Russian submarine design bureau Rubin has unveiled its latest design for a ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) at the Army 2022 defense expo. The new boat, named ‘Arcturus’ (Арктур) after the brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere, is a radical design.
Most striking about the design is that it has an angled outer hull with sloping sides and blended lines. It has a chine running all the way along the side, resembling a modern low-observable aircraft.
Submarines are, by their nature, stealthy. The Arcturus design takes this further than most however, adding an angled outer hull. This matches similar ideas in other countries for deflecting incoming active sonar. This is reminiscent of the German-designed Type-212CD which is being built for Germany and Norway. And the British Dreadnought Class ballistic missile submarine.
The angled outer hull, designed against active sonar, would be accompanied by traditional passive-sonar stealth. This involves mounting the machinery on rafts, to isolate sources of noise. There would also be anechoic coatings outside the pressure hull. Russian anechoic coatings are complex and are used extensively on their submarines.
The submarine has 12 missile silos. These are large enough for nuclear-armed ballistic missiles, which appears to be the primary mission. But one of the tubes is displayed with a launch and retrieval mechanism for a medium-sized AUV ( autonomous underwater vehicle). This implies a multi-role capability.
12 tubes is fewer than current SSBNs but other submarine builders are going in the same direction. As the missiles get more potent, the number required to ensure unacceptable losses for an enemy gets fewer. Additionally the missiles are incredibly expensive to manufacture and maintain.
Specialist Underwater Drone: Surrogat-V
A new feature, not seen on previous designs, is that two (possibly 3) specialist AUVs are carried. 3 large free-flooding hangars are seen at the stern for Surrogat-V (Суррогат-В) AUVs. These companion AUVs are designed to operate in conjunction with the Arcturus submarine.
Previous AUV designs for Rubin which use the Surrogat name have been designed as decoys and training devices. These are claimed to be able to replicate other submarine’s signatures.
However, Surrogat-V appears to be an anti-submarine warfare drone. It has a relatively large conformal sonar array, and a pump jet propulsor, suggesting high underwater speeds.
It is also equipped with SOKS (System Obnarujenia Kilvaternovo Sleda), a nonacoustic submarine detection system. This ‘sniffs’ chemicals and radiation left in the wake of a submarine to help trail it. Russia and Britain both deploy similar systems for this. The inclusion of SOKs implies that the AUV is intended for anti-submarine warfare.
Another new model on display was the E-Amur (Е-Амур) design. This is a very small submarine with no traditional sail and X-rudders. Flank sonar arrays are grafted onto the outside, implying single-hull construction, similar to existing Lada / Amur class designs. Four torpedo tubes are carried.
Outlook For The Arcturus Submarine
Rubin has a long tradition of building impressive submarines. They designed the Typhoon class, still the largest subs ever built. And the Borei Class, which is replacing all older ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), is too. So it is not surprising that their design concepts are ambitious and represent cutting-edge thinking.
But the chances of Arcturus being built seem slim. The design is a company proposal rather than a sanctioned project, else it would have a project number. And the current Russian economic situation, and extensive delays in current submarine building, do not bode well for it.
But the design is interesting in its own right. And it shows the direction of thinking among Russian submarine designers. There may be hints of future designs which could actually make it into the water. Russia’s submarine designers will do their best to keep up with the West, on paper if not in steel.