It all came down to costs, and Moscow apparently couldn’t afford to keep operating what had been the world’s largest nuclear-powered submarine.
In February, Russia decommissioned its Project 941 Akula-class (NATO reporting name Typhoon) heavy nuclear-powered missile-carrying submarine cruiser Dmitry Donskoy years earlier than expected. It was just two years ago that the Kremlin announced the boat would remain in service until at least 2026, even as its role was reportedly limited to that of a weapons test platform for the new Borei-, Borei-A-, Yasen- and Yasen-M-class submarines
However, this week, it was confirmed that Dmitry Donskoi was decommissioned in February due to cost considerations. It had served for more than 40 years in the Northern Fleet.
“The Dmitry Donskoi could no longer be in service due to its spent nuclear core,” a source in the Russian Navy told state media outlet Tass on Thursday.
The Dmitry Donskoi’s Career
Initially designated the TK-208, she was the lead vessel of the Soviet third-generation Akula-class (Russian for “Shark”). She entered service in 1981 with the Soviet Navy, and after a 12-year overhaul and refit that began in 1990, she reentered service in 2002 as the Dmitry Donskoi, named after the Grand Duke of Moscow Dmitry Donskoy (1359–1389), the reputed founder of Moscow.
According to Russian media, Dmitry Donskoi initially carried D-19 strategic intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) as its basic armament. Following its upgrade under Project 941UM, it was involved in the tests of the seaborne Bulava ICBM.
On Thursday, which was also the “Day of the Russian Northern Fleet” – marking the founding of the Northern flotilla – the editorial board of the Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily held the premiere of the documentary “Dmitry Donskoi: Thanks for Dreams.” It chronicled the history of the Typhoon-class submarine.
Typhoon-Class: Project 941 Boats
The Sevmash Shipyard built six of a planned seven Project 941 submarines for the Russian Navy, and all were operational with the Northern Fleet. Though the oldest of the submarines, Dmitriy Donskoi was also the last of the class to remain in service.
The TK-202, TK-12 – later renamed the Simbirsk – and T-13 were all withdrawn from active service between 1996 and 2009, and scrapped with the financial support of the United States. Two other boats: the TK-17/Arkhangelsk and TK-20/Severstal remained in service until they were decommissioned circa 2013. A seventh boat, TK-210, was laid down but scrapped before completion.
With a displacement of 48,000 tons, a length of 175 meters (nearly 600 feet), a 23-meter beam, and a 12-meter draught, the Typhoon-class were the largest submarines ever built. Developed with multiple pressure hulls, including five inner hulls situated inside a superstructure of two parallel main hulls, the Typhoon-class was also wider than any other submarine ever built.
The submarines were powered by OK-650 pressurized-water nuclear reactors, two 50,000 horsepower steam turbines, and four 3,200 KW turbogenerators and this provides the boat with the ability to sail at a speed of up to 22.2 knots on the surface and 27 knots whilst submerged.
Though the Dmitriry Donskoi has been decommissioned, in 2021, a new of the Borei-class began construction; and when launched, will bear the name of the legendary founder of Moscow.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.