Russia will equip its Yasen-class nuclear-powered submarines with Zircon hypersonic missiles to bolster their combat capabilities, according to the head of a top Russian shipbuilding firm.
Alexei Rakhmanov, the general director of the United Shipbuilding Corporation, told state-run RIA Novosti that the integration is already underway and Moscow will soon have a more lethal underwater vessel to support maritime missions.
Unveiled in 2019, the Zircon anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile can hit targets more than 600 miles (965 kilometers) away.
It is in demand due to its speed of Mach 9 and low, unpredictable flight path, making it difficult to counter with existing air and missile defenses.
Rakhmanov did not provide a precise time frame for the project, but previous reports suggest that the first Zircon-equipped submarine will become operational in 2026.
About the Yasen-Class Submarine
Regarded as the “crown jewel” of the Russian Navy, the Yasen-class submarine is armed with Oniks and Kalibr missiles that can strike targets more than 320 nautical miles (368 miles/593 kilometers) away.
It has eight torpedo tubes and a launch system that enables missile deployment above or below water.
The submarine’s primary task is to engage carrier battle groups and attack enemy submarines and various vessels.
Its enhanced variant, the Yasen-M, boasts state-of-the-art sensors, noise reduction technology, and an upgraded nuclear reactor to minimize acoustic emissions.
Cause for Concern
In 2014, a year after the first Yasen-class submarine was launched, US Navy Rear Adm. Dave Johnson acknowledged that the new Russian asset would be a “tough opponent” for Washington.
“I am so impressed with this ship that I had Carderock build a model from unclassified data,” he said during a naval symposium. “The rest of the world’s undersea capability never stands still.”
US Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck also said in 2021 that the fielding of “very quiet submarines” like the Yasen-class increases security risks for Moscow’s adversaries.
With the integration of the Zircon hypersonic missile, VanHerck said the “challenges” posed by the Russian submarine will compound in the next few years.