Soviet Typhoon class, Project 941, the largest submarines ever built

During the Cold War Western designated Typhoon class/Soviets Akula (not to be confused with Westren Akula for project 971) submarines prowled the waters of the North Atlantic. These submarines do not have to submerge or go to sea to launch their long-range missiles. They are able to do so tie up at their docks. The Typhoon is the world’s largest type of submarine ever built and was one of the most feared weapons of the Cold War. Each submarine is capable of carrying twenty long-range ballistic missiles with up to 200 nuclear warheads.

The design of the Typhoon submarine is multi-hulled and bears resemblance to a catamaran. Two separate 7.20m diameter hulls covered by a single outer free flood hull with anechoic Cluster Guard tiles plus separate 6.00m diameter pressure-tight compartments in the fin, and fore-ends. The pressure hulls are arranged parallel to each other and symmetrical to a centerline. The missile compartment is arranged in the upper part of the bow between the pressure hulls. Both hulls and all compartments are connected by transitions. The pressure-tight compartment in the fin holds the main command & control room and electronic equipment compartment, therefore keeping the traditional design of periscopes and other retractable masts and antennas on the centerline of the boat. There is a 1.20m separation between the outer and inner hulls along the sides. The unique features of the Typhoon are her enormous size and the fact that the missiles tube compartment is located in front of the fin-resulting in a fully integrated weapons area in the bow section (occupying the second of the two 6.00m diameter pressure tight compartments).The space abaft the fin is left to accommodate two nuclear powered propulsion units, one in each hull.The fin configuration indicates a design capability to break through ice cover up to 3.00m thick; the retractable forward hydroplanes, the rounded hull, and the shape of the fin all related to under-ice operations. The sail and sail guard have a reinforced rounded cover for ice-breaking.

Compared to the first and second generation of SSBNs the Typhoon enjoys far greater maneuverability despite of its larger displacement the Typhoons are less noisy than their predecessors. To reduce the acoustic signature a two-spool system of rubber-cord pneumatic shock-absorption is employed as well as a block layout of gears and equipment, a new sound isolation and hydro acoustic coating.

Specifications, Typhoon class, Project 941:
The development of Project 941 heavy strategic submarine was authorized in December 1972, a year later the government officially issued the order to design and build the 941 ballistic missile submarine. The developer was the Leningrad design bureau which is now the Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering `Rubin`, with the chief designer S.H. Kovalev. After intensive testing the heavy ballistic missile submarine Project 941, TK-208 was commissioned in September 1980.

Displacement (srf/sub tons): 18,500/26,500
Dimensions (L*B*D feet): 562`7*80`7*42`7
2*190MWt VM-5 Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR), 2*GT-3A geared steam turbine 40,900hp, two shafts, with shrouded, 7 bladed propellers
Speed (sub knots):
Range (srf/sub miles@knots): not relevant
Diving depth (feet): 1,000 (300m)
Complement: 55 officers 120 enlisted
Missile: SLBMs- D-19 launch tubes for 20*R-39 Makeyev (US/NATO-SS-N-20 Sturgeon) sub-launched ballistic missiles,  range 4,500 n/miles, nuclear warhead 10 MIRV each 200kT, SSM sub-launched anti-ship missiles, Novator SS-N-15 Starfish/Tsakra (24 n/miles nuclear warhead 200kT
Torpedo: 6*21" (533mm) bow torpedo tubes, total mixture of 22 missiles or torpedoes


A total of six submarines were constructed under this class, all laid down by Shipyard No.402, Severodvinsk, launched from 1980 to 1988. As of 2003 only two submarines are reported in operational service, TK-17 and TK-20 commissioned last in class on November 6, 1987 and September 4, 1989 respectively.

The operational lifetime of these submarines is estimated to be 20-30 years, though in order to operate a ship for this period requires that a major overhaul be performed every 7-8 years. Otherwise, a submarine`s service life shrinks to 10-15 years. Dew to Russian Navy`s reduced budget, economical cuts in all Russian activities and The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program it is likely that submarines in reserve/waiting for overhaul or nuclear refueling will not see service.

Back to History Index

Image Country Year Description
Saint Vincent & Grenadines 1989 Cold war 1945-1989. Soviet Typhoon nuclear submarine in margin
Russia 1996 Heavy nuclear submarine.SSBN-Typhoon (Akula) class
Guinea-Bissau 2001 Typhoon class (type 941), SSBN
Russia 2006 SSBN Typhoon class & SSGN Oscar II class, 28 Feb` 2006, cancellation Murmansk
Russia 2006 Nuclear submarine SSBN Typhoon class, Project 941 (1983) (sheet of 14 stamps)
Russia 2006 Nuclear submarine SSBN Typhoon class, Project 941 (1983)
Guinea 2006 Sean Connery and the search for Red October, Soviet Typhoon class (SSBN)
Russia 2008 75th anni` of the Russian North Fleet, Typhoon class SSBN in margin (souvenir sheet)
Russia 9999 70th anni` of the North Fleet,Typhoon class SSBN, 21 January 2003
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