Russia’s Kazan Advanced Nuclear Guided-Missile Submarine Has Arrived In Cuba

The Yasen-M class nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine Kazan, one of the most advanced types in Russian Navy service today, has now made its hotly anticipated debut appearance in the Cuban capital Havana. Kazan is one of a group of four Russian naval vessels now in the Caribbean, which had been closely shadowed by U.S. and allied warships and aircraft.

Along with the Kazan, the Project 22350 frigate Admiral Gorshkov, the heavy ocean-going tug Nikolai Chiker (also sometimes written Nikolay Chiker), and the Project 23130 replenishment oiler Academic Pashin also sailed into the port of Havana earlier today. Gorshkov was greeted by a 21-gun salute.

“In the next few days, the crews [of the vessels] … will take part in a number of protocol events, have the opportunity to relax and get acquainted with local attractions,” according to a statement from the Russian Ministry of Defense on the Telegram social media network. Cuban authorities had announced last week that the vessels would be in Havana from June 12 to June 17.

The Russian nuclear-powered submarine Kazan and the frigate Admiral Gorshkov, part of the Russian naval detachment visiting Cuba, arrive at the port of Havana, on June 12, 2024. Photo by ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP via Getty Images
The Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov, part of the Russian naval detachment visiting Cuba. Note the V marking on the smokestack, a reference to the symbol used by Russian forces in the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Photo by ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP via Getty Images
The rescue and tugboat Nikolai Chiker, part of the Russian naval detachment visiting Cuba. Photo by ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP via Getty Images
The fleet oil tanker Pashin, part of the Russian naval detachment visiting Cuba, arrives in the harbor of Havana, on June 12, 2024. Photo by ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP via Getty Images

The Russian naval task group’s visit to Cuba is also just one component of its “long-distance” deployment, Admiral Alexander Moiseev, head of the country’s navy, told state-run media outlet RIA Novosti today.

This aligns with previous statements from U.S. military officials, who have said they expect additional Russian naval activity in the region as part of this deployment, which could also see the flotilla make a port call in Venezuela. Like Cuba, Venezuela is another Russian ally in the region. While that’s still unconfirmed, a Venezuelan training ship, the AB Simón Bolívar is scheduled to visit Santiago de Cuba, the island nation’s second-largest city, between June 15 and 19.

On its way to Cuba, the Russian flotilla already took part in simulated anti-ship missile strikes against mock enemy naval targets while sailing in the Atlantic, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense. However, no missiles were live-fired.

Gorshkov, specifically, also engaged in air defense drills during the transit, which included mock targeting of actual foreign military aircraft flying overhead, including a P-8A belonging to an unknown operator, as seen in the video below.

A significant number of American and allied warships and aircraft have been closely monitoring the task group’s progress since it first departed Russia back in May, as you can read more about in TWZ’s recent reporting here.

A trio of U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke class destroyers – the USS Truxtun, USS Donald Cook, and USS Delbert D. Black – along with the U.S. Coast Guard’s Legend class cutter USCGC Stone and the Royal Canadian Navy’s Halifax class frigate HMCS Ville de Québec were close behind when the Russian vessels arrived in Cuba. U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon and Royal Canadian Air Force CP-140 Aurora (a derivative of the P-3 Orion) maritime patrol aircraft had been flying overhead.

“In accordance with standard procedures, we’ve been actively monitoring the Russian ships as they transit the Atlantic Ocean within international waters,” U.S. Northern Command told TWZ in a statement yesterday. “Air and maritime assets under U.S. Northern Command have conducted operations to ensure the defense of the United States and Canada. Russia’s deployments are part of routine naval activity which pose no direct threat or concern to the United States.”

“The Canadian Armed Forces, alongside its U.S. counterparts, routinely carries out operations (including maritime and air operations) in support of continental defense,” the Canadian Department of National Defense said in a separate statement to TWZ. “As highlighted in Canada’s recent defense policy update, Our North, Strong, and Free, defending North America is one of the Canadian Armed Forces’ top priorities. Routinely monitoring the approaches to North America is part of defending our nation and ensuring the continued safety and security of Canadians and all North Americans.”

It’s interesting to note here that Havana will also be hosting a Royal Canadian Navy vessel, the Harry DeWolf class patrol vessel HMCS Margaret Brooke, this month. That ship is set to arrive on Friday and remain there until June 17.

Cuba’s state-run newspaper Granma said the Royal Canadian Navy visit highlights the “50th anniversary of cooperation ties” with Canada and the “bilateral collaboration for the maintenance of peace in our region.”

Despite the attention the U.S. military has been paying to the arrival of the Kazan and the other Russian naval vessels in the Western hemisphere, U.S. authorities have largely downplayed the task group’s visit. However, sending a nuclear-powered submarine to the region, and especially a first-of-its-kind deployment of one of the most modern and capable available to the Russian Navy today that is packed with cruise missiles, is clearly meant to be a significant statement. American authorities have previously described the Yasen-M class boats as being “on par with” current-generation U.S. types and capable of presenting “a persistent proximate threat to the U.S. homeland.”

A stock picture of the Kazan. Russian MoD

The Kazan and the other members of its class are armed with Kalibr long-range cruise missiles, which can be used for anti-ship strike and land attack, as well as Oniks supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles that also have a secondary land attack capability. In the future, it is expected that its vertical launch system cells will also be loaded with new Zircon hypersonic cruise missiles. All of these weapons can carry nuclear warheads as an option, although officials from Cuba, Russia, and the United States have been at pains to clarify that no nuclear weapons are being deployed on either the Kazan or the Admiral Gorshkov.

Gorshkov, which has visited Cuba before, is also one of Russia’s most modern and capable surface warships. Russian officials claimed last year that Zircon hypersonic cruise missiles had been deployed on the ship, though it is unknown if it is carrying any of them now with the vessel’s primary strike weapon being the Kalibr cruise missile.

The Russian Navy frigate Admiral Gorshkov frigate arrives in Havana for its previous port visit, on June 24, 2019. ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP via Getty Images

The Russian naval vessels have also arrived in Havana amid a particular spike in geopolitical friction between Russia and the West, including the United States, over continued support to Ukraine. The Kremlin’s ire has been particularly focused recently on statements from various countries that Ukraine is free to use weapons they’ve supplied to attack Russian territory. Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to supply long-range weapons to “regions” from which they could potentially be used to strike Western targets in retaliation.

Whatever is next for the Russian Navy flotilla in the Caribbean, the U.S. military, and potentially some of its allies in the region, will continue to monitor their movements closely.

An American classic car passes in front of the Russian nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, part of the Russian naval detachment visiting Cuba, as it arrives to Havana’s harbour, June 12, 2024. (Photo by ADALBERTO ROQUE / AFP) (Photo by ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP via Getty Images)

Contact the author: thomas@thewarzone.com