|This article needs additional citations for verification. (November 2008)|
|Operators:|| Soviet Navy
Operational predecessor: Victor class
|Succeeded by:||Yasen class|
|Cost:||est. $1.55 billion (1995 dollars)|
|Planned:||21 (6 later cancelled)|
|Active:||10 (9 In Russia, 1 In India)|
|Type:||nuclear-powered attack submarine|
12,770 tons Akula I and Akula I Improved
13,400–13,800 tons Akula II and III
|Length:||110.3 m (362 ft) for Akula I and Akula I Improved
113.3 m for Akula II and Akula III
|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
|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
|Complement:||73 for Akula I & Improved, 62 (31 officers) for Akula II & III |
|MGK-540 active/passive suite
Pelamida towed array sonar
MG-70 mine detection sonar
*MG-74 Korund noise simulation decoys (fired from external tubes)
MT-70 Sonar intercept receiver
|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 (meaning "snow leopard"). 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. The Russians call all of the submarines Schuka-B, regardless of modifications.
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.
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 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 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. 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).
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. 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.
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)
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). 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, and is being dismantled in February 2010. 'Pantera' returned to service in January 2008 after a comprehensive overhaul. 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. 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. 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. 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,. 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). 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)(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.
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.
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 began sea trials in October, 2008 and was commissioned by the Indian Navy as INS Chakra II in April 2012.
|K-284||971||Akula||Akula I||Amur Shipyard||6 November 1983||16 June 1984||30 December 1984||Pacific Fleet. 2001 removed from service|
|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|
|K-322||971||Kashalot||Akula II||Amur Shipyard||5 September 1986||18 July 1987||30 December 1988||Pacific Fleet, removed from active service, undergo overhaul and modernization|
|K-480||971||Ak Bars||Akula I||Sevmash||22 February 1985||16 March 1988||31 December 1988||Northern Fleet. Removed from service 1998. Scrapping since February 2010.|
|K-391||971||Bratsk||Akula II||Amur Shipyard||23 February 1988||14 April 1989||29 December 1989||Pacific Fleet, removed from active service, Since 2008 undergo overhaul and modernization |
|K-317||971||Pantera||Akula II||Sevmash||6 November 1986||21 May 1990||30 December 1990||Northern Fleet|
|Akula II||Amur Shipyard||28 December 1989||23 June 1990||31 December 1990||Pacific Fleet|
|K-461||971||Volk||Akula I Improved||Sevmash||14 November 1987||11 June 1991||29 December 1991||Northern Fleet|
|K-328||971||Leopard||Akula I Improved||Sevmash||26 October 1988||28 June 1992||15 December 1992||Northern Fleet|
|K-419||971||Kuzbass||Akula II||Amur Shipyard||28 July 1991||18 May 1992||31 December 1992||Pacific Fleet, in repairs since 2010|
|K-154||971||Tigr||Akula I Improved||Sevmash||10 September 1989||26 June 1993||29 December 1993||Northern Fleet|
|K-295||971||Samara||Akula II||Amur Shipyard||7 November 1993||5 August 1994||28 July 1995||Pacific Fleet|
|K-157||971||Vepr||Akula II||Sevmash||13 July 1990||10 December 1994||25 November 1995||Northern Fleet|
|K-335||971 M||Gepard||Akula III||Sevmash||23 September 1991||17 September 1999||5 December 2001||Northern Fleet|
|K-337||971U||Kuguar||Akula II||Sevmash||18 August 1992||x||x||Not completed. Hull used for Yuri Dolgorukiy SSBN (project 955 Borei)|
|K-333||971U||Rys||Akula II||Sevmash||31 August 1993||x||x||Not completed. Hull used for Alexander Nevsky SSBN (project 955 Borei)|
|Akula II||Amur Shipyard||1993||4 July 2006||28 December 2009||Pacific Fleet. Has been leased out to India from the end 2011 to 2020.|
|K-xxx||971M||not named||Akula II||Sevmash||1992||x||x||Not Completed. Hull used for Vladimir Monomakh SSBN (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.|
|K-xxx||971M||not named||Akula II||Amur Shipyard||1990||x||x||Sold for scrap|
|K-xxx||971M||not named||Akula II||Amur Shipyard||1991||x||x||Sold for scrap|
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. INS Chakra was officially inducted into the Indian Navy on April 4, 2012.
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. 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. 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) were killed by asphyxiation. Dozens of others suffered freon-related injuries and were evacuated to an unknown port in Primorsky Krai. 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.
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. The U.S. Northern Command confirmed that this 2009 Akula-class submarine deployment did occur.
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.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Akula class submarines.|
- Akula Class - Project 971 at FAS.org
- Description of the class (as of 1999) at "SUBSIM Review"
- Details of the Akula class (and others) at "Hazegray"