From Julietts to Yasens: Development and Operational History of Soviet Cruise-Missile Submarines 1958-2022
By ALEJANDRO A. VILCHES ALARCON
(Helion – £19.95)
ISBN 978 1 915070 68 5
From Julietts to Yasens is a concise but well-researched book that gives an interesting perspective on capability development, technological innovation, and its relationship to strategy. Western understanding of Soviet/Russian naval strategy has typically been beguiled by the romanticism of a Russian breakout into the wider Atlantic. This book however, reinforces that the Russian Navy generally seeks to match capability advancements to help solve its biggest challenges, namely, the threat to Russia from US carrier battle groups.
This is the story then of the cost in treasure and sometimes blood to innovate and develop capabilities to defend Russia from further out by developing longer-range missile systems from submarines. Strike or non-contact warfare would be another arrow in the quiver of strategic deterrence by offering increasingly more credible counter US carrier options and was all part of what Admiral Gorshkov called the ‘battle for the first salvo’.
It is a diligently researched book and provides an interesting history of the challenges facing naval capability developers. For Russian submarines, this development was epitomised by constant compromise between value for money and experimentation to improve speed, depth, stealth, and lethality. These competing issues were largely characterised and determined by the displacement needed for increasingly larger missile systems and the method of firing (submerged versus surfaced).
There are interesting technical discussions around these problems, around targeting and the trend towards missile families that were no longer tied to directly to a particular submarine class. It is an interesting spin on the attempt at a very early network-enabled sensor-shooter concept and the associated complexities. This probably could have been brought out more and the section on the Yasen-class as an example is a little small. Similarly, the development of land attack capabilities as part of strategic strike missions for cruise missile submarines is largely skimmed over. Overall, it’s an interesting contribution to our understanding of the strategic purpose of the Russian submarine force.
DAVID BERRY MA, CDR RN