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Akula-class submarine
Submarine Vepr by Ilya Kurganov crop.jpg
Class overview
Name: Akula
Operators: Soviet Navy Ensign Soviet Navy
Russian Navy Ensign Russian Navy
Indian Naval Ensign Indian Navy
Preceded by:

Operational precedessor: Victor class

By sequence of construction: Sierra class
Succeeded by: Yasen class
Cost: est. $1.55 billion (1995 dollars)
In service: 1984
Planned: 21 (6 later cancelled)[1]
Completed: 15
Active: 10 (9 In Russia, 1 In India)
General characteristics
Type: nuclear-powered attack submarine

8,140 tons Akula I and Akula I Improved
8,450–8,470 tons Akula II and III

12,770 tons Akula I and Akula I Improved
13,400–13,800 tons Akula II and III
Length: 110.3 m for Akula I and Akula I Improved
113.3 m for Akula II and Akula III
Beam: 13.6 m
Draught: 9.7 m
Propulsion: one 190 MW OK-650B/OK-650M pressurized water nuclear reactor
1 OK-7 steam turbine 43,000 hp (32 MW)
2 OK-2 Turbogenerators producing 2,000 kW
1 seven-bladed propeller
2 OK-300 retractable electric propulsors for low-speed and quiet maneuvering at 5 knots (6 km/h)
Speed: 10 knots surfaced
28-35 knots submerged[2]
Endurance: 100 days[1]
Test depth: 480 m test depth for Akula I and Akula I Improved
520 m for Akula II and III
600 m maximum operating depth[3]
Complement: 73 for Akula I & Improved,[4] 62 (31 officers) for Akula II & III [5]
Sensors and
processing systems:
MGK-540 active/passive suite
Flank arrays
Pelamida towed array sonar
MG-70 mine detection sonar
Electronic warfare
& decoys:
Bukhta ESM/ECM
*MG-74 Korund noise simulation decoys (fired from external tubes)
MT-70 Sonar intercept receiver
Nikhrom-M IFF

4 × 533mm torpedo tubes (28 torpedoes) and 4 × 650mm torpedo tubes (12 torpedoes) (K-152 Nerpa has 8 × 533mm torpedo tubes) 40 torpedoes total

1–3 × SA-N-10 Igla-M Surface-to-air missile launcher fired from sail (surface use only)
Notes: Chiblis Surface Search radar
Medvyeditsa-945 Navigation system
Molniya-M Satellite communications
MGK-80 Underwater communications
Tsunami, Kiparis, Anis, Sintez and Kora Communications antennas
Paravan Towed VLF Antenna
Vspletsk Combat direction system

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. The class is also known under the name Bars (eng. snow leopard).[6] There are four sub-classes or flights of Shchuka, consisting of the original seven "Akula I" submarines which were commissioned between 1984 and 1990, six "Improved Akula" submarines commissioned between 1991 and 2009, one "Akula II" submarine commissioned in 1995 and one Akula III commissioned in 2001.[citation needed] The Russians call all of the submarines Schuka-B, regardless of modifications.[7]

The name Akula (Акула meaning "shark" in Russian) is the Soviet designation of the ballistic missile submarine class designated by NATO as the Typhoon class submarine. The name Akula was used as the NATO designation of the Projekt 971 because the first of the class was the K-284 christened Akula.


Descriptions of the SSN Akula class.

The Akula incorporates a double hull system composed of an inner pressure hull and an outer "light" hull. This allows more freedom in the design of the exterior hull shape, resulting in a submarine with more reserve buoyancy than its western analogs. This design requires more power than single-hull submarines[citation needed] because of the greater wetted surface area, which increases drag.

The distinctive "bulb" or "can" seen on top of the Akula's rudder houses its towed sonar array, when retracted. Most Akulas have the SOCKS[citation needed] hydrodynamic sensors, which detect changes in temperature and salinity. They are located on the leading edge of the sail, on the outer hull casing in front of the sail and on the bottom of the hull forward of the sail. All Akulas have two T-shaped doors on the aft bottom of the hull, on either side[citation needed]. These are where the OK-300 auxiliary propulsion devices are located, which can propel the submarine at up to 5 knots (9.3 km/h).[citation needed]

Line drawing showing the starboard side of the Project 971 (Akula) Soviet submarine. The white cheatline marks the boat's waterline.

All Akulas are armed with four 533 mm torpedo tubes which can use Type 53 torpedoes or the SS-N-15 Starfish missile, and four 650 mm torpedo tubes which can use Type 65 torpedoes or the SS-N-16 Stallion missile. These torpedo tubes are arranged in two rows of four tubes each. Improved Akulas, Akula IIs have an additional six 533 mm torpedo tubes mounted externally, capable of launching possibly up to 6 decoys each[citation needed]. The external tubes are mounted outside the pressure hull in one row, above the torpedo tubes, and can only be reloaded in port or with the assistance of a submarine tender. The 650 mm tubes can be fitted with liners to use the 533 mm weaponry. The submarine is also able to use its torpedo tubes to deploy mines.

Current status

As with many Soviet/Russian craft, information on the status of the Akula Class submarines is sparse, at best. Information provided by sources varies widely.

Akula-I (project 971)

The four known variants within the Akula class.

Of the seven original Akula-I submarines, only three are known to still be in service. These boats are equipped with MGK-500 Skat sonar system (with NATO reporting name Shark Gill).[8][9] The lead boat of the class, K-284 'Akula' was decommissioned in 2001, apparently to help save money in the cash-strapped Russian Navy. K-322 'Kashalot' and K-480 'Bars' [Currently Ak Bars] are in reserve. K-480 'Bars' was put into reserve in 1998,[1] and is being dismantled in February 2010.[10] 'Pantera' returned to service in January 2008 after a comprehensive overhaul.[11] All were retrofitted with the SOCKS hydrodynamic sensors except Volk. All submarines before K-391 Bratsk have reactor coolant scoops that are similar to the ones of the Typhoon class SSBNs, long and tubular. Bratsk and subsequent submarines have reactor coolant scoops similar to the ones on the Oscar IIs, short and (the Typhoon, Akula and Oscar classes use the similar OK-650 reactor).

Akula-I Improved (project 971 and 971I)

The six Akulas of this class are all thought to be in service. They are quieter than the original MGK-500 Skat sonar system on Akula-I is upgraded to the MGK-501 Skat-MS. Sources also disagree as to whether construction of this class has been suspended, or if there are a further two units planned.

Improved Akula-I Hulls: K-328 Leopard, K-461 Volk, K-154 Tigr, K-419 Kuzbass, K-295 Samara and K-152 Nerpa. These submarines are much quieter than early Akula class submarines and all have the SOCKS hydrodynamic sensors except Leopard.[12] The Akula-I Improved submarines have 6 533 mm decoy launching tubes, as do subsequent submarines. They have a different arrangement of limber holes on the outer hull than Akula Is. Nerpa and Iribis (not completed) have a different rescue chamber in the sail.[citation needed] I can be distinguished by the large dome on the top surface.

Akula-II (project 971U)

K-157 Vepr is the only completed Akula II[citation needed]. The Akula II is some meters longer and displaces about 700 tons (submerged displacement) more than the Akula I. The added space was used for additional quieting measures. The MGK-501 Skat sonar system on Akula-I is replaced to a new MGK-540 Skat-3 sonar system,.[13] K-157 Vepr became the first Soviet submarine that was quieter than the latest U.S. attack submarines of that time, which was the Improved Los Angeles class (SSN 751 and later).[14] Two of these submarines were used to build the Borei class SSBNs.

Akula-III (project 971M)

K-335 Gepard is the only completed Akula III (see table for others)[citation needed](There is no AKULA III NATO classification). It is longer and has a larger displacement compared to the Akula II. Also, it has an enlarged sail and a different towed-array dispenser on the vertical fin. Again, more noise reduction methods were employed. The Gepard is the most advanced Russian submarine before the submarines of the Severodvinsk and Borei classes are commissioned. One of this class was used to complete the Borei SSBNs.

The Soviet advances in sound quieting were of considerable concern to the West, for acoustics was long considered the most significant advantage in U.S. submarine technology compared to the Soviets.

Akula class submarine under way

In 1983–1984 the Japanese firm Toshiba sold sophisticated, nine axis milling equipment to the Soviets along with the computer control systems, which were developed by Norwegian firm Kongsberg Vaapenfabrik. U.S Navy officials and Congressmen announced that this technology enabled the Soviet submarine builders to produce more accurate and quieter propellers.[15]

Due to the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, production of all Akulas slowed.

The 1999–2000 edition of Jane's Fighting Ships incorrectly listed the first Akula-II as Viper (the actual name is "Vepr", "wild boar" in Russian), commissioned November 25, 1995, Gepard (Cheetah), launched 1999 and commissioned December 5, 2001, and Nerpa, laid down in 1993[1] began sea trials in October, 2008 and was commissioned by the Indian Navy as INS Chakra II in April 2012.[16]


Akula class—significant dates
# Project Name NATO Shipyard Laid down Launched Commissioned Status
K-284 971 Akula Akula I Amur Shipyard 6 November 1983 16 June 1984 30 December 1984 Pacific Fleet. 2001 removed from service[17]
K-263 971 Delfin Akula I Amur Shipyard 9 May 1985 28 May 1986 30 December 1987 Pacific Fleet, removed from active service, status unclear[17]
K-322 971 Kashalot Akula I Amur Shipyard 5 September 1986 18 July 1987 30 December 1988 Pacific Fleet, removed from active service, status unclear[17]
K-480 971 Ak Bars Akula I Sevmash 22 February 1985 16 March 1988 31 December 1988 Northern Fleet. Removed from service 1998.[17] Scrapping since February 2010.[10]
K-391 971 Bratsk Akula I Amur Shipyard 23 February 1988 14 April 1989 29 December 1989 Pacific Fleet, removed from active service, Since 2008 undergo overhaul and modernization [18]
K-317 971 Pantera Akula I Sevmash 6 November 1986 21 May 1990 30 December 1990 Northern Fleet[17]
K-331 971 Magadan
(ex Narval)
Akula I Amur Shipyard 28 December 1989 23 June 1990 31 December 1990 Pacific Fleet[17]
K-461 971 Volk Akula I Improved Sevmash 14 November 1987 11 June 1991 29 December 1991 Northern Fleet[17]
K-328 971 Leopard Akula I Improved Sevmash 26 October 1988 28 June 1992 15 December 1992 Northern Fleet[17][19]
K-419 971 Kuzbass Akula I Improved Amur Shipyard 28 July 1991 18 May 1992 31 December 1992 Pacific Fleet, in repairs since 2010[7][20]
K-154 971 Tigr Akula I Improved Sevmash 10 September 1989 26 June 1993 29 December 1993 Northern Fleet[17]
K-295 971 Samara Akula I Improved Amur Shipyard 7 November 1993 5 August 1994 28 July 1995 Pacific Fleet[17]
K-157 971 Vepr Akula II Sevmash 13 July 1990 10 December 1994 25 November 1995 Northern Fleet[17]
K-335 971 M Gepard Akula III Sevmash 23 September 1991 17 September 1999 5 December 2001 Northern Fleet[17]
K-337 971U Kuguar Akula II Sevmash 18 August 1992 x x Not completed. Hull used for Yuri Dolgorukiy SSBN[17] (project 955 Borei)
K-333 971U Rys Akula II Sevmash 31 August 1993 x x Not completed. Hull used for Alexander Nevsky SSBN[17] (project 955 Borei)
K-152 971I/09719 Nerpa/
INS Chakra
Akula II[21][22] Amur Shipyard 1993 4 July 2006 28 December 2009 Pacific Fleet. Has been leased out to India from the end 2011 to 2020.[23]
K-xxx 971M not named Akula II Sevmash 1992 x x Not Completed. Hull used for Vladimir Monomakh SSBN[17] (project 955 Borei)
K-xxx 971I/09719 Iribis Akula I Improved Amur Shipyard 1994 x x Construction halted at 60% completion. May be completed and leased to India.[24][25]
K-xxx 971M not named Akula II Amur Shipyard 1990 x x Sold for scrap[17]
K-xxx 971M not named Akula II Amur Shipyard 1991 x x Sold for scrap[17]

Lease to India

Three hundred Indian Navy personnel are being trained in Russia for the operation of the Akula II submarine Nerpa. India has finalized a deal with Russia, in which at the end of the lease of these submarines, it has an option to buy them. The submarine will be named INS Chakra as was the previous India-leased Soviet Charlie-I SSGN.[26] INS Chakra was officially inducted into the Indian Navy on April 4, 2012.[27][28]

Whereas the Russian Navy's Akula-II could be equipped with 28 nuclear-capable cruise missiles with a striking range of 3,000 km (1,620 nmi; 1,864 mi), the Indian version was reportedly expected to be armed with the 300 km (162 nmi; 186 mi)-range 3M-54 Klub nuclear-capable missiles.[29] Missiles with ranges greater than 300 km (162 nmi; 186 mi) cannot be exported due to arms control restrictions, since Russia is a signatory to the MTCR treaty.

Nerpa 2008 accident

On 27 October 2008, it was reported that K-152 Nerpa of the Russian Pacific Fleet had begun her sea trials in the Sea of Japan before handover under a lease agreement to the Indian Navy.[30] On 8 November 2008, while conducting one of these trials, an accidental activation of the halon-based fire-extinguishing system took place in the fore section of the vessel. Within seconds the halon gas had displaced all breathable air from the compartment. As a result, 20 people (17 civilians and 3 seamen)[31][32] were killed by asphyxiation. Dozens of others suffered freon-related injuries and were evacuated to an unknown port in Primorsky Krai.[33] This was the worst accident in the Russian navy since the loss of the submarine K-141 Kursk in 2000. The submarine itself did not sustain any serious damage and there was no release of radiation.[34]

Recent overseas deployments

In August 2009, the news media reported that two Akula-class submarines operated off the East Coast of the United States, with one of the submarines being identified as a Project 971 Shchuka-B type. U.S. military sources noted that this was the first known Russian submarine deployment to the western Atlantic since the end of the Cold War, raising concerns within U.S. military and intelligence communities.[35] The U.S. Northern Command confirmed that this 2009 Akula-class submarine deployment did occur.[36]

In August 2012, the news media reported that another Akula-class submarine operated in the Gulf of Mexico purportedly undetected for over a month, sparking controversy within U.S. military and political circles, with U.S. Senator John Cornyn of the Senate Armed Services Committee demanding details of this deployment from Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations.[37]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Podvodnye Lodki, Yu.V. Apalkov, Sankt Peterburg, 2003, ISBN 5-8172-0070-8
  2. Jane's Fighting Ships 2008-09, p644
  3. 28.01.2010 (2010-01-28). "The Ship Day to be celebrated at SSN Kuzbass". Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  4. "Specification: SSN Akula Class (Bars Type 971) Attack Submarine, Russia". Archived from the original on 2011-06-05. 
  5. "Typhoon (Akula) class (Project 941/941U) (Russian Federation) - Jane's Fighting Ships". 2012-07-24. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  6. John Pike. "Akula Class / Bars-class / Project 971". Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "In-service ships". Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  8. "MGK-500 Shark Gill (Bow)". Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  9. "Armament "MGK-500" automated sonar complex". Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Incendie à bord d'un sous-marin nucléaire russe désaffecté | Russie | RIA Novosti". 2010-02-19. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  11. "K-317 Pantera". Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  12. "Run Silent, Run Deep - Navy Ships". Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  13. "Armament "MGK-540" automated sonar complex". Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  14. Adm. Boorda, statement at a meeting of the Naval & Maritime Correspondents Circle, Washington, D.C. 27 Feb 1995
  15. "Quieter Soviet subs cost U.S. at least $30 billion", Navy News & Undersea Technology (14 March 1988)
  16. "Russian-built nuclear submarine joins Indian navy". 4 April 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2013. 
  17. 17.00 17.01 17.02 17.03 17.04 17.05 17.06 17.07 17.08 17.09 17.10 17.11 17.12 17.13 17.14 17.15 17.16 Korabli VMF SSSR, Vol. 1, Part 2, Yu. Apalkov, Sankt Peterburg, 2003, ISBN 5-8172-0072-4
  19. 24.11.2011 (2011-11-24). "SSN Voronezh Passed Modernization". Retrieved 2011-12-28. 
  21. "Russia Hands Over Nerpa Nuclear Sub to India | Defense | RIA Novosti". 2012-01-23. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  22. 4/10/2012 22:35 (2009-07-29). "K-152 Nerpa: Russian Akula II class nuclear attack submarine | INFOgraphics | RIA Novosti". Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  23. 26.08.2010 (2010-08-26). "Russian Navy finally sets date of SSN Nerpa's leasing". Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  24. Vladimir Radyuhin. "India in talks with Russia on lease of second nuclear submarine". The Hindu. Retrieved 2013-03-15. 
  26. "Indian nuclear submarine", India Today, July 2008 edition
  27. "INS Chakra: Govt inducts Russian-origin Akula II class Nerpa into Navy - The Economic Times". 2012-04-04. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  28. "INS Chakra formally inducted into Indian Navy : South, News - India Today". 2012-04-04. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  29. "Russia may lease nuclear submarine to India". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 1 July 2006. 
  30. "Russia's new nuclear attack submarine starts sea trials | Russia | RIA Novosti". 2008-10-27. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  31. "Accident on nuclear submarine kills 20 off eastern Russian coast". International Herald Tribune. 2008-11-09. Archived from the original on 26 November 2008. Retrieved 9 November 2008. "Seventeen civilians and three seamen died in the accident and 21 others were hospitalized after being evacuated to a destroyer that brought them to shore, Markin said in a statement." 
  32. "Twenty dead in Russian nuclear submarine accident". RIA Novosti. 2008-11-09. Retrieved 9 November 2008. "Russia's Investigative Committee earlier said the nuclear submarine incident killed 20, including three sailors and 17 shipyard workers, while 22 people were injured." 
  33. "Over 20 killed in Russian submarine accident | Russia | RIA Novosti". 2000-08-12. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  34. "Accident on Russian Nuclear Submarine Kills 20". Reuters. Retrieved 2008-11-09. "More than 20 people were killed and another 21 injured in an accident aboard a Russian nuclear submarine in the Pacific Ocean, the navy said on Sunday, in the worst submarine disaster since the Kursk sank eight years ago." [dead link]
  35. "Russian Subs Patrolling Off East Coast of U.S.". New York Times. August 2, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-04. "A pair of nuclear-powered Russian attack submarines has been patrolling off the eastern seaboard of the United States in recent days, a rare mission that has raised concerns inside the Pentagon and intelligence agencies about a more assertive stance by the Russian military." ; Mark, Mazzette; Thom Shanker (August 6, 2009). "Pentagon: Russian subs no cause for alarm". UPI. Retrieved 2012-10-04. "The presence of two Russian submarines seen cruising off America's East Coast should not be cause for alarm, the U.S. Defense Department said." ; and "Two Russian Nuclear Submarines Make USA Shake With Fear". Pravda. August 8, 2009. Retrieved 2012-10-04. "Two Russian nuclear submarines have been patrolling the USA’s East Coast during the recent several days, The New York Times wrote. One of the submarines was detected Tuesday about 200 miles off the US coast, anonymous sources at the Pentagon said." 
  36. Phillip Ewing (August 20, 2012). "Pentagon Denies Russian Sub Patrolled Gulf of Mexico". News and Analysis. United States Naval Institute. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  37. Gertz, Bill (August 14, 2012). "Silent Running". Washington Free Beacon. Retrieved 2012-10-04. "A Russian nuclear-powered attack submarine armed with long-range cruise missiles operated undetected in the Gulf of Mexico for several weeks and its travel in strategic U.S. waters was only confirmed after it left the region, the Washington Free Beacon has learned." ; Gertz, Bill (August 21, 2012). "Torpedo Run". Washington Free Beacon. Retrieved 2012-10-04. "A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee has asked the Navy’s top admiral to explain reports that a Russian submarine operated undetected in the Gulf of Mexico recently." ; "Reports of Russian sub in gulf downplayed". UPI. August 19, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-04. "Russia declined to confirm or deny a media report that one of its submarines spent a month in the Gulf of Mexico without the knowledge of the United States." ; and "Russian submarine sailed incognito along the coast of the U.S.". Pravda. August 21, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-04. "A Russian nuclear submarine of project 971 ("Jaws", in NATO classification), armed with long-range cruise missiles, sailed for a long time without being detected in the waters along the U.S. coastline, the Gulf of Mexico, informs the Washington Free Beacon, citing an unnamed U.S. official." 

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