Biggest submarine ever: Russia’s Typhoon class could be retired altogether


End of Typhoon-class submarines? After more than 40 years of use, the Russian Navy’s nuclear ballistic missile submarine Dmitry Donskoy should be withdrawn from Russian service. As the last ballistic missile submarine of Project 941 Akula, the Dmitry Donskoy is an increasingly aging element of the Russian Navy. With its retirement, the Russian Navy began to shift its nuclear submarine arsenal in a different direction, which relies on somewhat smaller and newer submarines.

What is the Dmitry Donskoy and the Project 941 Akula class?

Known in Russian as Project 941 Akula, the Dmitry DonskoyThe class was known in the West by its NATO designation as the Typhoon class. The Dmitry Donskoy named after the Muscovite Grand Duke Dmitry Donskoy, who defeated the Mongol Golden Horde at the Battle of Kulikovo, which began the long decline of Mongol control over Russia.

With a length of 175 meters, the Dmitry Donskoy and her Typhoon sisters were the the biggest submarines in the world until the launch of the modified Oscar-II class nuclear submarine Belgorodwhich slightly exceeds typhoons in length. Powered by OK-650 pressurized water nuclear reactors, the Typhoon class was initially designed around twenty RSM-52 intercontinental ballistic missile launchers as well as six torpedo tubes.

However, when the Dmitry Donskoy had become the last example of the class still in operation by the mid-2000s, its role shifted to that of a test Platform for the submarine-launched ballistic missile RSM-56 Bulava following a refit that ended in 2002. While three of the six Typhoons produced in total were scrapped in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Dmitry Donskoybrother submarines Arkhangelsk and Severstal were withdrawn from active service and placed in reserve. Their future remains unknown, although no upgrades or renovations of the two have been reported.

The end of typhoons

According to a report by Russian state media RIA Novosti based on a source within the Russian military-industrial base, the Dmitry Donskoy has been officially removed from the Russian Navy register and is ready for demolition. However, TASS, another Russian state media, disputed such a claim with a report from sources within its own shipbuilding industry that the fate of Dmitry Donskoi would not be. decided until December 2022 at the latest. According to a supplementary report by TASS, the Dmitry Donskoy will be stay on active duty and in combat training until 1 December.

While the Russian state has yet to weigh in to clear the air as to which account is correct, it’s likely that the Dmitry Donskoi is on the Billot. Despite the fact that TASS previously reported in January 2021 that the submarine would not be decommissioned for at least five years, which is significant headwinds in the Russian shipbuilding industry (which existed even before the technical and financial sanctions were applied to the Russian dual-use industry in response to its invasion of Ukraine in 2022) as well as the fact that the Dmitry DonskoyThe nuclear engine could run out of fuel in three to four years. Russian military leaders previously hoped to keep Dmitry Donskoy operational until Boreiclass ballistic missile submarine with the same name is completed, which is intended for completion in 2026.

While a debate seems to exist within the Russian military establishment as to whether the Dmitry Donskoy should be retired or not, it’s more likely than not that the news that the submarine has already been retired is a sign that Russia may not have the resources or the interest to upgrade its Typhoons to serve with new classes of nuclear submarines, such as the Borei or Oscar-II.

Wesley Culp is a researcher at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. He writes regularly on Russian and Eurasian leadership and national security topics and has been published in The Hill as well as the Diplomatic Courier. It can be found on Twitter @WesleyJCulp.

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