Russia has launched a modern special-purpose nuclear-powered submarine called Belgorod that is designed to carry thermonuclear-armed robot torpedoes and underwater ‘Poseidon’ drones.

Belgorod is expected to be delivered to the Russian Navy by the end of 2020, news agency TASS reported.

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The submarine was unveiled at the Sevmash Shipyard in Severodvinsk, northern Russia.

Prior to delivery, the vessel will undergo sea trials, as well as nuclear reactor tests and dockside trials.

According to The Diplomat, the submarine is based on the 949A Oscar II-class nuclear-powered guided missile submarine (SSGN). The ship will be crewed by the Russian Navy and operated by the Main Directorate Deep Sea Research (GUGI) organisation.

During the launch ceremony, Russian Ministry Defense (MoD) Main Directorate of Deep-Sea Research head vice-admiral Alexei Burilichev stated that the submarine will be deployed to the Arctic for operations.

“With the advent of this ship in the fleet, the Russian Federation will increase its ability to study the oceans, including the Arctic.”

Burilichev was quoted by TASS as saying: “With the advent of this ship in the fleet, the Russian Federation will increase its ability to study the oceans, including the Arctic.”

Belgorod was laid out at the Sevmash Shipyard in July 1992. However, the construction of the vessel was halted in 1997.

In the 2000s, efforts to resume the construction were impeded by a lack of financing.

The programme gained steam again in the early 2010s when it was decided that the Belgorod would be rebuilt under the new Project 09852 developed by the Rubin Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering.

The renewed keel-laying ceremony for the submarine was performed in December 2012.

A source told the news agency that Belgorod would be the first submarine to be equipped with Poseidon drones.