Soviet-era Akula-class submarine stands against Western rivals

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The Akula-class submarine emerged as a potent force during the Soviet Cold War era. Its unique double-hull design for stealth, combined with progressive sensors, offered a significant challenge to Western naval forces. 

Photo credit: airbase.ru

The introductory model was the Akula I, which was succeeded by the enhanced Akula I and the more robustly built Akula II. The Russian Navy, post the Soviet era, built just one Akula III. These submarines were well-equipped with torpedoes and potential cruise missile capability, showcasing the undeterred Soviet commitment to match America’s naval technological prowess. 

Despite resource constraints, the Soviet Union managed to produce a remarkable collection of military hardware such as the famed Akula-class submarine, earning a fair share of apprehension from its Western counterparts. The Soviets compelled the Americans to match their technological strides on land, in the skies, and on the sea. 

When it came to underwater prowess, the Soviets showcased a range of impressive submarine designs, with the Akula-class taking the lead. This line of submarines, introduced in three distinct versions, represented the apex of Soviet maritime power during the later stages of the Cold War. 

Built initially in 1983, the Akula, with a projected expense of $1.55 billion (measured in 1995 dollars), implemented a double hull system. This system comprised an internal pressure hull and a lighter outer layer. The dual-hull structure allowed the Soviets greater liberty in determining their exterior hull design, giving them an edge over several Western submarines. 

This innovative feature offered the Akula class more buoyancy than most Western submarines typically possess. The Soviets meticulously designed the outer hull of the Akula to showcase a unique bulb shape atop its rudder houses. 

Photo credit: Twitter

Internally, the Akula was equipped with an array of sensitive technologies, notably a wake detection system and hydrodynamic sensors capable of identifying changes in water temperature or salinity. These high-tech sensors were strategically located at the forefront of the Akula’s sail and underneath the hull, just before the sail. 

Furthermore, the Akula featured an MGK-40 active/passive suite, Flank arrays, Pelamida towed array sonar, and an MG-70 mine detection sonar. To aid in electronic warfare operations, the Akula was equipped with a Bukhta ESM/ECM, and it could launch the MG-74 Korund noise simulation decoys and the MT-70 Sonar intercept receiver Nikhrom-M IFF. 

However, as it was designated an attack submarine, the Akula was suitably equipped with four torpedo tubes of both 533mm and 650mm. The Akula came stocked with a total of 40 torpedoes, making the Akula-class a formidable adversary. Besides torpedoes, the Akula also could house one to three Igla-M surface-to-air missiles, which could launch Granat [or Kalibr] cruise missiles from the sail [exclusively when surfaced]. 

Driven by a single 190 MW OK-650B/OK-650M pressurized water nuclear reactor and a lone OK-7 steam turbine with a 43,000 horsepower output, the Akula-class submarine could reach speeds between 28 and 35 knots under the sea, boasting an original, carrying an extra 700 tons. This expanded accommodation was used to hold additional noise reduction measures—a significant focus in the realm of submarine design. The Akula II even commanded attention from the West when it was declared quieter than the latest US attack submarine, the Los Angeles class. 

Subsequently, an exclusive Akula III was completed, marking its name as the first submarine to join the Russian Navy post the catastrophic Kursk disaster. The Akula III had a special guest at its inauguration, Russian President Vladimir Putin. Slightly longer with an increased displacement than its predecessor, the Akula II, the Akula III symbolizes the enduring legacy of the formidable Akula-class submarine.

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