The Akula Class Nuclear Submarine

Isaac Westlund
January 28, 2019

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1: The Akula (Typhoon) Class submarine in action. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Russian Akula ("shark") Class submarine, or as labeled by NATO, the Typhoon Class submarine (see Fig. 1), is the largest class of submarines ever built. Originally created during the Cold War to match and exceed the Ohio Class submarine under production by the United States, these nuclear submarines were 175 meters long, 23 meters wide and displaced a massive 48,000 tons of water. [1] As the Cold War was an arms race and being the response to the American Ohio Class submarine, everything had to be better. So while the Ohio Class could carry 24 Trident C4 Missiles that could each carry 8 independent nuclear warheads for a grand total of 192 nuclear warheads, the Akula class was designed to carry twenty R-39 Rif intercontinental ballistic missiles which could each carry 10 independent nuclear warheads for a grand total of 200 warheads. [2] The great range of these missles allowed an Akula class sub to target any point in the continental United States from inside the arctic circle. The great size and resilient design of the Akula class made it ideal for extended missions under ice in the arctic circle. [1]


As the cold war never escalated, fortunately there is no documentation that these submarines ever saw battle. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was suggested that the subs be used to transport oil and natural gas under the polar ice to distant Russian outposts, however this never came to fruition. Currently there is only one Akula class submarine, the Dmitriy Donskoy, that is still in commission in the Russian Navy. The Dmitriy Donskoy is being used for testing the new Russian Bulava missile. In popular culture, the Akula Class sub was the inspiration for the Russian submarine in Tom Clancy's novel, The Hunt for Red October.

© Isaac Westlund. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "The Soviet Typhoon Submarine - A Radical Innovation in Submarine Design," U.S. Central Intellligence Agency, 2000.

[2] D. Mitsopoulos, "All the Nuclear Missile Submarines in the World in One Chart," Popular Mechanics, Popular Mechanics, 25 Jun 18