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Russian Navy

Project 971 Shuka-B
Akula class
Attack Submarine (Nuclear Powered)

The Project 971 Shuka-B attack submarine multi-purpose submarine is capable of strikes against groups of hostile ships and against coastal installations. Designated the "Akula" class by the West, the submarine is officially designated Project 971 Shuka B (shuka is an aggressive breed of fresh water pike). Some 110 meters long, the Akula is double-hulled with considerable distance between the outer and inner hulls to reduce the possible damage to the inner hull. The hull is constructed of low magnetic steel, and divided into eight compartments, and features a distinctive high aft fin. The Project 971, using a steel hull, was initiated in 1976 when it became evident that existing industrial infrastructure was inadequate to mass produce the expensive titanium hulls of the Project 945 Sierra class. The performance of the Project 971 boats was a close approximation to that of the Project 945 design, though the later was significantly more expensive to build and maintain. It has 650 mm and 533 mm torpedo tubes which can use mines as well as Granat cruise missiles, antisubmarine missiles, and torpedoes.

The submarines feature double hull construction, dramatically increasing the reserve buoyancy of the submarine by as much as three times over that of a single hull craft. Ballast tanks and other gear are located between the inner and outer hulls, and limber holes are provided for the free-flooding sections between the hulls. Akula class submarines incorporate limber hole covers that can be closed to reduce or eliminate this source of unwanted noise.

Built to engage surface task forces and coastal facilities, the Akula submarine design was under constant upgrade. NATO designated the Project 971 boats as Akula I, and the Project 971U as "Improved Akula I" while Project 971A was designated Akula II. According to some reports the 'Akula-II' class has a 3.7 meter longer hull to accomdate a quieter propulsion system. There is some non-trivial disagreement between authoritative sources as to launch and commission dates for all units, as well as which units are 'Improved Akula' vs. 'Akuka-II'.

The Akula is the quietest Russian nuclear submarine ever designed, and the low noise levels came as a surprise to Western intelligence. Russia claims the Akula is the quietest of its domestically built submarines and is fitted with acoustic countermeasure equipment. Noise reduction efforts include rafting the propulsion plant, anechoic tiles on the outside and inside of the hulls and possibly other measures such as active noise cancellation. Nonetheless, the American Improved Los Angeles class retained a decisive edge in silencing compared to the Akuka I. The Project 971A Akula II incorporated an improved double layer silencing system for the power train. According to Russian sources, this variant had noise emissions that were roughly the level of a basic Los Angeles and that of the Improved Los Angeles at slow speeds. At medium or high speeds the Improved Los Angeles design retains an acoustic advantage according to Russian sources. The Project 971 uses advanced sound insulation techniques that may not withstand Russian service conditions, and it may actually be noiser than earlier designs using more basic quieting technologies if poorly built or improperly maintained. The Project 971 is said by Russian sources to be at a distinct disadvantage in sensors, with a sonar suite that is roughly one-third as sensitive as the Los Angeles, able to track only two targets simultaneously (as opposed to the multiple target tracking capabilities of the American system).

The Akula can launch a range of anti-submarine and anti-surface vessel torpedoes. The submarine has eight torpedo launch tubes, four 650 millimetre and four 533 millimetre tubes. The Improved Akula and Akula II have ten, with six 533 mm tubes. The four 650 mm tubes can be fitted with liners to provide additional 533 mm weapon launch capacity. The torpedo tubes can be used to launch mines instead of torpedoes. The Akula Class carry up to twelve Granat submarine launched cruise missiles. The missiles are fired from four 533 mm torpedo launch tubes. The submarine's anti-ship missiles are the Novator SS-N-15 Starfish and the Novator SS-N-16 Stallion and an air defence capability is provided by the Strela SA-N-5/8 portable missile launcher with 18 missiles.

The main propulsion machinery consists of a VM-5 pressure water reactor with a model OK-650 b high-density reactor core rated at 190 MW with a GT3A turbine developing 35 MW. Some sources credit Akula with two reactors, but it appears that the Akula has only one reactor, as opposed to older Russian subs, which had two. Two auxiliary diesels rated at 750 hp provide emergency power. The propulsion system drives a seven bladed fixed pitch propeller. The propulsion system provides a maximum submerged speed of 33 knots and a surface speed of 10 knots. A reserve propeller system, powered by two motors rated at 370 kw, provides a speed of 3 to 4 knots. The submarine is rated for a diving depth to 600 meters. The submarine carries sufficient supplies for an endurance of 100 days and is operated by a complement of 73 crew.

The submarines were built by the Amur Shipbuilding Plant Joint Stock Company at Komsomolsk-on-Amur and at the Severodvinsk shipbuilding yard. Output of Akula submarines remained steady at one-to-two a year until 1995. Eight Akula class submarines were built in Komsomolsk until activities there ceased in 1993. All sources are in agreement that a total of seven Akula I submarines were built [though there is some dispute as to whether K-461 Volk or K-480 Bars is an Akula I or an Improved Akula I]. These boats were all commissioned between 1985-86 and 1992. The prototype K-284 was decommissioned in 1995 to avoid the expense of a reactor refueling, and is generally not expected to return to service. According to some sources, at least one and perhaps as many as three Akula-Is were placed in reserve status in the late 1990s.

At least two and perhaps as many as four Improved Akulas entered service between 1992 and 1995. An additional Improved Akula I [K.267 Drakon] was launched in 1994 and delivered to the Russian Navy in 1995, though subsequently repossessed by the shipyard due to lack of payment. The boat reportedly remained in the possession of the Komsomolosk yard, which was said to be trying to sell her. According to some sources at least one [and probably two] additional Akula-Is remained undelivered [and almost certainly largely unfinished] at Komsomol'sk-na-Amur.

The status of the Akula II program is less certain, with at least one authoritative source maintaining that this class has yet to put to sea. The Vepr [which is probably an Akula II] was launched in December 1994 and according to some sources was commissioned in 1995. The Gepard was laid down in 1991, with the sub scheduled to enter active service in 1996. In fact, Gepard is still in the yard, and has been renamed Belgograd. The sub's crew was scheduled to arrive on board in early 1998 while the boat was still under construction. At least two and perhaps as many as four more Akula II units are being built. As of early-1999 there were at least two unfinished Project 971A Akula-IIs in the building halls at Severodvinsk [probably the ex-Gepard Belgograd and the Kuguar]. No completion date is projected, but they appeared unlikely to be completed before 2001.

The active submarines of this class are in restricted service to conserve their remaining reactor core lives. There are at least eight Akula submarines currently operational, and by some estimates the number of Akulas in active service may be as great as eleven. At least three more units [and possibly as many as five] remain under construction, and their completion could bring the total inventory to as many as fifteen boats by the end of the decade.

Specifications

Classification: Podvodnaya Lodka Atomnaya (PLA)
Nuclear Powered Submarine
Designer: G.N. Chernyshev at Malakhit
Builders:
  • Zavod imeni Leninskiy Komsomol, Komsolol'sk-na-Amur
  • Sevmashpredpriyatiye, Severodvinshk
  • Displacement (tons): 5,700-7,500 tons Surfaced
    7,900-9,100 tons Submerged
    7,900-9,500 tons Submerged - Akula II
    Speed (kts): 20 knots surfaced
    28-35 knots submerged
    Operating Depth 1,475 feet Maximum Safe Depth
    1,804 feet Never-Exceed Depth
    1,970-2,160 feet Crush depth
    Dimensions (m): 108.0 meters long
    111.7 meters long
    13.5 meters beam
    9.6 meters draft
    Propulsion: 1 190 MW OK-650B pressurized water nuclear reactor
    1 OK-7 steam turbine 43,000 shp
    2 OK-2 Turbogenerators rated at 2,000kw
    1 7 bladed propeller
    Endurance 4,500 full power hours
    80 days stores edurance
    Crew: 51-62 [25 officers / 26 enlisted]
    Armament:
    Missiles: 21 /81R (SS-N-15) or Vodopad (SS-N-16)
    Torpedoes: total of 40 weapons
  • 4 21-in (533-mm) torpedo tubes
  • 4 26-in (650-mm) torpedo tubes (bow)
  • 6 external tubes [Improved Akula and Akula II]
  • Systems:
  • Chiblis Surface Search Radar
  • Medvyedista-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
  • Sonars
  • MGK-503-M Skat active/passive suite
  • Akula flank arrays
  • Pelamida towed array
  • MG-70 mine detection sonar
  • Countermeasures
  • Bukhta ESM/ECM
  • 2 MG-74 Korund noise simulation decoys (torpedo-sized)
  • MT-70 Sonar intercept receiver
  • Nikhrom-M IFF
  • Class Listing

    UnitShipyardFleetChronologyNotes
    #numberName Laid Down Launched Comm. Stricken
    Project 971 Shuka-B (Akula)
    1K-284 PumaSY 199PAC10/06/1982 12/30/1984 **/**/1985 07/**/19851995 stricken
    2K-263 Del'fin SY 199PAC1982 07/15/1984 09/**/1986
    3K-322 Kashalot SY 199PAC---------- 07/**/1987 11/**/1987 1998 in reserve ??
    4K-480 Bars SY 402NOR198205/**/1988 10/**/1988 1997 in reserve ??
    ?? possibly "Improved"
    5K-391 Kit SY 199PAC---------- 04/**/1989 07/**/1989
    6K-317 Pantera SY 402NOR11/**/1986 05/**/1990 10/**/1990 1998 in reserve ??
    1999 Pacific Fleet?
    7K-331 Narval SY 199PAC---------- 06/**/1990 09/**/1990
    Project 971U Shuka-B (NATO code "improved Akula I")
    1K-461 Volk SY 402NOR1986 06/**/1991 12/**/1991 possibly named "Wolf"
    possibly not "Improved"
    2K-419 Morzh SY 199PAC---------- 05/**/1992 08/**/1992
    3K-328 Leopard SY 402NOR10/**/1988 10/06/1992 02/28/1993
    4K-157 Tigr SY 402NOR198907/10/1993 12/**/1994
    5K-267 Drakon SY 199PAC---------- 08/04/1994 07/29/1995 hull NO. possibly K-295
    6 SY 199 ? construction suspended
    ? 7 SY 199 ? construction suspended
    Project 971A / 971M Shuka-B (Akula II)
    1----- Vepr SY 402199112/10/1994 07/**/1995 possibly "Improved"
    2----- Belgograd SY 4021990 1998??? [ex Gepard]
    name possibly Rys'
    possibly "Improved"
    3----- Kuguar SY 4021992 1999----- name possibly Yaguar
    4----- Nerpa SY 4021994 2000 -----name possibly Bison
    ? SY 402 ? construction suspended

    Sources and Resources



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