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    Russia may prioritize the development of nuclear-powered attack submarines armed with nuclear-capable cruise missiles in the future, while maintaining its fleet of strategic subs, a senior Navy official said.

    MOSCOW, March 23 (RIA Novosti) - Russia may prioritize the development of nuclear-powered attack submarines armed with nuclear-capable cruise missiles in the future, while maintaining its fleet of strategic subs, a senior Navy official said.

    The Russian Navy maintains a fleet of about 60 submarines, including 10 nuclear-powered strategic submarines, over 30 nuclear-powered attack submarines, diesel-electric submarines and special-purpose subs.

    "Probably, tactical nuclear weapons [on submarines] will play a key role in the future," Vice Admiral Oleg Burtsev, deputy head of the Navy General Staff, told RIA Novosti. "Their range and precision are gradually increasing."

    "There is no longer any need to equip missiles with powerful nuclear warheads. We can install low-yield warheads on existing cruise missiles," he said.

    The admiral mentioned Russia's new Severodvinsk nuclear-powered attack submarine, which will be commissioned with the Navy in 2010-2011, as an example.

    The fourth-generation Graney class submarine combines the ability to launch a variety of long-range cruise missiles (up to 3,100 miles) with nuclear warheads, and effectively engage hostile submarines and surface warships.

    However, Russia will maintain and upgrade its fleet of strategic submarines, carrying ballistic missiles, as a naval component of the nuclear triad.

    "In this regard, we will build at least six Borey-class strategic submarines to serve in the Northern and the Pacific fleets," Burtsev said.

    The first Borey-class submarine, the Yury Dolgoruky, was built at the Sevmash plant in northern Russia, and is undergoing mooring trials. It will carry up to 16 Bulava-M sea-based ballistic missiles.

    Two other Borey class nuclear submarines, the Alexander Nevsky and the Vladimir Monomakh, are currently under construction at the Sevmash shipyard and are expected to be completed in 2009 and 2011.

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