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Russia’s ‘Modernized’ Oscar-Class Aircraft Carrier Killer Submarine Is Back

Russian state media reported on Wednesday that the Zvezda Shipyard in the Far East has floated the nuclear-powered submarine Irkutsk of Project 949AM Oscar-class of the Pacific fleet. The boat has finally been overhauled and upgraded, after having its return to service postponed three times.

Russia’s Modernized Oscar-class Submarine Could Return to Service This Year – Russian state media reported on Wednesday that the Zvezda Shipyard in the Far East has floated the nuclear-powered submarine Irkutsk of Project 949AM of the Pacific fleet. The boat has finally been overhauled and upgraded, after having its return to service postponed three times.

The Irkutsk first entered service with the Russian Navy in 1988 but has been in reserve since 1997.

“The modernization continues at the berth,” a defense industry source told Tass, adding the submarine was floated late last year.

According to the most recent update, the upgraded Irkutsk will carry more than thirty Zircon (NATO reporting name: SS-N-36) scramjet-powered, nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles and over thirty Phisik-2 torpedoes. It is expected that the boat could begin sea trials in the coming months and possibly even be returned to service by the end of the year.

An Upgraded Project 949 Oscar-Class Submarine

During the Cold War, the Soviet Navy operated a sizable submarine force. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russian Navy fell into hard times and that included its fleet of submarines. In recent years, Moscow has committed to building new subs, while modernizing the older boats.

Among the aging submarines that have gotten a new lease on life are those of Project 949 Granit and Project 949A Antey (NATO reporting names Oscar I and Oscar II). A total of twenty of the nuclear-powered cruise missile submarines were originally planned with the first commissioned in 1980. Since then six were canceled­including four that were never laid down. Two of the canceled boats had their respective parts used in the construction of newer submarines, while the hulls have remained intact and construction could be restarted in the future.

Four of the aging boats have been retired, while the 949A boat Kursk was lost in an accident in the Barents Sea in August 2000, killing all 118 personnel on board.

The remaining Antey-class submarines will undergo an upgrade that will extend the service life by a decade. The submarine Irkutsk, which was commissioned in December 1988, has been the first to undergo modernization to the 949AM version at the Zvezda shipyards in the Russian Far East.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had previously said that the modernization of the submarine would extend its service life by at least ten years.

During its refit, the nuclear-powered submarine Irkutsk (K-132) has reportedly been outfitted with the latest missile, torpedo, and radio-technical armaments and advanced communications systems to boost its combat efficiency. Among the planned upgrades is its ability to carry and launch Zircon (Tsirkon) hypersonic missiles.

Oscar-Class

Oscar-class boats during the Cold War were built will the goal of hunting down U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups.

Better Late Than Never?

Irkutsk had been scheduled to be handed over to the Pacific Fleet in 2022, but as with many Russian programs, it has been met with delays – no doubt at least partially a result of Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, which will reach the two-year mark later this month.

Oscar-Class

A second submarine of the class, Chelyabinsk has been laid up since 2008 but could be the next to be upgraded. The Russian Navy Main Command had also previously announced plans to have seven Project 949A and Project 949AM Antey subs in service with the Northern and Pacific Fleets by the end of 2023. A new timeline hasn’t been announced.

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