Russia Loses World's Largest Nuclear Submarine

The Russian Navy has confirmed it has decommissioned its nuclear-powered strategic submarine Dmitry Donskoy, which formed part of Moscow's formidable Cold War weapon system.

There had been speculation for months about the fate of the submarine, which had been launched in 1980 and whose NATO reporting name was Typhoon.

In 2021, Russia's state news agency Tass reported that the vessel would stay in service until 2026.

It was the first of six Akula-class Northern Fleet submarines laid down at the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk on the White Sea which were commissioned in the 1980s.

At 574 feet long, Dmitry Donskoy's status as the world's largest submarine was overtaken by the 608-feet-long Belgorod nuclear submarine, which was commissioned in July 2022. Dmitry Donskoy had a displacement of around 53,000 tons and was modernized and re-equipped in 2002 with the "Bulava" missile.

While it was reported in July 2022 that the vessel had been terminated, no official confirmation was expected until the end of the year. The vessel's last reported activity was in the sea trials of SSN Krasnoyarsk in September 2022.

Dmitry Donskoy submarine
The Russian submarine Dmitry Donskoy in Saint Petersburg, on July 26, 2017. Russia's Navy has announced on February 6, 2023 that the Cold War-era vessel had been decommissioned. OLGA MALTSEVA/Getty Images

On Monday, Vladimir Maltsev, head of the Russian Movement for Navy Support, told TASS that the vessel had been "decommissioned" and would "await utilization at a naval base in Severodvinsk together with two other units of this project."

The class was the backbone of the Soviet Union's second-strike nuclear deterrent, with 20 massive R-39 "Rif" SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missile) having up to 200 warheads in total. The Drive described it as the "most deadly single weapon system" Russia had designed in the Cold War. Newsweek has contacted the Russian defense ministry for comment.

Russia suffered problems with another of its vessels recently, the 1000-foot flagship Admiral Kuznetsov, which is reportedly unable to move under its own power. Russia's only aircraft carrier has been out of service and in dry dock for repairs for more than five years and has been beset by technical setbacks.

However, the Russian Navy has been boosted by the Belgorod submarine, which is 39 feet longer than the U.S. Navy's Ohio-class submarines. Poseidon torpedoes are due to be delivered to the special-purpose nuclear-powered submarine, according to TASS.

The Belgorod could carry up to eight Poseidons, according to a U.S. Congressional Research Service report. Poseidon was first announced by Vladimir Putin in 2018 as a new type of strategic nuclear weapon with its own power source.

Update 02/06/23, 1 p.m. ET: This article has been updated to clarify details about the size of the Dmitry Donskoy.