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Shark Project 941 - Russian Largest Submarine

Russian Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN) - circa 1985 -
The Typhoon is the largest nuclear powered submarine ever built. The submarine class is referred in its Russian designation as "Project 941 Akula". "Akula" translated means "shark". Hence, it is Russia's Shark Class submarine.

Project 941 submarines are not the same submarines as those Russian subs designated by the NATO codename of "Akula" which are the smaller "Project 971 Bars" class nuclear powered attack submarines. The misnomer of NATO's Typhoon code-naming stems from the Russian word for "storm" which is "Tayfun" and was used by Leonid Brezhnev in a speech in 1974 when he referred to a new class of nuclear ballistic missile submarine. Regardless how called, the Typhoon/Project 941 Akula Russian Shark Class are the deadliest submarines in the world with each of the six submarines in the class capable of carrying 20 ballistic missiles (SS-N-20). Launching at 15 second intervals,  each missile carries 10 nuclear warheads to target 200 North American cities in about 35 minutes - either with the vessel submerged, in port or breaking up through 8-10 foot thick polar ice to unleash its holocaustic arsenal.

The design work on Typhoons started in 1973 and was an answer to American Trident submarines which could carry 24 solid fuel intercontinental missiles. The USSR engineered solid fuel missiles and they grew in size and influenced the design of the Typhoon class. The submarine was to integrate two independent hulls. The oblate form of the submarine was prompted by the shallow waters in the area of Severodvinsk shipyards. That solution led to increased displacement of the submarine, increased safety and better possibilities to perform repairs and upgrades.

Each Typhoon had two 100,000 hp PWR reactors with  one located in each of the starboard and portside hulls. The nuclear installation was equipped with a system of battery-free cooling. The reactor control rods go down automatically in case of emergency even if the boat flips.

The first Typhoon submarine was put into operation in 1981 and the last one (the sixth) in 1989. A seventh Akula submarine was never completed due to the end of the Cold War. They are considered to be the "3rd Class" of Russian submarine development. All of them were stationed in Nerpichya base, Zapadnaya Litsa fjord at the Kola Peninsula and assigned to the Northern Fleet.

In 1992, one of the Typhoon submarines was severely damaged during the test firing of a missile. It was eventually repaired and put into operation again. As a consequence, all Typhoons were modernized with SS-N- 24/26 missiles.

In 1997, 3 Typhoons (TK12, TK13 and TK202) were taken out of regular service and put into reserve. The two last-built submarines (TK17 and TK20) allegedly remain in service but have not been fulfilling any missions for the past three years. The first-built Typhoon (TK208) was under repair in Severodvinsk since 1990 and recently did sea trials. It may be that TK208 was actually upgraded to what will become the "4th Class" in Russian submarine development - original plans for development of a totally new "4th Class" seemingly having been nearly stopped.

Navy officials claim that it is possible to extend operational time for Typhoons until 2005-2007. However, in July 1999, TK202 was brought to Sevmash shipyard for decommissioning. After de-fueling, it was scrapped - the work having been financed by the American Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.

Typhoon (Project 941 Akula) specifications

Length - 570 feet
Beam - 74 feet
Displacement - 49,800 tons submerged
Power - 2 PWR nuclear reactors generating 190 MWt, 50,000 hp per shaft
Propulsion - 2 screws
Speed - 27 knots submerged
Dive depth - 1,300 feet
Complement - 170 men
Armament - 20 ballistic missiles, type SS-N-24/26 4 x 630mm and 2 x 533mm torpedo tubes

 

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