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Why Russian Akula-Class Attack Submarines Rattled the Pentagon & Inspired Virginia-class

The arrival of the Soviet Union’s Akula-class attack submarines in the 1980s was a closely followed and disturbing discovery at the Pentagon. The class’ technology prompted concerns that Akula boats might actually contain some kind of undersea superiority or overmatch.

Why the Akula Was Feared

A close, detailed analysis would, of course, be needed to determine if this were, in fact, true.

What was known was that the arrival of the Akula’s was considered quite “concerning” to the Pentagon in the late 1980s. The reason was explained in detail in a significant report in Science.org as far back as 1989 called “Quiet Soviet Subs Prompt Concern.”

The text quotes defense expert Norman Polmar saying, “The launch of the first submarine in 1985 shook everyone up (in the West), as Western intelligence agencies had not expected the Soviet Union to produce such a boat for another 10 years.”

Specifically, the essay quotes Naval experts telling lawmakers years ago that the existence of the Akula “threatens the survivability of our Carrier Task Forces.” The expert panel also questioned the ability of the U.S. Navy to support maritime combat in the European theater given the threat to surface ships posed by the Akula.

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