End of an era: the 'Typhoon'-class submarine is no more

Arguably the star of the film "The Hunt for Red October," the last "Typhoon" class submarine is to now be scrapped.
Christopher McFadden
The Russian "Typhoon" submarine
The Russian "Typhoon" submarine

Bellona Foundation/Wikimedia Commons 

The Cold War's largest submarine has now officially been retired. The first and final Typhoon submarine, the Dmitry Donskoy, was decommissioned by the Russian state news agency TASS.

"The Dmitry Donskoy submarine cruiser has been decommissioned from the Russian Navy. It will await utilization at a naval base in Severodvinsk together with two other units of this project," he said.

Named in honor of a 14th-century Russian prince, the Dmitry Donskoy was laid down at the Sevmash Shipyard in 1976 and launched on the 29th of September, 1980. She finally entered service on the 29th of December of the same year.

This is a momentous occasion for one of the world's truest engineering marvels. Russia's Typhoon-class submarines were monsters by submarine standards, weighing 48,000 tonnes and approaching the WWII German battleship Bismark.

The "Typhoon" was distinctive, with its broad, bulky hull measuring 574-foot (175 m) in length and its 75-foot (23 m) beam. Since 1981, it has been a mystery, with many of its secrets not revealed until the 1990s. In 1990, it inspired the thriller "The Hunt For Red October," which filled the gap between what was known and the imaginary boat with fantastical technology.

The class was developed in the 1970s when the Soviet Union reacted to the US Navy's new Ohio-class nuclear ballistic missile submarines, which increased the Polaris submarines' weapon load from 16 to 24 tubes that carried Trident II missiles with multiple warheads.

"Project 941 Akula," codenamed by NATO as "Typhoon," was created to meet the challenge of being able to operate under the ice thousands of miles from its targets and release 200 warheads and decoys on demand.

The "Typhoon" had multiple pressure hulls as opposed to just one. There were two parallel hulls on the sides. A third hull on top of these protruded beneath the enormous sail and housed the command center, while a fourth hull in the bow served as the torpedo chamber. There were 20 missile tubes in the area in front of the parallel hulls. Each of these had titanium included in the design for added strength, and they were all tightly braced together.

The Dmitry Donskoy is the last of six Typhoons, with a seventh canceled during construction. After the Cold War, the Typhoon fleet became an obsolete weapon system. The submarines were so expensive to operate and renovate that the Russian government decided to build new, more contemporary boats.

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