In a world of naval supremacy, aircraft carriers may be the largest naval ships to sail the seas, but arguably a submarine the size of nearly two football fields is a little more intimidating.
The typhoon class submarines of the Russian navy are the largest submersible ships that have ever been built. More specifically, a Russian submarine known as Dmitriy Donskoy, TK-208, is the world's largest submarine.
How big is the submarine?
Measuring in at 175 meters, nearly 600 feet, the submarine has been in commission since 1980, with a few periods of significant refurbishment in its history. In addition to the submarine's impressive length, it's also 25 meters wide, giving it quite the presence in the water. The displacement of the ship is 48,000 tons and is operated with a crew of just 160 men.
The TK-208 was the foremost submarine in the Russian named Akula-class submarine line (NATO calls it Typhoon).
"Dmitriy Donskoy" ( NATO Code Name: Typhoon) is the biggest submarine ever built, it is a Russian Navy nuclear ballistic missile submarine, designated Project 941 Akula Class.— Interesting Engineering (@IntEngineering) April 14, 2020
📸 Bellona Foundation , Dwez1337/ Reddit#engineeringpic.twitter.com/Mq0gPTye0C
These submarines are capable of launching massive ballistic missiles from anywhere in the world relatively covertly.
The ship is so big that the interior amenities are like no other submarine ever built. There's even an indoor swimming pool (at least there was), as you can see in the clip from early on in the ship's life below.
The ship's history
The ship was first launched in 1980, but in 1990 it entered an extensive dry dock period to bring it up to modern standards. It was there for over a decade until in 2002 the ship was fully fitted with the latest hardware and relaunched into service.
The Dmitriy Donskoy left drydock from the Russian city of Severodvinsk at this point and has been serving the Russian navy ever since. It contains 20 launchers for the RSM-56 Bulava ballistic missile. This weapons system is known around the world as one of the most advanced submarine-launched missile systems ever built.
One interesting thing of note about the submarine is how extensively it was essentially rebuilt during its drydock period. At first launch in 1980, it was referred to as a third-generation submarine, but after spending over a decade getting refurbishments to its equipment, it's now referred to as a 4th generation submarine in its class. Essentially the submarine was completely rebuilt with all new equipment.
In 2005, the world's largest submarine launched its first Bulava missile on September 27th. In order to do so, the sub had to surface and the missile was fired from the White Sea. By December of the same year, the crew was ready to try the first firing of a Bulava missile from underwater. They succeeded in doing so on December 21st, hitting a target on the Kera Test Range.
Notably, the crews of the submarine fired many other tests of the Bulava missile, including one failed test in 2009 and a successful one in 2010.
All of the ship's sister submarines have been decommissioned at this point, so the Dmitriy Donskoy is easily the largest submarine still in active service today.
#DmitriyDonskoy TK-208 - is a #RussianNavy#nuclear#ballistic#missile#submarine, designated Project 941 Akula class (NATO name #Typhoon). With the decommissioning and scrapping of its Typhoon sister boats, it is the largest submarine in the world in active service. pic.twitter.com/vnhxFLdrrn— The Dead District (@TheDeadDistrict) February 20, 2020
The ship today
The Dmitriy Donskoy is still in service today and serves as the pride of the Russian submarine fleet. That said, with the Donskoy being the last of its class still in commission, its days are numbered. The Borei-class submarines are replacing the Typhoon class slowly. These new submarines are, unfortunately, be smaller than the Donskoy, meaning that it's highly plausible that the world's largest submarine will hold that title for some time to come.
You can see the submarine in the video below from a journey in 2017.
The new class of submarines has been in construction since 2002, but the progress has been slow going. So far there are four of the new class of submarines in commission with another slated to be commissioned into service this year.
If you're as fascinated with the Typhoon-class submarines as we are, take a look at the documentary National Geographic filmed on the supermassive submarines below. You'll get a full picture of just what being onboard the Donskoy would be like.