Russia Submarine Import and Export Behavior

Varshavyanka-class submarine for the Indian Navy, Zvezdochka Shipyard, Severodvinsk Zvezdochka,


Russia is an exporter of submarines and does not import them.


The Soviet nuclear submarine program involved a wide variety of industrial enterprises, including an expansive network of research, design, and production centers, and the world's largest shipbuilding complex. However, in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, this vast enterprise contracted significantly as the resources that supported it also contracted, with the defense industry instead focusing on promoting "conversion, concentration, and privatization." [1] In the early 2000's Russia's economy, and consequently its defense industry, began to rebound. However, it wasn't until 21 March 2007, following a presidential executive order, that the Russian naval defense industry began to take on its current shape through the formation of the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC). With 100% of USC's shares controlled by the state, in reality this reorganization more closely resembles the original Soviet model, with approximately 60 shipyards, design centers, and repair facilities consolidated under state control.

Submarine Tables for Russia

Though there has been recent discussion of reorganizing USC's subdivisions by type of production rather than by region to improve efficiency and profits, currently USC comprises five subdivisions that are organized by region and function, including the project design bureau, and the north, south, east, and west regional subdivisions. [2] Historically, Russian and earlier Soviet submarine design and construction for export were handled by a large number of shipyards and bureaus, including: the Northern Machine-Building Enterprise and Zvezdochka State Machine-Building enterprises in Severodinsk; the Amur Shipyard in Komsomolsk-na-Amure; and the Zvezda Shipyard in Primorskiy Krai. However, as part of reorganization under the USC and attempts to make production more cost-effective, all of Russia's submarine exports are currently handled by one shipyard, the Admiralty Shipyards in St. Petersburg, and two design bureaus, the Rubin Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering in St. Petersburg and the Ruben-North Design Bureau in Severodinsk. Additionally, the Zvezdochka shipyard in Severodinsk, while no longer constructing new submarines, has been responsible for modernizing or repairing the majority of the Indian Sindhughosh-class (NATO: Kilo) submarines. [3] Finally, although all nuclear submarine modernization procedures are now carried out at the Severodvinsk shipyards in the Russian Northwest, the Zvezda shipyard in Primorskiy Kray continues to be used for submarine dismantlement.

To date, neither the Soviet Union nor Russia has sold nuclear submarines to foreign parties. However, technology transfers have occurred. Some direct assistance occurred during the Soviet era, and both the Soviet Union and Russia have leased submarines to foreign nations. The first example of this assistance came in 1958, when the Soviet Union began assisting the Chinese in the construction of their first nuclear submarine, which copied but was not identical to the Soviet Project 629 (NATO: Golf) class submarine. [4] Additionally, from 1988 to 1991 the Soviet Union leased to India a Project 670 Skat (NATO: Charlie I) class nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine, the K-43 (renamed Chakra while in Indian service). The reactors were operated by a Soviet crew, and the vessel was returned to the Soviet Union in 1991. [5] Most recently, on 4 April 2012, Defense Minister A. K. Antony commissioned the Project 971 Shchuka B (NATO: Akula-II) class K-152 Nerpa, rechristening it the INS Chakra and leasing it to the Indian Navy for a 10-year period at an estimated cost of USD 920 million. [6] While the standard Russian Shchuka B is equipped with 12 Granat RK-55 NATO: SS-N-21) cruise missiles, the Indian version is armed with the 300-km Klub missiles already installed on the Project 877 Varshavyanka (NATO: Kilo) class diesel submarines Russia built for India. [7]

Russia, like the Soviet Union before it, has a large diesel submarine production program and actively exports them. The height of Soviet submarine exports came between 1960 and 1980, during which approximately 60 Project 613 (NATO: Whiskey) class submarines were exported to 9 different countries, including Albania, Bulgaria, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, China, North Korea, Poland, and Syria. [8] In the early 1970s the Soviets also exported large numbers of Project 633 (NATO: Romeo) class submarines, which became the mainstay of the Chinese fleet. By the mid-1970s, the Soviet Union had begun exporting Project 641 (NATO: Foxtrot) class submarines. Finally, in the mid-1980s, it started selling the Project 877 Varshavyanka (NATO: Kilo), and its later variant Project 636 class submarines, which are the mainstay of its current export program. In total, 19 Project 877 Kilo submarines have been exported to 6 countries, including three submarines to Iran in the early 1990s, as well as exports to India, China, Poland, Romania, and Algeria. [9] At least two countries, China and Vietnam, have also purchased the updated Project 636 Kilo-class submarines. [10] There were reports in 2007 and 2008 that both Venezuela and Indonesia were planning to purchase Project 636 submarines. [11] However, neither of those proposed contracts came to fruition.

India is another key export market for Russian submarines. Besides the lease of the INS Chakra II, India has imported ten diesel Varshavyankas (known in India as the Sindhughosh-class), six of which were equipped or upgraded with the 3M-54 Klub-S missile systems, including the most recent INS Sindhurakshak (S63), which returned from the Zvezdochka shipyard in early 2013. [15]

Rubin Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering

Amur-class Submarine, Rubin.

The chief designer of Russian submarine exports is the Rubin Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering in St. Petersburg, which designed three generations of Russian nuclear and diesel submarines, including all of Russia's diesel submarine exports. All submarine designs currently being exported were designed at the Rubin Central Design Bureau and constructed at the Admiralty Shipyards in St. Petersburg.

The chief designer of Russian submarine exports is the Rubin Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering in St. Petersburg, which designed three generations of Russian nuclear and diesel submarines, including all of Russia's diesel submarine exports. All submarine designs currently being exported were designed at the Rubin Central Design Bureau and constructed at the Admiralty Shipyards in St. Petersburg.

Founded in 1901, the Rubin Central Design Bureau has designed more than 20 submarine classes, totaling approximately 950 submarines, of which 138 were nuclear. [16] With waning demand and resources for nuclear submarine production in the 1990's, the state-controlled Rubin design bureau has focused its efforts on establishing commercial exports of several fourth generation designs including the Project 677 (NATO: Lada) and the Project 636 (NATO: Kilo) diesel submarines.

The Project 677 submarine, otherwise known as the Amur-class for export purposes, is extremely quiet and can be outfitted with air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems. Smaller than the Kilo, the Amur is designed for operation in littoral waters and is expected to cost significantly less than the Project 636 submarines.[17] The first in the Project 677 Class, the Sankt Peterburg, was launched by the Admiralty Shipyards in October 2004. Although the Sankt Peterburg had been commissioned and commenced sea trials, the project's future came into doubt as several problems with the submarine led to freezes in construction of the second and third submarines in the class, the Kronshtadt and the Sevastopol. [18] Construction has since resumed on these submarines, but the recent announcement of the 5th generation Kalina-class submarine based on AIP technology has led some to question whether production of the Project 677 submarines will continue beyond the two vessels currently under construction.

Malakhit Central Marine-Engineering Design Bureau

The Malakhit design bureau, was founded in 1948, and designed the Soviet Union's first nuclear-powered submarine, the Project 627 (NATO: November), which was constructed at Sevmash. Malakhit worked in close cooperation with the Kurchatov Institute, and designers at Malakhit were the first Russians to outfit nuclear submarines with ballistic missiles. [19] Recently, Malakhit has been developing new unified torpedo-missile armament systems to accommodate the latest types of cruise missiles, torpedoes, rocket-assisted torpedoes, and mines, and remains the leader in designing hardware for the Russian Navy. [20]

In the export sphere, the Malakhit bureau's main focus has been the export of mini-submarines, small submarines, and equipment for the oil and gas markets. Malakhit has promoted the Project 865 Piranya (NATO: Losos) class mini-submarine to Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Near East, for example at expositions in Indonesia (February 2005) and Singapore (May 2005). [21] The Piranya was originally designed for the Soviet Navy; the first of class was laid down in July 1984. More recently, Malakhit designed and is promoting the Triton-I/II extremely small submarines, which can be built relatively quickly and inexpensively, and which are well-suited to navies that must operate in shallow waters. [22]

For domestic use, Malakhit designed the Project 971 Shchuka-B (NATO: Akula) class nuclear-powered submarine. The bureau also designed the Project 885 Yasen-class nuclear attack submarine, of which the first vessel, the Severodvinsk, is currently undergoing sea trials. While construction is currently underway on the second and third ships of the class, the Kazan and the Novosibirsk, numerous problems noted with the Severodinsk during sea trials have delayed the progress on these two vessels, and they are not expected to be completed until 2017 at the earliest. [23]

Northern Machine-Building Enterprise (Sevmash)

Project 636 (Improved Kilo) submarine, Admiralty Website,

The Northern Machine-Building Enterprise (more commonly referred to as Sevmash), located in Severodinsk, is Russia's largest shipbuilding complex, with a staff of over 25,000 in 2012. [24] Since 1939, Sevmash has built 163 submarines, including 128 nuclear-powered submarines and most recently the Project 955 Borei and Project 955A Borei-A class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN). [25] Though the Sevmash yard has produced submarines for export in the past, it is currently not engaged in any production for export. However, as the yard is the only one in Russia that focuses on the repair and maintenance of nuclear submarines, it is assumed that any repairs or modernizations to India's Chakra would be conducted at Sevmash.

Zvezdochka State Machine-Building Enterprise

The smaller of the two shipyards located in Severodvinsk, Zvezdochka, was commissioned in 1954. Since its establishment, the yard has repaired and modernized over 100 first-, second-, and third-generation submarines. [26] More recently, Zvezdochka has been involved with dismantling SSBNs under START I. Zvezdochka also constructs submarines for export, and repairs submarines previously exported. For example, it has overhauled and modernized several of India's Project 877EKM Varshavyanka (NATO: Kilo) class submarines. [27] Five of India's Kilo-class submarines, the Sindhugosh, the Sindhuvijay, the Sinduvir, the Sindhuratna, and most recently the Sindhurakshak have already been equipped with the Klub S (SS-N-27) missile system at Zvezdochka, while a sixth Kilo, the Sindukirti, was repaired and modernized by the Zvezdochka shipyard locally in Vishakhapatnam, India. [28] The majority of these modernizations, which include improvements to the hull structure, control, sonar and electronic warfare systems, were originally intended to take place in India. However, this has turned out to be impossible, requiring more of the modernizations to be undertaken in Russia, resulting in significant delays. These delays, combined with several recent accidents on these submarines, including the sinking of the Sindhurakshak on 14 August 2013, have begun to raise concerns over the safety of the Indian submarine fleet and the country's continued relationship with Russia's shipbuilding industry. [29]

Admiralty Shipyards

Also known as Admiralty-Sudomekh, United Admiralty, and Leningradskoye Admiralteyskoye Obedineniye, the Admiralty Shipyard is a former nuclear submarine production facility and consists of two side-by-side shipyards in St. Petersburg. To date, the Admiralty Shipyards have built 298 submarines, of which 41 were nuclear. The shipyard currently builds all of the Russian submarines for export, including the Project 877EKM Kilo and the Amur 1650 (the export variant of the Lada). [30] Specifically, Admiralty Shipyards has built a line of Varshavyanka submarines (the export variant of the Kilo) for the Indian and Chinese navies. The shipyard built five of the eight SSKs ordered by Beijing, and in January 2014 delivered the first Kilo-class submarine, the Hanoi, to Vietnam. [31] Additionally, following delivery of two Varshyanka submarines from the Admiralty Shipyard in 2010, Algeria is in discussions with Russia to purchase two more submarines for delivery in 2018, which would be constructed in the Admiralty shipyard as well. [32]

Amur Shipbuilding Plant

The largest shipyard in Russia's Far East, Amur Shipbuilding Plant, located in Komsomolsk-na-Amure, has built 56 nuclear submarines and 41 diesel-electric submarines since it began operations in 1936. [33] The shipyard produced 56 submarines from 1960 to 1996. Because the shallow waters of the Amur River prevented the launching of large vessels, the plant built only smaller SSBNs: Project 667A Navaga (NATO: Yankee) and Project 667B Murena (NATO: Delta I) and SSNs: Project 971 Shchuka B (NATO: Akula); Project 671 Ersh and Shchuka (NATO: Victor I and III); and Varshavyanka-class diesel submarines. [34]

In November 1992, President Boris Yeltsin announced the termination of nuclear submarine construction at the Amur Shipbuilding Plant, and the consolidation of future nuclear submarine production at the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk. [35] An Akula SSN (the K-295 or Drakon), completed at Bolshoy Kamen's Vostok Plant (Primorskiy Kray) in 1995 was the last nuclear submarine released from the Amur plant. Despite the presidential order, two nuclear submarines remained under construction at the facility (two Project 971 Shchuka-B (NATO: Akula II) class submarines). [36] In October 1999, during Vladimir Putin's visit to the facility as prime minister, the decision was announced that one submarine would be completed and the other used for spare parts at the Sevmash plant. [37] However, instead of being dismantled, the latter vessel was simply placed in storage, fueling rumors which were later confirmed that India would lease an Akula II submarine from the Russians.

[1] "Russia," The Military Balance, Volume 97 Issue 1, pp. 101-14.
[2] "United Shipbuilding Corporation Faces Major Overhaul to Fight Slump," The Moscow Times, 27 September 2013,
[3] "Russia arms Indian 'Sea giant' sub with multi-role cruise missiles," RT, 26 January 2013,
[4] Lyle Goldstein and Bill Murray, "From Humble Origins: China's Submarine Force Comes of Age" Undersea Warfare Magazine, Winter 2004 Issue, Accessed 28 March 2014,
[5] Yuriy Golotyuk, "My na lodke katalis. [We travelled by ship]" Vremya novostey, 15 February, 2001, 19 February, 2001,
[6] Marina Kravchenko, "Boris Aleshin has modernized a nuclear submarine for India [Boris Aleshin raskonserviroval atomnyye submariny dlya Indii," Kommersant, 11 October 2004,
[7] Rajat Pandit, "Nuclear Submarine INS Chakra inducted into Navy," The Time of India, 5 April 2012,
[8} Roman Volkov and Andrew Brichevsky, "Middle Submarines: Project 613,", Accessed: 28 March 2014,
[9] "International Defense Review: The Ubiquitous Kilo," IHS Jane's, 1 August 1997,; ET Bureau, "INS Chakra: Govt Inducts Russian-origin Akula II class Nerpa into Navy" The Economic Times, 4 April, 2012,
[10] "Jane's Fighting Ships: Kilo Class (Project 877K/877M/636)" IHS Jane's, Updated 20 February 2014,; "Vietnam orders submarines and warplanes from Russia," BBC, 16 December 2009,
[11] "Vietnam's Russian Restocking: More Frigates Ordered," Defense Industry Daily, 2 March 2014,
[12] "Navy - China," Jane's Sentinel Security Assessment - China and Northeast Asia, 17 February 2004,
[13] "World Navies - China," Jane's World Navies, 13 March 2014,
[14] Zachary Keck, "Russian may sell China new Advanced Submarines," The Diplomat, 28 March 2014,
[15] "Russia hands over refitted Indian Sub," RIA Novosti, 26 January 2013,
[16] Thomas Nilsen, Igor Kudrik, and Alexander Nikitin, "Nuclear-powered vessels," The Russian Northern Fleet, Bellona Foundation,
[17] "Conventional Submarines: Amur 950," Rubin Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering, Accessed 7 April 2014,
[18] "Construction Resumed on the second submarine of the Project 677 Lada - Krohnstadt [Vozobnovlyaetsya stroitelstvo vtoroi podvodnoi lodki proekta 677 "Lada" - "Krohnstadt"]" -promishlennye kuryer, 15 July 2013,
[19] Thomas Nilsen, Igor Kudrik, and Alexander Nikitin, "Nuclear-powered vessels," The Russian Northern Fleet, Bellona Foundation,
[20] Thomas Nilsen, Igor Kudrik, and Alexander Nikitin, "Nuclear-powered vessels," The Russian Northern Fleet, Bellona Foundation,
[21] "Naval Design Bureau Malakhit predicts an increasing demand for small submarines [Morskoye byuro mashinostroyeniya 'Malakhit' prognoziruyet rezkiy rost sprosa na malyye podvodnyye lodki]," ITAR-TASS, 17 February 2005,; Sergey Zavorotnyy, "A storm is being weathered in Singapore [V Singapure shtormilo]," Tribuna, 28 May 2005,
[22] "Jane's World Defense Industry: United Shipbuilding Corporation," IHS Jane's, 7 January 2014,
[23] "Jane's World Navies: Russian Federation," HIS Jane's, 11 March 2014,
[24] "Jane's World Defense Industry: United Shipbuilding Corporation," IHS Jane's, 7 January 2014,
[25] "Jane's Sentinel Security Assessment - Russia and the CIS: Procurement," IHS Jane's, 13 March 2014,
[26] Pavel Kachur, "Sindhuvir Operational Again," Military Parade, September-October 1999, p. 32.
[27] Nikolai Kalistratov, "Zvyozdochka: Russia's Ship Repair Industry Leader," Military Parade, May-June 1998, pp. 78-80.
[28] "Russia arms India 'Sea Giant' sub with multi-role cruise missiles," RIA Novosti, 26 January 2013,
[29] "South Asia: India Procurement," IHS Janes, 24 March 2014,
[30] "Admiralty Shipyards Brochure," Admiralty Shipyards, Accessed: 9 April 2014,
[31] "Vietnam commissions first Russian-built 'Kilo' SSK," IHS Jane's, 16 January 2014,
[32] Alexander Zudin, "Algeria to sign for two more 'Kilo' subs," IHS Jane's Weekly Defense, 24 February 2014,
[33] "Jane's World Defense Industry: United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC)," IHS Jane's, 7 January 2014,
[34] Bellona Report,
[35] "Yeltsin: No More Red Submarines?" Arms Control Today, November 1992, p. 35.
[36] "Payments for Two Nuclear Submarines Uncertain," Interfax, 9 July 1997, in FBIS-UMA-97-190.
[37] "Russian Premier Visits Nuke Sub and Aircraft Plants," Vremya newscast, 27 October 1999.

June 10, 2014
Table of Contents:

The submarine proliferation resource collection is designed to highlight global trends in the sale and acquisition of diesel- and nuclear-powered submarines. It is structured on a country-by-country basis, with each country profile consisting of information on capabilities, imports and exports.


This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2019.