May 4, 2018

Debate Continues Whether New Borei / Borey SSBNs will have 16 or 20 SLBMs

An issue that I know keeps submarine aficionados up at night is whether Russia will go to the trouble of fitting its 5 later model Borey 955A SSBNs, not with 16 SLBMs, but with 20. A myth persists on English language websites that from the 4th Borey/Borei (Project 955) SSBN onwards 20 SLBM silos will be fitted.

Russian Wikipedia, on Russian Subs, Better Than English

“Starting from the fourth hull, all submarines of the Borei class will have 20 missile tubes each, versus 16 for the first three boats.”

But see Russian Wikipedia, Project 955 Borey Submarines. Once in the Russian site wait 10 seconds for any "Translate" popup or right-click mouse to Translate. Note in the right sidebar “Armament” is:

 “16 missiles of the D-30 complex [6] , SL -30 SS-NX-30 Bulava   Number of missiles: 16 (project 955), 16 (project 955A) [7]” 

So 20 Bulava SLBMs may be old news or still accurate.

For further background and diagrams (like the Borey above) see Soumarsov’s 


One thought is that the US and Russia may see zero sum game threats (meaning "one person's gain is anothers loss") from North Korea (NK) and China building more nuclear warheads. Say 1,000 for China? 

It is possible then the rising NK and Chinese capabilities would cause:

-  the US to fit or retrofit 10m to 20m plugs (for 4 to 8 more SLBMs respectively) on to its new 16
   SLBM future Columbia class SSBNs 

-  Russia might then retrofit 10m or 20m plugs onto its Boreys for the same purpose.

I think, instead the US would build additional Columbia and Russia additional Boreys all retaining 16 SLBMs. To fit or retrofit 10m or 20m plugs would mean many major adjustments would need to be made to the subs to  maintain acceptable Columbia/Borey handling, steering and above all stealth.

Soumarsov and Pete


Peter Coates said...

The How Many Bulavas in improved Borey (16 or 20)? debate continues:

The Diplomat May 9, 2018 reports

"The Knyaz Vladimir was laid down in July 2012. It is the first of a planned fleet of five Borei II-class SSBNs destined for the Russian Navy. Borei II-class boats boast...extra missiles in comparison to the older variant of the class...

...The Borei-class will be capable of carrying up to 16 Bulava ICBMs, whereas the improved Borei II-class can carry up to 20 ballistic missiles."

Peter Coates said...

StrategyPage article of May 13, 2018 "Submarines: Russia Redefines Combat Ready" at

is probably the most readable article on the latest Boreys/Boreis having 20 SLBMs:

"... the Delta IVs carrying the R-29s will be gone by the early 2020s, done in by old age.

...Four Boreis have been built and four others are under construction.

...first of the new Borei class SSBNs built. This boat [S1] the Yuri Dolgoruky, was launched in 2008 and then encountered further delays before undergoing sea trials in 2012. The Yuri Dolgoruky was supposed to have been launched by 2006, but there were technical problems that caused more delays.

The other two Boreis ([S2] Alexander Nevsky and [S3] Vladimir Monomakh) benefited from all those delays and were built much more quickly. Starting with the fourth Borei [S4] there have been some major changes made and this version is called Borei II [S4 to S8]. These slightly larger Boreis can again carry 20 SLBMs and have some new equipment and features as well as being a bit longer than the original Borei.

[article then goes into much more detail on the Boreys "Boreis" and the Bulava SLBMs]

Pete said...

Franz-Stefan Gady for The Diplomat (paysite) has written a useful update December 04, 2018 on advances in newer model Borei / Borey SSBNs

About Borei II[A]-class Knyaz Vladimir (Prince Vladimir) to be delivered 2019 [and more Borei IIs later] to be armed with 20 x Bulava SLBMs as well as having smaller hulls, smaller fin/sails, improved quieting and other technical improvements.



Separately a Tass Article "Russia to build 2 more Borei-A strategic nuclear-powered submarines by 2028" November 30, 2018
"Russia will build two more Project 955A Borei-A serial-produced nuclear-powered strategic submarines at the Sevmash Shipyard and their total number will rise to ten, a source in the defense industry told TASS on [Nov 30, 2018] Friday.

..."With the keel-laying of two more underwater cruisers, the number of [Borei] Project 955 and Project 955A strategic submarines in the Russian Navy will rise to ten. Five of them will be operational in the Northern Fleet and the other five in the Pacific Fleet," the source said."