Attack Submarine (Nuclear Powered)
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.
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'. Initially the boats of project 971 bore only tactical numbers. However, on 10 October, 1990, left the order of the VMF Commander-in-Chief V.N. Vhernavina about the awarding to the boat K-317 of name "Panther". Subsequently names were obtained by other nuclear-powered ships of this project.
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 was 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 as of 2000.
Apparently two additional Akula-Is remained undelivered at Komsomol'sk-na-Amur. Funds were provided in January 2000 for further work on the 82%-85%-finished Modified Akula-I-class Nerpa, laid down in 1986. The 25%-50%-complete Kaban, begun in 1992, may also eventually be completed.
As of October 2000 the Amur shipyard had been trying to complete one multi-purpose Bars-class submarine for more than five years. Though construction of the submarine was 85 percent complete, Russia didn't have the money to complete the job. The shipyard plant received 5 million rubles ($182,000) from the Defense Ministry in 2000. But to keep the construction hangar at the right temperature, the shipyard spent 70 million rubles a year. Maintaining the hangar temperature was essential, since in 1997 the submarine's reactor was started, and a stable temperature was required in the hangar to avoid accidents. It would cost more to dismantle the submarine and treat the radioactive reactor than to complete construction. Meanwhile, another submarine remained only half built at the shipyard.
The status of the Akula II program is less certain, with at least one authoritative source maintaining that this class had yet to put to sea as of early 2000. Another authoritative source reports that three Akula II submarines have been built, with the first, Viper, being commissioned in 1995, the second, Nerpa, in December 2000 and the third, Gepard, in August 2001 [other sources attribute the name Nerpa to an uncomplated Akula I].
The Vepr [which is probably an Akula II] was launched in December 1994 and according to some sources was commissioned in 1995. The Gepard [Cheetah] was laid down in 1991 or 1992, with the sub scheduled to enter active service in 1996. In fact, Gepard remained in the yard at Severodvinsk, and according to some reports had been renamed Belgograd [subsequent reports apparently disconfirm this claim]. The Gepard was launched in 1995. The sub's crew was scheduled to arrive on board in early 1998 while the boat was still under construction. Gepard was finally launched on 18 September 1999 and began state acceptance sea trials in December 2000 in the Baltic Fleet water area. The boat was to be commissioned on 29 July 2001 - Russian Navy Day. Initially it was thought that the final service introduction ceremony would be held in August 2001, since the test runs were completed as early as July 2001. President Vladimir Putin commissioned Gepard in a ceremony on 04 December 2001. The submarine's commissioning took place with Navy C-in-C Vladimir Kuroyedov and acting Northern Fleet commander Vice-Admiral Vladimir Dobroskochenko signing the acceptance report. The presidential visit was entirely symbolic.
The hulls of two additional Akula-IIs [probably named Kuguar and Rys] remained in the Severodvinsk building hall, with at least the former said to be planned for completion. No completion date was projected, and no progress towards completion was evident as of mid-2004. Perhaps as many as two more Akula II units may also await completion, though this may simply reflect confusion between the Akula II units at Severodvinsk and the Akula I-Mod units at Komsomol'sk-na-Amur.
As of January 2003, Janes thought that 9 Akula were thought to be operational, and Periscope agreed as of August 2003. COnfusingly, naval-technology.com SSN AKULA CLASS (TYPE 971) profile reports that "The Russian Navy has 14 Bars class Project 971 submarines" and then the sidebar reports "The Russian Navy has 16 Bars class Project 971 submarines" though no as-off date is claimed for either number. On 30 May 2005 Sevmash's press-secretry Mikhail Starozhilov told ITAR-TASS that the Akula-class nuclear submarine K-317 Panther had been placed in the dock of Sevmash plant in Severodvinsk, Arkhangelsk region. He added that it was not clear what kind of repairs would be done on the submarine as the Russian navy officials were not clear about the financing. K-317 had spent several years in the harbour near the plant due to the navy financial difficulties.
Nuclear submarine K-317 ?Panther? project 971, Akula class, entered active service in December 1990 and was based at Gadzhievo base. At that time the "beast" division of the Northern fleet consisted of six Akula-class submarines: Snow Leiopard [Bars], Panther [Pantera], Wolf [Volk], Leopard, Tiger [Tigr], and Boar [Vepr], while a further seven submarines of this class were based at the Pasific Fleet.
As of 2007 the International Institute of Strategic Studies reported that there were two Akula II and 8 Akula I in service, with no additional units reported "in reserve". As of 2007 there were probably a total of eleven Akula I submarines in service, with a few of these withdrawn for maintenance and repair at any given time [at least two were in maintenance in 2007], along with two Akula II [of which no others are available for maintenance float]. At least two more units [and possibly as many as five] remained under construction, though as of 2007 there was no indication that their completion was contemplated for Russian service.
As of 2008 the International Institute of Strategic Studies reported that there were two Akula II and five Akula I in service, with three additional Akula I units reported "in reserve".
The active submarines of this class are in restricted service to conserve their remaining reactor core lives. Assuming the nominal 30 year service life of their American counterparts, the oldest Akula I submarines might be withdrawn from service by around 2015, with all but the Gepard Akula II being withdrawn from service by 2025. The restricted service of these boats might extend their useful lives to 35 years, suggesting a phase-out in the 2020-2030 timeframe.
Can More Akulas be built?
Last edited by Russian Patriot on Sun Jul 26, 2009 12:04 am; edited 1 time in total