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During the Cold War the Typhoon 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 tied up at their docks. The Typhoon is the world’s largest submarine 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 that were once aimed at the United States.

The design of the Typhoon submarine is multi-hulled and bears resemblance to a catamaran. The submarine has two separate pressure hulls with a diameter of 7.2 m each, five inner habitable hulls and 19 compartments. The pressure hulls are arranged parallel to each other and symmetrical to a centerplane. 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 hulls, the centerplane and the torpedo compartment are made of titanium and the outer light hull is made of steel. A protected module, comprising the main control room and electronic equipment compartment, is arranged behind the missile silos above the main hulls in a centerplane under the guard of retractable devices.

The submarine's design includes features to enable it to both travel under ice and for ice-breaking. It has an advanced stern fin with horizontal hydroplane fitted after the screws. The nose horizontal hydroplanes are in the bow section and are retractable into the hull. The retractable systems include two periscopes (one for the commander and one for general use), radio sextant, radar, radio communications, navigation and direction-finder masts. They are housed within the sail guard. The sail and sail guard have a reinforced rounded cover for ice-breaking.

The submarine is equipped with the D-19 launch system with 20 solid-fuel propellant R-39 missiles which have a range of up to 10,000 km. They are arranged in silos in two rows in front of the sail between the main hulls. The Typhoon has an automated torpedo and missile loading system including 6 torpedo tubes with calibres of 650 and 533 mm.

The main machinery consists of two reactors each and two steam turbines of 190 MW that provide a maximum speed of 25-27 knots. 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 andrihydroacoustic coating.

The Typhoons are equipped with the "Slope" hydroacoustic system that consists of four hydroacoustic stations. The "Slope" system allows to track 10-12 vessels simultaneously. It also employs two floating antenna buoys to receive radio messages, target designation data and satellite navigation signals at great depth and under an ice cover.

The development of the 941 heavy strategic submarine was authorized in December 1972, and on 19 December 1973 the governmental 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". After intensive testing the heavy ballistic missile submarine 941-"TK-208" was commissioned in September 1980 and introduced into the Northern fleet on 12 December 1981. Between 1981 and 1989 six Typhoon submarines entered service. They formed part of the 1st flotilla of atomic submarines based in the Western Theater of the Northern fleet based at Nyerpichya. A seventh vessel was begun but never finished.

The Typhoon submarines were initially intended to be retrofitted with a replacement of the D-19 launch system with an advanced system, and the new SS-N-28 missile. The lead unit of this class, the TK-208, had been in overhaul since 1992 with the intent of receiving these modifications, but it now appears that it will not return to service. All but one of the Typhoon class submarines are slated to be withdrawn from service within a few years, and it is unlikely that units of the class would be modified to accomodate new missiles.

In 1997 two Typhoon submarines were decommissioned. 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. Navy officials claim that it is possible to extend operations of the Typhoons until 2005-2007.

The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program is scheduled to dismantle 25 Delta-class, as many as five Typhoon-class, and one Yankee-class ballistic missile submarines capable of launching over 400 missiles with over 1,700 warheads, by the year 2003. In 1999 Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen approved the contract to begin dismantlement of the first Typhoon nuclear submarine. If and when all of these submarines are dismantled, 1,200 nuclear weapons will be removed from operational systems.

As of June 2000 the Russian Navy claimed that it operates 26 strategic nuclear submarines carrying 2,272 nuclear warheads on 440 ballistic missiles. This force was said to consist of 5 Typhoon class submarines, 7 Delta-IV class submarines, and 13 Delta-III class submarines [which only adds up to 25, not 26 submarines]. Not all of these submarines are presently seaworthy. According to one published report as of 1999 only a single Typhoon remained operational [probably TK-20], and most estimates would suggest that no more than three boats were in service by early 2000.

In January 2000 it was reported that three of six Russian Typhoon-class submarines would remain in active operation to test the new Bark-class strategic missiles, contrary to both the plans of the Co-operative Threat Reduction program and reports that Bark-class missiles had been cancelled due to design failures. The Russian Navy reportedly believes that 12 strategic nuclear submarines with ballistic missiles represent the minimum necessary force structure. According to media reports a classified presidential decree of 04 March 2000 established this force goal for the period through 2010.


Soviet Designation

941 Akula



Development began

December 1973

Design Bureau

Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering "Rubin"

Chief designer

S.H. Kovalev


Nr. 402 Severodvinsk

Construction and Outfit

March 1977-September 1989

Service time

December 1981-

Number of ships



D-19 launch system with
20 R-39 missiles
2-650mm torpedo tubes
4-533mm torpedo tubes

Power Plant

2 pressurized water reactors, 190 MW each
2 steam turbines, 50.000 hp each


2×7 blade fixed-pitch shrouded


170-172 meters


23-23.3 meters


11-11.5 meters


23,200-24,500 tons Surfaced
33,800-48,000 tons Submerged

Maximum diving depth

500 meters


12-16 knots Surface
25-27 knots Submerged


150 men (50 officers)


90-120 days

Class Listing

#numberName Laid Down Launched Comm. Stricken
1TK-208 402 Sevmash 03/03/1977 09/23/1980 12/12/1981 1992 missile accident,
deactivated for refit
2001 reactivated?
2TK-202 402 Sevmash 10/01/1980 04/26/1982 12/28/1983 20001997- deactivated for refueling
2000 dismantled
3TK-12 402 Sevmash 04/27/1982 12/17/1983 12/27/1984 1997- deactivated for refueling
2000 in reserve
4TK-13 402 Sevmash 01/05/1984 02/21/1985 12/29/1985 1997- undergoing overhaul
2000 in reserve
5TK-17 402 Sevmash 02/24/1985 08/**/1986 11/06/1987 in service
slated for dismantlement ??
6TK-20 402 Sevmash 01/06/1987 07/**/1988 09/04/1989 in service
7TK-210402 Sevmash Cancelled under construction

Sources and Resources

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Implemented by John Pike, Charles Vick, Mirko Jacubowski, and Patrick Garrett
Maintained by Robert Sherman
Originally created by John Pike
Updated Friday, August 25, 2000 8:41:58 PM