While Russia and Ukraine remain embedded in a bitter confrontation, the Russian state-owned marine engineering design bureau – Rubin – earlier in the month, announced a project to modify the Strazh or Border and Offshore Submersible Sentry (BOSS) class submarines.
Rubin had presented the first version of a submersible patrol ship that integrated the advantage of a submarine and a surface patrol vessel in 2021. This concept was christened BOSS. Translated variously as Sentry, Sentinel, or Guardian, BOSS is primarily intended for foreign customers.
The concept itself has multiple benefits. BOSS is expected to be affordable like most offshore patrol vessels, which are relatively cheaper and therefore accessible to countries with tight defense budgets.
The operation of such vessels is quite efficient since they can be used for several activities such as preventing illegal trade, poaching, and other law infringements.
Such vessels are also multi-functional as they can also be employed as patrol ships, rescue ships, or research vessels. The equipment for the BOSS will be sourced primarily from surface ships and aircraft.
This ship is similar to the Soviet Whiskey-class submarines in terms of its architecture and outline. The Whiskey-class submarines were also quite popular with overseas customers.
BOSS has the same basic parameters as this older submarine – a surface displacement of over 1000 tons, an overall length of 60 to 70 meters depending on the configuration.
It can sustain a crew of up to 42 people, including the boarding team. Large pressure-proof containers can be utilized to store Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) for boarding teams or a UAV that has up to 3 hours of endurance. The ship can be armed with torpedoes, small guided missiles, and autocannon, based on the customer’s demands.
This marine vessel also has the ability to dive. This allows the ship to not only be able to discreetly observe inflictors (and to catch them red-handed) but also helps it avoid harsh weather conditions that would have otherwise forced it to abort the mission.
A submersible ship can be employed as a classical submarine, for intelligence, surveillance & reconnaissance (ISR), as well as for other missions.
This submersible patrol ship will have better seabed research capability than those of a surface ship. Additionally, it can serve as an inexpensive training vessel to provide crews with seagoing experience.
The New Submersible Vessel
The new submarine that Rubin recently unveiled has a length of 72 meters and a surface displacement of about 1300 tons. Such huge dimensions allow for greater capabilities. This also features new lines with a wave-piercing bow and a tumblehome hull reduce roll, making the ship a more stable weapon platform.
This design reduces the vessel’s radar signature. In fact, it has been touted to be almost invisible to radars. A high-power propulsion system on this submarine allows speed up to 21 kt.
This version comes equipped with autocannon, two guided-missile launchers, and four 324 mm torpedo tubes. Rubin claims that this weapons package makes this BOSS “a formidable enemy for even much larger ships”.
Furthermore, this submersible also has two pressure-proof multifunctional hangars that can be used to accommodate the boarding team’s boats and equipment, UAVs, or other payloads. For search and target acquisition, both radar and sonar can be used. This is expected to allow a more discreet detection and approach.
Like the model that it is based on, this ship, too, can be used for anti-submarine exercises and for preparing crews for classical submarines.
This multi-functional ship caters to the demand of navies with smaller budgets. This would be quite useful in the context of cost-cutting measures enforced due to the pandemic. Rubin has moved to build a combination of surface and underwater capabilities in the BOSS project to make the submersible multi-functional.
Owing to this design, the ship, which is claimed to be intended for peacetime use, will manage to retain its relevance as a combat unit in case of a conflict. Moreover, the diving capability allows BOSS to fulfill typical patrol duties, too.
Targeting Small-Budget Buyers
This submersible is likely to further consolidate Russia’s footprint in the naval exports arena. Since most importing countries are looking for ships that can help them carry out coastal and regional defense rather than vessels that harbor cutting-edge weapon systems and high-end naval capabilities, the BOSS ships fit the bill.
Additionally, the naval export market is largely focused on inexpensive frigates and small conventional-powered attack submarines.
A majority share of the money in military ship export business is in vessels under 5000 tonnes, of which most are ships below 3000 tonnes. The newest version of BOSS corresponds to this demand. It is likely to help Russia, which (together with Germany and France) has a combined market share of more than 80 percent when it comes to naval surface ships and submarines.