Foul weather prevented several VIPs from flying to Severodvinsk over the weekend to take part in the keel-laying of a new class of strategic missile submarine, so the event has been postponed for one week. First Deputy Defense Minister Andrei Kokoshin, one of those who had planned to attend the ceremony, described the new "Yuri Dolgoruky" as a state-of-the-art nuclear missile carrying submarine with "substantial improvements" over those in service today. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, October 25) For his part, Presidential Chief of Staff Anatoly Chubais called the new submarine "a totally unique thingÉ a submarine for the next century." He, Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, and navy commander in chief Admiral Feliks Gromov had also planned to attend the event. Given the turmoil in defense enterprises over tardy wages, Chubais said that he had arranged with the Finance Ministry to ensure that the workers at the plant building the new vessel would get at least some of their back pay today. (Interfax, October 26)
Although the new ship could be a replacement for the cruise-missile carrying Oscar class, most reports indicated it would be armed with ballistic missiles. Currently, the backbone of the naval leg of Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent is comprised of 6 Typhoon and 7 Delta IV ballistic-missile submarines, the oldest of which was put into service in 1983. These will be reaching the end of their 20-year service life about the time the first Yuri Dolgoruky is commissioned. Production of the new sub is likely to spark renewed criticism in the West that Russia is wasting scarce resources on defense production, despite Moscow’s serious economic problems and the end of the Cold War.
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