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Project 971 Shuka-B Bars-class
Akula class
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.

The "Pike-B", built in 1983-2004, became the main type of multi-purpose nuclear submarines in the Russian fleet, replacing the obsolete boats of the 671RTMK "Pike" project. The decision to develop a mass series of multipurpose submarines of the third generation was adopted in July 1976. The design of the boat involved SKB-143 Malachite.

Until 1997 the works were supervised by the chief designer GN Chernyshev, after his death - Yu. I. Farafontov. The terms of reference were retained in the same way as Project 945 Barracuda, the Malachite project, and the design was based on it, so no work was done on the design phase. Unlike the Barracuda, the boat's hull was supposed to be made of low-magnetic steel rather than titanium.

With such an offer shipbuilders from Komsomolsk-on-Amur came out. This requirement was due to both the deficit and high cost of titanium, and the difficulties in working with it, which could overcome only one Soviet enterprise, Sevmash, whose capacities were clearly not enough to build a large series in a fairly short time. At the same time, the replacement of titanium with steel allowed the use of the increased capacity of Far Eastern plants.

September 13, 1977 technical design was approved, but in connection with the construction in the United States of submarines of the new type "Los Angeles" with hydroacoustic complexes of a new generation, "Shchuku-B" was sent for revision. The improved project was ready by 1980. The first part of the series was built in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, which is very unusual, because in the construction of the submarine fleet, with the exception of Project 659, which was built only in the Far East, the Pacific shipyards were always assigned a role.

In the early 1980s, the Soviet Union purchased a batch of precision metal cutting machines from the Japanese company Toshiba, which allowed the use of new technologies in the processing of propellers, which sharply reduced the noise of submarines. The deal was secret, but information about it came into the world press. As a result, the United States imposed economic sanctions against the company.

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.

As of March 2013 India was in talks with Russia for the lease of a second nuclear submarine. India was ready to finance the completion of a partly constructed nuclear submarine which sits at the Amur Shipbuilding Plant in the Russian Far East. The submarine belongs to the same Project 971 as the Nerpa submarine which India leased from Russia in 2011 for 10 years at a cost of $970 million. “India has expressed interest in having the second submarine of this project completed,” a Russian official said. “The strong hull of the submarine is fully ready and carefully kept in a slipway at the Amur Shipyard.”

In 2014 the government of the Russian Federation decided that Zvyozdochka would perform mid-life repairs and deep upgrading of the 971 multi-purpose nuclear submarines (the Shchuk-B code), and the Zvezda Far East plant, the 949A nuclear submarine (the Antey code). Russia’s Zvyozdochka shipyard in the country’s northwest and the Zvezda Far Eastern plant will be able to modernize about ten project 971 and project 949A nuclear submarines, Russian Navy Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Chirkov said on 19 March 2015. "This actually means recommissioning a grouping of multi-purpose nuclear submarines with upgraded characteristics, which will operate in the Northern and Pacific Fleets," the Navy chief said on occasion of Submariner Day.

Profound ["deep"] modernization will leave only the hulls of these submarines intact, the Navy chief said. "All armament and vital systems will be new," he said, adding new hydro-acoustic and navigation equipment, control and communication systems would be installed on submarines. "The service life of project 971 and project 949A multirole nuclear submarines will be almost doubled while improved tactical and technical characteristics will help considerably increase the efficiency of the use of these submarines in the Russian Navy’s submarine fleet," Chirkov said.

The Russian nuclear Gepard (Cheetah) submarine returned to the country’s Northern Fleet after the restoration of technical readiness, the fleet’s spokesman said 28 November 2015. "During its time in the factory, the nuclear submarine received a series of services, significantly extending the vessel’s operating life and continuing its future use in the Arctic conditions," ?apt. 1st Rank Vadim Serga said.

Renovation of multipurpose nuclear submarines (NPS) of the third generation will nearly double their lifetimes. As reported 17 March 2017 in an interview with the newspaper "Krasnaya Zvezda" Commander of the Russian Navy Admiral Vladimir Korolev, said about 971 projects, "Pike-B" and 949A "Antey" : "The life of submarine project 971 and 949 will increase by almost half, and improved performance characteristics will significantly increase the effectiveness of their use in the battle of the submarine forces".

Until 2020, the Center for ship repair "Zvezdochka" in Severodvinsk and the plant "Zvezda" in Bolshoi Kamen (Primorye) will perform for the Russian Navy a "substantial amount of work" in repair and modernization of nuclear submarines 971 th and 949 th project, he reminded the commander in chief. As a result, the Navy submarine force will receive a group of multi-purpose nuclear submarines, which will carry out the tasks in the Northern and Pacific fleets. "They will be equipped with the most advanced life-support systems, sonar and navigation systems, systems management and communication", - said the King.

Russia had a series of seven multipurpose nuclear submarines of the fourth-generation Project 885 Yasin ["Ash"], which will replace the submarines of the third generation in the future.

Almost all of the 11 existing nuclear submarines with cruise missiles of Project 971 "Pike-B" will have to be repaired and modernized. Project 971M provides for the renewal of electronic equipment and the installation of the Kalibr-PL missile system. The presence of missiles will significantly increase the combat potential of boats.

By 2018, seven "Pike" were immediately undergoing modernization. The works were carried out at the Zvezda and Zvezdochka factories. The first representative of the updated project was K-328 "Leopard" boat, put on repair in 2011. Initially, the delivery of this ship was planned for 2014-15, but the work was visibly prolonged. The lead submarine of Project 971M, as well as other ships, were still in the shops and are not ready to continue their service. However, the first modernized submarines were scheduled to be returned to the customer in 2018-2019.

The general director of the ship repair center Zvezdochka, Sergei Marichev, believes that the upgrading of the 971 submarines will be very useful for the fleet. The multipurpose submarines of the Northern Fleet "Leopard" and "Wolf", being under repair, will be returned in time with the necessary financing, the general director of the Zvezdochka ship repair center Sergey Marichev told TASS 25 July 2018.

"The enterprise has signed a contract for the repair and modernization of four ships of the 971 project.We are now repairing the two ships of the Northern Fleet, the terms of the contract have been fixed, and we will certainly withstand the issue of financing," he said. However, he did not specify the date for the transfer of the ships to the fleet. According to Marichev, the upgrading of the 971 submarines, which include Leopard and Volk, will "saturate the fleet with multipurpose ships with tactical and technical characteristics close to those of the fourth-generation boats, and carry out a generation change without compromising the stability of the submarine forces". With new weapons and a new element base, they will continue to serve the fleet for many years, Marichev said.

After-repair tests of the Vepr project 971 nuclear submarine have been completed. This was announced to reporters on 26 March 2020 by the official representative of the Russian Navy, Igor Dygalo. "The Commander of the Russian Navy Nikolai Evmenov has been informed about the completion of the marine phase of the Vepr nuclear-powered submarine test of Project 971 after the repair at the Nerpa shipyard. The submarine will return to the Northern Fleet’s submarine forces in April," Dygalo said. During tests in the ranges of the Barents Sea, all systems and on-board equipment of the submarine were tested. "A large amount of work was carried out on the submarine to restore the technical readiness of on-board systems and mechanisms," the representative of the fleet added.

The Vepr nuclear submarine (NPS) of project 971, the Shchuka-B code of the Northern Fleet, completed testing after repair and modernization; its transfer to the fleet is expected in the third decade of June. This was reported to TASS on 30 May 2020 by a source in the military-industrial complex. "The Vepr nuclear submarine completely completed the test program. Some time ago, the submarine returned to eliminate Nerpa’s factory, where it was undergoing repairs. This work will last about a month, after brief docking, in the third decade of June, it will be transferred to the Navy. " - said the interlocutor of the agency.

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Page last modified: 13-09-2021 17:21:47 ZULU