Typhoon: The Largest Submarine Ever – This Russian sub is so big it was originally designed to have a swimming pool and a sauna. That’s right, I’m talking about the gargantuan Typhoon-class – the largest submarine ever made. There are only one of these boats left and it is mainly now just a test platform for new missiles. The Typhoon subs were developed during the Cold War to run silent and deep under thick ice in the Arctic and carry a full load of conventional ballistic and nuclear missiles.
Just How Big Are We Talking?
When underwater, the Typhoon-class displaces 48,000 tons. By comparison, the U.S. Ohio-class submarines only displace about 19,000 tons. The Typhoon-class is 566 feet long, 76 feet wide, and nearly 38 feet tall. It’s almost twice as wide as the Ohio-class. The Typhoon-class has 19 different compartments to house 160 sailors.
Power and Armaments Are Impressive
It’s powered by two nuclear reactors and two 50,000 horsepower steam turbines with a speed of 27 knots underwater and 22 knots on the surface.
It has 20 launchers for the RSM-56 intercontinental-range Bulava nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, plus six torpedo tubes.
The Typhoon-class Is Dwindling in Numbers
The Typhoon-class has been around for decades. The first of the class, Dmitri Donskoi, entered the fleet in 1981. There were five of the Typhoon-class built, but only Dmitri Donskoi is still operating. The others were retired because of arms reduction treaties.
Watch Out for the New Borei-Class
Now the Russians are entering the Borei-class to replace the Dmitri Donskoi and the Typhoon-class will ultimately be retired.
Some reports have the Donskoi joining the Borei-class after a substantial refit and living to fight another day. There was also some chatter in the Russian military propaganda organs in 2019 that two other Typhoon-class subs would get a new lease on life as carriers of two hundred Kalibr cruise missiles. The idea was to keep up with American Ohio-class submarines that can carry 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles. This proved optimistic because of cost concerns and technical challenges of the refit.
It’s a Matter of Economics
Due to its size and age, the Dmitri Donskoi is expensive to maintain. The Russians can build new Borei-class subs for the price of keeping the Donskoi going. It is probably better for the Donskoi to be used just to test new missiles rather than get an uncertain refit to join the new Borei-class.
You have to hand it to the Russians for creating such a massive submarine and putting comforts on board such as a pool and a sauna. When you are submerged for 120 days, it’s nice for the crew to be able to blow off steam.
Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.