The Typhoon class was developed under Project 941 as the Russian Akula class (Акула), meaning shark. It is sometimes confused with other submarines, as Akula is the name NATO uses to designate the Russian Project 971 Shchuka-B (Щука-Б) class attack submarines.
The project was developed with the objective to match the SLBM armament of Ohio-class submarines, capable of carrying 192 nuclear warheads, 100 kt each. However, at the time, state-of-the-art Soviet SLBMs were substantially larger and heavier than their American counterparts (the R-39 is more than two times heavier than the Trident I; it remains the heaviest SLBM in service worldwide). The submarine had to be scaled accordingly
Six Typhoon-class submarines were built. Originally, the submarines were designated by hull numbers only. Names were later assigned to the four vessels retained by the Russian Navy, which were sponsored by either a city or company.
The construction order for an additional vessel (hull number TK-210) was canceled and never completed. Only the first of these submarines to be constructed, the Dmitriy Donskoy, is still in active service with the Russian Navy, serving as a test platform for the Bulava (SS-NX-32) missile. The Arkhangelsk( TK-17) and Severstal (TK-20) remain in reserve, not currently active with the Russian fleet.
All the R-39 missiles have been retired. The Typhoons were slated to be replaced by the Borey class starting in 2010-11.