The USA will add two nuclear submarines this year.
The most lethal new subs are those of the Yuri Dolgoruky class, also known as the Project 955 Borey class. Construction of the Dolgoruky has been a protracted affair — the ship was laid down at the Sevmash military shipyard in Severodvinsk in 1996 but not launched until 2007. Sea trials began in 2009, but development of the ship's primary weapon, the Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), itself has been fraught with problems. It was only in 2014 that the submarine submerged with a full load of 16 ICBM.
The Dolgoruky carried out an operational test firing of a Bulava in October, the Itar-Tass news agency reported — the third successful test launch since a September 2013 failure — and two more will take place in 2015.
Meanwhile, construction of Yasen-class Project 885M nuclear attack submarines is picking up. The first unit, Severodvinsk, was commissioned at the end of 2013 after a 20-year construction period, during which the submarine underwent significant re-design. A second unit, laid down in 2009 at Sevmash, could be delivered this year.
Two more Yasens were laid down in 2014. Itar-Tass reported on Dec. 26 that Mikhail Budnichenko, head of Sevmash, said three Project 885 Yasen-class subs would be laid down this year along with two Boreys.
But are the new submarines cause for worry?
The Yasen attack subs "are probably what you could get in 1989, plus improved combat systems," Friedman said. "They got access to microprocessors and things like that. But they're not going to the insertion of new technology, because they're not that flexible. But I would guess the combat systems have improved substantially."
Clark sees no cause for alarm in the pace of Russian submarine construction.
"They don't have very many submarines today, and they certainly don't have very many frontline submarines that would be anywhere close to US submarines," he said. "The best submarines the Russians are producing are perhaps equivalent to some of the older US submarines currently in use. It would take a while for the Russians to build up enough of those to where they create a potential problem for the US.
With the post-1990 decline in shipbuilding, Friedman said, the shipyards have lost much of their submarine-building expertise.
"A lot of people quit the yards" when construction all but ended, he said. "If they lost a lot of their smarter people, there's a difficulty in recreating what they had. Coming back 15 years later and trying to recreate it is kind of dubious."
"Their industrial base is weakened from two decades of not being used," he said. "You've got a significant reduction in the number of skilled engineers, the aging out of people who otherwise would be part of the Russian design base.
"While Russian engineering and technology development is top-notch, they don't necessarily have the people to be able to do all the legwork necessary to take an idea into a reality. That's why you see things like submarines taking 10 or more years to construct, because they just don't have the design and construction base to support high-rate production."
SOURCES - Defense news, Inquisitr, Business Insider