A giant Russian submarine designed to carry powerful underwater drones was due to be launched next month.
But now, for unknown reasons, the launch of the first of a whole new category of submarines has been delayed until the Autumn.
The announcement of the delay was made in Russian state newspaper Tass today, April 18.
There will eventually be three of four subs of this new class, defence analysts believe, the second is likely to be named Ulyanovsk and the names of the third and possible fourth boats are yet to be revealed.
They are currently being built in Construction Hall 1 at Russia's inaccessible Sevmash yard in Severodvinsk, inside the Arctic Circle.
The Khabarovsk class subs will be the second craft capable of carrying the underwater doomsday weapon Poseidon.
Poseidon is a 70-foot underwater drone powered by a miniature nuclear reactor.
The unmanned craft has near-unlimited range and can dive to depths of up to a mile, making it virtually impossible to intercept.
It’s designed to carry a nuclear warhead undetectably right to the centre of any capital city in the world.
As well as Poseidon, the Khabarovsk is also likely to carry anti-ship and land-attack missiles, making it a formidable threat to the navies of Britain and America in any future war.
Underwater warfare expert H I Sutton describes the new vessel as a game-changer for submarine tactics:
He wrote in Forbes magazine: “The Russian Navy is quietly developing a whole new category of submarines and their unique capabilities could influence the nature of undersea warfare.”
Unmanned subs are already being developed for the Royal Navy but Sutton says that there is little in the Navy’s current arsenal that could intercept the Poseidon and “new faster, longer-ranged and deeper diving torpedoes” will need to be designed and built.
“Countering [Poseidon] will cost the West vast amounts of money, and it will mean compromises along the way,” he notes, speculating that forcing Russia's enemies to make difficult economic sacrifices may be part of the plan.
Even without Khabarovsk, Russia could still potentially deploy the Poseidon underwater drone. The giant K-329 Belgorod submarine – the longest submarine ever constructed – is also equipped to carry the weapon.
While little is know of its exact specification, the six hundred foot long Belgorod is thought to displace more water than a World War I battleship and can dive to a depth of over 1,500 feet.
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