MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia inaugurated on Thursday the first of a new class of submarine it will rely upon for decades as a bulwark of its strategic nuclear force and President Vladimir Putin pledged to strengthen the country’s navy further. Putin, who began a new six-year term last May, has emphasised that Russia sees nuclear arms as a crucial source of security and will continue to rebuild its sea power after a period of shrinkage following the 1991 Soviet collapse.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to Putin that the first of the Borei class nuclear-powered submarines, the Yuri Dolgoruky – on which construction began in 1996 – had entered service. Shoigu spoke to Putin via a videolink from aboard the 170-meter (558-foot) submarine designed to carry 16 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) of a new type called the Bulava. Comrade commander-in-chief! .
The vessel has been handed over to the Russian navy,” Shoigu told Putin in a message shown on state television from the Sevmash shipyard in the White Sea port of Severodvinsk. The Russian president was on a visit to the Barents Sea naval base of Severomorsk at the time. The development of a powerful, effective navy is one of Russia’s chief priorities,” Putin said. “We will only increase the pace, the renewal and development of the fleet,” he said in televised comments at the base, where he gave an award to the crew of the Northern Fleet’s flagship, the warship Pyotr Veliky.
Putin said the state has earmarked more than 4 trillion roubles ($132 billion) by 2020 to upgrade naval forces. He reiterated plans to bring eight Borei submarines designed to launch ICBMs into service in that period, in addition to eight smaller Yasen type submarines, also atomic-powered.
Russian navy chief Admiral Viktor Chirkov said the Yuri Dolgoruky was expected to go on combat duty early in 2014 after a series of exercises, state-run news agency RIA reported. Russia and the United States signed a landmark treaty in 2010 setting lower limits on the size of the long-range nuclear arsenals they built up during the Cold War.