Russia Stirs Nuclear Turf Wars With Underwater Warfare Weaponry – A Scale Model Nuke Sub

Silent beyond recognition by enemy detection systems, armed to the teeth with nuclear missiles, and capable of stealthily taking the fight anywhere on the planet – the "Arcturus" submarine is a menacing-looking scale model. The project is named after a bright star in the northern skies, and it looks like a real game-changer. At least on paper.
Arturus Nuclear Submarine Scale Model 9 photos
Photo: Indian Aerospace Defence News (IADN) @NewsIADN/Twitter
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Armed with 12 hypersonic missiles, the sub has a sleek profile. Thanks to a completely electric shaftless propulsion system, it can move silently underwater. This means the nuclear reactor will act as an electrical generator for the propellers' motors. Propellers, as in two, since the Arcturus model boasts a pair of them.

In older nuclear-powered submarines, the atomic reactor generates heat to turn water into steam. This is used to power the turbines, which turn the massive propeller shaft. The design is intrinsically noisy, as steam turbine drive requires gear reducers and other loud moving parts. The Russian design eliminates most of that noise by removing the driveshaft altogether.

The reactor only powers electric motors (which can be mounted inside or outside the pressure hull). This feature allegedly reduces the sound signature of any vessels by a great deal. And for submarines, silence is golden.

However, there is no mention of whether the "silence factor" is related to Russian standards or submarines from other forces. As history has repeatedly taught us, Russian machines are renowned for being anything but quiet.

Arturus Nuclear Submarine Artistic Rendering
Photo: Indian Aerospace Defence News (IADN) @NewsIADN/Twitter
The warship could be the world's first of next-generation underwater warfare systems if we take the project seriously. It is equipped with two UUV (Unmanned Underwater Vehicles) - or drones – that can perform a variety of missions in almost perfect undetectability. According to official claims, the two drones can roam around the sub and scan the ocean in search of hostiles. In such a situation, "NATO submarines can become easy targets", per the Russians' words.

In true Russian statement fashion, the subsea warrior trio is said to be undetectable  by any other ship before Arcturus can spot it first. According to an official of the Rubin Submarine Design Bureau, "the new faceted shape of the Arcturus contours, together with a reduction in the size of the ship and a promising active coating, reduces the reflected sonar signal and reduces the detection range of the boat."

What does it mean? The Russians claim that no NATO sub can find, let alone engage in combat, the Arcturus and overwhelm it with first-strike capability. Take that with a fistful of (sea)salt, as the project is (very) far away from reality. Some analysts put the launch term or this war submarine past the half of this century.

If it were ever to become a fact (a very big "if" at the moment), the undersea boat is said to have a length of 440 feet (134 meters) and a width of 52 feet (16 meters). Enough to support a crew of approximately one hundred sailors.

Arturus Nuclear Submarine Artistic Rendering
Photo: Indian Aerospace Defence News (IADN) @NewsIADN/Twitter
The multifaceted angled hull is immediately noticeable in this new warship project. As opposed to currently operational Russian ships of the deep, which have a tube-like design for the hull, the Arcturus bears faint similarities to stealth designs of fifth-generation fighter jets. Or, better yet, to the soon-to-go-under-construction U212CD. Or even better still, to the British Dreadnought-class subs already being built.

Russian technology inspiration sources aside, the Arcturus could be just a platform to develop future technologies for underwater missile carriers. A slight hint at this is poised by the dual complete electric propulsion units, which can increase the maneuverability and reliability and reduce operational costs of the vessel.

As a strategic nuke-carrying nuclear-powered submarine, it is a surprise that the Arcturus design only houses 12 missile silos. The newest Russian submarines of the Borei-class carry 16 SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missiles).

Fewer missiles with greater firepower could be the logic behind this concept, which can also be fitted with hypersonic missiles. Complementary to the nuke arsenal, the submarine carries its two drones which can be deployed at any time.

Arturus Nuclear Submarine Scale Model
Photo: Indian Aerospace Defence News (IADN) @NewsIADN/Twitter
Seventeen meters long, 40 tons heavy, and 800 nautical miles of autonomy provided by the Li-ion batteries, the drones can perform recon, active search, and submarine imitation missions. As the name tag under the model suggests, the Arcturus is to join the Northern Fleet of the Russian Federation. In other words, it will roam under the ice shelf of the arctic ocean, awaiting orders.

However, as one Russian publicist observed, putting Arturus out on the sea is not a realistic expectation for the next decade. The main reason is that the technologies claimed to equip, propel, and arm Russia's "super-sub" are nonexistent. Revealed at the Army 2022 International Military-Technical Forum, which ends this Sunday, the model caught the eye of military experts and journalists at the event.

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About the author: Razvan Calin
Razvan Calin profile photo

After nearly two decades in news television, Răzvan turned to a different medium. He’s been a field journalist, a TV producer, and a seafarer but found that he feels right at home among petrolheads.
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