Project 971 Щука-Б (Shchuka-B, 'Shchuka' meaning pike, NATO reporting name "Akula"), is a nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) first deployed by the Soviet Navy in 1986. Akula ("shark") is also the Soviet designation of the ballistic missile submarine class designated by NATO as the Typhoon class submarine.
There are three sub-classes or flights of Shchuka, consisting of the original seven "Akula I" submarines which were built between 1982 and 1986, five "Improved Akula" submarines built between 1986 and 1991, and two "Akula II" submarines built from 1991. The distinction between the Improved Akula and the Akula II class is debated by authoritative sources. The Russians call all of the submarines Schuka-B, regardless of modifications.
Akula class SSN with descriptions
Sideview of the sub
The Akula incorporates a double hull system composed of an inner pressure hull and an outer "light" hull. This allows more freedom in the design of the exterior hull shape, resulting in a very hydrodynamic submarine compared to western counterparts at the time.
The distinctive "bulb" or "can" seen on top of the Akula's rudder houses its towed sonar array, when retracted.
All Akulas are armed with four 533 mm torpedo tubes which can use Type 53 torpedoes or the SS-N-15 Starfish missile, and four 650 mm torpedo tubes which can use Type 65 torpedoes or the SS-N-16 Stallion missile. These torpedo tubes are arranged in two rows of four tubes each. Improved Akulas and Akula IIs have an additional six 533 mm torpedo tubes mounted externally, however it is unclear whether these are fully functional external tubes, or if they are only capable of launching Mines and decoys. The external tubes are mounted outside the pressure hull in one row, above the 'Normal' Torpedo tubes, and can only be reloaded in port or with the assistance of a submarine tender. The 650 mm tubes can be fitted with liners to use the 533 mm weaponry. The submarine is also able to use its torpedo tubes to deploy mines.
* 1 Current status
o 1.1 Akula-I submarines
o 1.2 Akula-I Improved submarines
o 1.3 Akula-II submarines
* 2 Units
o 2.1 Lease to India
* 3 Nerpa 2008 accident
* 4 See also
* 5 References
* 6 External links
 Current status
As with many Soviet/Russian craft, information on the status of the Akula Class submarines is sparse, at best. Information provided by several internet sites varies widely.
 Akula-I submarines
Of the seven original Akula-I submarines, only three are known to still be in service. These boats are equipped with MGK-500 Skat sonar system (with NATO reporting name Shark Gill). The lead boat of the class, K-284 'Akula' was decommissioned in 2001, apparently to help save money in the cash-strapped Russian Navy. K-322 'Kashalot' and K-480 'Bars' [Currently Ak Bars] are in reserve. K-480 'Bars' was put into reserve in 1998. 'Pantera' was due to return to service in March-April 2008 after a comprehensive overhaul.
 Akula-I Improved submarines
The five Akulas of this class are all thought to be in service. There is some debate about the hull number of the 5th submarine. Some sources report it as K-267, while others say K-295. Most however agree on the name 'Drakon', which is K-295 now named Samara. The original MGK-500 Skat sonar system on Akula-I is upgraded to the MGK-501 Skat-MS. Sources also disagree as to whether construction of this class has been suspended, or if there are a further two units planned. Improved Akula-I Hulls: K-461 Volk, K-154 Tigr, K-331 Narval.
 Akula-II submarines
The Akula II is approximately 230 tons larger in displacement and 2.5m greater in LOA compared to that of the Akula I's. The added space was used for an active noise reduction system. The MGK-501 Skat sonar system on Akula-I is replaced to a new MGK-540 Skat-3 sonar system, which is considered by its designers as the same class of American AN/BQQ-5/6. The K-157 Vepr (The first ship of this type) became the first Soviet submarine that was quieter than the latest U.S. attack submarines of that time, which was the Improved Los Angeles class (SSN 751 and later)  The K-335 Gepard is the second unit.
The Soviet advances in sound quieting was of considerable concern to the West, for acoustics was long considered the most significant advantage in U.S. submarine technology compared to the Soviets.
In 1983-1984 the Japanese firm Toshiba sold sophisticated, nine axis milling equipment to the Soviets along with the computer control systems, which were developed by Norwegian firm Kongsberg Vaapenfabrik. U.S Navy officials and Congressmen announced that this technology enabled the Soviet submarine builders to produce more accurate and quieter propellers.
The command and control methods and also weapons for this later variant were centralised, with a high degree of automation, similar to the Project 705 Alfa SSN. This automation reduced crew numbers.
Akula class submarine underway
Due to the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, production of all Akulas slowed.
The 1999-2000 edition of Jane's Fighting Ships incorrectly listed the first Akula-II as Viper (The actual name is "Vepr", wild boar in Russian), commissioned November 25, 1995, Gepard (Cheetah), launched 1999 and commissioned December 5, 2001, and Nerpa, laid down in 1993  began sea trials in October, 2008 and is expected to be commissioned and leased to the Indian Navy as INS Chakra in late 2009.
The Gepard is known to have a slightly smaller and streamlined towed array dispenser than the other submarines of the class. She also appears to have a longer sail than other Akula class submarines. President Vladimir Putin was on board Gepard after the Kursk incident.
Akula class — significant dates # Project Name Shipyard Laid down Launched Commissioned Status
K-284 971 Akula Amur Shipyard, Komsomolsk 6 November 1983 16 June 1984 30 December 1984 Pacific Fleet. 2001 removed from service<
K-263 971 Delfin Amur Shipyard, Komsomolsk 9 May 1985 28 May 1986 30 December 1987 Pacific Fleet, removed from active service, status unclear<
K-322 971 Kashalot Amur Shipyard, Komsomolsk 5 September 1986 18 July 1987 30 December 1988 Pacific Fleet, removed from active service, status unclear<
K-480 971 AkBars SEVMASH, Severodvinsk 22 February 1985 16 March 1988 31 December 1988 Northern Fleet. 1998 Removed from service<
K-391 971 Bratsk Amur Shipyard, Komsomolsk 23 February 1988 14 April 1989 29 December 1989 Pacific Fleet, removed from active service, status unclear<
K-317 971 Pantera SEVMASH, Severodvinsk 6 November 1986 21 May 1990 30 December 1990 Northern Fleet<
K-331 971 Magadan (ex Narval) Amur Shipyard, Komsomolsk 28 December 1989 23 June 1990 31 December 19890 Pacific Fleet<
K-461 971 Volk SEVMASH, Severodvinsk 14 November 1987 11 June 1991 29 December 1991 Northern Fleet<
K-328 971 Leopard SEVMASH, Severodvinsk 26 October 1988 28 June 1992 15 December 1992 Northern Fleet<
K-419 971 Kuzbass Amur Shipyard, Komsomolsk 28 July 1991 18 May 1992 31 December 1992 Pacific Fleet
K-154 971 Tigr SEVMASH, Severodvinsk 10 September 1989 26 June 1993 29 December 1993 Northern Fleet<
K-295 971 Samara Amur Shipyard, Komsomolsk 7 November 1993 5 August 1994 28 July 1995 Pacific Fleet<
K-157 971 Vepr SEVMASH, Severodvinsk 13 July 1990 10 December 1994 25 November 1995 Northern Fleet<
K-335 971 Gepard SEVMASH, Severodvinsk 23 September 1991 17 September 1999 5 December 2001 Northern Fleet<
K-337 971 Kuguar SEVMASH, Severodvinsk 18 August 1992 x x Not completed. Hull used for Dolgorikiy SSBN<
K-333 971 Rys' SEVMASH, Severodvinsk 31 August 1993 x x Not completed. Hull used for Dolgorukiy SSBN<
K-152 971 Nerpa Amur Shipyard, Komsomolsk 1993 4 July 2006 28 December 2009 Completed. In Pacific Fleet pending lease to India<
K-xxx 971 not named Amur Shipyard, Komsomolsk 1994 x x As of 2002, discussion of use of parts for Dolgorukiy SSBN<
K-xxx 971 not named Amur Shipyard, Komsomolsk x x x <
K-xxx 971 not named Amur Shipyard, Komsomolsk x x x <
 Lease to India
India is reportedly paying two billion dollars for the completion of two Akula-II class submarines which were 40-60% completed. Three hundred Indian Navy personnel are being trained in Russia for the operation of these submarines. India has finalized a deal with Russia, in which at the end of the lease of these submarines, it has an option to buy them.The first submarine will be named INS Chakra.
Whereas the Russian Navy's Akula-II submarine is equipped with 28 nuclear-capable cruise missiles with a striking range of 3,000 kilometers, the Indian version was reportedly expected to be armed with the 300 km range 3M-54 Klub nuclear-capable missiles.. Missiles with ranges greater than 300 kilometers cannot be exported due to arms control restrictions, since Russia is a signatory to the MTCR treaty.
 Nerpa 2008 accident
On 27 October 2008, it was reported that the Akula-II submarine K-152 Nerpa of the Russian Pacific Fleet had begun her sea trials in the Sea of Japan before handover under a lease agreement to the Indian Navy. On 8 November 2008, while conducting one of these trials, an accidental activation of the freon-based fire-extinguishing system took place in the fore section of the vessel. Within seconds the freon gas had displaced all breathable air from the compartment. As a result, 20 people (17 civilians and 3 seamen) were killed by asphyxiation. Dozens of others suffered freon-related injuries and were evacuated to an unknown port in Primorsky Krai. This was the worst accident in the Russian navy since the loss of the submarine K-141 Kursk in 2000. The submarine itself did not sustain any serious damage and there was no release of radiation.