Russia plans nuclear submarines for southern oceans

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 June, 2013, 4:53am

Moscow plans to resume nuclear submarine patrols in the southern hemisphere after a break of more than 20 years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, in another example of efforts to revive Moscow's military.

The plan to send Borei-class submarines, designed to carry 16 long-range nuclear missiles, follows President Vladimir Putin's decision in March to place a naval unit in the Mediterranean Sea on a permanent basis starting this year.

"The revival of nuclear submarine patrols will allow us to fulfil the tasks of strategic deterrence not only across the North Pole but also the South Pole," state-run Itar-Tass quoted a military official as saying.

The official said the patrols would be phased in over several years. The first of eight Borei-class submarines that Russia hopes to launch by 2020, entered service this year.

Putin has focused on a strong and agile military since returning to the presidency last May. In 13 years in power, he has often cited external threats when talking of the need for a reliable armed forces and political unity.

Fears of a nuclear confrontation between Russia and the United States has eased in recent years, and the cold-war-era foes signed a treaty in 2010 setting lower limits on the size of their long-range nuclear arsenals.

But the limited numbers of warheads and delivery vehicles such as submarines that they committed to under the new treaty were still enough to devastate the world. Putin has made clear Russia would continue to upgrade its arsenal.

Russia's land-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles would fly over the northern part of the globe, as would those fired from submarines in the northern hemisphere.

Both the Borei-class submarines and the Bulava ballistic missiles they carry were designed in the 1990s, when the science and defence industries were severely under-funded.

Russia sees the Bulava as the backbone of its future nuclear deterrence, but the programme has been set back by several botched launches over the past few years.