Asenior U.S. military officer has again sounded the alarm about the threat that advanced, very quiet, cruise-missile-armed Russian submarines, as well as Chinese ones, increasingly present to the United States. At a hearing on Capitol Hill yesterday, U.S. Air Force General Glen VanHerck, who is head of U.S. Northern Command and the U.S.-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command, told lawmakers that Russia’s growing fleet of nuclear-powered Yasen class guided-missile submarines, in particular, are nearly on par with U.S. Navy types in terms of quietness and will present a persistent threat to the American homeland unlike any before within five years. He added that, at its current pace of modernization, the Chinese Navy would not be behind for long in terms of similar capabilities.
VanHerck made these comments before members of the House Armed Services Committee during a hearing on missile defense on June 15, 2021. The general was one of five officials testifying before the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, the others being Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy Leonor Tomero, Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Director Navy Vice Admiral Jon Hill, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command head Lieutenant General Daniel Karbler, and U.S. Space Command chief Space Force Lieutenant General John Shaw.
“Russia just fielded their second Sev class [submarine], which is on par with ours,” VanHerck said at one point, as part of a response to a question about threats that fall below the nuclear threshold that potential adversaries pose to the United States. “Within a five-year period, they’ll have eight to nine of those submarines, which will be a persistent proximate threat off of our east and west coasts that we haven’t had ever in the past.”
The “Sev class” boat VanHerck was referring to was the Kazan, which was formally commissioned into Russian Navy service in May. Kazan is the second submarine in the Project 885 Yasen class, which NATO refers to as the Severodvinsk class after the name of the lead boat. It is also the first boat in a new subclass, known as the Project 885M Yasen-M class. Russia has four more of the multi-mission Yasen-Ms already under construction and is presently planning to build at least eight boats in this subclass, in total.
Earlier in the hearing, VanHerck, in the context of cruise missile defense, another area of growing concern to the U.S. military, in general, had talked about Russian submarines that were “advanced, very quiet, nearly on par with our[s].” This also appeared to be a reference to the Yasen class.