Farewell to the Giant: Russia’s Dmitry Donskoy Nuke Submarine, One of the World’s Largest, Officially Retires
Forty-three years after it was commissioned, the Russian Navy’s Project 941 Akula-class heavy nuclear-powered strategic submarine Dmitry Donskoy has been finally withdrawn from service.
The head of the Russian Movement for Navy Support, Vladimir Maltsev, told TASS, “The Dmitry Donskoy submarine cruiser has been decommissioned from the Russian Navy. It will await utilization at a naval base in Severodvinsk with two other units of this project.”
Earlier in June 2022, Russian media reports cited unnamed sources in the defense industry who said, “The submarine Dmitry Donskoy has been removed from the fleet and is to be scrapped.”
At the time, the MoD source had stated that the Dmitry Donskoy would be replaced by the largest submarine in the world, Oscar II-class Belgorod nuclear submarine, which was commissioned in July 2022 and measures 184 meters.
As previously reported by the EurAsian Times, the Belgorod and the Dmitry Donskoy were last spotted together in the White Sea off the coast of northwest Russia. Experts had noted that Dmitry Donskoy may have been escorting the Belgorod during sea trials before the latter entered service.
The Dmitry Donskoy was reportedly first sighted in the White Sea on June 17 or 18 last year. However, the appearance of the Belgorod class evoked widespread interest among military watchers as the mammoth submarine was still on trial at the time. Donskoy was the biggest submarine in the world until Belgorod appeared on the scene.
Commenting on the uncanny development, OSINT and Naval Analyst HI Sutton said that these vessels were enormous, bigger than anything in the West, including the Ohio Class, a nuclear-powered submarine that is a very prized possession of the US Navy.
When the reports about Dmitry Donskoy’s decommissioning first emerged last year, they were disputed by several Russian officials and military experts. They argued that the vessel was to remain in combat formation until the end of 2022. This explains the decision to withdraw the ship from service in 2023.
The Dmitry Donskoy submarine was the last one in operation in its class after all its other sister ships were decommissioned over the years. In 2021, it was reported that the submarine would remain in service until at least 2026. However, its role was reportedly limited to a weapons test platform.
The Belgorod submarine, which is reportedly slated to replace the Dmitry Donskoy, is a sizable, stealthy, specially-designed nuclear vessel constructed from the unfinished hull of an Oscar-II cruise missile submarine.
This vessel is the most advanced in the Russian arsenal, with cutting-edge underwater drones like the Klavesin-2R. However, the Dmitry Donskoy has enjoyed the reputation of being an iconic vessel that formed the mainstay of the Russian Navy at some point.
Four-Decade-Old Legacy Of The Dmitry Donskoy
The Project 941 Akula class RFS Dmitri Donskoy (TK-208) nuclear ballistic missile submarine was launched on September 29, 1980, and went by the NATO reporting name Typhoon.
The submarine, which is 175 meters (almost 600 feet) in length, has undergone significant modifications and upgrades throughout its four-decade-plus service. The ship was equipped to carry 48,000 tons of cargo and had a crew of roughly 160 persons.
The submarine’s potent missile arsenal allowed it to launch a barrage of missiles at target ships and inflict severe damage if left unopposed. Additionally, these submarines could stealthily deploy powerful ballistic missiles from anywhere in the world.
The submarine was modernized under project 941UM in 2002. It was equipped with 20 Bulava ballistic missiles, enabling it to strike any enemy with a devastating blow.
The massive submarine launched its first Bulava missile on September 27, 2005. The submarine surfaced, and the missile was fired from the White Sea. Later, the crew tried to launch a Bulava missile for the first time underwater.
They successfully did so in December 2005, hitting a target on the Kera Test Range. Project 941 delivered a total of six units to the Navy. All the ships were kept in Zapadnaya Litsa at the Northern Fleet (Nerpichya Bay).
Currently, three of them have been disposed of with US funding. Two submarines, the Arkhangelsk and the Severstal, have been withdrawn from service and are awaiting disposal.