Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Russia's Typhoon SSBN Fleet


It is a rarity in Google Earth when every example of a weapon system is visible. One example is the four Kirov-class nuclear powered missile crusiers. Another is the six examples of the Project 941 Akula-class ("Shark", more commonly known as Typhoon to the West) strategic missile submarine (SSBN).

The Typhoon is a relatively easy submarine to identify. It is the largest submarine in the world, with a length of 170 meters and a beam of 23 meters. Locating the Typhoons was a relatively easy proposition once all of the required high-resolution imagery was made available, as they have been mostly inactive for some time due to the prohibitive operating costs associated with the type.


Operational Typhoon SSBNs were based in Zapadnaya Litsa on the Kola Peninsula, in the port facility of Nerpich'ya Guba. Current imagery depicts three Typhoon SSBNs still in port, although they are no longer believed to be operational. These submarines are TK-12, TK-13, and TK-20.


The remaining three Typhoons are currently visible at the Russian naval facility at Severodvinsk, near Arkhangelsk. Severodvinsk handles overhaul and refit for the Russian Northern Fleet. SSBNs are produced in the huge Sevmash assembly halls located at Severodvinsk, and some export work is also conducted at the port facility. Interestingly, the refitting of the Admiral Gorshkov for the Indian Navy can be witnessed in current imagery.

Of the three Typhoons visible at Severodvinsk, one is currently being dismantled (TK-202, which began to be dismantled in 2004), and one is seen pierside near the Admiral Gorshkov (likely TK-208 Dmitri Donskoi, the lead vessel of the class).

The third Typhoon at Severodvinsk, likely TK-17, is seen at a weapons loading dock. It cannot be determined if the missiles visible pierside are being loaded or unloaded. The presence of multiple missiles, however, makes the identification of this vessel as TK-17 seem most plausible. TK-208 is still active, conducting flight tests of the new Bulava SLBM. Only one Bulava has ever been fired during a test launch, so the presence of multiple missiles would seem to rule this vessel out as being TK-208. The missile canisters are 19 meters in length and 3.2 meters in diameter, and would easily fit the Typhoon's D-19 (SS-N-20 SEAHAWK) SLBMs. It has been reported that TK-17 was stated for dismantlement and was no longer fitted with SLBMs as of 2005. In this case, it is logical to assume that the missile canisters visible contain D-19 SLBMs that have recently been unloaded.


Imagery provided by Google Earth.
Globalsecurity.org and Pavel Podvig's blog and text Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces were consulted in writing this article.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Google images has been updated. TK-202 has been scrapped. TK-17 is awaiting scrapping at same location as last picture. Donskoy is pierside at Sevmash, and Severstal is pierside behind on of the Kirov's north in the bay.