Russia unveils new nuclear-powered submarine.

Russia recently unveiled the Arkhangelsk, a nuclear-powered submarine with hypersonic missiles, but it may not reverse the decline in Russian naval power since 1991. The Yasen-class submarine, surpassing the size of the American Virginia-class, features 10 torpedo tubes and 32 vertical cells for hypersonic missiles like the Zircon. Despite claims of superiority, global trends show other nations developing hypersonic missiles. Russia’s Iskander, a ground-launched hypersonic missile, faces challenges from Ukraine’s Patriot air-defense batteries.

The Zircon, while claiming Mach 8 speed and a 600-mile range, may encounter issues related to high-speed ionization of the air, affecting sensor functionality and communication. The Arkhangelsk’s impact in real-world combat scenarios might not meet expectations. Additionally, it does little to reverse the broader decline of the Russian fleet, which has become primarily coastal due to economic challenges, outdated ship constructions, and limited industrial capacity.

Post-1991 economic turmoil has led to a decline in Russian shipbuilding, with major warships from the Soviet era facing initiation challenges. The Ukrainian navy sank the Russian cruiser Moskva in 2022, emphasizing the diminishing control of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Russia’s constraints in constructing larger vessels, coupled with disruptions in naval component supply chains, contribute to its struggles. Dependency on Ukrainian maritime engines have been discontinued, and inefficiencies in the maritime sector, including outdated construction methods, have impeded progress.

While Russia builds substantial submarines, their production efficiency falls short compared to the United States. The Arkhangelsk’s eight-year construction period contrasts sharply with the two to four years required for a U.S. Virginia-class submarine. In essence, while the Arkhangelsk is an engineering marvel, its deployment does little to address the challenges faced by a beleaguered and diminishing Russian naval fleet.