establishment of a set of "Granit" to be posted on PLARK 949A in the course of their planned renovation and modernization. An estimated battle effectiveness modernized missile complex, currently in the design, should increase about three times compared with RK "Granit" already in the armament. Refurbishment of submarines to be carried out directly at the team sites, with the time and costs of the program should be minimized. As a result, the current group submarine project 949 A will be able to function effectively until the end of the 2020 decade. Its potential to further increase as a result of ships equipped with the CD version of "Granit" capable of high accuracy of engaging surface targets, with no nuclear equipment." "



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