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The Russian Yasen-M-class nuclear cruise missile submarine (SSGN) Kazan was constructed to a shorter build time than the lead boat Severodvinsk. It also appears to be shorter in length than its predecessor by about nine metres. Nonetheless, the two boats share a number of characteristics, including a reported level of quietness comparable to the very best Western SSNs and a long-range strike capability which exceeds that seen on most Western assets.
The Kazan was constructed in eight years, less than half the time taken to construct the Severodvinsk. The slow pace of the latter project was in large part due to the financial troubles which beset Russia in the immediate post-Soviet era. However, the design of the Kazan also evinces a number of evolutionary steps that should allow Russia to cut unit construction costs and build times for future vessels in the class. As such, we might expect future submarines in this class to enter the fleet at a more rapid pace than previously envisioned.
From a planning standpoint, the most notable feature of the Kazan – one which it shares with the Severodvinsk – is its capacity to launch a range of anti-ship and land attack missiles, including the hypersonic 3M22 Zircon. The shift from SSNs like the Akula, which are primarily optimised for a hunter-killer role, towards a concept closer to nuclear guided missile submarines (SSGNs), is likely indicative of a shift in the way that Russian submarines will contribute to future campaigns. Long-range strike missions appear to be superseding sea lines of communication (SLOC) interdiction as a primary task. This will likely necessitate a change in how NATO manages the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) challenge in the High North, given that a strategy of barrier defence at the GIUK (Greenland–Iceland–UK) gap may actually do little to impact Russian submarines, which may have little need to traverse this barrier in order to achieve their operational ends.
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