Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Typhoon-class Submarine

Today's subject is the Typhoon-class Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarine. The Typhoon was known in Soviet service as the Akula, which is Russian for a shark. We called it the Typhoon because we (being NATO) had a thing for renaming every single bit of Soviet or Warsaw Pact weapons and equipment. It probably gave a job to an entire office building. But I digress.

With a displacement of 33,000 tons, the Typhoon was the largest submarine to ever enter service. It is just huge. Famously, unlike every other cramped boat that ever went under the waves on purpose, it was gigantic, including adequate (for a submarine) crew spaces. It even had a gym with a pool and sauna. (The pool was really small though) As it is a nuclear ballistic missile submarine, the job of the Typhoons in the event of war is to hide in the polar ice cap until they receive orders to launch their multiple reentry vehicle nuclear missiles. Why hide under the icecap?
The problem is that there are only a few ways for the Soviet Navy to enter the North Atlantic. The Greenland-Iceland United Kingdom gap (GIUK gap)was watched by subs, planes, satellites, and underwater sensors. Because few Soviet submariners would survive fighting in the North Atlantic. The Allied victory against the Wolfpacks in WWII and the cat and mouse of the Cold War taught the Russians that. With many different types of assets guarding the approaches to the North Atlantic, watching Soviet sub bases and shadowing the fleet, the Soviets needed a way to ensure they could strike the USA.

The Typhoon class was one of the best designs to come out of Soviet Russia during the Cold War era. It made significant leaps in being was quieter than previous Soviet missile boats and was well armed. Attention to crew comfort could make a very real translation to a more motivated and sharp crew. At least to a degree. The Typhoon class also features six torpedo tubes, with four of those having the ability to launch the standard Type 53 torpedo or the SS-N-15 (RPK-2) anti ship missiles. The other tubes, which might have been located in the rear (just a guess) could lay mines in addition to using the Type 65 torpedo and the RPK-7 missile.

The Typhoon has multiple pressure hulls to increase survivability. This is part of what gives the subs their massive size. They have a very wide beam, much greater than the U.S. Ohio-class (the black and red sub in the pic below). Like most nuclear powered subs, the Typhoon can stay underwater nearly indefinitely, it is said to be able to stay under at least 180days, and I imagine that could be continued further, right up until they ran out of borscht and potatoes. The primary armament of the Typhoon is 20 R-39 missiles ( SS-N-20 in NATO designation) with up to 10 MIRV nuclear warheads on each. They are using the last of the Typhoons as a test bed for the new SLBM and it was likely a Typhoon that launched the missile that malfunctioned a few months ago.

Of all the Typhoons built (6), only three still exist, with one in service (the Dmitriy Donskoy) and the other two. Arkhangelsk (TK-17) and Severstal (TK-20) are likely currently in an un-seaworthy condition. All the R-39 missiles have been retired. However, with Russia's resurgence, they may one day be refitted to carry cruise missiles and modernized to be a SSGM for future service, or perhaps even sold to another nation. The Typhoons are slated to be replaced by the Borei class starting in 2010-11.

Typhoon Submarine, being guarded by the best of the Russian Navy


  1. Cool Cool Cool!!!! I love submarines very interesting Mr Kevlar Sir very interesting!

  2. Akula is a different submarine a SSN not a SSBN.

  3. This is confusing, but the Typhoon is the NATO reporting name of the Russian Akula class SSBN. Project 971 Щука-Б (Shchuka-B, 'Shchuka' meaning pike, NATO reporting name "Akula"), is a nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) first deployed by the Soviet Navy in 1986.

  4. Ralph loves submarines