Cold War Submarines

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    The Project 941/Typhoon was the largest undersea craft ever built. These twoof six completedare at their remote base

    of Nerpichya, about six miles from the entrance to Guba Zapadnaya Litsa on the Kola Peninsula, close to the borders with

    Finland and Norway. (Rubin CDB ME)

  • Other Submarine-Related Books by Norman Polmar

    The American Submarine

    Atomic Submarines

    Death of the Thresher

    Guide to the Soviet Navy (4 editions)

    Rickover: Controversy and Genius with Thomas B. Allen

    Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet (7 editions)

    Submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy with Dorr Carpenter

    Submarines of the Russian and Soviet Navies, 1718-1990 with Jurrien Noot


  • Copyright 2004 by Norman Polmar.

    Published in the United States by Potomac Books Inc. (formerly Brasseys, Inc.).

    All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner

    whatsoever without written permission from the publisher, except in the case

    of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataPolmar, Norman

    Cold War submarines: U.S. and Soviet design and

    construction / Norman Polmar and Kenneth J. Moore1st ed.

    p. cm.

    Includes bibliographical references and index.

    ISBN 978-1-57488-594-1

    1. Submarines (Ships)United StatesHistory.

    2. Submarines (Ships)Soviet Union. 3. Cold War.

    I. Moore, Kenneth J., 1942 II. Title.

    V858.P63 2003

    359.9'383'094709045dc21 2003013123

    ISBN 978-1574885309 (paperback)

    ISBN 978-1-57488-594-1 (hardcover)

    Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper that meets the

    American National Standards Institute Z3948 Standard.

    Potomac Books, Inc.

    22841 Quicksilver Drive

    Dulles, Virginia 20166

    First Edition

    10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2

  • It is the nature of human memory to rid itself of the superfluous, to retain onlywhat has proved to be most important in the light of later events. Yet that is alsoits weak side. Being biased it cannot help adjusting past reality to fit presentneeds and future hopes.

    Milovan DjilasConversations with Stalin


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  • This book is dedicated to the officers, warrant officers, and enlisted men whoserved in Soviet and U.S. submarines during the Cold War. They did their dutycourageously and steadfastly. Although no shots were fired, many of these sub-mariners lost their lives to fires, flooding, and other accidents. It was the pricepaid for 45 years of Cold War confrontation and for the rapid development andapplication of technology.


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    Perspective xi

    Acknowledgments xv

    Glossary xix

    1 | Genesis 1

    2 | Advanced Diesel Submarines 11

    3 | Closed-Cycle Submarines 33

    4 | U.S. Nuclear-Propelled Submarines 49

    5 | Soviet Nuclear-Propelled Submarines 71

    6 | Cruise Missile Submarines 85

    7 | Ballistic Missile Submarines 103

    8 | PolarisFrom Out of the Deep . . . 115

    9 | The Quest for Speed 127

    10 | Second-Generation Nuclear Submarines 147

    11 | The Ultimate Weapon I 167

    12 | The Ultimate Weapon II 183

    13 | Diesel Boats Forever 201

    14 | Unbuilt Giants 221

    15 | Aircraft-Carrying Submarines 245

    16 | Midget, Small, and Flying Submarines 255


  • 17 | Third-Generation Nuclear Submarines 267

    18 | Submarine Weapons 293

    19 | Fourth-Generation Nuclear Submarines 307

    20 | Soviet Versus U.S. Submarines 323


    A | U.S. Submarine Construction, 19451991 335

    B | Soviet Submarine Construction, 19451991 337

    C | U.S. Submarine Reactor Plants 339

    D | Soviet Submarine Design Bureaus 341

    E | Soviet Ballistic Missile Systems 345

    Notes 347

    Selected Bibliography 385

    Index 395

    Author Biographies 407




    Submarines had a vital role in the 45 years of theCold War19461991. Throughout that con-flict, U.S. and Soviet submarines carried out intelli-gence collection operations and sought out andprepared to destroy opposing surface ships andsubmarines. In addition, from the early 1960s missile-carrying submarines threatened nuclear attacks ontheir opponents homeland.

    The possibility of Soviet submarines near Amer-ican coasts firing ballistic missiles, with a muchshorter time of flight than missiles launched fromthe Soviet Union, presented a direct threat to U.S.command centers, bomber bases, and even land-based strategic missiles, thereby forcing majorchanges in the U.S. strategic posture. Similarly, U.S.missile submarines forced major changes in Sovietnaval development and strategic forces deployments.

    Soviet and U.S. submarines of the Cold Warera had the same origins: Their antecedents wereGerman U-boat developments of 19431945,especially the Type XXI, the most advanced sub-marine to go to sea during World War II. The U.S.version of the Type XXI was the Tang (SS 563)class, with similar features being incorporated inthe K1-class killer submarines and 52 conver-sions of war-built submarines in the so-calledGUPPY program.1 The Soviets adopted Type XXIfeatures in the Whiskey and Zulu designs and theirsuccessors.2 The U.S. and Soviet (as well asBritish) submarine communities also had majorinterest in German closed-cycle, or single-drive,submarine propulsion systems, with these sub-marines being evaluated in the postwar period byBritain and the Soviet Union.

    But the undersea craft produced by the respec-tive navies rapidly diverged in their designs fromthe Type XXI model. In 1985 the U.S. Assistant Sec-retary of the Navy for Research, Engineering, andSystems Melvin R. Paisley observed:

    The Soviet submarine technological advan-tages for quieting, strengthened doublehulls, higher speed, higher reserve buoyancy,and deeper operations are advances whichare by and large not stolen or bought fromthe United States. Some technologies [classi-fied deletion] are Soviet design decisionswhich are different from our decisions.Other technologies . . . are the result of Sov-iet engineered high-power-density materialand hull strength material. The Soviets areahead of us in these technologies.3

    By the end of the Cold War, U.S. and Sovietsubmarines were radically different in design andcapabilities. In view of the importance of underseacraftboth torpedo/cruise missile attack andstrategic missile submarinesit is useful to exam-ine how and why this divergence occurred.The causes of this divergence in submarine designcan be found in (1) differing naval missions, (2)differing technical/operational priorities, (3) dif-fering levels of industrial competence, and (4) differing approaches to submarine design organi-zations and management.

    Significantly, for much of the Cold War the U.S.Navy had a highly centralized, authoritarianorganization. The head of Naval Nuclear Propul-sion held de facto control of submarine develop-ment, with virtually unqualified power to vetoifnot enforcekey design decisions.4 Indeed, theincumbent of this position, Admiral H. G. Rick-over, by the early 1960s was able to deter any infu-sion of design ideas or concepts from outside ofthe senior officers of the nuclear submarine com-munitythe so-called submarine mafiaunless itcorresponded with his views and goals. Those goalswere based largely on a U.S. Navy plan of 1950 todevelop a series of submarine propulsion plants

  • progressing from the 13,400-shaft-horsepowerplant of the pioneer Nautilus (SSN 571) to 30,000,45,000, and, ultimately, 60,000 horsepower.5

    In contrast, the Soviet Union had several designbureaus engaged in submarine development duringthe Cold War (see Appendix D). Those bureauswere, to a large degree, in competition in submarinedesign, although ostensibly each specialized in dif-ferent types of submarines. Further, the Sovietregime pursued to various stages of fruition inno-vative proposals from qualified (and at timesunqualified) submarine designers and naval offi-cers. This, in turn, led to the examination of innu-merable submarine designs and concepts, whichcontributed to the highly innovative submarinesproduced by Soviet design bureaus and shipyards.

    Innovation in itself does not necessarily resultin quality or capability. This volume seeks toexamine the process of submarine design and theresults of those efforts to produce submarines bythe two super powers during the Cold War, and toassess their success in translating innovation intocapability.

    During the 45 years of the Cold War (19451991) the United States and the Soviet Union put tosea a combined total of 936 submarines, of which401 were nuclear propelled (see table 1). The Sov-iet regime allocated considerably more resources tothe design and construction of submarines duringthe Cold War than did the United States. This Sov-iet emphasis on undersea craft continued after the1970s, when major efforts were undertaken to con-struct large surface warships, including nuclear-propelled missile cruisers and aircraft carriers.

    Until the 1970s and the initiation of large war-ship programs, the Soviet Union committed farfewer resources to surface combatants and aircraftcarriers than did the United States. The subsequentSoviet carrier construction and the nuclear battlecruisers of the Kirov class required a commitmentof resources to surface warships of the same order-of-magnitude as that of the U.S. Navy, while con-tinuing to emphasize submarine construction.

    It is convenient to address nuclear-propelledsubmarines of the Cold War in terms of genera-tions (see table 2). While this categorization is notprecise, it is a useful tool.

    Many individuals and organizations assisted inthe writing of this book. They are gratefullyacknowledged in the following pages. But all opin-ions and conclusionsand such errors that mayappearare the responsibility of the authors.

    Norman PolmarKenneth J. Moore

    TABLE 1Cold War Submarine Construction*

    United States Soviet Union

    World War II programs

    completed Aug. 19451951

    diesel-electric 23 61

    closed-cycle 1**

    total 23 62

    Cold War programs

    completed 19451991

    diesel-electric 21 399

    closed-cycle 31

    nuclear-propelled 170 231

    total 191 661

    Cold War programs

    completed 19922001

    diesel-electric 3***

    nuclear-propelled 22# 17##

    total 22 20

    Notes:* Does not include two Soviet midget submarines (Project 865)and the single U.S. Navys midget submarine X-1 (SSX 1).Submarines built by both nations specifically for foreign trans-fer are not included.

    ** Project 95 closed-cycle propulsion submarine.*** All SS Project 636 (Kilo).

    # 15 SSN 688 (Improved) Los Angeles.5 SSBN 726 Ohio.2 SSN 21 Seawolf.

    ## 1 SSBN Project 667BDRM (Delta IV).1 SSN Project 671RTM (Victor III).1 SSN Project 945A (Sierra II).5 SSGN Project 949A (Oscar II).5 SSN Project 971 (Akula I/II).2 SSAN Project 1083 (Paltus).2 SSAN Project 1910 (Uniform).


  • TABLE 2Nuclear-Propelled Submarine Generations(Major Combat Designs)

    Generation United States Soviet Union (NATO name)

    I SSN 571 Nautilus SSN Proj. 627 (November)

    SSN 575 Seawolf SSN Proj. 645 (mod. November)

    SSN 578 Skate SSBN Proj. 658 (Hotel)

    SSRN 586 Triton SSGN Proj. 659 (Echo I)

    SSGN 587 Halibut SSGN Proj. 675 (Echo II)

    II SSN 585 Skipjack SSGN Proj. 661 (Papa)

    SSN 593 Thresher SSBN Proj. 667A (Yankee)

    SSN 597 Tullibee SSBN Proj. 667B (Delta I)

    SSBN 598 Geo. Washington SSBN Proj. 667BD (Delta II)

    SSBN 602 Ethan Allen SSBN Proj. 667BDR (Delta III)

    SSBN 616 Lafayette SSGN Proj. 670 (Charlie)

    SSN 637 Sturgeon SSN Proj. 671 (Victor)

    SSN 671 Narwhal SSN Proj. 705 (Alfa)

    III SSN 685 Lipscomb SSBN Proj. 667BDRM (Delta IV)

    SSN 688 Los Angeles SSN Proj. 685 Komsomolets (Mike)

    SSN 688I Imprv. Los Angeles SSBN Proj. 941 (Typhoon)

    SSBN 726 Ohio SSN Proj. 945 (Sierra)

    SSGN Proj. 949 (Oscar)

    SSN Proj. 971 (Akula)

    IV SSN 21 Seawolf SSN Proj. 885 Severodvinsk

    SSN 774 Virginia SSBN Proj. 955 Yuri Dolgorukiy


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  • Many individuals contributed to the prepara-tion of this book, which originated duringdiscussions of Academician Igor Spassky and hisfriend and colleague Viktor Semyonov with Nor-man Polmar at the Rubin Central Design Bureau inSt. Petersburg in 1992.

    Mr. Polmar was most fortunate in having manyhours of discussions about submarine design anddevelopment with Academician Spassky, chiefdesigner and head of the Rubin design bureau, aswell as several hours of discussions with Academi-cian Anatoly V. Kuteinikov, chief designer and headof the Malachite design bureau. Both men facili-tated interviews with the senior designers and engineers from their respective bureaus as well asfrom other Russian institutions and agencies.

    Their subordinatesSemyonov at Rubin andAlexandr M. Antonov at Malachitewere invalu-able to this project with respect to the time andeffort they took to help educate the authors in thehistory of Soviet submarine design and construc-tion.

    Mr. K. J. Moore also has been a guest of theMalachite design bureau for technical discussionsas well as several Russian and Ukrainian researchinstitutes.

    A special debt is owed to Larry Lynn, whoencouraged the undertaking of this project.

    In the following listing, asterisks indicate per-sons interviewed by Polmar for previous submarineprojects, with some of the material provided bythem having been used in this volume.

    Interviews and CorrespondenceGermanyProf. Fritz-Folkmar Abels, senior designer, IKL

    design bureau*Dr. Ernest A. Steinhoff, Peenemnde rocket

    research center*Hellmuth Walter, engineer and developer of

    closed-cycle submarine propulsion plants

    Great BritainComdr. Richard Compton-Hall, RN, submarine

    commander, author, and Director of the RoyalNavy Submarine Museum

    Comdr. Michael Davis-Marks, RN, Staff OfficerSubmarines, British Defence Staff, Washington,and commanding officer of HMS Turbulent

    Commo. Robin W. Garson, RN, Staff Officer Sub-marines, British Naval Staff, Washington, andsubmarine commander

    Rear Adm. John Hervey, RN, naval attach inWashington, submarine commander, and author

    Comdr. Jonathan (Jonty) Powis, RN, Staff OfficerSubmarines, British Defence Staff, Washington,and commanding officer of HMS Unseen,Resolution, and Victorious

    Capt. Gordan A. S. C. Wilson, RN, head ofDefence Studies (Royal Navy)

    Michael Wilson, commanding officer of HMSExplorer and author

    Netherlands*Comdr. Jurrien Noot, RNethN, naval analyst and

    submarine historian



    The beginning of this book: Academician I. D. Spassky

    makes a point to Norman Polmar, coauthor of this book,

    during their first meeting, which took place at the Rubin

    Central Design Bureau in St. Petersburg in 1992. Michael

    Polmar is seen between them. (Rubin CDB ME)

  • RussiaCapt. 1/Rank I. P. Bogachenko, Admiralty supervi-

    sor for Project 971 (Akula) and Project 945(Sierra) submarines

    Alexandr Churilin, senior counselor, Embassy ofthe Russian Federation in Washington, D.C., andsenior Soviet strategic arms negotiator

    Fleet Adm. V. N. Chernavin, CinC Soviet Navy andsubmarine commander

    L. P. Chumak, director, Admiralty Shipyard museumV. G. Davydov, technical director, Admiralty

    ShipyardCapt. 2/Rank Vasiliy V. Doroshenko, commanding

    officer of a Project 675 (Echo II) submarineSergei N. Khrushchev, missile guidance engineer in

    the Chelomei bureau, historian, and biographerfor his father, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev

    L. Y. Khudiakov, Chief Scientist, First CentralResearch Institute (Naval Shipbuilding)

    Dr. Eugene Miasnikov, Russian political scientistCapt. 1/Rank V. Nikitin, staff, Pushkin Higher

    Naval SchoolCapt. 1/Rank B. Rodionov, historian and subma-

    rine commanding officerDr. George I. Sviatov, submarine designer, political

    scientist, and historianYuri Shestakov, curator, Admiralty Shipyard museumCapt. 1/Rank Nikolai Vorobjev, submarine designer

    Rubin Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering (Saint Petersburg, ne Leningrad)E. A. Gorigledzhan, Chief DesignerO. A. Gladkov, chief designerAnna Kipyatkova, director of the bureaus muse-

    umAcademician S. N. Kovalev, general designer

    and chief designer of strategic missilesubmarines

    Guri Malafeyev, designerCapt. 1/Rank S. A. Novoselov, history staff; sen-

    ior designerA. Pingin, senior designerD. A. Romanov, deputy chief designer of the

    submarine Komsomolets

    Malachite Marine Engineering Bureau(Saint Petersburg, ne Leningrad)Dr. V. I. Barantsev, chief designerB. F. Dronov, head, Design DepartmentV. V. Kryov, chief designer

    G. D. Morozkin, chief designerY. K. Mineev, chief designerL. A. Samarkin, deputy chief designerR. A. Shmakov, chief designer

    Lazurit Central Design Bureau(Nizhny Novgorod, ne Gorkiy)N. I. Kvasha, general designerA. A. Postnov, chief designerNatalia Solbodyanyuk, assistant to the general


    United States*Capt. William R. Anderson, USN, who

    commanded the USS Nautilus on her historicvoyage to the North Pole

    *Rear Adm. Dean A. Axene, USN, first command-ing officer of the USS Thresher

    A. D. Baker III, naval analyst and author of the ref-erence book Combat Fleets of the World

    Anthony Battista, senior staff member, HouseArmed Services Committee; member of Aspinpanel

    Capt. Edward L. Beach, USN (Ret), firstcommanding officer of the USS Triton, histori-an, and novelist

    Richard J. Boyle, U.S. submariner and historian;engineer and, subsequently, officer-in-chargemidget submarine X-1

    Capt. Richard Brooks, USCG (Ret), submarinetechnology analyst

    Rear Adm. Thomas A. Brooks, USN (Ret), Direc-tor of Naval Intelligence

    *Vice Adm. James F. Calvert, USN, whocommanded the USS Skate on her first two Arc-tic voyages

    Capt. Myron Eckhart Jr., USN (Ret), head of pre-liminary ship design, Naval Sea Systems Com-mand

    Alan Ellinthorpe, technical consultantRear Adm. Thomas W. Evans, USN (Ret),

    commanding officer of the USS Batfish, DeputyCommander for ASW and Undersea WarfarePrograms and, subsequently, and Deputy Com-mander for Submarines, Naval Sea SystemsCommand

    Dr. John Foster, Director Defense Research andEngineering.

    Dr. H. H. Gaffney, analyst and team leader, Centerfor Naval Analyses; CNA liaison to the RussianInstitute of USA Studies


  • *Adm. I. J. Galantin, USN, submarine commanderand Director of the Special Projects Office

    Dr. Paris Genalis, director, Naval Warfare, Office of the Secretary of Defense (Acquisition andTechnology)

    Peter Gorin, Russian missile historian*Ross Gunn, Navy scientist and the first man to

    explore the potential of employing nuclear ener-gy to propel a submarine

    *Vice Adm. Frederick J. Harlfinger, USN, submarinecommander and Director of Naval Intelligence

    Dean A. Horn, senior U.S. submarine designerMark R. Henry, head of preliminary design, Sub-

    marine Branch, Naval Sea Systems CommandCapt. Harry Jackson, USN (Ret), senior U.S. sub-

    marine designerCapt. Donald Kern, USN (Ret), head of the sub-

    marine design branch in the Bureau of Ships*Dr. Donald Kerr, director, Los Alamos National

    LaboratoryCapt. Richard B. Laning, USN (Ret), first command-

    ing officer of the USS Seawolf (SSN 575)*Rear Adm. George H. Miller, USN, Director of

    Navy Strategic SystemsMichael Neufeld, curator at the National Air and

    Space Museum and V-2 missile historian*Vice Adm. Jon H. Nicholson, USN, who took the

    USS Sargo on her remarkable Arctic cruiseAmbassador Paul H. Nitze, Secretary of the Navy,

    Under Secretary of Defense, and senior U.S.strategic arms negotiator

    Ronald ORourke, senior naval analyst, Congres-sional Research Service, Library of Congress

    *Melvyn R. Paisley, Assistant Secretary of the Navy(Research, Development, and Systems)

    *Dr. D. A. Paolucci, submarine commanding offi-cer and strategic analyst

    Robin B. Pirie, commanding officer of the USSSkipjack, Under Secretary of the Navy, and Act-ing Secretary of the Navy

    Capt. John P. Prisley, USN (Ret), submariner andintelligence specialist

    Raymond Robinson, intelligence specialistDr. David A. Rosenberg, distinguished naval histo-

    rian and biographer of Adm. Arleigh A. BurkeJeffery Sands, naval analyst, Center for Naval

    AnalysesThomas Schoene, senior analyst, Anteon Corp.,

    and editor par excellanceRear Adm. Edward Shafer, USN, Director of Naval


    Frank Uhlig, senior editor of the U.S. Naval Insti-tute and editor, Naval War College Review

    Dr. William Von Winkle, leading U.S. Navy sonarexpert

    Dr. Edward Whitman, Assistant Secretary of theNavy and senior editor, Undersea Warfare

    John Whipple, managing editor, Undersea WarfareLowell Wood, physicist; member of the Aspin panelBruce Wooden, naval architect and engineerAdm. Elmo R. Zumwalt, USN (Ret), Chief of

    Naval Operations

    Ms. Irina Alexandrovna Vorbyova of the Rubinbureau provided outstanding service as an interpreterduring several visits to St. Petersburg. George E.Federoff, Andrew H. Skinner, and Jonathan E. Acus aswell as Dr. Sviatov have provided translations in theUnited States. Samuel Loring Morison and GarySteinhaus undertook research for this project.

    Many individuals at the Operational Archives ofthe U.S. Naval Historical Center (NHC) have pro-vided assistance and encouragement for this proj-ect, especially Bernard F. (Cal) Cavalcante, KathyLloyd, Ella Nargele, and Mike Walker; and RichardRussell, long the Russian expert of the NHC staff,provided special help and, subsequently, as acquisi-tions editor of Brasseys USA, had a key role inbringing this book to fruition.

    David Brown, late head of the Naval HistoricalBranch, Ministry of Defence, and Capt. Christo-pher Page, RN, his successor, also were helpful inthis project as was Comdr. W. J. R. (Jock) Gardner,RN, of their staff. Page previously served as head ofDefence Studies (Royal Navy), and Gardner is a dis-tinguished naval author.

    Providing photographs for this project, in addi-tion to the Rubin and Malachite design bureaus,were Capt. Ian Hewitt, OBE, RN; Capt. A. S. L.Smith, RN; and Capt. Simon Martin, RN, at theMinistry of Defence. Also, the late Russell Egnor ofthe U.S. Navy Office of Information and his mostable assistantsLt. Chris Madden, USN, his suc-cessor; Journalist 2d Class Todd Stevens, USN;Henrietta Wright; and Diane Mason. CharlesHaberlein, Jack A. Green, Ed Feeney, and RobertHanshew of the U.S. Naval Historical Centersearched out and provided several important his-torical photos, while Dawn Stitzel and Jennifer Till


  • of the U.S. Naval Institute were alwaysready to assist in photo research.

    Chapter 15,Aircraft-Carrying Sub-marines, benefited from a review byaviation writer Peter B. Mersky.

    Jeffrey T. Richelson, leading intelli-gence writer, has kindly shared with usthe voluminous fruits of his efforts tohave appropriate official documentsdeclassified. Similarly, Mr. and Mrs.Armin K. Wetterhahn have made avail-able their voluminous files on Sovietsubmarines and weapons.

    The U.S. Naval Institute (USNI), the professionalassociation of the U.S. Navy, made its oral historycollection available through the auspices of PaulStillwell, director of history, USNI; that collectionincludes numerous interviews with senior U.S. sub-marine officers.

    Materials used in the creation of the drawings byA. D. Baker were from various unclassified U.S. andRussian publications and from material provided by

    Richard J. Boyle, Jim Christley, Nor-man Friedman, and David Hill.

    Lt. Jensin W. Sommer, USN, Lt.Rick Hupt, USN, and Lt. Brauna R.Carl, USN, of the U.S. Navys Office ofInformation sought out numerousanswers to inquiries, a pleasant con-trast to the U.S. Navys usual attitudetoward inquiries about submarineissues.

    Teresa Metcalfe did an excellent jobof shepherding the book through theBrasseys publishing complex, and

    Margie Moore and Pepper Murray of the CortanaCorp. provided valuable editorial assistance. And, aspecial thanks to Michael Polmar for his researchactivities in support of this book.

    Finally, the authors are also are in debt to those inthe West who earlier wrote about Soviet submarines,generally with very limited information available tohelp them, especially Claude Hahn, Michael MccG-wire, and Jurrien Noot.


    Anatoly V. Kuteinikov(Malachite SPMBM)

  • AEC Atomic Energy Commission (U.S.; 1948-1974)

    AGSS auxiliary submarine (non-combat)

    AIP Air Independent Propulsion

    Alberich anechoic hull coating used for German U-boats

    AN/ Prefix for U.S. electronic equipment

    anechoic coating coating on submarines to reduce the effectiveness of an enemys active sonar by

    absorbing acoustic energy to reduce the reflection; on Soviet submarines also used

    between double hulls to absorb internal noise. May be a rubber-like coating or tiles.

    AOSS submarine oiler (also SSO)

    APS transport submarine (also APSS, ASSP, LPSS, SSP)

    APSS transport submarine (also APS, ASSP LPSS, SSP)

    ASDS Advanced SEAL Delivery System

    ASSA cargo submarine (also SSA)

    ASSP transport submarine (also APS, APSS, LPSS, SSP)

    ASTOR Anti-Submarine Torpedo (U.S. Mk 45)

    ASW Anti-Submarine Warfare

    beam maximum width of hull; control and stern surfaces may be of greater width

    BuShips Bureau of Ships (U.S. Navy; 1940 to 1966)

    cavitation formation and collapse of bubbles produced in seawater as a result of dissolved gases

    being released in low-pressure regions such as those produced by the high velocity of

    propeller or propulsor blades

    CEP Circular Error Probable (measure of weapons accuracy)

    CIA Central Intelligence Agency (U.S.)

    CNO Chief of Naval Operations (U.S.)

    conning tower see sail

    DARPA Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (U.S.)

    depth Working depth is the Russian term for the normal maximum operating depth, approx-

    imately 0.8 times limiting depth. Test depth is the deepest that a submarine is

    GLOSSARY xix


  • designed to operate during trials or in combat situations; the Russian term is limiting

    depth. Repeated submergence to that depth can take place only a limited number of

    times (estimated at about 300 times for the entire service life of a submarine).

    Collapse depth is the deepest that a submarines pressure hull is expected to survive; in

    the U.S. Navy this is 1.5 times the submarines test depth; it is approximately the same

    in the Russian Navy.

    dimensions U.S. submarine dimensions are based on the English system (i.e., feet, inches); Soviet

    submarine dimensions are based on the metric system, with English measurements


    displacement U.S. submarine displacements in long tons (2,240 pounds); Soviet submarine displace-

    ments are based on metric tons (1,000 kg or 2,205 lb). In Russian terminology the term

    normal is used for surface displacement and water for submerged displacement.

    DoD Department of Defense

    double hull Submarine hull configuration in which a non-pressure hull surrounds all or portions of

    the inner pressure hull. The between-hull volume may be free-flooding or contain bal-

    last tanks, fuel tanks, and possibly weapons and equipment (at ambient sea pressure).

    draft maximum draft while on surface

    EB Electric Boat (shipyard)

    fairwater see sail

    FBM Fleet Ballistic Missile (early U.S. term for Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile


    fin see sail

    GAO General Accounting Office (U.S.)

    GIUK Gap Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom (passages between those land masses)

    GUPPY Greater Underwater Propulsive Power (the letter y added for pronunciation)

    HEN Hotel-Echo-November (NATO designation of first-generation of Soviet nuclear-

    propelled submarines and their propulsion plants)

    HF High Frequency

    HMS His/Her Majestys Ship (British)

    hp horsepower

    HTP High-Test Peroxide

    HTS High-Tensile Steel

    HY High Yield (steel measured in terms of pounds per square inch in thousands; e.g.,

    HY-80, HY-100)

    kgst kilograms static thrust

    knots one nautical mile per hour (1.15 statute miles per hour)


  • KT Kiloton (equivalent of 1,000 tons of high explosive)

    lbst pounds static thrust

    length length overall

    limber holes holes near the waterline of a submarine for draining the superstructure when on the


    LOA Length Overall

    LPSS transport submarine (also APS, APSS, ASSP, SSP)

    LST tank landing ship

    MIRV Multiple Independently targeted Re-entry Vehicle (warhead)

    Mk Mark

    MG Machine Gun(s)

    MRV Multiple Re-entry Vehicle (warhead)

    MT Megaton (equivalent of 1,000,000 tons of high explosive)

    NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization

    NavFac Naval Facility (U.S. Navy)

    NavSea Naval Sea Systems Command (U.S. Navy; from 1974)

    NavShips Naval Ship Systems Command (U.S. Navy; 19661974)

    NII scientific research institute (Soviet)

    n.mile nautical mile (1.15 statute miles)

    OKB Experimental Design Bureau (Soviet)

    ONR Office of Naval Research (U.S.)

    polymer fluid ejected from a submarine as a means of reducing skin friction drag

    pressure hull submarine hull that provides protection against pressure for crew, machinery,

    weapons, and equipment; it may be encased within an outer, non-pressure hull, that

    is, double hull configuration

    PWR Pressurized Water Reactor

    RN Royal Navy

    rpm revolutions per minute

    sail Upper appendage or fairwater of a submarine. The sail replaced the conning tower of

    earlier submarines, which was a watertight compartment placed on top of the hull,

    usually serving as the attack center. There is a small bridge atop the sail, with the

    structure serving as a streamlined housing for periscopes, masts, and snorkel induc-

    tion tube; in some submarines the forward diving planes are mounted on the sail.

    Also called bridge fairwater (i.e., a streamlined structure to support the bridge); called

    fin in the Royal Navy.

    GLOSSARY xxi

  • SA-N-( ) U.S./NATO designation for a Soviet/Russian naval surface-to-air missile

    SAR Synthetic Aperture Radar

    SKB Special Design Bureau (Soviet)

    shp shaft horsepower

    shutters closing over torpedo tube openings, hull-mounted forward diving planes, and (on

    Soviet submarines) over limber holes to enhance hydrodynamic and acoustic perform-

    ance of submarine

    SKB Special Design Bureau (Soviet)

    SLBM Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile

    SM minelaying submarine (also SSM)

    snorkel intake and exhaust tubes to permit the operation of a diesel engine from a submerged

    submarine (operating at periscope depth)

    sonar Sound Navigation And Ranging

    SOSUS Sound Surveillance System (U.S.)

    SPO Special Projects Office (U.S.)

    SS SSN attack (torpedo) submarine (N suffix indicates nuclear propulsion)

    SSA SSAN (1) auxiliary (special-purpose) submarine

    (2) cargo submarine (later ASSA) (N suffix indicates nuclear propulsion)

    SSAG auxiliary submarine (retains combat capability)

    SSB SSBN (1) bombardment submarine

    (2) ballistic missile submarine (N suffix indicates nuclear propulsion)

    SSC coastal submarine

    SSE (1) ammunition submarine

    (2) electronic reconnaissance submarine

    SSG SSGN guided (cruise) missile submarine (N suffix indicates nuclear propulsion)

    SSK SSKN hunter-killer submarine (N suffix indicates nuclear propulsion)

    SSM minelaying submarine (also SM)

    SS-N-( ) U.S./NATO designation for a Soviet/Russian naval surface- or subsurface-to-surface

    missile, either tactical or strategic; NX indicates a missile estimated to be in develop-

    ment and not in service

    SSO submarine oiler (also AOSS)

    SSP submarine transport (also APS, ASSP, LPSS)

    SSPO Strategic Systems Project Office (U.S.)

    SSQ SSQN communications submarine (N suffix indicates nuclear propulsion)


  • SSR SSRN radar picket submarine (N suffix indicates nuclear propulsion)

    SST target-training submarine

    SSV submarine aircraft carrier

    SSX submarine with undefined propulsion system

    SubDevGru Submarine Development Group (U.S.)

    SUBROC Submarine Rocket (U.S.)

    SUBSAFE Submarine Safety (U.S. modification program)

    SUBTECH Submarine Technology (U.S. program)

    TEDS Turbine Electric-Drive Submarine (USS Glenard P. Lipscomb/SSN 685)

    TASM Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile

    TLAM Tomahawk Land-Attack Missile

    TsKB Central Design Bureau (Soviet)

    TTE Tactical-Technical Elements (requirements)

    USN U.S. Navy

    USNR U.S. Naval Reserves

    VLS Vertical-Launching System

    GLOSSARY xxiii

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  • 1GENESIS 1


    The Second World War was in large part anaval war. In every theater of the war, sub-marines played major roles, especially Sovi-

    et and German submarines in the Northernregions; German submarines in the Atlantic;British, German, and Italian submarines in theMediterranean; and U.S. and Japanese submarinesin the Pacific theaters.

    In the Atlantic the German U-boats by them-selves came very close to defeating Britain. WinstonChurchill, Britains wartime Prime Minister, said ofthe Battle of the Atlantic: The only thing that everreally frightened me during the war was the U-boatperil. . . . I was even more anxious about this battlethan I had been about the glorious air fight calledthe Battle of Britain.1 And The U-boat attack wasour worst evil. It would have been wise for the Ger-mans to stake all upon it.2

    In the spring of 1943 the U-boats broughtBritain perilously close to defeat. British cabinet

    historian S. W. Roskill, describing the situation inMarch 1943, related:

    It appeared possible wrote the Naval Staffafter the crisis had passed, that we shouldnot be able to continue [to regard] convoyas an effective system of defence. It had,during three-and-a-half years of war, slowlybecome the lynch pin of our maritime strat-egy. Where could the Admiralty turn if theconvoy system had lost its effectiveness?They did not know; but they must have felt,though no one admitted it, that defeat thenstared them in the face.3

    But the Allies did triumph over the U-boats inMay 1943, driving them from the major NorthAtlantic shipping lanes. In the period 10 April to 24May 1943, when German naval commander-in-chiefKarl Dnitz withdrew his U-boats from the Atlantic

    The German Type XXI was the most advanced combat submarine to go to sea during World War II. A single Type XXI

    began an abortive war patrol shortly before the conflict in Europe ended. Type XXI features would have a major impact on

    Cold War submarine design. (Imperial War Museum)

  • convoy routes, the German submarine commandhad lost 22 U-boats, while sinking only 28 Alliedmerchant ships and one destroyer, an unacceptableexchange ratio. (Many other U-boats were damagedin that period and forced to return to port.)

    But the defeated submarines were little morethan updated World War Iera undersea craft. Theprincipal U-boat of World War II was the 770-tonType VIIC, essentially an updated and slightly largerversion of their Type UBIII that first went to sea in1917.4 German shipyards produced 661 of the TypeVIIC from 1940 to 1944. The Type VIIC variantcould travel 6,500 nautical miles (12,045 km) at 12knots on the surface, being propelled by two dieselengines (maximum surface speed was 17 knots);underwater, on battery-supplied electric motors, theVIIC could travel only 80 nautical miles (148 km) atfour knots; top underwater speed was 7.5 knots.5

    Despite these and other U-boat limitations, ithad taken 44 months of war at sea to clear theNorth Atlantic of Dnitzs U-boats.6 The limita-tions of these U-boats were long understood by theGerman naval high command. As early as 1936, theyear after Germany was legally allowed to possesssubmarines, German engineer Helmuth Walterproposed a revolutionary underwater warship.7

    Submarines of the era were in reality surface shipsthat could submerge for a few hours at a time, oper-ating underwater on electric motors with energyprovided by storage batteries. Those batteries couldprovide propulsion for only a few hours at relative-ly slow speeds.

    After perhaps a half hour at maximum sub-merged speed, or a day at creeping speeds, thesubmarine had to surface to recharge the battery,using diesel engines, which also propelled the sub-marine while on the surface. Walter would achievegreater underwater endurance and higher speedsthrough the use of hydrogen-peroxide propulsion.Under his scheme submarines would have astreamlined hull and would be propelled by aclosed-cycle turbine plant using the thermal energyproduced by the decomposition of a high concen-tration of hydrogen peroxide (perhydrol). It was acomplex system that enabled a turbine to be oper-ated in a closed (submerged) atmosphere to pro-vide sustained high underwater speeds. At the urg-ing of Walter, an experimental submarine, the V-80,

    was built in 1940 with such a turbine plant. Thatsubmarine reached more than 26 knots submergedfor short periods of timeby a significant marginthe fastest speed achieved to that date by a mannedunderwater vehicle. In 1942 several Type XVIIAWalter experimental boats were ordered and planswere drawn up for building 24 operational TypeXVIIB submarines. The bureaucracy of the Germanmilitary establishment slowed the program, whileskepticism among many naval engineers and othersled to further delays. In November 1943 the firsttwo Walter Type XVIIA submarines, the U-792 andU-794, were commissioned for sea trials. Theyattained 25-knot underwater speeds for short peri-ods; their longest fully submerged run was 512 hoursat 20 knots (twice the underwater speed of U.S. fleetsubmarines, which could maintain their maximumspeed of nine knots for about one hour).

    Even before the massive U-boat losses of thespring of 1943, Admiral Dnitz realized that it wasonly a matter of time until his existing U-boatswould be driven from the sea, primarily, hebelieved, by radar fitted in surface escorts and air-craft. Radar deprived a submarine of its surfacemobility and hence effectiveness, even at night.

    In November 1942 Dnitz convened a conferenceat his command post near Paris to determine howsoon Walter U-boats could become available forcombat. In addition to Walter, the senior German U-boat constructors attendedFritz Brcking, propul-sion expert, and Friedrich Schrer, hull designer.

    In his memoirs, Dnitz wrote:

    At this conference I learnt to my regret thatthe Walter U-boat was nowhere ready forservice. . . . To U-boat Command, who


    Helmuth Walter (Courtesy

    Fritz-Folkmar Abels)

  • viewed with anxiety the clearly recognizableextent to which the enemys defensive mea-sures [radar] against the surface U-boatwere being further developed, this came as agreat disappointment.8

    As a near-term substitute for the Walter sub-marines, Brcking and Schrer proposed adoptingWalters streamlined hull, which had been fully test-ed, and doubling the number of electric storagebatteries. While such a submarine would fall shortof the Walter U-boat performance, it would providegreater underwater speed and endurance than con-ventional submarines. Its huge electric battery gaverise to the term electro U-boat.

    At the same time Walter proposed fitting theelectro submarine with a schnorchel (snorkel)device that could draw in air from the surface forthe diesel engines and expel the diesel exhaust gasesjust below the surface. This would permit the oper-ation of diesel engines while submerged, to propelthe boat and recharge the batteries, giving the U-boat the possibility of sustained underwater opera-tions. Further, the head of the snorkel inductionmast could be coated with radar absorbent materi-al to prevent detection of the snorkel mast extend-ing above the surface.9

    A Revolutionary SubmarineDesign began on what would evolve as the TypeXXI U-boatthe most advanced undersea craft of

    the war. According to the U-Boat Commands man-ual for employing the electro submarine:

    Type XXI is a boat with strongly pronouncedunderwater fighting qualities which are capable of largely eliminating the superiorityof the enemys A/S [Anti-Submarine]


    A Type XXI hull section awaiting assembly at the Deschimag

    shipyard. The hull sections arrived at the assembly yards in

    an advanced state of fitting out. The similarity to an invert-

    ed figure eight and three deck levels are evident. (U.S. Navy,

    courtesy Capt. H. A. Arnold, USN Ret)

    Bow sections of Type XXI sub-

    marines on the assembly ways in the

    Deschimag shipyard in Bremen at

    the end of the war. The shutters for

    the bow torpedo tubes and the

    under-keel balcony housing for the

    GHG sonar are visible. (U.S. Navy,

    courtesy Capt. H. A. Arnold, USN Ret)

  • operations, resulting from his command ofair and surface radar. With this boat and[Walter] types, it will be possible to start anew successful U-boat war.10

    The Type XXI was a large submarine, displac-ing 1,621 tons on the surface, more than twice thedisplacement of a Type VII. The Type XXI has astreamlined hull, devoid of protuberances such aschocks, cleats, or gun mounts. Instead of a largeconning tower with gun platforms and an internalpressure chamber that served as an attack center,the Type XXI had a streamlined sail, or fairwater,around the shears that supported the periscopesand other masts and antennae. These featuresreduced the drag above the waterline to aboutone-sixth that of earlier submarines. The openingsin ballast tanks were reduced to further reducedrag. These modifications, coupled with improve-ments in batteries and increasing the voltage tothe main motors, resulted in a near doubling ofthe Type XXI underwater speeds over previous U-boats:

    16 knots for 25 n.miles (46 km)

    12 knots for 60 n.miles (111 km)

    6 knots for 280 n.miles (520 km)

    Beyond two standard electric motors, the Type XXIsubmarine had two crawling (schleich) motors forquiet operation. These could propel the submarineat 512 knots for 320 nautical miles (595 km), anunprecedented underwater endurance for a subma-rine. The creeping speed motors were mounted onbonded rubber mounts and had other features toreduce noise output. Even when using its standardelectric motors, the Type XXI was significantly quieter than contemporary U.S. submarines.

    The submarine had a designed operating depthof 440 feet (135 m), slightly greater than its foreigncontemporaries. However, the Type XXI had a safe-ty factor of 2.5that is, a crush depth predicted atalmost 1,110 feet (340 m), far greater than anyother submarine.

    The basic Type XXI hull design differed great-ly from conventional submarines. For part of itslength the pressure hull was like an inverted figureeight and for the remainder cylindrical.11 It had arounded bow for enhanced underwater perfor-mance, unlike the ship-like prows of conventionalsubmarines, which were intended for high surfacespeeds. The Type XXI stern was very deep andvery narrow, with no stern tubes fitted because ofthe fine lines. The extremity formed the verticalstabilizer/rudder, called the schneiden, or cut-


    Type XXI U-boat. LOA 251 ft 7 in (76.7 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • ting stern, also referred to as a knife configura-tion.

    The purpose of the Type XXI was to destroyAllied merchant shipping. In both World Warssubmarines destroyed shipping with deck gunsand torpedoes. Deck guns were useful againstunarmed merchant ships and trawlers, with acouple of dozen shells being much cheaper than atorpedo. The Allied convoys of World War II, wellprotected by radar-equipped surface escorts andaircraft, made surface attacks deadly for the U-boat. During World War II submarines also car-ried light anti-aircraft gunsup to a caliber of 40mmto fight off hostile aircraft.

    The Type XXIintended for completely sub-merged war patrolscarried no deck guns except forlight anti-aircraft guns, fitted in power-operated tur-rets at the forward and after ends of the sail struc-ture. These guns were for use against attacking air-craft only as the U-boat was transiting to and fromits protected, bomb-proof shelter to deep water.12

    (Although designed to mount twin 30-mm gun tur-rets, all Type XXIs were completed with 20-mmguns.)

    The Type XXIs attack weapon was the torpedo:Six torpedo tubes were fitted in the bow; the torpe-do room, the forwardmost of the six compart-ments, could accommodate 17 reload torpedoes.However, because of the need on long patrols toextract torpedoes from the tubes to check andmaintain them, a loadout of only 20 torpedoeswould be normal. While comparable to the numberof torpedoes in a U.S. fleet submarine of the era(which had ten tubes), the Type XXI used hydraulicpower to move the torpedoes from their stowageposition into the tubes at a time when U.S. andother submarines used rollers and manpower tomove torpedoes.

    A semi-automatic, hydraulic reloading systemenabled a Type XXI, after firing six torpedoes in onesalvo, to fire a second salvo after only ten minutes,and a third salvo after a period of half an hour. Thiswas a far faster firing rate than previous sub-marines; U.S. fleet boats of the war era required 35to 40 minutes to reload the six bow torpedo tubes.Modified Type XXI designsnever completedhad differing arrangements: The Type XXIC had 6bow torpedo tubes plus 12 amidships tubes firing

    aft; a total of 18 torpedoes would be carried, that is,no reloads. Such a convoy killer would only haveto penetrate a convoy escort screen once to delivera devastating attack with 18 torpedoes.

    The Type XXIs torpedoes consisted of the Lt,a pattern-running torpedo, and the T11, a passiveacoustic homing weapon. The latter was believed tobe immune to the Foxer and other acousticdecoys used by the Allies. Under development forfuture U-boat use were active acoustic homing andwire-guided torpedoes. To help the Type XXI detecthostile ships, the submarine was fitted with radarand the so-called GHG sonar, the most advancedacoustic detection system in service with anynavy.13 The sonar was mounted in an under-keelbalcony, and hence was referred to as Balkon.

    The GHG was key to an advanced fire controlsystem fitted in the Type XXI. The submarines echo-ranging gear and plotting table, specifically designedfor such attacks, were linked to a special device forso-called programmed firing in attacking convoys.As soon as a U-boat had succeeded in gettingbeneath a convoy, data collected by sonar was con-verted and automatically set in the Lt torpedoes,which were then fired in spreads of six. After launch-ing, the torpedoes fanned out until their spread cov-ered the extent of the convoy, when they began run-ning loops across its mean course. In this manner thetorpedoes covered the entire convoy. In theory thesetorpedoes were certain of hitting six ships of from197 to 328 feet (60 to 100 m) in length with the theoretical success rate of 95 to 99 percent. In firingtrials such high scores were in fact achieved.

    The crew of 57 officers and enlisted men lived inaccommodations that wereby German navalstandardsvirtually palatial.14 Intended forlong-range operations, the Type XXI representedan attempt to improve living conditions, and whilemany of the objectionable features of the previousdesigns were retained, the net results are in certainaspects superior to those on contemporary U.S.submarines. Some privacy was provided for crew-men by eliminating large sleeping compartmentsand by dividing the off-watch personnel into fairlysmall groups, each within its own quarters thatwere segregated from passageways. Against thesefeatures there were bunks for only 47 men, mean-ing that ten men had to have hammocks or some


  • crew members had to share the sameberth. The galley represented animprovement over earlier sub-marines. The cooking range permit-ted a greater variety of foods to beserved, and twin sinks made it possi-ble to get the mess and galley gearcleaner after use.

    Still, the sanitary arrangementswere inadequate by U.S. standards.Further, because of the interconnec-tion of the washing and drinking watersystems, the latter was consideredunsafe by U.S. submarine experts.15

    An important aspect of the revolutionarynature of the Type XXI was its production. InitialType XXI production plans provided for two pro-totypes to be completed at the end of 1944, withmass production to begin the following year. Thefirst Type XXIs were to be ready for combat at theend of 1946. This plan was based on the assump-tions that German dictator Adolf Hitler would giveU-boat construction priority over all other militaryprograms, that all materials would be available, andthat Allied air raids would not interfere with con-struction. All of these assumptions were flawed.

    Such a schedule was unacceptable to AdmiralDnitz. He took the Type XXI production issue toAlbert Speer, Hitlers personal architect, who, sinceJanuary 1942, had astutely performed the duties ofMinister of Armaments and Munitions. Speer, inturn, put Otto Merker, the managing director of theMagirus Workswho had absolutely no knowl-edge of the shipbuilding industryin charge of theprogram. Merker had been highly successful inapplying mass-production methods to the manu-facture of automobiles and fire trucks. Dnitzwould later write:

    Merker suggested that the U-boats shouldnot be built on the slipways of theshipbuilding yards as had hitherto beendone, but should be built in sections atother suitable industrial plants and thensent to the yards for final assembly. (Thismethod was then being successfully appliedby the American, [Henry] Kaiser, to themass-production of merchantmen in the

    United States.) The method hadthe advantage of saving a greatdeal of time. Later, we found thatboats of the size of Type XXI couldbe completed by mass-productionmethods in from 260,000 to300,000 man-hours, whereasunder the old method a boat ofsimilar size required 460,000 man-hours. Under the Merker plan thefirst Type XXI boat was to be readyby the spring of 1944. Merker wasalso prepared to accept responsi-bility for putting these boats into

    mass-production at once. This meant thatlarge numbers of them would be ready in theautumn of 1944.16

    The ambitious Type XXI construction programtoprovide a monthly output of 40 submarineswaspersonally approved by Hitler on 29 July 1943. Con-struction of a Type XXI submarine was to have takensix months from the start of rolling steel for the pres-sure hull to completion. The first stage in fabricationof the Type XXI hull was done at steel works, whichrolled and cut the necessary steel plates and manu-factured the pressure hull sections. The sections wereassembled at 32 factories that specialized in steel andboiler production. These section assembly facilitieswere selected not because of their prior experience inshipbuilding or from considerations of their dis-persed locations, but because of their having accessto the inland waterways, as the large sections had tobe transported by barge.

    The 11 fitting-out yards completed the sec-tionseight per submarine-and installed allappropriate equipment and machinery, except forthose items that were either too heavy (dieselengines) or would extend over two or more sections(main propeller shafting). None of the eight sec-tions could weigh more than 165 tons after com-pletion and fitting because of the capacity of theavailable cranes. These 11 shipyards all had experi-ence in submarine construction, which was neces-sary because of the installation of wiring and thefitting of main electric motors, gearing, switch-boards, and other specialized submarine equip-ment. The three final assembly yards were Blohm &


    Otto Merker

    (Courtesy Fritz-Folkmar Abels)

  • Voss in Hamburg; Deschimag AG-Weser in Bre-men; and Schichauwerft in Danzig. The first TypeXXI, the U-3501, was launched on 19 April 1944 atthe Danzig yard. The craft was incomplete, howev-er, as the openings in the hull had been temporari-ly covered by wooden blocks and she had to betowed into a floating drydock immediately. The U-3501 was not commissioned until 29 July 1944.

    Although mass production of the Type XXI wasinitiated, through early 1944 it was believed that theavailable supplies of lead and rubber in Germanywould support increased battery production for onlysome 250 Type XXI submarines, after which produc-tion would have to shift over to Walter boats.

    In addition to the Type XXI, production began ofa smaller, coastal version of the electro submarinethe Type XXIIIwhile work was to continue on theultimate underwater warships to be propelled byWalter closed-cycle turbines. Finally, with increasedAllied operations in European coastal waters, Ger-many also commenced the production of largenumbers of midget submarines.

    Significantly, there was little hesitancy onbehalf of Admiral Dnitz and his colleagues tomake changes in the U-boat program to meetchanging defensive and offensive strategic condi-tions as they arose, with little regard for the conti-nuity of existing construction. According to a U.S.Navy evaluation, Superseded programs wereruthlessly cast aside to make way for succeedingdesigns. Several older type hulls were left unfin-ished on the ways when the yard in question wasgiven an assignment in a new program which didnot require these ways. In other instances, fabri-cated sections in sufficient number to completeseveral boats were discarded in order to make wayfor a new program.17

    A second, exceptionally note-worthy characteristic of the U-boat command was thatwhenever a new concept waspresented, designs were usuallysolicited from several agencies.Ideas submitted at any time byrecognized submarine engineerswere given detailed consideration.

    Actual deliveries of the TypeXXI and Type XXIII electro sub-

    marines were far short of the numbers planned.Allied bombing raids on German industryincreased steadily from the fall of 1943, hence crit-ical materials were not available in the requiredamounts. Even with a virtual halt in the productionof earlier U-boat designs, Type XXI constructionlagged because of material problems and Allied airattacks; the numbers of units completed were:

    June 1944 1

    July 1944 6

    Aug 1944 6

    Sep 1944 12

    Oct 1944 18

    Nov 1944 9

    Dec 1944 28

    Jan 1945 16

    Feb 1945 14

    Mar 1945 8

    Apr 1945 1

    Admiral Dnitz demanded extensive training inthe Baltic Sea before the submarines could go onpatrol. Meanwhile, U.S. and British aircraft wereattacking submarines on trials and training, anddestroyed several Type XXIs on the assembly ways.

    The first operational Type XXI was the U-2511,commanded by Korvettenkapitn AdalbertSchnee.18 She sailed from Kiel on 18 March 1945 en route to Norway for final preparations for herfirst combat patrol, to the tanker shipping lanes ofthe Caribbean Sea. But upon arrival in Norway,Schnee had to correct problems with a periscopeand diesel engines as well as repairing slight dam-age suffered during the U-2511s deep-diving trials.The U-boat finally went to sea on patrol on 30April. At the time another 12 Type XXI submarines


    Type XXIII U-boat. LOA 113 ft 10 in (34.7 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • were in Norwegian ports being readied for warpatrols, while some 50 more were being readied inGerman ports to sail to Norway for final combatpreparations.

    At sea on 4 May 1945, the U-2511 receivedAdmiral Dnitzs order for all U-boats to ceaseoperations, dispose of their weapons, and return toport. According to Schnee:

    First contact with the enemy was in the NorthSea with a hunter killer-group. It was obviousthat with its high under-water speed, the boatcould not come to harm at the hands of thesekiller-groups. With a minor course alterationof 30o, proceeding submerged I evaded thegroup with the greatest ease. On receipt oforder to cease fire on May 4, I turned back forBergen; a few hours later I made contact witha British cruiser and several destroyers. Idelivered a dummy under-water attack and incomplete safety came within 500 yards [457m] of the cruiser. As I found out later duringa conversation when I was being interrogatedby the British in Bergen, my action hadpassed completely unnoticed. From my ownexperience, the boat was first class in attackand defence; it was something completelynew to any submariner.19

    The first Type XXIII, the U-2324, put to sea inJanuary 1945, and the design proved to be a success.Five of the 300-ton, 12-knot submarines went to sea,carrying out eight short-duration patrols againstAllied merchant shipping. These electro boats sanksix Allied ships without a loss, a harbinger of whatmight have been had more of the advanced sub-marines gone to sea. At the end of the war, 63 TypeXXIII submarines had been completed, with scoresmore still on the building ways.The Type XXI and its diminutive cousin, theType XXIII, were truly revolutionary undersea

    craft. A squadron, flotilla, or even a fleet of thesesubmarines could not have won World War II.However, had they been available in late 1944 oreven early 1945 they would have significantlyslowed the advance of the Western Allies, per-haps delaying the end of the war in the West byseveral months or even a year. This, in turn,could have given the Soviet Union a more advan-tageous position in Europe when the fightingended.

    By 19441945 the Allied anti-submarineeffort was too large and had too much momen-tum to have lost a new Battle of the Atlanticagainst the Type XXIs, while U.S. shipyardscould replace merchant losses at a prodigiousrate. Still, such a campaign by advanced U-boats would have seriously hurt the flow ofweapons, matriel, and fuels to the Allied forcesfighting in Western Europe, possibly openingthe way for Red Army advances farther west-ward.

    Other factors influencing such a scenariowere that British and Soviet troops were rapidlyoverrunning the U-boat manufacture andassembly facilities in northern Germany, Alliedtactical aircraft were denying the Baltic to the U-boats as a training and work-up area, and theoverall chaos in Germany was denying suppliesand provisions to the new U-boats.

    Rather than affect the course of the war, theType XXIs place in history was to serve as theprogenitor to the Cold Warera submarinesdesigned and produced by the United States andthe Soviet Union. U.S. Navy Department histori-an Gary Weir observed of the Type XXI:

    For the first time since John Hollands actof invention [in the late 1800s], a subma-rine had spent more time operating belowthe waves than on the surface. The para-digm shift completed with the nuclear-propelled USS Nautilus (SSN 571) in 1955began with the type 21.20


  • TABLE 1-11945 Submarine Designs

    German German U.S. SovietType XXI Type XXIII Tench SS 417 K Series XIV

    Operational 1945 1945 1944 1940


    surface 1,621 tons 234 tons 1,570 tons 1,480 tons

    submerged 1,819 tons 258 tons 2,415 tons 2,095 tons

    Length 251 ft 7 in 113 ft 10 in 311 ft 8 in 320 ft 4 in

    (76.7 m) (34.7 m) (95.0 m) (97.65 m)

    Beam 21 ft 8 in 9 ft 10 in 27 ft 3 in 24 ft 3 in

    (6.6 m) (3.0 m) (8.3 m) (7.4 m)

    Draft 20 ft 8 in 12 ft 2 in 17 ft 14 ft 10 in

    (6.3 m) (3.7 m) (5.18 m) (4.51 m)

    Diesel engines 2 1 4 2

    horsepower 4,000 580 5,400 8,400

    Electric motors 2* 1* 2 2

    horsepower 5,000 580 4,600 4,400

    Shafts 2 1 2 2


    surface 15.6 kts 9.75 kts 20.25 kts 20 kts

    submerged 17.2 kts 12.5 kts 8.75 kts 10 kts

    Range (n.miles/knots)

    surface 11,150/12 2,600/8 11,000/10

    submerged 285/6 175/4 96/2

    Test depth 440 ft 330 ft 400 ft 330 ft

    (135 m) (100 m) (120 m) (100 m)

    Guns 4 x 20 mm nil 2 127-mm** 2 100-mm

    2 40-mm 2 45-mm

    4 MG

    Torpedo tubes*** 6 533-mm B 2 533-mm B 6 533-mm B 6 533-mm B

    4 533-mm S 2 533-mm S

    2 533-mm D

    Torpedoes 20 2 24 24#

    Complement 57 14 81 62

    Notes: * Plus creeping motor.** Guns varied; the ultimate gun armament approved in 1945 is listed.

    *** Bow + Stern + Deck torpedo tubes.# In addition, the K class carried 20 chute-laid mines.


  • This page intentionally left blank


    Advanced Diesel Submarines


    The U.S. Navy constructed a large number ofsubmarines during World War II: 201 sub-marines were delivered between 7 December

    1941 and 15 August 1945; another 23 war-programsubmarines were completed after the war.1 These allwere fleet boats, large, long-range submarinesoriginally designed to operate across the broadPacific, scouting out the Japanese Fleet and thenattriting Japanese capital ships before the majorclash of U.S. and Japanese dreadnoughts.

    Even taking into account wartime losses andimmediate postwar disposals of worn out or heavi-ly damaged fleet boats, the U.S. Navy emerged fromWorld War II with about 150 relatively modern,long-range submarines. These fleet boats were ofsimilar design; the principal difference was that the38 surviving boats of the Gato (SS 212) class had anoperating depth of 300 feet (90 m), while the 114submarines of the similar Balao (SS 285) and Tench(SS 417) classes were known as thick-hull sub-

    marines and were rated at 400 feet (120 m).2 (Seetable 2-1.)

    The depth increase to 400 feet was achieved byshifting from mild steel to High-Tensile Steel (HTS)and increasing the thickness of the pressure hull.HTS provided a yield strength of about 50,000pounds per square inch. The increase in pressurehull weight was compensated for by meticulousattention to detail in every part of the submarine.3

    On an operational basis the value of the depthincrease was to evade an enemy depth chargeattack, as depth charges were preset to detonate at aspecific depth. The stronger hull could help reducethe effects of other ASW weaponshedgehogs andacoustic homing torpedoes. And, all weapons tookmore time to reach greater depths. The fleet sub-marine Chopper (SS 342), in 1969, made an uncon-trolled dive off Cuba. The submarines bow reacheda depth of 1,050 feet (320 m); she was able to makeit back to the surface. She suffered some damage,

    The K1 at New London, Connecticut. She was the lead submarine for a planned massive program to produce small hunter-

    killer submarines. Her large bow housed the BQR-4 sonar array; the small, BQS-3 single-ping ranging sonar was fitted

    atop the BQR-4 dome. (U.S. Navy)

  • but the integrity of her pressure hull was intact.The U.S. fleet boat could be considered the most

    capable long-range submarine of any navy exceptfor the German Type XXI. However, the Type XXIwas far superior in underwater performance to theAmerican fleet boat. Beyond the technical obsoles-cence of the fleet boat was the vital question of therole of the U.S. Navy and, especially, submarines inthe postWorld War II environment. U.S. sub-marines had a major role against Japanese warshipsand merchant shipping in the Pacific.4 With Ger-many and Japan vanquished, only the Soviet Unionappeared on the horizon as a potential antagonistof the United States. Soviet Russia had virtually nonaval fleet or merchant fleet that would be the tar-gets for the U.S. submarine force. Indeed, seeking arationale for modernizing the U.S. Navy, in 1947the Director of Naval Intelligence told a classifiedmeeting of senior officers:

    Its quite conceivable that long before 2000A.D. Russia may either through militarymeasures or political measures overrunWestern Europe and obtain the advantage ofthe brains and technical know-how [of] theindustry of Western Europe, probablyincluding the United Kingdom. If that wereto come to pass, thinking 50 years hence, itwould change this whole strategic picture. Itwould bring Russia then into contact withUnited States seapower, so I dont feel thatwe can, without any reservations whatso-ever, accept a situation which you now havewhere Russia is impotent on the sea and the

    United States has potentially complete con-trol of the sea. . . .5 [Emphasis added]

    The U.S. Navys search for roles for submarinescould be seen in an earlier memorandum from theOffice of the Chief of Naval Operations:

    In World War II the primary task of oursubmarine force was the destruction ofenemy shipping. The success achieved inthis direction should not, however, beallowed to influence our planning for anyfuture war. It is conceivable for example thatwe might be up against a land power whoseeconomy does not depend on extensive sea-borne commerce. This was more or less theposition in which Great Britain found her-self in the last war against Germany. Underthese circumstances full use may still bemade of the submarine as an instrument ofstealth and surprise without regard to itsproperties as an anti-shipping weapon.6

    The memorandum went on to propose thedevelopment of five specialized types of sub-marines: (1) torpedo attack, (2) guided missile, (3)cargo-troop carrier, (4) reconnaissance, and (5)midget. In addition, preparations already wereunder way for the conversion of several fleet boatsto a radar picket configuration, intended to providetask forces with early warning of air attacks.

    Primary attention, however, centered on thetorpedo-attack submarine. With the end of thePacific War, the Navys General Boardthe princi-


    The U.S. Gato and Balao fleet boats were the most successful Allied submarines of World War II. The Ronquil of the lat-

    ter class is shown with two 5-inch guns and two 40-mm guns; the masts aft of the two periscope shears mount the SV air

    search and (larger) SJ surface search radar antennas. (U.S. Navy)

  • pal advisory body to the Navys leadershippro-posed the construction of an enlarged fleet-typesubmarine. Employing the basic fleet boat config-uration, which dated from the 1920s, the GeneralBoards submarine was to be a simply larger andhence more capable fleet boat. But the submarinecommunitymanifested in the Submarine Offi-cers Conferenceopposed the concept of anenlarged fleet boat.7 (See table 2-1.)

    During World War II several senior U.S. andRoyal Navy officials knew of the German efforts todevelop advanced, high-speed submarines. Thesource for this information was primarily ViceAdmiral Katsuo Abe, the head of the Japanese mil-itary mission to Germany from 1943 to 1945.Grossadmiral Karl Dnitz, the head of the GermanNavy, personally met with Abe to brief him on newU-boat programs and permitted Abe to visit sub-marine building yards. Abe then sent details of theGerman programs to Tokyo by radio. Those enci-phered radio messages were promptly interceptedand deciphered by the British and Americans,revealing details of the Type XXI and other U-boatdesigns and programs.8

    Allied knowledge of the Type XXI design wassoon exceeded by the actual acquisition of the

    advanced submarines. As Allied armies overranGerman shipyards, submarine blueprints, compo-nents, and other material were scooped up by thevictors, as were some German submarine engineersand technicians. Immediately after the war, inaccord with the Potsdam Agreement of July 1945,Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the UnitedStates each took possession of ten completed U-boats; among those 30 submarines were 11 of theelectro boats:

    Type XXI Great Britain U-2518,9 U-3017

    Soviet Union U-2529, U-3035,

    U-3041, U-3515

    United States U-2513, U-3008

    Type XXIII Great Britain U-2326, U-2348

    Soviet Union U-2353

    The U.S. Navy conducted extensive trials with theU-2513. Among her passengers were senior navalofficers, including Chief of Naval Operations ChesterW. Nimitz, a submariner, as well as President HarryS. Truman. She was operated until 1949. The U-3008was similarly employed on trials until 1948.

    Based on this cornucopia of German subma-rine technology, the U.S. submariners undertook a


    TABLE 2-1U.S. Submarine Concepts, 19451946

    Tench SS 417 General Board Submarine Officers Conference


    surface 1,570 tons 1,960 tons 800 to 1,000 tons

    submerged 2,415 tons

    Length 311 ft 8 in 337 ft

    (95.0 m) (102.7 m)


    surface 4 diesel engines 4 diesel engines diesel-electric or turbine

    submerged 2 electric motors 2 electric motors

    Shafts 2 2


    surface 20.25 kts 22.5 kts 14 kts

    submerged 8.75 kts 9 kts 26 kts

    Test depth 400 ft 500 ft 800 to 1,000 ft

    (120 m) (150 m) (240 to 300 m)

    Guns 2 127-mm 2 127-mm none

    Torpedo tubes* 6 533-mm B 6 533-mm B** 4 to 6 533-mm B

    4 533-mm S 6 533-mm S** plus 533-mm amidships tubes

    Torpedoes 24 approx. 30

    Notes: * Bow + Stern + Amidships torpedo tubes.** At the suggestion of the Chief of Naval Operations, 24-inch (610-mm) torpedo tubes to be considered as an alternative to the standard

    21-inch (533-mm) tubes.

  • two-track program: First, existing, relatively newfleet boats would be given enhanced underwaterperformance under the Greater UnderwaterPropulsive Power (GUPPY) program and, second,a new, high-performance submarine would bedeveloped.10

    This immediate postwar emphasis on sub-marines was justified for the Anti-Submarine War-fare (ASW) role to counter an anticipated Sovietbuildup of submarinesemploying German tech-nologythat could again threaten merchant ship-ping connecting the resources of America with thebattlefields of Europe in a future conflict. U.S. Navyintelligence predicted that by the 1960s it was pos-sible for the Soviets to have 1,200 or even 2,000 sub-marines of all types at sea. One U.S. admiral in dis-cussing these numbers made

    an assumption that the Russians will main-tain their numbers of submarines inapproximately the same amount that theyhave now but improve their types andreplace older types with new ones, and thesecond assumption, that by 1960 or withinten years, 1958, that the Russians could have

    two thousand up-to-date submarines. I havechosen that [latter] figure because I believeit is within their industrial capability of pro-ducing that number and I believe if theyreally intend to employ the submarines as ameans of preventing the United States orher Allies from operating overseas that twothousand would be the number they wouldrequire for their forces.11

    A Soviet admiral, also in 1948, reportedly allud-ed to the possibility of a Red undersea force of1,200 submarines. However, references to suchnumbers cannot be found in official Soviet docu-ments.12

    The major limitations on the Soviet force envi-sioned by U.S. naval intelligence were dock space,fuel, and distilled battery water. These factorswould, it was believed, probably limit the force to400 submarines.13 To reach 2,000 submarines it wasestimated that Soviet shipyards would have to pro-duce more than 16 submarines per month; U-boatproduction in Germany during World War II hadreached a maximum average of some 25 sub-marines per month.

    The U.S. and British Naviesenvisioned employing sub-marines as an ASW weapon onthe basis of the 58 Axis sub-marines reported sunk by Alliedundersea craft in World War II.Significantly, in all but oneencounter, the target submarinewas on the surface. Only HMSVenturer sank the U-864 offNorway in early 1945 when bothof the submarines were fullysubmerged.14

    To enhance its submarineASW capability, the U.S. Navyproposed to modernize up to 90fleet boats to the GUPPY config-uration. The GUPPY conver-sions included many Type XXIfeaturesa more rounded bow;the conning tower and bridgeencased in a streamlined fair-water, or sail, housing the


    The Tench following her GUPPY IA conversion. She has a stepped fairwater

    enclosing her masts and periscopes, rounded prow, deck protuberances removed,

    increased battery power, and other Type XXI features. A longer, non-stepped sail

    was fitted to most GUPPYs. (U.S. Navy)

  • periscopes and snorkel intake; deck guns and otherprojections were removed; and, in some variants,one diesel engine was removed to provide morespace for a new sonar room, air-conditioning, andthe Prairie Masker quieting equipment.15 And,especially important, the electric battery capacitywas increased.

    The GHG sonar taken from the U-3008 wasinstalled in the USS Cochino (SS 345), a convertedGUPPY II; the other GUPPYs initially retainedtheir inadequate, war-era sonars.16 Eventually, allsurviving U.S. GUPPYs would be fitted with a vari-ant of the BQR-2 sonar, a duplication of the GHG.

    GUPPY submarines could reach 14 to 16 knotssubmerged, compared to ten knots for non-converted fleet boats. The GUPPYs suffered majorvibrations at higher speeds; one submariner recallsalmost loosing my teeth to the vibration. Someefforts were undertaken to quiet the machinerynoises in the GUPPYs, because the Type XXI wasfound at 12 knots to be quieter than the best U.S.fleet submarines at six knots. The GUPPY configu-rations retained the full armament of ten torpedotubes, although several reload torpedoes wereremoved to provide more berthing space. Therewere, however, several problems with the modern-ized submarinesinitially major difficulties wereencountered in snorkel operations. Also, in com-parison with the Type XXI, the GUPPY boats stillwere noisy.

    In the event, 52 GUPPY conversions were com-pleted to several configurations from 1946 to 1963,with some early conversions subsequently beingupgraded to later variants. GUPPY submarinesserved in the U.S. fleet until 1975, with severaltransferred to other navies after U.S. service, four ofwhich remained in service into the 21st Century.17

    (The Royal Navy preempted the U.S. Navy in theconversion of high-speed submarines. Based onintelligence reports of German development of theType XXI and closed-cycle undersea craft, in 1944the British began the conversion of eight S-classsubmarines to high-speed underwater targets totrain ASW forces. First was HMS Seraph. Her elec-tric motors were upgraded, higher-capacity batter-ies were provided, and the hull and conning towerwere streamlined, giving the boat an underwaterspeed of just over 12.5 knots compared to 8.8 knotsin her original configuration. Unlike the laterAmerican GUPPYs, these target submarines hadtheir torpedo tubes deactivated and thus were suit-able only for the ASW target role.)

    Separate from the GUPPY program, the exten-sive conversions of U.S. fleet boats were undertakenfor a variety of specialized roles as the submarinecommunity searched for missions in the postwarenvironment: cargo (designated SSA/ASSA), guid-ed missile (SSG), hunter-killer (SSK), oiler(SSO/ASSO), radar picket (SSR), various researchroles (AGSS), and troop transport (SSP/ASSP). Aproposed minelayer conversion (SSM) was notundertaken, while preliminary designs for a newconstruction electronic reconnaissance (SSE) andaircraft carrier (SSV) were quickly abandoned. Theolder fleet boats were especially valuable for servicein various research configurations. Most of theremaining fleet boats were fitted with a snorkel (aswere most of the specialized conversions) and hadminimal streamliningwith guns removedtoprovide a slight increase in their underwater per-formance.18

    While the large GUPPY and specialized fleetboat conversion programs were under way, the U.S.Navy sought to produce a smaller, faster, more


    Hawkbill (SS 366) GUPPY IB conversion. LOA 308 ft (93.9 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • maneuverable successor to the fleet boat. The smallersubmarine would be more suitable for forward oper-ations in northern European waters and would beseveral knots faster underwater than the fleet boat.The submarine community also wanted to employ aclosed-cycle propulsion plant to attain speeds ofsome 25 knots and wanted consideration of eliminat-ing the conning tower to enhance underwater per-formance (as planned for the German Type XXIderivative designated Type XXX, which was to havehad no fairwater structure). The 25-knot underwaterspeed was sought to permit U.S. submarines to makesubmerged approaches to surface targets that hadrequired surface approaches with fleet boats. Transitsto forward areas would still be made on the surface.

    However, U.S. efforts to evaluate closed-cyclesubmarine propulsion was limited to land tests.(See Chapter 3.) The U.S. Navy decided to pursue asubmarine of Type XXI size with advanced diesel-electric propulsion as an interim submarine untila closed-cycle propulsion plant was proven andavailable. This was the Tang (SS 563) class, with thefirst two submarines being ordered in August 1947,which were the start of series production.19 ThePortsmouth Naval Shipyard (Kittery, Maine) wasresponsible for the contract design as well as con-struction of the lead ship of the class.

    Like the Type XXI, the Tang would be designedfor optimum underwater performance. The designprovided a rounded bow with a small, streamlinedfairwater without a conning tower; chocks, cleats,and other topside projections were recessed orretractable. Consideration was given to deleting thefairwater structure.20 No deck guns were to be fit-ted. The Tang would have six full-length bow torpe-do tubes and two short stern tubes, only two fewerthan the fleet boats; 22 torpedoes would be carried.The BQR-2 and BQS-4 sonars were fitted.21

    The smaller size of the Tang in comparison withthe previous fleet boats required smaller propul-sion machinery. Instead of the four large diesels(4,600 hp total) in the fleet boats, the Tang wouldhave four so-called pancake, or radial, 16-cylin-der diesel engines, each generating 850 horsepow-er. These were for surface operation and, using asnorkel mast, to charge the electric batteries duringsubmerged operation. Submerged, the Tang wouldbe driven by two electric motors (4,610 hp total).Four high-capacity electric battery sets were pro-vided, each with 126 cells (as in the later GUPPYs;the fleet boats and early GUPPYs had two sets with126 cells each). Twin propeller shafts were sup-ported outside the pressure hull by struts; only alower rudder being fitted, aft of the propellers. This


    The Tang class introduced Type XXI features to new-construction U.S. submarines. The Gudgeon of the class shows her

    fully retracted bow diving planes; a dome covers her QHB-1 transducer on the forward deck. Her fairwater, or sail struc-

    ture, was similar to those fitted in most GUPPY submarines. (U.S. Navy)

  • was the same arrangement as in the fleet andGUPPY boats.

    This power plant was to drive the Tang at a sub-merged speed of 18.3 knots and 15.5 knots on thesurface (less than the approximately 20 knots ofthe fleet boats and GUPPYs). The Tang was thusthe first modern U.S. submarine designed withgreater underwater than surface performance. Anautomatic hovering system was provided for a quietand energy-saving operation when the submarinewas in a sonar listening mode.

    Problems with the Tangs hydraulic torpedoejection system required modifications that addedsome 24 tons to the forward torpedo room, dis-turbing the submarines longitudinal stability. Thesolution was to add six feet (1.83 m) to the craft,which increased the length to 268 feet (81.7 m) andchanged surface displacement from 1,575 tons to1,617 tons (virtually identical to the Type XXI).22

    Significantly, in these first U.S. postwar sub-marines, the test depth was increased to 700 feet(215 m), that is, 75 percent greater than the previ-ous Balao-Tench designs. Given a 1.5 safety mar-gin, this meant a predicted collapse depth of 1,100feet (335 m).

    The Tang was placed in commission on 25October 1951. Her radial diesel engines soonproved to be a disaster. Their unusual pancakedesign and light weight compared to the conven-tional engines made them highly attractive for theshorter length of the Tang. But they were a night-mare to service and were constantly breaking down,at times forcing submarines to be towed back toport. The diesels had electric generators suspendedunder the engines, where they were vulnerable tooil seal leaks, they were extremely loud in theengine room (over 140 decibels), and they vibratedconsiderably. After limited operational service, the

    first four Tang-class submarines had their radialdiesels removed, and each boat was given three con-ventional diesel engines. The alteration requiredthat the submarines be cut in half and a nine-foot(2.7-m) section added to their machinery spaces.The last two submarines of the class were built withconventional, in-line diesel engines.

    The replacement diesels were not very accessiblebecause of the small engine room, and they toowere subject to periodic failures, albeit not as oftenas the pancakes. (The one other submarine tohave the pancake diesels was the research craftAlbacore [AGSS 569].)

    Re-engined, these six Tang-class submarinesserved effectively in the U.S. Navy for two to threedecades, after which most were transferred to for-eign fleets. One modified submarine of the Tangdesign was builtthe Darter (SS 576)before therevolutionary and more efficient Albacore designwas adopted.

    The high cost of the Tang-class submarines lim-ited the production rate to two boats per year.23 Atthe time predictions of the Soviet Union producingmore than a thousand submarines of Type XXI per-formance called for a new approach to ASW. War-built destroyers and frigates and even ASW aircraftwould have great difficulty countering such high-performance submarines. A complementary anti-submarine strategy would be to destroy Soviet sub-marines en route to Allied shipping lanes and whenthe survivors returned to port for more torpedoesand provisions. Previous attempts at such ASW tac-tics included the Anglo-American North Sea mine-field of World War I that sought to bottle up Ger-man U-boats, and the Anglo-American air patrolsover the Bay of Biscay in World War II that soughtto attack German submarines departing andreturning to bases in France.


    Tang (SS 563) in 1952 configuration. LOA 269 ft 2 in (82.06 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • Hunter-Killer SubmarinesAs early as 1946 the U.S. Navys Operational Evalu-ation Group had proposed the use of submarines inASW, and that September the chairman of the plan-ning group for the Submarine Officers Conferencenoted that with the further development and con-struction in effective numbers of new submarinesby any foreign power the employment of our sub-marines in anti-submarine work may well becomeimperative.24 Also in 1946 the Navys ASW Con-ference proposed equal priority for a specialized,small ASW submarine as well as the new attacksubmarine (i.e., Tang).

    The specialized hunter-killer submarines (SSK)would lay in wait to ambush enemy submarines offSoviet ports and in channels and straits where Sovi-et submarines would transiton the surface orsnorkelingen route to and from the Atlantic ship-ping routes. The concept of specialized ASW sub-marines date to the British R class of World War I,when ten hunter-killer submarines were built, alllaunched in 1918 with only one being completed intime to see active service.25 In the U.S. Navy the useof an ASW submarine was proposed in a 1946 reportof the Navys Operational Evaluation Group. Theproposal resulted from the erroneous belief that theJapanese had sunk several U.S. submarines in WorldWar II by employing such craft.

    A series of Navy ASW conferences and exercisesthat began in 1947 in both the U.S. Atlantic andPacific Fleets led to proposals for a hunter-killersubmarine (SSK) force to counter the Soviet under-sea fleet. The central component of the AmericanSSK design was long-range, passive sonar, whichwould be coupled with effective torpedoes thatwould destroy any submarine which passed with-in detection range with a very high degree of prob-ability.26 The SSK was envisioned as a relativelysmall, simply constructed submarine capable ofmass production by shipyards not previouslyengaged in building submarines.

    Several SSK preliminary designs were devel-oped; the smallest would have had a surface dis-placement of only 250 tons, with a large sonar, min-imal torpedo armament, and a crew of two officersand 12 enlisted men. The Chief of Naval Opera-tions (CNO) initially accepted a proposal for a sub-marine of 450 tons with a pressure hull 14 feet (4.27

    m) in diameter, but further study by the SubmarineOfficers Conference revealed that the submergedendurance of this submarine would be wholly inad-equate.27 To provide sufficient endurance the SSKcharacteristics ultimately approved by the CNO, on27 May 1948, provided for a surface displacementof 740 tonsclose to the German Type VIIwitha pressure hull diameter of 1512 feet (4.65 m).28

    The principal SSK sonar was the large BQR-4,the first array sonar developed by the U.S. Navy.Produced by the Edo Corporation, this was anenlarged version of the GHG/BQR-2 sonar. TheBQR-4 had 58 hydrophones, each ten feet (3.0 m)high, mounted in a circular arrangement, similar tothe BQR-2. These both had significant advantagesover earlier, simple, horizontal-line hydrophones. Itwas more sensitive to the direction of a target, and,the electronic steering (by directing the sonarbeams) rather than being mechanically trained wasa quieter process.

    Early SSK design sketches showed an array ofthe BQR-4 hydrophones ten-feet (3-m) longwrapped around the submarines sail structure. Thefinal SSK configuration placed the sonar in a domeat the extreme bow of the submarine, as far as pos-sible from the noise-generating machinery andpropellers of the submarine. The estimated passive(listening) range of the BQR-4 was up to 20 n.miles(37 km) against a surfaced or snorkeling submarine(i.e., using diesel engines). Under perfect condi-tions, ranges out to 35 n.miles (65 km) were expect-ed.29 The BQR-4 could track targets to within fivedegrees of accuracy. Of course, effective U.S. torpe-do ranges at the time were a few thousand yards, farshort of expected target detection ranges. (Seebelow.) And, the SSKs slow submerged speed8.5knotswould make it difficult to close with targetsdetected at greater ranges.

    The massive BQR-4 in the SSKs would be sup-plemented by the high-frequency BQR-2a copyof the German GHGmounted in a keel dome, asin the Type XXI. The BQR-2 had 48 hydrophonesforming a circle eight feet (2.44 m) in diameter. Itwas credited with ranges up to ten n.miles (18.5km) with a bearing accuracy of 110th of a degree,making it useful for fire control in torpedo attacks.Also fitted in the SSK would be the small BQR-3, animproved version of the U.S. Navys wartime JT


  • passive sonar, intended as a backup for the newersets. The small, active BQS-3 sonar would be fittedto transmit an acoustic ping toward a target sub-marine to obtain a precise measurement of range.Also, a hydrophone suspended by cable from thesubmarine to provide long-range, non-directionallistening was planned, but not installed. With some1,000 feet (305 m) of cable, the hydrophone couldbe lowered away from submarine-generated noises.A key factor in SSK effectiveness was to be self-quieting, with very quiet refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment being specially developed.

    A Navy analysis indicated that a minimum of25 to 70 surface ships would be required on stationper 100 n.miles (185 km) of barrier to pose morethan a negligible threat to snorkeling submarines.In comparison, three to five SSKs per 100 milescould be expected to detect practically all of thetransiting submarines.30 The Navys SSK proposalof 1948 to meet the perceived threat of 2,000 mod-ern Soviet submarines in the 1960s called for 964hunter-killer boats! This number included SSKs intransit to and from patrol areas, undergoing over-haul, and being rearmed:31

    Operating Area On Station Total

    Greenland-Iceland-Scotland 124 372

    Southern England-Spain 86 258

    Northeast Pacific-Kamchatka Peninsula 10 30

    Petropavlovsk 6 18

    Kurile Islands 30 90

    Kyushu (Japan)-China 42 126

    Training 70

    Totals 298 964

    SSK armament would consist of four bow tor-pedo tubes with eight torpedoes being carried. Thesubmarine would carry straight-running Mk 16torpedoes and the new, acoustic-homing Mk 35.The latter, which entered service in 1949, was pri-marily an anti-surface ship weapon. The Mk 16 hada speed of 46 knots and a range of 11,000 yards(10,060 m); the smaller Mk 35 had a speed of only27 knots for 15,000 yards (13,700 m).

    The tactics envisioned the killer submarinesoperating in forward areas, virtually motionlessand hence noiseless when on their patrol station,seeking to detect Soviet submarines transiting toocean areas. One method considered for hovering

    on station was to employ an anchor for buoyancycontrol. With an operating depth of 400 feet (120m), the K-boats would be able to anchor in water asdeep as 3,400 feet (1,040 m). The SSKs also wereintended for operation in Arctic waters in the marginal-ice area, with fathometers being fitted inthe keel and atop the sail.

    The SSK concept provided for a retractablebuoy for radio communications with other SSKs.Two submarines in contact would be able to solvetorpedo fire control solutions using only bearings(i.e., passive sonar).

    Congress authorized construction of the firstSSKto be named K1in fiscal year 1948(which began on 30 June 1947) and two more wereauthorized the following year.32 These three K-boats were authorized in place of one additionalTang-class submarine. To mature the K-boat designbefore it was turned over to non-submarine ship-yards, the K1 was ordered from the privately ownedElectric Boat yard (Groton, Connecticut), while theK2 and K3 were ordered from the Mare IslandNaval Shipyard (near San Francisco). Proposals tobuild some of this trio at the New York Shipbuild-ing yard in Camden, New Jersey, did not work out.

    In 1948 the Navy planned a most ambitiousconstruction program for both the K1 and Tangclasses; these submarines would be in addition toseveral special-purpose undersea craft and a largefleet boat conversion program. Construction ratesof the Tang-class would increase in 1960 to beginreplacing GUPPYs that would be retired.33

    Fiscal Year K1 Class Tang Class

    1947 2

    1948 1 2

    1949 2 2

    1950 5

    1951 3 2

    1952 2 2

    1953 2 2

    1954 3 2

    19551959 2 annum 2 annum

    1960 2 6

    However, after the 19481949 programs, furtherconstruction of the K1 class was delayed until thefirst units were evaluated in fleet operations. As aninterim step, seven fleet boats of the Gato class wereconverted to an SSK configuration, their principal


  • alteration being installation of the large BQR-4sonar and special sound-isolation mountings pro-vided for their auxiliary and propulsion machinery.These large SSKs proved to be highly effectivehunter-killers for their time, being superior in per-formance and habitability in comparison to thesmall K-boats. (More fleet boat/SSK conversionswere planned, but not undertaken, because of theuse of nuclear-propelled submarines for thehunter-killer role.)

    In January 1949 the Chief of Naval Operationsdirected both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets to createa submarine division to develop techniques for sub-marines to detect and destroy enemy undersea craft.Named Project Kayo, this led to the establishment ofSubmarine Development Group (SubDevGru) 2 inthe Atlantic and SubDevGru 11 in the Pacific, withthe sole mission of solving submarine ASW prob-lems. Initially each group was assigned two fleet sub-marines and two GUPPY conversions. Both individ-ual and multiple-submarine tactics were investigatedunder Kayo, often in Arctic waters.

    A multitude of problems were identified byProject Kayo and by other ASW exercises. Subma-rine communications were found to be completelyunsatisfactory, preventing coordinated efforts withaircraft and surface ships. Also, in the SSK role sub-marines only could detect diesel submarines thatwere moving at high speeds (over eight knots).Although Project Kayo was soon reduced to onlySubDevGru 2, the Korean War, which erupted inJune 1950, increased interest in submarine ASW.The three submarines of the K1 class were com-pleted in 19511952. Their anti-submarine per-formance was most impressive for the time: In

    exercises off Bermuda in 1952, the prototype K1detected a snorkeling submarine at 30 n.miles(55.5 m) and was able to track the target for fivehours. However, the small K-boats were crampedand uncomfortable, and their slow transit speedlimited their being sent into forward areas duringa crisis or when there were intelligence indicationsof a possible conflict. Criticism of their range andendurance was met by proposals to base the K-boats at friendly European and Asian ports within1,000 n.miles (1,853 km) of their patrol areas, andto employ submarine tankers (SSO) to refuelthemwhile submergedon station.34

    But their ability to detect a snorkeling submarineat long range was not enough. If Soviet submarinescould transit through critical areas submerged onbattery/electric power or had a closed-cycle propul-sion system, they would likely evade K-boat detec-tion. And the SSKs would be severely limited byweaknesses in SSK-to-SSK communications and theshort range of their torpedoes.

    An epitaph to the K-boats was written by Cap-tain Ned Kellogg, who had served aboard the K3 asa young officer:35

    Some of the good features of the class wereits simplicity . . . . It had a dry inductionmast, no main induction valve . . . noconning tower and therefore no safety tank,no low pressure blower for the ballast tanks,instead a diesel exhaust blow system similarto what the German submarine force usedduring World War II, a simple remotely oper-ated electrical control panel which kept thebattery always available for propulsion, the


    K1 (SSK 1). LOA 196 ft 1 in (59.78 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • newest fire control system . . . all AC powerrather than split between AC and DC.36

    But the submarine suffered from having dieselengines that were difficult to maintain, an unreli-able and insufficient fresh water plant, undepend-able electrical generators, and slow speed. Kelloggsconclusion: You just cant build an inexpensivesubmarine that is worth much at all, unless youman her with a crew of courage and heart.37

    U.S. Weapons and SensorsThe Navys Operational Evaluation Group reportedto the Submarine Officers Conference in 1952 thatif Soviet submarines transited SSK barriers sub-merged on battery (at slow speeds) rather than onthe surface or while snorkeling, the number of SSKsrequired for effective barriers would increase by afactor of ten! Thus the SSK program, intended toprovide 15 to 20 small SSKs by the mid-1950s andseveral hundred hunter-killer submarines inwartime, was halted with three purpose-built SSKsplus the seven older, fleet-boat SSK conversions.Subsequent exercises demonstrated that the greaterunderwater speed and endurance (due to shape andlarge batteries) of a GUPPY fitted with BQR-2sonar gave that submarine the same overall effec-tiveness as the K1 or a converted fleet boat/SSK.38

    Coupled with improvements in torpedoes and theplotting/tracking of submarine targets, by the mid-1950s the effectiveness of the GUPPYs and the re-engined Tangs caused the concept of a specializedSSK to be abandoned until the nuclear-propelledsubmarine appeared on the scene.39

    Acoustic homing torpedoes that would seeksubmarine propeller noises were introduced by theGerman and U.S. Navies in World War II.40 An SSKcould detect a high-speed or snorkeling submarineat greater ranges than the sonar fitted in the torpe-do. Accordingly, in 1950 the Bureau of Ordnanceawarded a contract for development of a wire-guided torpedo for the SSK that initially would beguided by the launching submarine until the torpe-dos sonar could acquire the target. However, theBureau initially emphasized that it was only aresearch program and would not be expedited.41

    Limited torpedo improvement was achievedwith the belated acquisition of a wire-guided hom-

    ing torpedo. In 1956 some 120 Mk 27 Mod 4acoustic homing torpedoes of wartime design wererefitted with wire guidance and redesignated Mk 39Mod 1 for the purpose of development and fleetfamiliarization. The nuclear-propelled submarineNautilus (SSN 571) had gone to sea in January1955, before the Mk 27 had been upgraded. Itquickly became obvious that even the new Mk 37torpedoin development at the timewould notbe able to counter nuclear submarines.

    The Mk 37 would have wire guidance to enablethe launching submarines sonar to guide theweapon toward an enemy submarine; the wirewould then break, and the torpedos sonar wouldseek out the target. The basic Mk 37 was rated at26 knots; with wire guidance the Mk 37 had aspeed of only 14.7 knots, too slow to counter theexpected Soviet nuclear submarines. Accordingly,the Navy initiated development of the Mk 45ASTOR (Anti-Submarine Torpedo) nuclear torpe-do and the SUBROC (Submarine Rocket) nucleardepth bomb.42

    While hunter-killer submarines were increas-ingly being considered as the best ASW platformby some U.S. Navy officials, major resources alsowere being allocated to advanced ASW surfaceships, to ASW aircraftboth carrier-based andland-based, and to the seafloor Sound SurveillanceSystem (SOSUS).43 The last was a network ofhydrophones emplaced on the ocean floor todetect low-frequency noise sources. During WorldWar II the U.S., British, and Soviet Navies installedlimited-capability acoustic arrays on the oceanfloor in shallow waters, primarily at the entrancesto harbors. After the war the U.S. Navy began thedevelopment of deep-ocean arrays. The first devel-opmental SOSUS-type array was installed atEleuthera in the Bahamas in 19511952, followedby a small, experimental array off Sandy Hook,south of Manhattan.44

    The first operational test of SOSUS was conduct-ed from 26 April to 7 June 1954 during an exerciselabeled ASDevEx 1-54. Additional SOSUS arrays wereplaced along the Atlantic coast and, from 1958, alongthe Pacific coast of the United States and off ofHawaii. In 1960 arrays were emplaced in Hudson Bayto detect Soviet submarines operating in that area.45

    Overseas installations followed in areas that Soviet


  • submarines were expected to transit, for example, theNorth Cape, the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom(GIUK) gaps, the deep channel running north tosouth in the Atlantic basin, and near the straits lead-ing into the Sea of Okhotsk in the Far East.46

    The SOSUS arrays are linked to shore stationsby cable. At the stationscalled Naval Facilities,or NavFacstechnicians scrutinize the readouts ofthe cacophony of ocean noises and attempt to dis-cern sounds, or signatures, of submarine typesand even specific boats. The first NavFacs wereestablished in 1954 at the Ramey military facilitiesin Puerto Rico, Grand Turk, and San Salvador.Eventually, at the height of the Cold War, there weresome 20 NavFacs located around the world.

    The NavFacs would advise or cue regional ASWcommanders of their detections to enable ASW air,surface, and submarine forces to be directed towardsuspected Soviet submarine locations. SOSUS wasvital for the effective use of aircraft and submarinesin the anti-submarine role because of the limitedsearch rates (area per unit time) of those platforms.According to a 1954 report on the performance ofthe SOSUS in the Bahamas, Ranges out to 600miles [1,110 km] were obtained. However, this wasnot the average. The average was about three to fourhundred miles [555 to 740 km] reliable.47 Laterimprovements in arrays and processing increaseddetection in SOSUS ranges. Published material indi-cates that in optimum SOSUS areas a submarinecould be localized to within a radius of 50 n.miles(92.6 km).48 Significantly, it was found that SOSUSalso could detect and track overflying aircraft!49

    The SOSUS arrays were being planted by surfacecable-laying ships, probably assisted from 1970onward by the nuclear-propelled submersible NR-1.Soviet naval and research ships observed theseoperations with considerable interest. SOSUS wasvulnerable in peacetime as well as in war. In 1978alone the Navy asked Congress for $191 million forthe repair of SOSUS cables believed to have beendamaged by fishing craft, with the suspicion thatthey may have been cut intentionally by Soviettrawlers. As early as 26 February 1959 the Sovietfishing trawler Novorossisk was accused by the U.S.government of cutting American transatlanticcommunications cables off Newfoundland, Canada.The trawler was boarded by Navy personnel from

    the U.S. escort ship Roy O. Hale, but no evidence ofcable cutting was found. There were press reportsthat the Novorossisk had actually cut SOSUScables.50

    By the mid-1950s the GUPPY and fleet boatconversion programs and the start-up of the Tangand K1 programs were employing more skilledworkers and using more industrial facilities thanhad the U.S. submarine construction effort ofWorld War II. Seven shipyards were involvedtheElectric Boat yard and the naval shipyards atBoston (Massachusetts), Charleston (South Caroli-na), Mare Island (California), Philadelphia (Penn-sylvania), Portsmouth (Maine), and San Francisco(California).

    The massive design effort to support submarineconversions and new construction in the postwarera was mostly undertaken by the design offices atthe Portsmouth and Electric Boat (EB) yards, andto a lesser degree at Mare Island. Through WorldWar II submarine design had been carried out bythe Bureau of Ships in Washington, D.C. Known asBuShips, the bureau had overall responsibility forthe procurement of all Navy surface ships and sub-marines as well as their sensors.

    A series of Navy Department reorganizations inthe early postwar period led to changes in subma-rine design responsibility and instituted a compet-itive attitude between the Portsmouth and EBdesigners. This created a healthy competition forthe most efficient designs and processes. By themid-1950s, however, new designs were assignedalternatively to the two yards until the Portsmouthyard was phased out of new construction work inthe late 1960s, at which time the yard was almostclosed down completely.

    Soviet ProjectsAs with the U.S. Navy, after victory over the Axiswas achieved in 1945, the Soviet Navy continued totake delivery of submarines designed before thewar. However, Soviet submarine production duringthe war was slowed by the German occupation ofmuch of the western portion of the country, includ-ing the Ukraine. The shipbuilding yards of theBlack Sea were devastated. The shipbuilding centerof Leningrad (St. Petersburg) was surrounded and


  • besieged by the Germans for some 900 days. Therewere major construction yards that were away fromthe front at Molotovsk (Severodvinsk) in the Arctic,at Komsomolsk on the Amur River in the Far East,and at Gorkiy, far inland on the Volga River. Buteven their construction was impaired by the Ger-man siege of Leningrad and occupation of otherwestern areas, which halted the flow of steel andcomponents to these yards.

    Those submarine designers of bureau TsKB-18(later Rubin) in Leningrad who were not called to the frontwith Leningrad being the frontcontinued both limited design efforts for shipyardsthat were able to carry on submarine work, andsome new designs. That bureau, formally estab-lished in 1926, had designed all Soviet submarinesthrough World War II except for a small effortunder the auspices of the security police, theNKVD. (See Appendix D.)

    During the period of conflictJune 1941 toAugust 1945Soviet shipyards produced 54 sub-marines of several classes. Whereas the U.S. Navybuilt only fleet boats during the war, multiple oper-ational requirements led the Soviets to build sub-marines of several designs, with the construction offour classes being continued after the war. (Seetable 2-2.) The war programs produced mainlycoastal submarines of the malyutka (small) designs;mid-size and large submarines were produced insmaller numbers. Sixty-two submarines of wartimeprograms were completed after the war.

    TABLE 2-2Soviet War Programs Completed,August 19451951

    Units Type Series* First Unit Displacement**

    7 S IX-bis 1939 856/1,090 tons

    1 Shch X-bis 1939 593/705 tons

    53 M*** XV 1943 283/350 tons

    1 Project 95 1946 /102 tons

    Notes: * bis indicates modification to basic design.** Surface/submerged displacement.

    *** Referred to as Malyutka (small) submarines.

    The rehabilitation of the Soviet shipbuildingindustry had been given high priority by Soviet dic-tator Josef Stalin in the postwar period. Heapproved the building of a major fleet, includingaircraft carriers, battle cruisers, lesser cruisers,

    destroyers, and submarines. At the end of the war,Soviet submarine designers and researchers con-centrated on increasing submerged speed, whichwas considered to be a decisive factor in naval war-fare. To achieve higher speeds for longer duration,the following approaches were taken: (1) increasingthe propulsion (electric) motor power and the stor-age battery capacity; (2) providing diesel engineoperation while submerged; and (3) employing tur-bine plants for submerged operations.51

    The models for these efforts were mainly Ger-man submarines, especially a new Type VIIC sunkby Soviet forces in the Baltic in 1944 and subse-quently salvaged;52 the submarines found in Ger-man shipyards as Soviet troops occupied the east-ern coast of the Baltic Sea; and the ten U-boatsformally assigned to the Soviet Navy under thePotsdam Agreement. These ten were:

    Type VIIC U-1057, U-1058, U-1064, U-1305

    Type IXC U-1231

    Type XXI U-2529, U-3035, U-3041, U-3515

    Type XXIII U-2353

    Several Western intelligence reports credit the Sovi-ets with having actually acquired several more TypeXXI submarines: an intelligence review by the U.S.Joint Intelligence Committee for the Joint Chiefs ofStaff in January 1948 estimated that at the time theSoviets had 15 Type XXIs operational, could com-plete another 6 within two months, and couldassemble 39 more within 18 months from prefabri-cated components.53 Several German factories pro-ducing Type XXI components and the Schichauassembly yard at Danzig were occupied by the Sovi-ets when the war ended. There were a number ofunfinished Type XXI U-boats in the Danzig yard,plus numerous sections and components. Appar-ently the unfinished U-3538 through U-3542 werealready on the assembly ways at Schichau whenSoviet troops entered the yard. In addition, therewere relatively complete sections for at least eightadditional Type XXI submarines in the yard.

    Western estimates of the fate of these underseacraft are conflicting. One German engineer con-tends that at least two near-complete Type XXI sub-marines at Schichau were launched after the warunder Soviet direction and towed to Kronshtadt.54


  • One of his colleagues, however, wrote that Theunfinished U-Boats were left in that state, buteverything appertaining to them and their equip-ment was submitted to exhaustive study andresearch. . . .55 This appears to be closer to thetruth; Soviet records and statements by seniordesigners indicate that the Type XXIs wereemployed in trials and tests and then scuttled orexpended in weapon tests, as were the unfinishedsubmarine sections.56

    In addition, the Soviets had the opportunity toexamine three contemporary British submarines ofthe U class that had been transferred to the USSRin 1944.57 Soviet sonar development also tookadvantage of technology available from British sur-face warships that had been loaned to the USSRduring the war.

    This bounty of submarine material was exam-ined minutely at a number of research institutes aswell as at submarine design bureau TsKB-18. Thefirst postwar design undertaken at TsKB-18 wasProject 614, essentially a copy of the Type XXI. Thedesign was not completed, because it was consid-ered to have insufficient reliability, that is, in theSoviet view, one combat patrol into a high-threatarea did not justify the cost of the submarine.58

    Many of the U-boat components and structureshad been developed on the basis of a short servicelife, especially the high-pressure piping and batter-ies with thin lead plates.

    But the Project 614 design process did causeintensive study of the construction and engineering

    solutions employed by German designers. This led toa number of submarine technologies being pursuedin the USSR, especially new types of steel and electricwelding, which would permit a doubling of wartimeoperating depths, new ship control concepts, low-noise propellers, machinery shock installations,sonar, anechoic coatings for submarine hulls toreduce active sonar detection, and radar-absorbingmaterials to reduce detection of a snorkel head.

    Of special interest, during World War II, theGerman Navy had introduced the Alberich rubber-like laminated hull coating to reduce the effective-ness of the British active sonar (called ASDIC). Itbecame operational in 1944.59 Although investigat-ed in the United States after the war, such coatingswere not pursued because of the difficulty in keep-ing the covering attached to the hull. In the l950sthe Soviet Union began providing Series XIIMalyutka-type coastal submarines with anti-sonaror anechoic coatings. These evolved into multi-purpose coatings, which also could absorb internalmachinery noise. This was particularly feasible indouble-hull submarines, where coatings could beplaced on multiple surfaces.

    Many Type XXI characteristics were incorporat-ed in TsKB-18s Project 613 submarineknown inthe West as Whiskey.60 This design had been ini-tiated in 1942 as Project 608, but was rejected by thenaval high command because it displaced 50 tonsmore than specified in requirements. The redesignof Project 608 into 613 was begun in 1946 underthe supervision of Captain 1st Rank Vladimir N.


    An early Project 613/Whiskey with twin 25-mm guns mounted forward of the conning tower; the twin 57-mm mount aft

    of the conning tower has been deleted (note the widened deck). The bow diving planes are retracted as the submarine moves

    through the water at high speed. (French Navy)

  • Peregudov, who incorporated several featuresderived after studies of Type VIIC and Type XXI U-boats.61 One of the former, the U-250, had beensunk by the Soviets in the Gulf of Finland on 30 July1944 and subsequently salvaged and carefullyexamined.62

    The hull and fairwater of Project 613 werestreamlined, and the stern was given a knife con-figuration, with the large rudder positioned aft ofthe twin propellers. The propeller shafts were sup-ported outside of the hull by horizontal stabilizersrather than by struts (as used in most U.S. sub-marines). The stern diving (horizontal) planeswere aft of the propellers. The knife arrange-ment provided the possibility of a more maneu-verable submarine than the U.S. Fleet/GUPPYconfigurations.

    A small attack center, or conning tower, was fit-ted in the Project 613 fairwater, a feature deleted

    from the Type XXI. When retracted, the variousperiscopes and masts were housed completely with-in the superstructure.

    Propulsion on the surface was provided by twodiesel engines with a total output of 4,000 horsepow-er; submerged propulsion normally was by two mainelectric motors producing 2,700 horsepower plus twosmaller motors that provided 100 horsepower forsilent or economical running. This featurederivedfrom the German creeping motorswas the firstGerman feature to be incorporated into Soviet sub-marine designs.63 Two large groups of batteries with112 cells each were installed. Later a snorkel systemwould be installed for submerged operation of thediesel engines.64 This propulsion system could drivethe Whiskey at 18.25 knots on the surface and 13knots submerged.

    The principal combat capability of the Whiskeywas the six torpedo tubesfour bow and two stern,


    A Whiskey with modified fairwater and guns removed. More of these submarines were constructed than any other

    postWorld War II design. They formed the backbone of the Soviet submarine force and served at sea in six other navies.

    Pennant numbers disappeared from Soviet submarines in the 1960s. (U.S. Navy)

    Project 613/Whiskey SS as built with deck guns. LOA 249 ft 2 in (75.95 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • with six reloads in the forward torpedo rooma total of 12 torpedoes. This torpedo loadout wassmall in comparison to U.S. submarines and theType XXI, but was comparable to the five tubes and15 torpedoes in the Type VIIC U-boat. The tubeswere fitted with a pneumatic, wakeless firing systemthat could launch torpedoes from the surface downto almost 100 feet (30 m); in subsequent upgradesfiring depth was increased to 230 feet (70 m). Pre-viously the USSR, as other nations, had producedspecialized minelaying submarines.65 Beginningwith the Whiskey, Soviet submarines could also laymines through their torpedo tubes (as could U.S.submarines). In the minelaying role a Whiskeycould have a loadout of two torpedoes for self-defense plus 20 tube-launched mines.

    Early Project 608/613 designs had provided fora twin 76-mm gun mount for engaging surfaceships. With the plan to conduct most or all of acombat patrol submerged, the gun armament wasreduced to a twin 57-mm anti-aircraft mount aft ofthe conning tower and a twin 25-mm anti-aircraftmount on a forward step of the tower. (Guns wereinstalled in Soviet submarines until 1956.)

    With the use of a completely welded pressurehull using SKhL-4 alloy steel coupled with thedesign of its pressure hull, the Whiskey had a testdepth of 655 feet (200 m) and a working depth of560 feet (170 m).66 This was considerably deeperthan the Type XXI as well as the new U.S. K1 class,and almost as deep as the Tang class. Unfortunate-ly, in achieving the greatest feasible operatingdepth while restricting displacement, the design-ers excessively constrained the crew accommo-dations in the Whiskey (as in subsequent diesel-electric classes).

    The Project 613/Whiskey introduced a new levelof underwater performance to Soviet underseacraft, incorporating many German design featuresthat would be found in future generations of Sovi-et submarines. The final TsKB-18 contract designwas approved by the Navy in 1948, and construc-tion began shortly afterward at the Krasnoye Sor-movo shipyard in the inland city of Gorkiy, some200 miles (320 km) to the east of Moscow.67 Sub-marines built at Gorkiy would be taken down theVolga River by transporter dock for completion atCaspian and Black Sea yards.

    The lead submarine of Project 613the S-80was laid down at Gorkiy on 13 March 1950, fol-lowed by additional production at the Baltisky(Baltic) shipyard in Leningrad, the Chernomorskiyyard in Nikolayev on the Black Sea, and the Lenin-sky Komsomol yard at Komsomolsk in the FarEast. Automatic welding and prefabrication werewidely used in Project 613 construction.

    The S-80 was put into the waterlaunchedfrom a horizontal assembly facilityon 21 October1950 when 70 percent complete. She was immedi-ately transported by barge down the Volga River tothe port of Baku on the Caspian Sea, arriving on 1November. After completion and extensive trials,the S-80 was commissioned on 2 December 1951, avery impressive peacetime accomplishment.


    A U.S. sailor stands guard on the unfinished knife stern

    section of a Type XXI submarine at the Deshimag shipyard

    in Bremen. The propeller shafts pass through the horizontal

    stabilizers. The stern diving (horizontal) planes and rudder

    were fitted aft of the propellers. (Imperial War Museum)

  • The massive Project 613/Whiskey program pro-duced 215 submarines for the Soviet Navy through1958 (i.e., an average of more than 212 submarinesper month of this design):

    Shipyard Proj. 613 CompletedSubmarines

    No. 112 Krasnoye Sormovo 113 19511956

    No. 444 Chernomorskiy 72 19521957

    No. 189 Baltisky 19 19531958

    No. 199 Leninsky Komsomol 11 19541957

    This was the largest submarine program inSoviet history, exceeding in tonnage the combinedprograms of the Soviet era up to that time. Indeed,in number of hulls, Project 613 would be theworlds largest submarine program of the Cold Warera. (According to available records, a total of 340submarines of this design were planned.)

    In 1954 the documentation for Project 613 con-struction was given to China, and three additionalsubmarines were fabricated in the USSR, disman-tled, and shipped to China for assembly at Shang-hais Jiangnan shipyard. China then built 15 sub-marines at the inland shipyard at Wuhan on theYangtze River, initially using Soviet-provided steelplates, sonar, armament, andother equipment. Soviet-builtunits also were transferred toBulgaria (2), Egypt (8), Indone-sia (14), North Korea (4), Poland(4), and Syria (1); Cuba andSyria each received one unit as astationary battery charging plat-form to support other sub-marines. The Soviet Uniontransferred two submarines toAlbania in 1960 and two addi-tional units were seized in portby the Albanian governmentwhen relations with the USSRwere broken for ideological rea-sons in 1961.68

    The Project 613 submarineswould form the basis for the firstSoviet cruise missile submarinesand would be configured for anumber of specialized and

    research roles. Four submarines were converted toa radar picket (SSR) configuration at the KrasnoyeSormovo shipyard in Gorkiy, with the first com-pleted in 1957. These craft were fitted with the largeKasatka air-search radar (NATO Boat Sail) as wellas additional radio equipment. Designated Project640 (NATO Canvas Bag), these submarines initiallywere based at Baku on the Caspian Sea, apparentlyto provide air-defense radar coverage for thatregion.69 One of the Project 640 submarines wasprovided with a satellite link at the Sevmorzavodshipyard in Sevastopol in 1966 (Project 640Ts).

    In 1960 a submarine was converted to the Proj-ect 613S configuration to provide an advanced res-cue system. That work also was undertaken atGorkiy. In 1962, at the same yard, another Project613 submarine was modified to Project 666, a res-cue submarine with a towed underwater chamberthat had a depth of 655 feet (200 m). In 1969 thatsubmarine was again modified to test prolongedexposure to pressure. One submarine was rebuilt tothe Project 613Eh configuration to test a closed-cycle propulsion system. (See Chapter 13.)

    And in the late 1950s one of these submarines,the S-148, was disarmed and converted to a civilian


    A Project 640/Whiskey radar picket submarine with her air-search radar extended.

    The lengthened conning tower has the Quad Loop RDF antenna moved to the for-

    ward end of the fairwater. When folded (not retracted), the radar was covered by a

    canvas bag, giving rise to the NATO code name for the SSR variant. (U.S. Navy)

  • research ship. Renamed Sev-eryanka, she was operated by theAll-Union Institute for the Studyof Fisheries and Oceanographywith a civilian crew.70

    Two Project 613 submarineswere lostthe S-80, a radarpicket craft, in the Barents Sea in1961, and the S-178 in the Pacif-ic in 1981.

    Nuclear TorpedoesThe Whiskey-class submarine S-144 made the first launch of a T-5 development torpedo, the firstSoviet torpedo with a nuclearwarhead.71 Nuclear warheads inanti-ship torpedoes wouldimprove their kill radius,meaning that a direct hit on anenemy ship would not berequired. A nuclear warheadcould thus compensate for pooracoustic homing by the torpedo or for last-minutemaneuvering by the target, and later for overcom-ing countermeasures or decoys that could confuse atorpedos guidance. The T-5 was initiated simulta-neous with the massive T-15 land-attack nucleartorpedo. (See Chapter 5.)

    The initial state test of the RDS-9 nuclear war-head for the T-5 torpedo took place at the Semi-palatinsk experimental range in Kazakhstan inOctober 1954. It was a failure. The next test of theRDS-9 occurred on 21 September 1955 at NovayaZemlya in the Arcticthe first underwater nuclearexplosion in the USSR.72

    Work on the T-5 continued, and on 10 October1957 the Project 613 submarine S-144 carried outthe first test launch of the T-5. Again the test was atthe Novaya Zemlya range (Chernaya Bay), with sev-eral discarded submarines used as targets. Thenuclear explosion had a yield of ten kilotons at adistance of 6.2 miles (10 km) from the launchingsubmarine.73 The target submarines S-20 and S-34were sunk and the S-19 was heavily damaged.

    The T-5 became the first nuclear weapon to enterservice in Soviet submarines, becoming operationalin 1958 as the Type 53-58. It was a 21-inch (533-

    mm) diameter weapon. Also in this period, a uni-versal nuclear warhead, the ASB-30, was developedfor 21-inch torpedoes that could be fitted to specifictorpedoes in place of high-explosive warheads whilethe submarine was at sea. These were placed on boardsubmarines beginning in late 1962. Initially twoASB-30 warheads were provided to each submarinepending the availability of torpedoes with nuclearwarheads. Additional torpedoes were developed withnuclear warheads, including 2512-inch (650-mm)weapons. (See Chapter 18.)

    In 1960two years after the year the first Sovi-et nuclear torpedo became operationalthenuclear Mk 45 ASTOR (Anti-Submarine Torpedo)entered service in U.S. submarines. There wasAmerican interest in a nuclear torpedo as early as1943, when Captain William S. Parsons, head of theordnance division of the Manhattan (atomicbomb) project, proposed providing a gun, or uranium-type nuclear warhead, in the Mk 13aircraft-launched torpedo. In later variants the Mk13 was a 2,250-pound (1,021-kg) weapon with ahigh-explosive warhead of 600 pounds (272 kg).74

    The technical director of the Manhattan Project,J. Robert Oppenheimer, opposed Parsonss propos-


    An Mk 45 ASTOR torpedothe Wests only nuclear torpedobeing loaded in a

    U.S. submarine in 1960. The contra-rotating propellers have a circular ring (far

    right), which protects the guidance wire from the props. Almost 19 feet long and

    weighing more than a ton, the torpedo had a range of some 15,000 yards. (U.S. Navy)

  • al: the Los Alamos laboratory was already strainedwith A-bomb projects and we have no theoreticalencouragement to believe that it will be an effectiveweapon, and we have what I regard as a reliableanswer to the effect that it will produce inadequatewater blast.75 Surprisingly, Parsons did not pro-pose the warhead for a submarine-launched torpe-do, which could have been larger and have had agreater range.

    Immediately after the war several U.S. subma-rine officers and engineers proposed nuclear torpe-does, and some preliminary research was undertak-en on an Atomic warhead which can be attached toa torpedo body and launched from a standard sizesubmarine tube to provide a weapon for the neu-tralization of enemy harbors.76

    Although there were laterdiscussions of nuclear torpedoeswithin the U.S. Navy, noneappeared until the Mk 45ASTOR, the only nuclear torpe-do produced in the West. A 19-inch (482.5-mm) diameterweapon, the Mk 45 carried aW34 warhead of 20 kilotons. Itwas launched from the standard21-inch torpedo tubes and had aspeed of 40 knots, with a maxi-mum range of 15,000 yards(13.65 km). The wire-guidedASTOR had no homing capabil-ity and no contact or influenceexploder; it was guided and det-onated by signals sent from thesubmarine through its trailingwire. In a form of gallowshumor, U.S. submariners oftencited the ASTOR as having a

    probability of kill (pK) of twothe target subma-rine and the launching submarine!

    Even as the Project 613/Whiskey design was beingcompleted, in 19471948 TsKB-18 undertook thedesign of a larger submarine under chief designer S. A. Yegorov.77 Project 611known in the West asthe Zuluhad a surface displacement of 1,830 tonsand length of almost 297 feet (90.5 m). This was thelargest submarine to be built in the USSR afterthe 18 K-class cruisers (Series XIV) that joinedthe fleet from 1940 to 1947. (Much larger subma-rine projects had been proposed; see Chapter 14.)The Zulu was generally similar in size and weaponcapabilities to U.S. fleet submarines, developedmore than a decade earlier, except that the Soviet


    Project 611/Zulu SS as built with deck guns. LOA 296 ft 10 in (90.5 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

    A Project 611/Zulu IV showing the clean lines of this submarine. Production of

    this class as a torpedo-attack submarine was truncated, with the design provid-

    ing the basis for the worlds first ballistic missile submarines.

  • craft was superior in underwater performancespeed, depth, and maneuverability.

    In addition to ten torpedo tubes with 22 torpe-does (or an equivalent load of mines), the Project611/Zulu was intended to carry a twin 76-mm gunmount; instead, the first units were armed with atwin 57-mm anti-aircraft mount and a twin 25-mmmount. These were fitted only to the first few shipsand were soon deleted. (Removing the gunsincreased the underwater speed by almost oneknot.)

    Project 611 again reflected technologies gleanedfrom the Type XXI U-boat, refined by Sovietdesigners and adapted to their requirements andlimitations. For example, the power limits of avail-able diesel engines led to the Zulu being fitted withthree diesel engines to drive three propeller shafts.Project 611 was the first three-shaft submarine tobe built in Russia in more than four decades.78

    There was an effort to mount the machinery onsound-absorbing devices and other efforts wereemployed to reduce machinery noises.

    The lead ship, the B-61, was laid down on 10January 1951 at the Sudomekh shipyard inLeningrad. Her completion was delayed because ofseveral defects being found in other Soviet sub-marines, some resulting in sinkings. Changesincluded the means of blowing main ballast tanksin an emergency, the hydraulic system, andstrengthening the stern because of the increasedvibration when all three shafts were rotating. TheB-61 was launched in 1953 and accepted by theNavy on 31 December 1953, still a remarkablebuilding time in view of the size and complexity ofProject 611.

    Early planning called for 30 submarines ofProject 611. However, only 13 submarines werelaid down at the Sudomekh yard, of which eightwere delivered at Leningrad to the Navy. Theother five ships were transferred in an uncom-pleted state through the Belomor-Baltic Canalsystem to the Molotovsk yard for completion. TheMolotovsk yard, above the Arctic Circle near theport of Arkhangelsk, was created by Stalin in the 1930s to produce battleships. Another 13 sub-marines of Project 611 were constructed at Molo-tovsk, the first ships to be completely built at theyard.

    Of these 26 Project 611/Zulu-class sub-marines, 21 went to sea as torpedo-attack craftfrom 1953 to 1958, and five were completed orrefitted as ballistic missile submarines. (See Chap-ter 7.) The torpedo-armed units of Project 611and the large number of the Project 613/Whiskeyclass became the mainstay of the Soviet subma-rine force during the 1950s and 1960s, well intothe nuclear era. Also, this class brought to seventhe number of Soviet shipyards engaged in sub-marine construction:

    Shipyard Location

    No. 112 Krasnoye Sormovo Gorkiy (Nizhny Novgorod)

    No. 189 Baltic Leningrad (St. Petersburg)

    No. 194 Admiralty Leningrad (St. Petersburg)

    No. 196 Sudomekh Leningrad (St. Petersburg)

    No. 199 Komsomolsk Komsomolsk-on-Amur

    No. 402 Molotovsk Molotovsk (Severodvinsk)

    No. 444 Chernomorsky Nikolayev

    With these new submarines would come newtorpedoes, among them acoustic homing torpedoesfor use against surface ships as well as submarines.Soviet interest in acoustic torpedoes began after theGerman U-250 was salvaged and found to have onboard three T5 acoustic homing torpedoes. Thesebecame important for Allied as well as Soviet tor-pedo development, with British technicians beinggiven access to the recovered T5 weapons followinga specific request from Prime Minister WinstonChurchill to Stalin.

    After the war Soviet engineers gained access tomore German torpedo technology, and in 1950 thefirst Soviet acoustic homing torpedo was acceptedfor service, the SAET-50.79 This weapon was rough-ly the equivalent of the German T5 acoustic torpe-do of 1943. In 1958 the first fully Soviet-developedASW torpedo was accepted, the SET-53. It had aspeed of 23 knots, with a range of 6,560 yards (6km); the range was soon increased with improvedbatteries. The SET-53M variant of 1963, which hada silver-zinc battery, had a speed of 29 knots with arange of 15,310 yards (14 km).

    While advanced diesel-electric submarines andnew torpedoes were being produced in the UnitedStates and the Soviet Union from the late 1940s,more advanced concepts in submarine propulsionwere also being developed.


  • The first-generation Cold War submarines of theSoviet Union and United Statesincluding thehighly specialized U.S. K-boats and the GUPPYconversionsborrowed heavily from Germandesigns and technologies. The large number ofGUPPY and Project 613/Whiskey submarines, aswell as the smaller numbers of Tangs, K-boats,and Project 611/Zulu-class submarines, indicatedthat undersea craft would have a major role in thestrategies of both the United States and the USSRin the Cold War.

    During this period the role of advanced Sovietdiesel-electric submarines remained largely thesame as in World War II, that is, the destruction of

    enemy shipping and coastal defense. However, therole of U.S. submarines shifted to ASW in antici-pation of Soviet exploitation of German U-boattechnology and construction techniques thatcould flood the ocean with advanced submarines.Further, geographic factors would force Sovietsubmarines to reach open ocean areas throughnarrow straits, which, it was believed, would facil-itate the use of hunter-killer submarines (SSKs) tointercept Soviet submarines en route to theiroperating areas.

    These initial postwar submarine programs ofboth navies led to the creation of large submarineconstruction and component production indus-tries in each nation.


    TABLE 2-3Advanced Diesel-Electric Submarines

    U.S. Tang U.S. K1 Soviet SovietSS 563 SSK 1 Project 613 Project 611

    NATO Whiskey NATO Zulu

    Operational 1951 1951 1951 1954


    surface 1,821 tons 765 tons 1,055 tons 1,830 tons

    submerged 2,260 tons 1,160 tons 1,350 tons 2,600 tons

    Length 269 ft 2 in 196 ft 1 in 249 ft 2 in 296 ft 10in

    (82.06 m) (59.78 m) (75.95 m) (90.5 m)

    Beam 27 ft 2 in 24 ft 7 in 20 ft 8 in 24 ft 7 in

    (8.28 m) (7.5 m) (6.3 m) (7.5 m)

    Draft 18 ft 14 ft 5 in 15 ft 1 in 16 ft 5 in

    (5.5 m) (4.4 m) (4.6 m) (5.0 m)

    Diesel engines 4 3 2 3

    horsepower 3,400 1,125 4,000 6,000

    Electric motors 2 2 2* 2**

    horsepower 4,700 1,050 2,700 2,700

    Shafts 2 2 2 3

    Speed surface 15.5 knots 13 knots 18.25 knots 17 knots

    submerged 18 knots 8.5 knots 13 knots 15 knots

    Range (n.miles/kts) surface 11,500/10 8,580/10 22,000/9

    submerged 129/3 358/2 443/2

    Test depth 700 ft 400 ft 655 ft 655 ft

    (215 m) (120 m) (200 m) (200 m)

    Torpedo tubes*** 6 533-mm B 4 533-mm B 4 533-mm B 6 533-mm B

    2 533-mm S 2 533-mm S 4 533-mm S

    Torpedoes 26 8 12 22

    Guns nil nil 2 57-mm 2 57-mm

    2 25-mm 2 25-mm

    Complement 83 37 52 72

    Notes: * Plus two silent electric motors; 50 hp each.** Plus one silent electric motor; 2,700 hp.

    *** Bow; Stern.

  • This page intentionally left blank


    Closed-Cycle Submarines

    HMS Meteorite at sea, evaluating the German Type XVIIB closed-cycle propulsion plant. After the war several navies were

    interested in the Walter propulsion system, with the Royal Navy operating the ex-U-1407. The U.S. and Royal navies

    shared information of German closed-cycle submarines. (Royal Navy Submarine Museum)


    The Type XXI electro submarine and its small-er companionthe Type XXIIIwere devel-oped by the German Navy as interim sub-

    marines. The ultimate submarine envisioned byGrossadmiral Karl Dnitz and his colleagues was aclosed-cycle, or single-drive, submarine that wouldemploy an air-independent propulsion system todrive the submarine on both the surface and under-water, the latter at speeds of some 25 knots or more.

    The principal closed-cycle propulsion system wasdeveloped in the 1930s by Helmuth Walter at the Ger-mania shipyard. The Walter system was relativelycomplex, being based on the decomposition of high-ly concentrated hydrogen-peroxide (perhydrol).1 Theperhydrol was carried in a tank below the main pressurehull; it was forced by water pressure up to a porcelain-lined chamber, where it was brought in contact with thecatalyst necessary to cause decomposition. This pro-duced steam and oxygen at high temperature1,765oF(963oC)which then passed into a combustion cham-

    ber, where they combined to ignite diesel oil, while waterwas sprayed on the gas to decrease its temperature andcreate additional steam. The combination steam-gaswas then piped to the turbine, and from there into acondenser, where the water was extracted and the resid-ual carbon dioxide generated in the combustion cham-ber was drawn off. These waste products were exhaust-ed overboard. (See diagram.)

    As noted earlier, the highly successful 1940 trialsof the first Walter-propulsion submarine, the V-80,was followed by an order for four Type XVIIAdevelopment submarines. (See Chapter 1.) Of these,the U-792 and U-794 were commissioned in Octo-ber 1943 and were also successful, reaching 20.25knots submerged. The other pair, the U-793 and U-795, were commissioned in April 1944. The U-793reached a submerged speed of 22 knots in March1944 with Admiral Dnitz on board. Dnitz com-mented, with more courage and confidence at theNaval Command we should have had this [U-boat]

  • a year or two ago.2 In June 1944the U-792 traveled a measuredmile at 25 knots. These TypeXVIIA boats were found to beremarkably easy to handle athigh speeds.

    However, the Walter boatswere plagued by mechanical andmaintenance problems. Also,efficiency was low and signifi-cant power was lost because ofthe increase in back pressure onthe exhaust system as the sub-marine went deeper.

    Construction of operationalWalter boatsthe Type XVIIBwas begun at the Blohm & Vossshipyard in Hamburg. The initialorder was for 12 submarines, theU-1405 through U-1416. Thischoice of building yard wasunfortunate, according to U-boatpractitioner and historian GnterHessler.3 Blohm & Voss wasalready struggling to cope withthe Type XXI program, and theWalter boats were neglected. TheNavy cut the order to six boats.

    Simultaneous with the TypeXVIIB submarines of 312 tonssurface displacement, the Ger-man Navy designed the larger,Atlantic boats of 1,485 tonsthat would have had two Walter turbines turningtwo shafts. Designated Type XVIII, two submarineswere ordered, the U-796 and U-797; but after thesuccessful trials of the Type XVIIA U-boats, thelarger submarines were discontinued in the springof 1944. In their place, on 26 May 1944, contractswere placed for Walter boats of Type XXVIW todisplace 842 tons. These single-shaft submarineswere expected to achieve 24 knots submerged, withan endurance of almost 160 n.miles (300 km) atthat speed.

    The initial Type XXVIW program envisionedsome 250 units to replace the Type XXI program.Anticipating a shortage of peroxide, the programwas soon cut to 100 units, to begin with hull

    U-4501. All were to have been completed betweenMarch 1945 and October 1945, although as early asSeptember 1944, it became apparent that the esti-mated supply of peroxidewhose production hadto be shared with the Air Forcewould be suffi-cient for only some 70 oceangoing Walter sub-marines.4 The Type XXVIW submarines were start-ed at the Blohm & Voss shipyard at Hamburg; fewwere begun and none was completed.

    In addition to the Walter turbine submarines,several other closed-cycle concepts were examinedand considered in wartime Germany. The TypeXVIIK was to employ the Krieslauf closed-cyclediesel engine, which used stored oxygen for under-water operation; none of this design was built. The


    Walter System Schematic

    The U-1406 high and dry after being salvaged. Note the hull openings for hydrogen-

    peroxide storage. Larger submarines propelled by the Walter closed-cycle plant were

    planned by the German Navy as the ultimate U-boats. (U.S. Navy)

  • Type XXXVIW was to have had a two-shaft, closed-cycle system based on four fast-running dieselengines adapted from motor torpedo boats; again,stored oxygen would have provided the oxidizer forcombustion. None of these U-boats was built.

    Closed-cycle diesel systems had the advantagethat oxygen was more readily available than was theperoxide needed for Walter propulsion. Still, oxy-gen systems had the disadvantage of the greatweight of the oxygen containers when it was storedin a gaseous form. To solve this problem the possi-bility of producing oxygen on board was studied.Such a large number of closed-cycle propulsionschemes was considered because of the desire toproduce the most efficient high-speed underwaterwarship with the limited resources available. Ingeneral, the Walter turbine offered high underwaterspeed, while the closed-cycle diesel systems offeredgreat underwater endurance.

    As the European war continued toward its des-perate, violent climax of May 1945, fewer and fewerresources were available to German planners andcommanders. Only three combat-configured Wal-ter U-boats were completed: The Type XVIIB U-1405 was completed in December 1944, the U-1406in February 1945, and the U-1407 in March 1945.None became operational. But these U-boatsmarked the beginning of the next revolution inundersea warships. Although the Type XXI intro-duced the concept of a submarine designed entire-ly for underwater operation, it would be a closed-cycle (i.e., air-independent) propulsion plant thatwould bring about the ultimate undersea craft. In19431945 the Walter turbine was the leading can-didate for this revolution.

    All three completed Type XVIIB submarineswere scuttled in May 1945, the U-1405 at Flensburg,and the U-1406 and U-1407 at Cuxhaven, all in ter-ritory occupied by British troops. At the Potsdamconference in July 1945, the U-1406 was allocated tothe United States and the U-1407 to Britain, andboth submarines were quickly raised from theirshallow resting places.

    British, Soviet, and U.S. naval officers and tech-nicians picked through the ruins of the ThirdReich, collecting blueprints and components of theWalter program. The unfinished, bomb-damagedU-1408 and U-1410 were found by the British at theBlohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg. In Kiel, Britishtroops took control of the Walterwerke, which waslargely undamaged, and took into custody Profes-sor Walter and his staff. U.S. and British technicianswere soon interrogating them and making arrange-ments for their relocation to the West.

    Anglo-American Closed-CycleSubmarinesThe U.S. Navy did not recondition and operate theU-1406, as it had the two Type XXI submarines.The Royal Navy did rehabilitate the U-1407 andplaced her in commission on 25 September 1945.Major changes were made in the submarine: aBritish escape system was provided, the ventilationsystem was changed, and all electric equipment wasreplaced (having been water damaged when shewas scuttled). The Walter plantreferred to asHigh-Test Peroxide (HTP) by the Britishwasremoved, rehabilitated, and reinstalled. The subma-rine was renamed HMS Meteorite in 1947 and car-ried out closed-cycle propulsion trials. Because the


    U-4501 (Type XXVIW). LOA 184 ft 3 in (56.2 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • U-1407 was intended to be used only for trials and,possibly, as an anti-submarine target, her torpedotubes were removed.

    Based on intelligence obtained late in the war andthe findings at German shipyards and research insti-tutes, as early as 1945 the Royal Navys new con-struction program included a submarine propelledby a hydrogen-peroxide/turbine plant. Although asecond HTP submarine was included in the19471948 shipbuilding program, all constructionwas deferred until the Meteorites trials were com-pleted in 1949. This sizable British HTP program wasof significance to the U.S. Navy because of the exten-sive exchange of data in this field between the twonavies. U.S. naval officers visited the Meteorite andBritish officers visited the U.S. closed-cycle engineer-ing projects.

    The U.S. Navy was very interested in closed-cycle propulsion. As early as November 1945, theSubmarine Officers Conference in Washington,D.C., addressed the advantages of closed-cyclesubmarines with tentative preliminary character-istics put forward for a 1,200-ton submarine fittedwith a 7,500-horsepower Walter plant, whichcould provide a sustained underwater speed of 20knots for 12 hours. Studies by the Bureau of Shipsindicated a preference for closed-cycle propulsionemploying stored oxygen because of costshydrogen-peroxide cost was 85 cents per horse-power hour as compared to only five cents for liq-uid oxygen.5 (At the time the U.S. Navy wasalready discussing the potential of nuclear propul-sion for submarines.)

    Studies of closed-cycle systems were undertakenby various U.S. Navy agencies. A 1946 report listedsix such candidates.6 The 2,500-horsepower Walterplant from the U-1406 and a 7,500-horsepowerplant planned for the Type XXVI submarine wereset up at the Naval Engineering Experiment Stationin Annapolis, Maryland. Also set up at Annapoliswas a 50-horsepower Krieslauf or recycle-diesel plant.This plant used part of the diesel exhaust products todilute liquid oxygen or hydrogen-peroxide and lowertheir combustion temperatures for submergedoperation with a diesel engine. From the outset thelimitations of this plant were known to be signifi-cant: the resulting decrease in power and the highnoise level of a diesel engine.

    The closed-cycle plants tested at Annapolis suf-fered numerous problems. Still, several follow-onplants were proposed. The so-called Wolverineplant, considered for a Tang (SS 563) hull, was aclosed-cycle gas turbine plant expected to provide7,500 horsepower. As late as November 1948, theNavys General Board heard testimony about Navyplans for closed-cycle propulsion:

    The Tang hull is suitable for 25 knots and itsdimensions are being used as a design factorin developing the new closed cycle powerplants. It is hoped that by 1952 we will havea closed cycle power plant which we caninstall in a Tang hull and which will give usa submerged speed of 25 knots for a periodof 10 hours.7

    It was also explained to the General Board thatstudies indicated that an increase in underwaterspeed to 25 knots (compared to the Tangs 18knots) will do very little to increase the effective-ness of the submarine in making attacks. Rather,the speed increase would be a tremendous factorin escaping after an attack and in countering anti-submarine efforts.

    By 19491950 comparative studies of nuclearand chemical closed-cycle propulsion plants wereprepared by Navy offices. A committee of the Sub-marine Officers Conference addressing the alterna-tive plants concluded:

    In general it appears that the Nuclear pro-pelled submarine is tactically superior to theclosed cycle submarine on almost everycount. However, the true value of theNuclear propelled submarine is not to befound in a discussion of tactical advantages.The effective employment of such a subma-rine will necessitate entirely new tacticalconcepts.8

    The most derogatory aspect of the committeereport addressed nuclear fuel: It appears that thecost of fuel for the closed-cycle submarine will be lessthan that for the nuclear propelled submarine, andFissionable material is and probably will remain incritical supply, and in addition, the nuclear propelled


  • submarine will have to compete withother applications for allocations.Supply for the closed cycle plants isfar less critical.9

    The comparative studies under-taken by the Navy all indicated thatchemical closed-cycle plants werefeasible, but fell far short of nuclearpropulsion. A major comparisonwas developed by the Navys Bureauof Ships. (See table 3-1.) At this timethe U.S. Navy was already preparingto construct a landlocked prototypeof a nuclear propulsion plant in theIdaho desert.

    Such analyses demonstrated con-clusively to the U.S. Navys leadershipthat nuclear propulsion far exceededthe potential capabilities of chemicalclosed-cycle plants, if sufficient fis-sionable material could be madeavailable. Accordingly, research andfunding for non-nuclear effortsceased and, in 1950, the U.S. Con-gress authorized the worlds firstnuclear-propelled submarine. Ironi-cally, at almost the same time theNavy decided to construct a sub-mersible craftthe midget subma-rine X-1which would have a hydrogen-peroxideclosed-cycle plant. (See Chapter 16.)

    The Royal Navy continued to have a majorinterest in chemical closed-cycle propulsion longafter it was abandoned by the U.S. Navy. Using datafrom the Meteorite trials as well as from Germanengineers and German files, and from the U.S. testsof the Walter plant at Annapolis, the keel was laiddown in July 1951 for the HTP submarine Explorer,followed in February 1952 by the similar Excal-ibur.10

    The British submarines were slightly largerboats than the German Type XXVIW, althoughthey were intended specifically for trials and train-ing. (See table 3-2.) Only one periscope was pro-vided, and neither radar nor torpedo tubes were fit-ted. Their configuration included a small fairwater,conventional boat-like hull, and a diesel engine inthe forward (normally torpedo) compartment for

    battery charging and for emergency surface transit;there were two electric motors. On-board accom-modations were limited, hence for lengthy trials asupport ship would accompany the submarines.

    The Explorer was placed in commission on 28November 1956, and the Excalibur on 22 March1958. By that time the USS Nautilus (SSN 571), theworlds first nuclear submarine, was already opera-tional. On her initial sea trials, the Explorer exceed-ed 26 knots submerged. That speed had beenexceeded by a significant margin several years earli-er by the USS Albacore (AGSS 569).

    The British submarines carried out trials into themid-1960s. Although generally successful, frequentmishaps and problems led to these submarines com-monly being referred to as the Exploder andExcruciator. The British relearnedwith difficul-tiesthe many problems of handling HTP. Onboard the submarines the HTP was stored in plastic


    TABLE 3-1Propulsion Plant Comparisons

    Tang class Chemical NuclearSS 563 (H2O2)


    Displacement submerged 2,170 tons 2,960 tons 2,940 tons

    Length 263 ft 286 ft 272 ft

    (80.2 m) (87.2 m) (82.9 m)

    Beam 27 ft 31 ft 27 ft

    (8.23 m) (9.45 m) (8.23 m)

    Pressure hull diameter 18 ft 20 ft 27 ft

    (5.5 m) (6.1 m) (8.23 m)

    Test depth 700 ft 700 ft 700 ft

    (215 m) (215 m) (215 m)

    Propulsion plant

    weight 402,000 lbs 328,000 lbs 1,471,680 lbs

    (182,347 kg) (148,781 kg) (667,554 kg)

    battery 533,000 lbs 272,000 lbs 403,000 lbs

    (241,769 kg) (123,379 kg) (182,801 kg)

    volume (engineering spaces) 9,160 ft3 12,500 ft3 23,400 ft3

    (256.5 m3) (350 m3) (655 m3)

    volume (with battery) 17,300 ft3 17,300 ft3 28,700 ft3

    (484.4 m3) (484.4 m3) (803.6 m3)

    Horsepower 3,200/4,700* 15,000 15,000


    at slow speeds ~ 40 hours ~ 40 hours

    at 10 knots 86 hours 6 months**

    at 25 knots 600 hours

    Source: Chief, Bureau of Ships, to Director, Weapon Systems Evaluation Group, Evaluationof NEPS Project; information for, 14 February 1950.Notes: * Diesel engines/electric motors.

    ** Refuelings were estimated at approximately six-month intervals.

  • bags, surrounded by seawater in tanks external tothe pressure hull. A full-power run lasting about anhour would use up all 111 tons of HTP carried inthe submarine. A refueling ship, the Sparbeck, car-rying sufficient HTP for one refueling, was alsoprovided to support the submarines. According toMichael Wilson, a former Explorer commandingofficer,Any small leak in any of the plastic fuel bagsneeded a docking to change the whole lot. I doremember that we spent an awful lot of time inScotts shipyard on the Clyde either changing bagsor having various bits and pieces mended. It wasVERY frustrating.11

    There were special provisions to prevent thebuildup of explosive gas. The smallest fragment ofdust, rust, or other impurity in the propulsion sys-tem could initiate HTP decomposition and therelease of oxygen, while the smallest spill could cor-rode metal, or burn through cloth or flesh.

    While employed primarily for HTP trials, onrare occasions the submarines were employed inexercises. In one such exercise the Explorerapproached the Convoy, fired our dummy torpe-does and then dashed away up-weather on the tur-bines at about 20 knots for about an hour. Theescorts were not very happy when we surfaced milesfrom them to say here we are! recalled Wilson.12

    Still, in view of the problems with HTP, theRoyal Navy cancelled plans to convert the relativ-ly new T-class submarines to a partial hydrogen-

    peroxide plant. These combined-plant sub-marines, with a section for the turbine added aftof the control room, would have had a 250 percentpower increase to provide an increase in underwa-ter speed from 9 knots to 14 or 15 knots. By 1948the Royal Navy had planned up to 12 such Tconversions plus construction of combined-plantsubmarines. The costs of this program, coupledwith the difficulties experienced with theExploder and Excruciator, undoubtedly led tothe cancellation of the T conversions.

    British naval historian Antony Preston wrote ofthe hydrogen-peroxide turbine effort and the endof Explorer and Excalibur trials,the achievement ofthe [Royal Navy] was considerable, but there canhave been few tears at the boats paying off.13 Theexperiments ended in the 1960s and the Royal Navybelatedly wrote closed to almost two decades ofresearch and development. Britain was alreadyembarked on development of a nuclear-propelledsubmarine program, albeit with important Ameri-can assistance.

    Retirement of the Explorer and Excaliburmarked the end of chemical closed-cycle submarinedevelopment in Western navies for some twodecades. Not until the advent of Air-IndependentPropulsion (AIP) schemes in the 1980s was therecredible promise of alternative methods of highunderwater performance other than nuclearpropulsion.


    HMS Explorer, one of two British submarines built specifically to evaluate the feasibility of the Walter propulsion system.

    These submarines were not successful, and Anglo-American interest in closed-cycle propulsion ended with the success of

    nuclear propulsion. (Royal Navy)

  • Soviet Single-Drive SubmarinesIn the Soviet Union the concept of closed-cyclepropulsioncalled single-drive or unifiedwas initiated earlier than in the West and wouldsurvive longer. Investigations into submarinepower plants capable of providing high underwaterspeed had been carried out in tsarist Russia andafter that in the USSR over a lengthy period. Theseefforts were expanded in the 1930s, focusing pri-marily on the use of liquid oxygen to permit dieselengine operation underwater.

    At the end of 1944 experiments were carried out inthe use of hydrogen-peroxide, among other oxygen-carrying compositions, to oxidize fuel in the fuelchamber of a steam generator. The results of theseexperiments were not met with great enthusiasmby submarine designers because of low hydrogen-peroxide concentration and problems with thesuggested technical approach.

    In 1938 development began on Project 95, asmall, 102-ton (submerged), 12213-foot (37.3-m)submarine employing solid lime as a chemicalabsorber for carbon dioxide exhaust. This absorberpermitted the exhaust to be reused for the oxida-tion of the fuel (i.e., combustion) while the craftoperated submerged with a diesel engine. This sys-tem used two lightweight diesel engines that couldbe employed for both surface and submergedpropulsion.

    Under chief designer Abram S. Kassatsier, Proj-ect 95 was begun in a design bureau operated by theNKVDthe Soviet secret police and intelligenceagency.14 Construction was undertaken at theSudomekh shipyard in Leningrad. After launching,the unfinished submarine was transported via theextensive inland waterways to the Krasnoye Sormo-vo shipyard in the inland city of Gorkiy; in Novem-ber 1941 she was transported to Baku on the Caspi-

    an Sea. The submarine was completed in October1944. During subsequent trials in the Caspian Seathrough June 1945, the submarine, assigned thetactical number M-401, suffered several fires. Thechief designer of her propulsion plant, V. S.Dmitrievskiy, was killed in one of the accidents.After the war, in 1946, responsibility for Project 95was transferred to the TsKB-18 design bureau inLeningrad.

    With the end of the war in Europe in May 1945,several groups of Soviet engineersamong themsubmarine designers and builderswere sent in-to Germany to master the German experience inmilitary-related industries. All of the German ship-yards involved in closed-cycle submarine construc-tion were located in areas occupied by British orAmerican troops.

    In Dresden, at the Bruener-Kanis-Reder firm,which built the larger Walter turbines, Soviet engi-neers saw a turbine designed for submarine use. Ithad a power rating of 7,500 horsepower, withsteam-gas as the working medium. The Soviet engi-neers were directed to the town of Blankenburg toobtain more detailed information. There they dis-covered the Glck auf bureau, which had played animportant role in design of the Type XXVI subma-rine with Walter propulsion. Documents on sub-marine design as well as their Walter turbines werefound.

    With the help of the Soviet military comman-dant of the town, about 15 former employees of theGlck auf bureau were located, all of whom hadimportant roles in development of the Walter sub-marines. The Germans were directed to make areport on the work of their bureau and on relatedsubmarine designs.

    The Soviet reaction to this find was to estab-lish a Soviet design bureau in Germany and to


    Explorer SSX. LOA 225 ft 6 in (68.75 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • invite German special-ists to participate. Thisplan also envisionedthe placing of orderswith German firms fora set propulsion equip-ment for a turbine-driven submarine. Thenew submarine designbureau was headed bythe chief of the TsKB-18 design bureau inLeningrad, Engineer-Captain 1st Rank Alek-

    sei A. Antipin. The chief engineer of the new bureauwas B. D. Zlatopolsky; previously he was head of thedepartment for special power plants at the CentralResearch Shipbuilding Institute in Leningrad,where the majority of work on submarine powerplants had concentrated on achieving high under-water speeds.

    The new design agencyreferred to as theAntipin Bureauwas staffed with employeesfrom TsKB-18 and the Central Research Shipbuild-ing Institute, and with German specialists headedby Dr. F. Stateshny, formerly of the Glck auf.15 Firstthe bureau began to collect plans, drawings, anddocuments related to the Type XXVI U-boat, andthen it compiled lists of the required equipment.Firms that had produced equipment for the sub-marine were identified. Visits were made to all firmsin East Germany that had manufactured equip-ment. One component not available for examina-

    tion was the Lisholm screw compressor, as that firmwas in Sweden. The work progressed rapidly, withall of the documentation developed by the AntipinBureau being forwarded to Leningraddrawings,technical descriptions, instruction manualsaswell as equipment available for the Walter plant.

    In 1946 TsKB-18 in Leningrad began the actualdesign of a Soviet copy of the Type XXVI, whichwas designated Project 616. Some of the technicalsolutions adopted by the Germans for the TypeXXVI would not satisfy Soviet designers and navalofficers, such as the small reserve buoyancy margin,amidships torpedo tubes, and the large volume ofthe pressure hull compartments. Immediately aftercritical consideration of the design, TsKB-18 beganto develop an original design of a submarine with asteam-gas turbine plant. The new designProject617was considered to be of utmost importancewithin the Navy because the anticipated highunderwater speed could expand the tactical use ofsubmarines.

    This submarine would have indigenous equip-ment with the exception of the turbine plant. Thepreliminary Project 617 design was completed atthe end of 1947. This effort was developed underthe leadership of the most experienced mechanicalengineer, P. S. Savinov, who had participated in thedevelopment of all previous Soviet-era submarines,and young engineers named Sergei N. Kovalev andGeorgi N. Chernyshov, who later would have majorroles in the development of nuclear-propelled sub-marines. The submarine design was supervised byBoris M. Malinin, the chief designer of the first


    Project 617 was the first Soviet postWorld War II submarine with closed-cycle or single-drive propulsion. Based on Ger-

    man technology, the S-99 continued earlier Soviet interest in this field. Western intelligencewhich labeled the S-99 the

    Whalespeculated that she may have had nuclear propulsion. (Rubin CDB ME)

    Akeksei A. Antipin

    (Rubin CDB ME)

  • Soviet submarines beginning in 1926, for whomthis project became his last, as he died in 1949.

    A third submarine design bureau was estab-lished in the USSR on 30 March 1948, for the fur-ther development of Project 617. This was SKB-143, a bureau set up specifically for the design ofsubmarines with new types of power plants to pro-vide high underwater speed. (See Appendix D.) Thenew bureau was staffed by specialists from TsKB-18and the Antipin group in Germany (including tenGerman engineers), as well as by members of thespecial power plant department of the CentralResearch Shipbuilding Institute. Antipin wasappointed to head SKB-143 and was appointedchief designer of Project 617; Kovalev became hisdeputy. The new bureau had two Leningrad loca-tions, one in the Shuvalovo suburb and the other atthe Sudomekh Shipyard, where the research depart-ments were located that would develop new powerplants and the related test facilities.

    After the development of the design for Project617, the bureau transferred plans to Sudomekh forconstruction of the submarine. The decision wasmade to first build a prototype, or experimental,submarine before combat units because of theinnovative features of the design. Thus, series con-struction would be delayed until trials of the exper-imental boat.

    During the construction phase of the Project617 submarine, the design bureau assumed pro-curement functions that were not usually includedin the functions of a design bureau. In one of theSudomekh shops, a land prototype was erectedwith hydrogen-peroxide storage space and the hullsection of the turbine compartment. This test-

    stand turbine plant was mounted in the hull sec-tion under conditions close to those of the subma-rine. The propulsion plant was assembled withequipment received from Germany; missing partswere manufactured in the workshop of the designbureau. German specialists took part in the workas consultants on technical problems; however,they worked in a separate area. Their role becameless important as Soviet specialists gained experi-ence. The last of the Germans returned home atthe end of 1951.

    The steam-gas turbine tests were completed atthe beginning of 1951. The plant was dismantled inMay of 1951, and all components were carefullyexamined and checked for defects. After modifica-tions and the replacement of necessary components,the power plant and its control panel were preparedfor installation in the Project 617 submarine.

    The submarine was relatively short, with a smallsail structure, there being no conning tower com-partment; the hull was based on the Type XXI andXXVI designs, with a rounded bow and knifestern. There were free-flooding recesses for 32 plas-tic storage containers for hydrogen-peroxide locat-ed in the space between the pressure hull and theouter hull. The craft would carry 103 tons ofhydrogen-peroxide that would provide a sub-merged endurance of 6 to 23 hours at speeds of 20to 10 knots, respectively. Unlike the British HTPsubmarines, the Soviet craft was a combat unit, fit-ted with sonar and six bow torpedo tubes with sixreload torpedoes. The six-compartment submarinehad a standard double-hull configuration, with theSoviet standard of surface unsinkability, that is,able to remain afloat with any one compartment


    Project 617/Whale SSX with folding snorkel intake. LOA 204 ft (62.2 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • flooded. This was facilitated by a reserve buoyancyof 28 percent, more than 212 times that of a GermanType XXVI or the aborted Project 616. Project 617was slightly larger than the Type XXVIW, with asubmerged displacement of 950 tons.

    The submarinegiven the tactical number S-99was laid down on 5 February 1951 and waslaunched precisely one year later. Trials began on 16June 1952. The submarine was first sighted byWestern intelligence in 1956 and was given theAllied code name Whale.16 Western intelligencewas watching the progress of the S-99 trials withavid attention. The streamlined hull shape, smallsail structure, and vertical rudder of the submarine,coupled with reported high-speed runs, led someWestern analysts to initially estimate that the sub-marine was nuclear propelled.

    The power plant was the main distinguishingfeature of the S-99: the 7,500-horsepower turbinecould drive the S-99 at a submerged speed in excessof 20 knots. The six-hour cruising range at thisspeed considerably increased the tactical possibili-ties of the submarines of this type.17 In addition,the submarine demonstrated good maneuveringqualities. Submarine propulsion on the surface andat slow submerged speeds was provided by a diesel-electric plant. A snorkel was fitted to permit opera-tion of the diesel for propulsion or for batterycharging while at periscope depth.

    In spite of the considerable time spent testing theturbine plant at the test-bed site ashore, major prob-lems were experienced during S-99 trials. Theseincluded leaking of the hydrogen-peroxide contain-ers, resulting in fires and small explosionscalledclapscaused by the rapid decomposition of thehydrogen-peroxide when it came in contact with dirtor oil as well as instability.

    While the S-99 trials were being conducted, inMarch 1953 the entire team that was working onProject 617 was returned to TsKB-18 together withits portfolio; from that moment SKB-143 receivedthe task of designing the first Soviet nuclear-propelled submarine.

    Only on 26 March 1956, after successfully com-pleting Navy trials, was the S-99 placed in commis-sion for experimental operation. The developmentprogram had taken almost 12 yearsonly a fewmonths less than the British program to develop

    the Explorer and Excalibur. While the British haddeveloped a (Vickers) copy of the German turbineplant, the Soviets had used an actual German plant;still, Project 617 had a combat capability and wascloser to being a warship prototype than were theBritish boats.

    From 1956 to 1959 the S-99 was in a specialbrigade of the Baltic Fleet for the training and over-haul of submarines. She went to sea 98 times andduring those cruises traveled more than 6,000n.miles (11,118 km) on the surface and about 800n.miles (1,482 km) submerged, the latter including315 n.miles (584 km) on turbine propulsion.

    While the S-99 was engaged in trials, the Project617M design was developed. This project providedfor enhanced weapons and sensors as well as increasedendurance (i.e., greater reserves of hydrogen-peroxideand fuel). Other variants considered included Proj-ect 635, a twin-shaft, twin-turbine ship of some1,660 tons surface displacement (speed 22 knots),and Project 643, an improved and enlarged twin-shaft ship of some 1,865 tons; both were propelled bypaired, closed-cycle diesel engines. These variantswere undertaken at TsKB-18 under the direction ofKovalev.

    On 17 May 1959 a serious accident occurred inthe S-99. During a routine starting of the plant at adepth of 260 feet (80 m), there was an explosion inthe turbine compartment. The submarine wasbrought to the surface, down by the stern. Tworeports were received from the diesel compart-ment: A fire and explosion in compartment five[turbine] and Sprinkling [water spraying] hasbeen initiated in compartment five. The alarm wassounded. Through glass ports in compartmentbulkheads, it was observed that the aftermost com-partment, No. 6housing the propeller shaft andelectric motor, as well as auxiliary equipmentalso was flooded. When the damage was evaluated,the commanding officer, Captain 3d Rank V. P.Ryabov, decided to return to the base under theships own power.

    After several hours the submarine reached thenaval base at Leipaja (Libau) on the Baltic Sea.When the water was pumped out of the fifth (tur-bine) compartment, it was found that the hull valveof the hydrogen-peroxide supply pipeline hadfailed. The resulting explosion blew a hole just over


  • three inches (80 mm) in the upper portion of thepressure hull, through which the turbine compart-ment had been partially flooded. The explosion hadbeen caused by hydrogen-peroxide decomposition,initiated by mud that had gotten into the valve. TheS-99 was saved by an astute commanding officerand a well-trained crew, said Viktor P. Semyonov,submarine designer and historian.18

    After the accident the S-99 was not repairedbecause a majority of the turbine componentsrequired replacement, which would have been veryexpensive. By that time the first nuclear-propelledsubmarine had joined the Soviet Navy. A compli-cated and interesting investigation of new types ofpower plants had been completed. The submarineS-99 was cut up for scrap. Still, Project 617 provid-ed valuable experience to Soviet submarine design-ers in the development of fast and maneuverablesubmarines, and the May 1959 accident confirmedthe necessity for providing unsinkability charac-teristics in submarines.

    At the same time Project 617 was under way,other attempts were being made to introduce steamturbines in submarines. In 1950 Project 611bis/Zulu was developed to place a 6,500-horsepowersteam turbine on the center shaft of the subma-rine.19 This scheme was not pursued because ofdelays in the turbine development, although whenthe original Project 611/Zulu submarine went tosea in 1954, many Western intelligence analystsbelieved that the three-shaft submarine had a Wal-ter closed-cycle plant on the center shaft.20

    Next was an attempt in 1954 to provide a steamturbine for an enlarged Project 611 submarineknown as Project 631. This craft was to have a sur-face displacement of approximately 2,550 tons,with an underwater speed of 20 knots. This effortwas also dropped after the problems with Project

    617/Whale. Still another closed-cycle conceptundertaken by SKB-143 in this period was Project618, a small submarine with a closed-cycle dieselthat was to provide an underwater speed of 17knots. This design also was not pursued.

    Concurrent with the Soviet efforts to put sub-marines to sea propelled by Walter-type steam tur-bines, work was under way to continue the 1930sefforts for submarines to employ their dieselengines while submerged. At the end of 1946,design work began at TsKB-18 on the small, 390-ton Project 615 submarine with Kassatsier as thechief designer. This submarinelater given theNATO code name Quebecwould have threediesel engines fitted to three propeller shafts plus anelectric motor on the center shaft. The outer shaftseach had an M-50 diesel engine generating 700horsepower at 1,450 revolutions per minute. Thecenter shaft was turned by a 32D diesel with a rat-ing of 900 hp at 675 rpm for sustained propulsionon the surface or underwater. Liquid oxygen wascarried to enable submerged operation of the 32Ddiesel engine for 100 hours at a speed of 3.5 knots.The maximum underwater speed of Project615/Quebec was 15 knots, and that speed could besustained for almost four hours. This was animpressive submerged performance for the time.(The M-50 engines had been developed for small,high-speed surface craft and had a limited servicelife, hence their employment in submarines wasonly for high submerged speeds.)

    The first Project 615 submarine was laid downin 1950 at the Sudomekh yard, already known forthe Project 617/Whale and other advanced tech-nology propulsion plants, and was completed in1953. After initial sea trials of the prototypetheM-254series production was ordered.21 The firstproduction Project A615 submarine, the M-255,


    Project A615/Quebec SSC as built with deck guns. LOA 186 ft 3 in (56.8 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • was completed in 1955.22 Sudomekh produced 23units through 1958, while the nearby Admiraltyshipyard built its first modern submarines by pro-ducing six units through 1957. (Admiralty hadconstructed Shch and K-class submarines duringthe war.)

    The torpedo armament of these submarinesconsisted of four bow torpedo tubes; no reloadswere provided. Early units were completed with atwin 45-mm anti-aircraft gun mount on the for-ward step of the fairwater, making the Quebecs theworlds last submarines to be completed with deckguns. (The guns were discarded by the end of the1950s.) Thus combat capabilities were limited.They had seven compartments, and with a crew of24 men, the craft were cramped and difficult tooperate.

    Project 615/Quebec submarines were plaguedwith engineering problems caused by the liquidoxygen. Oxygen evaporation limited endurance toabout two weeks, and the continual leaking of liq-uid oxygen led to explosive pops throughout theengineering spaces. Like hydrogen-peroxide, theliquid oxygen was difficult to handle, and the pro-pulsion plant suffered several serious accidents.Two submarines sank in 1957, the M-256 in theBaltic and the M-351 in the Black Sea. The formersuffered a fire off Tallinn; the crew fought the blazefor 3 hours, 48 minutes before the submarine sankwith the loss of 35 men; there were seven survivors.There were no fatalities in the M-351 sinking. Otheraccidents often saw oxygen-fed flames spewingforth from the submarines, which led to their beingreferred to by their crews as zazhigalka (lighters) or

    Zippos, the latter term derived from the popularAmerican cigarette lighter of World War II.

    In an effort to solve the Project 615/Quebecproblems, from 1958 to 1960 one of the sub-marines, the M-361, was refitted to employ super-oxidized sodium. The conversion was not complet-ed. A modified design, Project 637 of 425 tonssubmerged displacement, was 95 percent completewhen work halted in May 1960. The Project 637submarine was cut into two sections and transport-ed by rail to nearby Pushkin for use as a land train-ing submarine at the Leningrad Higher Naval Engi-neering School to help submarine crews cope withthe closed-cycle system. (With the oxygen systemremoved, that submarine continues in use today atPushkin as an ashore training platform.) By theearly 1970s the last Quebec submarines were takenout of service.

    One Project 615/Quebec submarine served as atest bed for anechoic coating research. DuringWorld War II the Germans had experimented withrubber-like coatings on U-boat hulls to attenuateactive sonar pulses (as well as coating snorkel intakeheads to absorb radar pulses).23 In 19471948, twoSoviet research institutesthe Andreev andKrylovinitiated the development of hull coatingsbased on the earlier German efforts. Under the codename Medusa, this work included applying experi-mental coatings to small M or Malyuka (baby)submarines and, subsequently, to one Project 615submarine.

    Initially these coatings were applied only to theexterior hull and sail structure to absorb activesonar pulses (pings). Later such coatings would


    A Project A615/Quebec single-drive submarine. These craft were not very successful, being plagued with propulsion plant

    problems, and having a very limited combat capability. These were the worlds last submarines to be built with deck guns.

    (U.S. Navy)

  • be applied to the two internalsurfaces of the double-hull con-figuration of Soviet submarines,reducing transmission of inter-nal machinery noises that werevulnerable to detection by pas-sive sonars. Beginning with thefirst Soviet nuclear submarinesof Project 627/November, mostSoviet combat submarineswould have anechoic coatings.

    During the late 1940s and1950s, several other single-engine submarine projects wereinitiated in the USSR, mostlybased on providing oxygen todiesel engines for submergedoperation. One concept investi-gated from the early 1950s wasbased on burning metallicfuelpowdered aluminumand other materials. Most of these efforts werehalted by about 1960 with the successful develop-ment of nuclear propulsion. Project 613Eh reflect-ed interest in using electrochemical generators forsubmarine propulsionin essence creating a giantstorage battery to provide energy for electricpropulsion. Interest in this field was warmed upin the 1960s with the use of large fuel cells in theAmerican spacecraft of the Gemini and Apolloprograms.24 In the 1970s the Lazurit bureau wasworking on the design for an Air-IndependentPropulsion (AIP) submarine, Project 947, withinterest in an electrochemical generator that couldproduce electricity using hydrogen-peroxide as thereactant. Such fuel cells would have the advantagesof high fuel efficiency, virually no pollution, lownoise, high reliability, and relatively low cost. Thereaction, in addition to providing electricity, pro-duced heat and water, the latter being used to coolthe electrodes.

    In 1974 the Soviet government approved thedevelopment of shore and afloat facilities to devel-op electrochemical generators. One of the former,at the Krasnoye Sormovo yard in Gorkiy, consist-ed of modeling a plant within a submarine hullsection of a Project 613/Whiskey submarine. Sub-sequently, a complete electrochemical plant of 280

    kilowatts was developed and fitted in an extensive-ly converted submarine, the S-273, given the desig-nation Project 613Eh and referred to as Katran.

    The submarine was fitted with four large, cryo-genic storage tanks for carrying four tons of hydro-gen at 252oC and 32 tons of oxygen at 165oC.The loading of these tanks required more than 160hours. One diesel engine was removed, and theelectrochemical plant was installed in its place withan EhKhG-280 generator to provide direct drivefor one of the submarines two propeller shafts.

    Extensive trials began in October 1988 andwere carried out for six months. The trials demon-strated the efficiency and safety of the plant. Proj-ect 613 submarines had a rated submergedendurance of more than seven days traveling at twoknots before they had to recharge their batteries,although in reality dives rarely exceeded three orfour days. The S-273 in the 613Eh configurationwas capable of traveling submerged at 2.5 knots for28 days. However, the concept was not pursuedbecause of more competitive AIP systems. (SeeChapter 13.)25

    The late 1940s and 1950s were a period of intensivesubmarine development in many navies, with great


    The Project 613Eh demonstration submarine for a fuel-cell submarine propulsion

    plant. Note the massive cryogenic storage tanks for hydrogen and oxygen, broad

    amidships section, and opening for retracted forward diving planes. The trials

    were successful, but more practicable AIP systems have become available.

    (Malachite SPMBM)

  • interest in the potential high-speed performance ofclosed-cycle submarines. The U.S. Navy quicklyabandoned this path because of the obvious advan-tages of nuclear propulsion. The Royal Navy pur-sued it longer, investing considerable effort in reha-bilitating a German Type XVIIB submarine andconstructing two very troublesome test submarines.

    Soviet submarine development and construc-tion was remarkable in this period in view of thedevastation to the shipbuilding industry in WorldWar II. The USSR also examined closed-cyclepropulsion, but with more intensityand suf-fered more problems. What promise closed-cyclepropulsion held in the 1950s was soon overshad-owed by the development of nuclear propulsion.

    Also during this period the rate of developmentand intensity of construction in the USSR was pro-found: From the end of World War II through 1959,some 350 submarines were completed in Sovietshipyardswith 74 in the peak year of 1955ascompared to a total of 50 submarines produced inthat same period by American shipyards.

    Three of the Soviet submarines had nuclearpropulsion; eight U.S. submarines completed

    through 1959 were nuclear. But the nuclear sub-marine momentum was shifting.

    This momentum was facilitated after WorldWar II when the venerable TsKB-18 was joined insubmarine design and development by the short-lived Antipin Bureau. Beginning in 1948, SKB-143undertook the design of high-speed submarines.In 1953, following the death of Josef Stalin, thedesign and construction of large surface warshipswas largely halted; the TsKB-18 design bureau wasaccordingly reorganized to undertake submarinedesigns to incorporate missile systems. That sameyear the design office of the Krasnoye Sormovoshipyard in Gorkiy became an independent sub-marine design bureau, SKB (later TsKB)-112. Thenew bureaus first assignment was to design alarge, oceangoing submarine.

    The Soviet Union thus entered the nuclearsubmarine era with four separate submarinedesign bureaus: TsKB-16 (shifted from surfaceship design to submarine work in 1953), TsKB-18,SKB-112, and SKB-143. At the same time, sevenSoviet shipyards were engaged in submarine con-struction.


    The Project 613Eh submarine S-273 at sea. She retains the Project 613/Whiskey conning tower as well as bow and stern

    sections. The fuel-cell plant was a direct drive system. (Sudostroenie magazine)

  • TABLE 3-2Closed-Cycle Submarines

    German German British Soviet SovietType XVIIB Type XXVIW Explorer Project 617 Project 615

    Whale Quebec

    Operational (1945) 1956


    surface 312 tons 842 tons 1,086 tons

    submerged 337 tons 926 tons 1,203 tons

    Length 136 ft 2 in 184 ft 3 in 225 ft 6 in

    (41.5 m) (56.2 m) (68.75 m)

    Beam 10 ft 10 in 17 ft 9 in 15 ft 8 in

    (3.3 m) (5.4 m) (4.8 m)

    Draft 14 ft 1 in 19 ft 4 in 14 ft 5 in

    (4.3 m) (5.9 m) (4.4 m)

    Turbines 1 Walter 1 Walter 2 Vickers

    horsepower 2,500 7,500 15,000

    Diesel engines 1 1* 1

    horsepower 210 2,580 400


    Electric motors 1 1** 1

    horsepower 77 1,536

    Shafts 1 1 2


    surface 8.5 knots 11 knots 26 knots

    submerged 21.5 knots 24 knots 26 knots

    Range (n.miles/kts)

    surface 3,000/8 7,300/10 2,800/6.5

    submerged 150/20 158/24 26/26


    Test depth 395 ft 435 ft 500 ft

    (120 m) (133 m) (150 m)

    Torpedo tubes*** 2 533-mm B 4 533-mm B nil

    6 533-mm side

    Torpedoes 4 10 nil

    Guns nil nil nil

    Complement 19 35 approx. 45

    Notes: * A diesel generator of 100 hp also was fitted.** An electric creeping motor of 75 hp was also fitted.

    *** 130 n.miles at 20 knots.# Bow; side indicates amidships tubes angled outboard.


    1956 1956

    406 tons

    950 tons 504 tons

    204 ft 186 ft 3 in

    (62.2 m) (56.76 m)

    20 ft 14 ft 9 in

    (6.08 m) (4.5 m)

    16 ft 8 in 11 ft 10 in

    (5.08 m) (3.6 m)

    1 Walter


    1 3

    1 600 2 1,400

    2 450 1 900

    1 1

    540 100

    1 3

    11 knots 16 knots

    20 knots 15 knots

    8,500/8.5 3,150/8.3

    198/14.2*** 410/3.5

    655 ft 395 ft

    (200 m) (120 m)

    6 533-mm B 4 533-mm B

    12 4

    nil 2 x 25-mm

    51 33

  • This page intentionally left blank


    U.S. Nuclear-PropelledSubmarines


    While Germany excelled in submarinedevelopment and in several otheradvanced weapon areas, the German

    atomic bomb effort was inefficient and aborted. Still,the nuclear efforts of German scientists sparked theAmerican atomic bomb effort and initiated the firstinterest in an atom-powered submarine.

    In 1938 Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman at theprestigious Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chem-istry discovered nuclear fissionthe potentialrelease of vast amounts of energy by splittingatomic nuclei. Reports of the Hahn-Strassmandiscovery excited scientists around the world,among them Dr. George Pegram of ColumbiaUniversity, one of the leading physicists in theUnited States.

    In early 1939 Pegram proposed to Rear AdmiralHarold G. Bowen, chief of the Navys Bureau of SteamEngineering, which controlled the Naval ResearchLaboratory, that he meet with Navy researchers to dis-cuss the practical uses of uranium fission. Pegram andBowen met at the Navy Department buildings onConstitution Avenue in Washington, D.C., on 17March 1939.Also present at that historic meeting wereDr. Enrico Fermi, the worlds leading authority on theproperties of neutrons, who had come close to discov-ering nuclear fission in 1934; Captain Hollis Cooley,head of the Naval Research Laboratory; and Dr. RossGunn, a physicist and head of the laboratorysmechanical and electrical division.1

    The use of uranium fission to make a super-explosive bomb was discussed at the meeting. Fermi

    The USS Nautilus was the worlds first nuclear-propelled vehicle in New York harbor. Beyond her remarkable nuclear

    propulsion plant, she had a conventional submarine design, based in large part on the Type XXI. Her success led to the U.S.

    Navy rapidly ceasing the construction of non-nuclear submarines. (U.S. Navy)

  • expressed the view thatif certain problems rel-ative to chemical puri-ty could be solved, thechances were good thata nuclear chain reac-tion could be initiated.

    Hearing theseoutstanding scientistssupport the theory ofa nuclear chain reac-tion gave us the gutsnecessary to presentour plans for nuclear propulsion to the Navy,Gunn would recall. Three days later, on 20 March,Cooley and Gunn called on Admiral Bowen to out-line a plan for a fission chamber that would gen-erate steam to operate a turbine for a submarinepower plant.2 Gunn told the admiral that he neverexpected to seriously propose such a fantastic ideato a responsible Navy official. He asked for $1,500to initiate research into the phenomenon of nuclearfission. Bowen, himself an innovator who hadfought many senior officers to get the Navy to adoptimproved steam turbines for surface ships,approved the funds.

    The $1,500 was the first money spent by the U.S.government for the study of nuclear fission. Thatsummer, after preliminary studies, Gunn submittedhis first report on nuclear propulsion for sub-marines. His report came four months before deliv-ery of the famous letter signed by Albert Einsteinurging President Franklin D. Roosevelt to under-take a nuclear weapons program.

    In his report, Gunn noted that an atomic powerplant would not require oxygen, a tremendousmilitary advantage [that] would enormouslyincrease the range and military effectiveness of asubmarine.3 Gunns paper also pointed out themany problems and unknowns for such an effort,especially the need to develop the means for sepa-rating the lighter U235 atoms, which would under-go fission when bombarded with neutrons from theheavier uranium atoms. Gunn then turned hisefforts to solving the uranium separation problem.

    Several civilian academic and research institutionswere approached to work with the Naval ResearchLaboratory in the quest for a practical method of sep-

    arating the elusive U235isotope. Beginning inJanuary 1941, Philip A.Abelson of the CarnegieInstitution worked onthe separation problem.(The 28-year-old Abel-son already was co-discoverer of Element93, neptunium.) In Julyhe joined the staff of theNaval Research Labora-tory and, together with

    Gunn, developed a relatively simple and efficientmethod of U235 isotope separation.

    While the U.S. Navy and other institutions weretaking the first steps toward the atomic age, thepublic was beginning to learn about the potential ofatomic energy. In September 1940 science writerWilliam Laurence wrote a highly perceptive articlein the Saturday Evening Post about the discovery ofa new source of power, millions of times greaterthan anything known on earth. After describingatomic developments up to that time, Laurencewrote that such a substance would not likely bewasted on explosives. In a somewhat nave propos-al, he wrote: A five pound lump of only 10 to 50percent purity would be sufficient to drive oceanliners and submarines back and forth across theseven seas without refueling for months.

    With the war in Europe seeing Hitlers legionsoverrunning the continent, and with the belief thatGerman scientists could be working on an atomicbomb, the United States and Britain began a jointA-bomb development program under the codename Manhattan Engineering District. The Navysresearch efforts into nuclear fission were essentiallyhalted. The uranium separation process that Gunnand Abelson had developed and put in place on asmall scale in Philadelphia was adopted by theManhattan Project and was developed on a massivescale at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.4

    But the idea of propelling ships and submarineswith atomic energy was not forgotten during thewar. In August 1944 Brigadier General LeslieGroves, head of the Manhattan Project, appointed afive-man committee to look into potential nonde-structive uses of atomic energy. Dr. Richard C. Tol-


    Ross Gunn Philip A. Abelson

  • man, the longtime dean of the California Instituteof Technologys graduate school and chief scientif-ic adviser to Groves, would head the committee; theother members would be two naval officers and twocivilians. The influence of the naval officers wouldbe considerable: Rear Admiral Earle W. Mills, theassistant chief of the Bureau of Ships (BuShips),and Captain Thorwald A. Solberg, also of BuShips.5

    According to Groves, One of the primary rea-sons why I appointed this committee was to have onthe record a formal recommendation that a vigorousprogram looking towards an atomic powered sub-marine should be initiated when available personnelpermitted. I wanted Mills on the committee to makecertain that he, Tolman, and Solberg did just that.6

    That fall the committee visited the NavalResearch Laboratory in Washington and listened toGunn and Abelson urge that a nuclear-poweredsubmarine be given high priority in the commit-tees report. Tolman submitted the formal report inDecember 1944seven months before the firstatomic bomb was detonatedproposing that thegovernment should initiate and push, as an urgentproject, research and development studies to pro-vide power from nuclear sources for the propulsionof naval vessels.

    A year later, with the war over, the subject ofatomic energy for ship propulsion received publicattention when the Senate established the SpecialCommittee on Atomic Energy. In reporting thecommittees hearings, The New York Times of 14December 1945 quoted Gunn as declaring that themain job of nuclear energy is to turn the worldswheels and run its ships. The Times also men-tioned the possibility of cargo submarines drivenby atomic power.

    By the end of 1945, many American scientistsand engineers were discussing the possibility ofnuclear submarines. A Navy reportapparentlybased on Gunn-Abelson datadated 19 November1945, listed the advantages of nuclear transforma-tions, which estimated a yield of three billion BTUsper pound of nuclear fuel compared to 18,000BTUs per pound of diesel oil.7 It listed these out-standing characteristics of nuclear propulsion:

    1. Unlimited range.2. Continuous submerged operation for weeks

    is possible with good living conditions.3. High submerged and surface speeds.4. No refueling at seaan annual job.5. No recharging of batteries.6. More power available for same weight and

    volume.7. A dry ship [i.e., no need to surface or use

    snorkel to charge batteries].8. Control and handling about like present

    submarines.9. Submarine clean and habitable [i.e., no

    diesel oil]10. Space distribution not unlike present

    arrangements except forward section ofsubmarine [forward of reactor] will bedetachable for repair or replacement andforward [torpedo] tubes may have to be sac-rificed.

    11. Operation easier than with diesels.12. Operation of power plant expected to be


    Two disadvantages were listed:

    1. Poisoned [sic] areas forward [reactor] can-not be entered by any personnel and allcontrols must be remote.

    2. No repairs in the forward [reactor] com-partment can be made away from a special-ly tooled yard.

    Many naval officers were talking about nuclearpropulsion. At the Bikini atomic bomb tests in thesummer of 1946, Lieutenant Commander RichardB. Laning, commanding the fleet submarine Pilot-fish (SS 386), talked about the feasibility of anatomic-powered submarine with Dr. GeorgeGamow. Gamow calculated that such a craft couldachieve underwater speeds of 30 knots and wouldhave to be twice the size of existing submarines.Such craft could be developed, he said, in ten yearsif we really put our heart into it. Laning immedi-ately wrote a letter, through the chain of command,recommending a nuclear-propulsion program andvolunteering to serve in it. (Laning did not recallhaving received a response.8)

    After the war Gunn and Abelson returned theirattention to the possibility of an atomic submarine.


  • Abelson took a set of plans of a German Type XXVI(Walter) submarine and developed a scheme for anuclear pile that could fit into the existing spaceswith only minor changes in the basic submarinedesign. This approach, Abelson felt, would acceler-ate the development of a nuclear submarine. Muchof the Abelson report was vague orfrom a techni-cal viewpointquestionable. For example, therewas little information about the design of thenuclear pile, or reactor, except that it would use asodium-potassium alloy as the means to transferheat from the reactor to the steam turbine.

    Abelsons report was submitted in March 1946.Although in retrospect it had severe shortcomings,the reportAtomic Energy Submarinewouldcapture the imagination of many Navy men. Hisconclusions were:

    A technical survey conducted at the NavalResearch Laboratory indicates that, with aproper program, only about two yearswould be required to put into operation anatomic-powered submarine mechanicallycapable of operating at 26 knots to 30 knots

    submerged for many years without surfac-ing or refueling. In five to ten years a sub-marine with probably twice that submergedspeed could be developed.9

    The 27-page report of the young physicist placedtwo ifs on his two-year timetable: Sufficient prior-ity had to be given to the project by the Navy and theManhattan Project, and cooperation between theManhattan District and the Navy is expanded some-what to permit greater emphasis on Naval participa-tion in design and construction of a Uranium pilereactor of proper characteristics for this application.

    There was prophecy in the Abelson reportscomment that a high-speed, atomic-powered sub-marine would operate at depths of about 1,000 feet(305 m) and to function offensively, this fast sub-merged submarine will serve as an ideal carrier andlauncher of rocketed atomic bombs.

    Abelson and Gunn began briefing the Navyssubmarine community on the proposal. About 30senior submariners were told about the atomic sub-marine idea in March 1946. Vice Admiral CharlesLockwood, who had commanded U.S. submarines


    Plans developed by Messrs. Gunn and Abelson for an atomic submarine based on the Type XXVI U-boat hull. Note the

    duplicate components of the power plant designed to keep the submarine operating even with part of the plant out of

    action. This is an artists copy of the original plans. (Atomic Submarines)

  • in the Pacific during World War II, recalled one ofthose briefings by Abelson:

    If I live to be a hundred, I shall never forgetthat meeting on March 28, 1946, in a largeBureau of Ships conference room, its wallslined with blackboards which, in turn, werecovered by diagrams, blueprints, figures, andequations which Phil [Abelson] used to illus-trate various points as he read from his docu-ment, the first ever submitted anywhere onnuclear-powered subs. It sounded like some-thing out of Jules Vernes Twenty ThousandLeagues under the Sea.10

    Simultaneous with the Gunn-Abelson work,Lieutenant Commander Charles N. G. Hendrix inthe Navys Office of Research and Inventions (laterthe Office of Naval Research), produced a 14-pagememorandum on Submarine Future Develop-ments that provided a succinct analysis of subma-rine operations in World War II to justify threetypes of future submarines:11

    small training submarine (600 to 800 tonsdisplacement)

    medium fleet-type attack boat (1,200 to 1,500tons)

    large special rocket-launching type (2,400 to3,000 tons) to carry surface-launched rocketswith atomic warheads

    Hendrixs attack boat would have a submergedspeed of 20 to 25 knots, an operating depth of 2,000feet (610 m), and the finest maneuverability.Significantly, both the attack submarine and therocket-launching type would have nuclear propul-sion. The Hendrix memorandum included a sketchof his attack submarine with nuclear propulsion(reactor forward), accompanied by weight esti-mates and a description of the power plant, albeitbased mainly on the official but unclassified SmythReport Atomic Energy for Military Purposes.12

    Much of what Gunn, Abelson, and Hendrixwere advocating, and what some officers in the sub-marine community were already supporting, wasbased almost entirely on theory and educatedguesses. No engineering work had yet been under-

    taken. General Groves still would not providenuclear information to military personnel or civil-ians who were not under his direct commandunless specifically told to do so by the Chief ofNaval Operations.13 Groves believed that sharinginformation would violate President Franklin D.Roosevelts directive on the security of atomicinformation. He also was aware of the very limitedamounts of enriched uranium available and feltthey could notat the timesupport both thenuclear weapons program and a Navy propulsionprogram. (This concern, even within the Navy,would constitute the principal argument againstnuclear-propelled submarines.) Also, knowing thatthere would soon be some form of civilian agencyto control U.S. atomic matters, Groves was reluc-tant to commit the Manhattan Project to a long-term policy concerning nuclear propulsion.

    Meanwhile, Admiral Bowen, appointed after thewar to ensure the continuation of close cooperationbetween the Navy and scientific community, andCommodore William (Deak) Parsons, who had beenan executive in the Manhattan Project and theweapons officer on the Hiroshima A-bomb mission,prepared a letter from Secretary of the Navy JamesForrestal to the Secretary of War, who was Grovesssuperior. The letter, dated 14 March 1946, stated thatthe Navy wished to undertake the engineering devel-opment of atomic power for ship propulsion.

    In response, Groves and the Secretary of Warresponded that the Navy would best be served byassigning personnel to the atomic power pile pro-gram being set up at Oak Ridge. In discussing Navyparticipation in the Oak Ridge effort, the chief of theBureau of Ships advised the General Board, the prin-cipal advisory body to the Chief of Naval Operationsand the Secretary of the Navy, It is the Bureausopinion that the action being taken by the Manhat-tan District to develop an experimental power pile isthe soundest possible approach to the problem andwill produce the fastest results. Addressing the timefactor, he noted that at least 45 years will elapsebefore it will be possible to install atomic energy in anaval ship for propulsion purposes.

    Enter Captain RickoverThe Navy promptly assembled a team of five navalofficers and three civilians to go to Oak Ridge. After


  • some shuffling ofassignments, CaptainH. G. Rickover, anengineering specialist,was assigned as thesenior officer to go toOak Ridge. Rickoverhad served in destroy-ers, battleships, andsubmarines, and hadbriefly commanded aminesweeper beforebecoming an engineer-ing specialist in 1938.14

    During most of World War II, he had been head ofthe electrical branch of BuShips, responsible for thedevelopment, procurement, and installation ofelectrical equipment in ships and submarines.

    At the same time, other engineering officerswere assigned to various firms working in thenuclear field. Rickover originally was named to goto the General Electric facility at Schenectady, NewYork. But Rear Admiral Mills, Rickovers wartimeboss (and from November 1946 the chief ofBuShips), decided to send him to Oak Ridge.

    The Navy group arrived at Oak Ridge in June1946. During the next four months, they wereexposed to all aspects of nuclear technology. In thisperiod Rear Admiral Bowen, who had become theChief of Naval Research, and Captain Albert G.Mumma were the major spokesmen for nuclearpower. Mumma was named coordinator for nuclearmatters in BuShips, preempting the position Rick-over expected to have.15

    Rickover fought to gain the top position in navalnuclear matters, producing papers on the feasibili-ty of nuclear propulsion. In this period he attempt-ed to keep his Oak Ridge group intact, using themto help produce his reports. Also, Rickover obtainedthe support of Dr. Edward Teller, a leading nuclearphysicist, for his submarine proposals. Finally, inSeptember 1947 Mills appointed Rickover as hisspecial assistant for nuclear matters.

    Abelson, Bowen, Gunn, Mills, Rickover, andmany others in the Navy Department believed thatnuclear propulsion was feasible for surface shipsand submarines. Approval to pursue a realisticnuclear-propulsion program, one that would result

    in the construction and operation of nuclear-propelled ships, had to come from the highest lev-els of the Navy, from the Secretary of the Navy andChief of Naval Operations (CNO), and be support-ed by the administration and funded by Congress.

    The first postwar CNO, Fleet Admiral ChesterW. Nimitz, was immediately impressed by thepromise of nuclear propulsion for the Navy.16

    However, Parsons, now a rear admiral, and othersbelieved that the Navys primary efforts in atomicenergy should go into weapons development.They believed that the resources and knowl-edgable people available to the Navy were too lim-ited to develop both nuclear weapons and nuclearpropulsion. The former, they felt, were far morenecessary if the Navy was to compete with theArmy Air Forces for major military missions or,indeed, even to survive as a major military servicein the postwar period. Few other voices wereraised in opposition to nuclear propulsion. Onewas Vice Admiral Robert B. Carney, at the timeDeputy CNO for logistics. He hoped for a world-wide ban on nuclear propulsion for warships, fear-ing that if the United States had them at somefuture time so would its enemies.

    In the fall of 1946, Admiral Nimitz asked the Sub-marine Officers Conference to address the subject ofnuclear propulsion. The request led to a majorreport, completed on 9 January 1947, that stated:

    Present anti-submarine techniques and newdevelopments in submarine design haverendered our present fleet submarines obso-lete, offensively and defensively, to a greaterdegree than any other type [of warship].The development of a true submarine capa-ble of operating submerged for unlimitedperiods, appears to be probable within thenext ten years, provided nuclear power ismade available for submarine propulsion.

    The report fully supported nuclear propulsion.It recommended a multi-phase program, includingthe construction of advanced, conventionally pro-pelled submarines pending the design and develop-ment of nuclear power plants. In addition, it rec-ommended that future diesel-electric submarinesbe configured for subsequent conversion to nuclear


    Hyman G. Rickover

    (U.S. Navy)

  • propulsion. The report estimated that the firstnuclear submarines could be ready for sea by themid-1950s. Nimitz approved the report the dayafter it was submitted to him.

    Now, with the help of many within the NavyDepartment, Rickover was becoming the chiefspokesman for nuclear propulsion, and in August1948, Admiral Mills established a Nuclear PowerBranch within BuShips, with Rickover as its head.Millss major problem was the newly establishedAtomic Energy Commission (AEC), placed incharge of all nuclear matters, which balked at near-term support of nuclear propulsion. In the view ofthe AEC commissioners, it was too early to makesuch a major commitment. Frustrated, Millsattacked the AEC in speeches and in discussionswith members of Congress. In response, in Febru-ary 1949, the Division of Reactor Development wasestablished within the AEC with Rickover as itshead and double-hatted, that is, he was assignedto both the Navy and AEC (with a single staff).

    Rickover and the Navy were thus in a position tobegin development of a nuclear-propelled subma-rine. American industry was anxious to enter thenuclear era, and the Navy soon established con-tracts with Westinghouse, General Electric, andCombustion Engineering for the development ofsuitable reactor plants. The prototypes of subma-rine plants would be constructed on land, to beused to model the shipboard installations, identify

    and correct problems, and train crews. Further,these prototype plants would be assembled withinactual submarine hull sections, to save time andensure the fit in actual submarines.

    The early selection of a shipyard was necessaryfor the fabrication of hull sections for those reactorprototypes. The design department of thePortsmouth Naval Shipyardthe Navys lead sub-marine yardwas fully engaged in the GUPPY andTang (SS 563) programs, as well as a variety of sub-marine conversions. Rickover turned to the ElectricBoat yard, in Groton, Connecticut, which took onthe detailed design and construction of the firstU.S. nuclear submarines.

    The Congress, impressed with testimony byRickover and others from the Navy, in 1951 autho-rized the first nuclear submarine, to be designatedSSN 571 and, subsequently, named Nautilus. Thissubmarine would have a reactor employing pres-surized water as the heat exchange mediumbetween the reactor and the turbine. At the time theBureau of Ships addressed the feasibility of fourdifferent sizes of nuclear plants, considered inincrements of 15,000 horsepowerthe goal for theNautilus plant.

    Captain Rickover selected a Pressurized-WaterReactor (PWR), initially designated STR, for Sub-marine Thermal Reactor, for the first nuclear submarine.17 The STR Mk I would be the land


    TABLE 4-1Theoretical Nuclear-propelled Submarines

    Shaft horsepower 15,000 30,000 45,000 60,000

    Submerged displacement 2,935 tons 4,105 tons 5,377 tons 6,658 tons

    Length overall 272 ft 290 ft 315 ft 330 ft

    (82.9 m) (88.4 m) (96.0 m) (100.6 m)

    Beam 27 ft 31 ft 34 ft 37 ft

    (8.23 m) (9.45 m) (10.37 m) (11.28 m)

    Pressure hull diameter 27 ft 31 ft 34 ft 37 ft

    (8.23 m) (9.45 m) (10.37 m) (11.28 m)

    Length machinery space 55 ft 72 ft 88 ft 101 ft 6 in

    (16.77 m) (21.95 m) (26.83 m) (30.94 m)

    Maximum speed 25.2 knots 29.6 knots 32.1 knots 33.8 knots

    Range at maximum speed 15,100 n.mi 17,800 n.mi 19,300 n.mi 20,300 n.mi

    (27,980 km) (32,983 km) (35,763 km) (37,616 km)

    Range at 10 knots 46,800 n.mi 61,600 n.mi 76,200 n.mi 82,000 n.mi

    (86,720 km) (114,145 km) (141,200 km) (151,946 km)

    Source: Memorandum from Chief, Bureau of Ships, to Director, Weapon Systems Evaluation Group, Evaluation of NEPSProject; information for, 14 February 1950, p. 16.

  • prototype and the STR Mk IIwould be installed in the Nau-tilus. The plants would be vir-tually identical.

    Significantly, until about1950 the first nuclear submarinewas envisioned as exclusively atest submarine for a nuclearplant. Preliminary characteris-tics for the ship noted: initiallythere will be no armament in theoriginal [nuclear] ship, however,the design and constructionshould be such that armament . . . could be installed with aminimum of structural changesand at a minimum cost as a con-version project.18

    The Electric Boat design forthe Nautilus provided for a larg-er submarine than had beenenvisioned in the 1950 BuShipsstudy. The EB submarine wouldhave a surface displacement of3,180 tons and 3,500 tons sub-merged, with a length of almost324 feet (98.7m). This wasalmost half again the displace-ment of the postwar Tang andmore than 50 feet (15.2m)longer, the additional size beingrequired for the nuclear plant.

    The Mk I prototype of theNautilus reactor plant was assembled at theNational Reactor Test Station near Arco in theIdaho desert. The hull section housing the reactoritself was constructed in a tank some 50 feet (15.2m) in diameter and almost 40 feet (12.2 m) high,holding some 385,000 gallons (1.46 million liters)of water. With this arrangement, tests with thereactor compartment at sea could be simulated.Provided in adjacent hull sections were the heatexchanger, pumps, and a turbine. The reactor wasbuilt with the same massive lead shielding thatwould be fitted in the submarine. Significantly, the2723-foot (8.43-m) height of the reactor compart-ment (i.e., the pressure hull diameter at thatpoint) was dictated in part by the problem of con-

    trol rods. The control rodsfabricated of hafni-um, a neutron-absorbing elementwere raised topermit nuclear fission to occur, and lowered tohalt fission. The rods were screw threaded, andwould be moved up and down by an electro-magnetic field, operating a rotor on the top ofeach rod. (This screw concept would provide thecrew with maximum safety from radiation incomparison with the pulley concept subsequentlyadopted for Soviet submarines.)

    The Arco reactor plant achieved criticalityself-sustained operationon 30 March 1953.Extensive tests followed, with problems uncoveredand corrected. Then in a highly impressive test, inJune 1953, the plant successfully undertook a 96-


    The first U.S. atomic engine to produce substantial quantities of power was the

    land-locked prototype of the Nautilus power plant, which was constructed inside

    a portion of a submarine hull at Arco, Idaho. The sea tank held 385,000 gallons

    of water. Note the circular cover over the reactor. (U.S. Navy)

  • hour voyage, in theory driving a submarine some2,500 n.miles (4,633 km) across the Atlantic at anaverage speed of 26 knots.

    Building the NautilusThe Nautilus herself was now under construction,the keel laying being officiated by President Trumanon 14 June 1952, at the Electric Boat yard.19 She waslaunched on 21 January 1954, with Mrs. MamieEisenhower breaking the champagne bottle againstthe ship. Already under construction on an adjacentbuilding way at Electric Boat was the second atom-ic submarine, the Seawolf (SSN 575), also begun in1952. These historic events were undertaken with ablaze of publicity and were well covered in theAmerican and overseas press.

    The Nautilus looked for the most part like anenlarged Type XXI with a rounded bow andstreamlined hull and fairwater. Aft she had upper-and-lower rudders and twin screws. Her large 28-foot (8.5-m) diameter provided a large interior vol-ume, with three levels in most of the submarine.She had a partial double hullthe reactor com-partment extended to her outer dimensionsandsix compartments: bow, main living quarters andgalley, central operating, reactor, engine room,and stern compartments. The design reducedreserve buoyancy to about 16 percent.

    Forward were six torpedo tubes with 26 torpe-does being carried (there were no stern tubes and, ofcourse, no deck guns). A large BQR-4A passive sonarwas fitted in the submarines chin position, fullyfaired into the hull, with an SQS-4 active scanningsonar also fitted in the bow.20 There briefly wasthought of providing the Nautilus with a Regulus-type missile (see Chapter 6); however, that idea wasquickly rejected to avoid complications in producingthe first nuclear submarine. (The Revell model com-pany produced a Nautilus fitted with a Regulushangar and fixed launching ramp aft of the sail.)

    There were accommodations for 12 officers andjust over 90 enlisted men; the officers shared state-rooms, except for the captain, who had a privatecubicle, and there was a separate wardroom wherethe officers could eat and relax. Each sailor had hisown bunk, and the crews mess could accommodate36 men at one sitting for meals, or up to 50 formovies and lectures. The Nautilus had a built-in ice-

    cream machine, Coca-Cola dispenser, and nickel-a-play juke box connected to the ships hi-fi system.Life on board would be luxurious by previous sub-marine standards, the nuclear plant being able toprovide unlimited fresh water and air-conditioning.

    Aft of the attack center and the control room(located on two levels beneath the sail structure),the after portion of the Nautilus was devoted to thepropulsion plant and auxiliary machinery. The sin-gle STR reactor (later designated S2W) providedheat for the steam generators, which, in turn, pro-vided steam to the two turbines. The plant pro-duced 13,400 horsepowerenough to drive thelarge submarine at a maximum submerged speed ofjust over 23 knots.

    At one point, according to Rickover, a twin reac-tor plant was considered to reduce the possibilitythat the submarine would be disabled or lost at seabecause of a reactor failure. However, size was aconstraint, and the Nautilus was built with only onereactor. An auxiliary diesel generator, completewith snorkel installation for submerged operation,and a half-GUPPY battery installation were provid-ed to bring home the submarine in an emergency.

    While deep-diving submarines demanded qual-ity in materials and construction, the nuclear plant,with its radioactive and high-pressure steam com-ponents, demanded a new level of quality control.Rickovers mania for quality control in the Nautiluswould establish a policy that would greatly enhancethe safety record of U.S. nuclear submarines.21

    Rickovers second major contribution to thenuclear program would be his effectiveness in mus-tering congressional support for the Navys nuclear-propulsion program. In this latter role he wouldstand without equal in the Navy, invariably wearingcivilian clothes, eschewing charts and briefing slides,and stressing that he was telling the solons thetruth, not what they wanted to hear.22 AEC histo-rians would write, for example, of Rickovers rela-tionship with Senator Henry M. Jackson from thestate of Washington, who earlier had been a memberof the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy when inthe House of Representatives, and would go on to beone of the most influential men in Washington:

    He had met Rickover briefly at committeehearings, but he had not come to know him


  • well until the two men found themselves onthe same airplane headed for the nuclearweapon tests in the Pacific in the fall of1952. While waiting through theinterminable hours for the test to occur,Rickover and Jackson had struck up somelively conversations. Jackson was intriguedby Rickovers candor and intensity and lis-tened with rapt attention to Rickoversaccounts of his incessant battles with theNavys bureaucracy over nuclear power.23

    The Nautilus was formally placed in commis-sion on 30 September 1954, but she remained fastto the pier at Electric Boat. The ceremony was forpublic relations purposesto demonstrate that theRickover organization had met its schedule. Thesubmarines reactor plant was started up on 30December, and on 17 January 1955 the Nautilusmoved away from the pier. Despite a sudden engi-neering problem that was quickly solved as the sub-marine moved down the Thames River, her com-manding officer, Commander Eugene P. Wilkinson,had a signal lamp flash the historic message:UNDERWAY ON NUCLEAR POWER.

    The submarines trials were highly successful,including a record submerged run of 1,381 n.miles(2,559 km) from New London, Connecticut, to San

    Juan, Puerto Rico, in 90 hoursan average of 15.3knots. This was the fastest submerged transit yetundertaken by a submarine. Subsequently fastersubmerged passages were made, averaging close toher maximum speed. The Nautilus was a remark-able engineering achievement.

    In exercises she demonstrated the value ofnuclear propulsion for submarines. The Nautiluscould close with an enemy or escape at will, beingmaneuverable in three dimensions, regardless ofsurface weather conditions. She could even outrunavailable U.S. anti-submarine homing torpedoes.Unlike the captains of high-speed submarines ofthe Type XXI, GUPPY, or Tang designs, the captainof the Nautilus did not have to concern himselfwith remaining battery power; he could steam athigh speeds for days or even weeks rather than min-utes or perhaps hours.

    The Nautilus, however, was a noisy submarine.Extraordinary vibrations of uncertain origin afflict-ed the submarine. Vortex sheddingthe eddy orwhirlpool motion of water at the base of andbehind the sailcaused the sail structure tovibrate. When at 180 cycles per minute the sailvibration frequency came dangerously close to thenatural tendency of the hull to flex or vibrate as itpassed through the water. If the two frequenciescame into harmony, the Nautilus could have suf-


    The Nautilus, with her forward diving planes in the folded, or retracted, position. There are windows at two levels within

    her fairwater, a feature deleted in later generations of U.S. nuclear submarines. The Nautilus had a conventional hull

    design, unlike the first Soviet nuclear submarine, Project 627/November. (U.S. Navy)

  • fered serious structural damage.24 In the process ofexploring the sail vibration, Navy engineers uncov-ered excessive vibrations in the hull at speedsabove 16 knots.

    Beyond the structural problems, these vibra-tions affected the submarines performance. Com-mander Wilkinson wrote,

    Noise generated by hull and superstructurevibration is so great that Nautilus sonarcapability is practically nil at any speed over8 knots. This intolerable situation reducesits military effectiveness sufficiently tomaterially restrict the tactical advantagesinherent in nuclear power. Furthermore, itendangers the safety of the ship.25

    After riding the Nautilus, the Commander Sub-marine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet wrote:

    Vibration and superstructure noise prohibitnormal conversation in the torpedo room atspeeds in excess of 8 knots. It is necessary toshout to be heard in the torpedo room

    when the ship is in the 1517 knot speedrange. The noise renders worthless all of theinstalled sonar, active and passive. With thepresent bow configuration the highperformance BQR-4 passive sonar is sparegear. The crude superstructure form isbelieved partially responsible for the unac-ceptable hydrodynamic noise generated atmaximum speed. It is a serious problembecause Nautilus realizes its greatest tacticaladvantages at flank speed where hydro-dynamic noise is [at] the maximum.26

    Modifications were made to remedy the Nau-tiluss problems. But as a Navy historian wrote:Even with its destructive forward hull vibrationeliminated, Nautilus remained notoriously loudand easily detected. Thus it became a floating oper-ational laboratory for a wide variety of self-noiseinvestigations.27

    During the two years that the Nautilus was theworlds only nuclear-propelled submarine sheproved to be a most valuable technical and tacticallaboratory. After several operations under the edge of


    Schematic of the Nautilus propulsion plant. (Atomic Submarines)

    Nautilus (SSN 571) with special sensor fitted under her forward hull. LOA 323 ft 812 in (98.7 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • the Arctic ice pack, and one aborted effort to sailunder the ice to the North Pole, the Nautilus transit-ed from Pearl Harbor to England, passing under theNorth Pole on 3 August 1958the first ship ever toreach the top of the world. Under her second com-manding officer, Commander William R. Anderson,the ship operated under the ice for four days, steam-ing 1,830 n.miles (3,390 km). The polar transit wasundertaken at the direct request of President DwightD. Eisenhower, who was hoping to recapture theimage of American technological leadership after the Soviet space triumphs of 19571958. Indeed, themission was top secret until the submarine, havingemerged from the ice, came to the surface near Ice-land. There a helicopter picked up Anderson, flewhim to the U.S. air base in Iceland, and a transportwhisked him to Washington, D.C., where he was dec-orated in a White House ceremony at which the pres-ident revealed the polar operation. Anderson wasthen flown back to his submarine for the triumphantentry of the Nautilus into Portland, England.28 Uponher return to the United States the Nautilus enteredNew York Harbor (at this writing the only nuclear-propelled ship to have visited the city).

    The Nautilus continued in active Navy service asboth a laboratory and an operational combat sub-marine until 1979.29

    The Liquid-Sodium PlantEven while the Nautilus was on the building ways,the Navy ordered a second nuclear submarine, the

    Seawolf. She would be generally similar to the Nau-tilus, except that she would have a sodium-cooledSubmarine Intermediate Reactor (SIR) plant. Sodi-um was a more efficient heat exchanger than pres-surized water and held the promise of higherspeeds. In place of pressurized water, liquid sodiumwould be employed as the heat exchange mediumbetween the reactor and the steam generators.Another fluid system, using sodium-potassium,would be used to separate the sodium loop fromthe water-steam plant, adding further complexity tothe plant. The Navy built a land-based SIR Mk Iprototype at West Milton, New York. Later desig-nated S1G, it was used for development and crewtraining. The SIR program would use the nationsentire annual production of liquid sodium (NAK),which was highly toxic and highly corrosive tosteel.30

    The almost identical SIR Mk II plant (S2G)would be installed in the Seawolf. The Seawolf wasordered from Electric Boat in July 1952, a little lessthan a year after the Nautilus was ordered. The sec-ond nuclear submarine would be slightly largerbecause of the additional shielding required for thesodium-cooled plant, displacing 3,420 tons on thesurface and 4,287 tons submerged, with a length of33712 feet (102.9 m). Also, her bow sonar configura-tion was different, and her sail structure had astepped conning position. The Seawolf s bow wasmodified because while the Nautilus was beingbuilt model tests showed that she would not reach


    The Seawolf in the Thames River, near her birthplace of Groton, Connecticut. She differed from the Nautilusin addi-

    tion to her propulsion plantin having a different bow configuration and a step conning tower. The Seawolf s liquid-

    sodium plant suffered problems, but many participants in the program felt that they could be solved. (U.S. Navy)

  • her designed surface speed; the improved Seawolfbow provided a gain of three knots on the surface ata cost of 110th of a knot submerged, while providinga more effective bow sonar installation.

    The Seawolf was launched on 21 July 1955.Completion of both the land-prototype and theSeawolf were delayed because of the complexity ofthe sodium plant. According to Captain Robert LeeMoore Jr., who became the Navy supervisor ofshipbuilding at Electric Boat in 1952, the use ofsodium-potassium was made without paying anyattention to the NRL [Naval Research Laboratory]reports on catastrophic failures of stainless steel insuperheated steam with as little as ten parts per mil-lion of potassium present.31

    The Seawolf s reactor plant attained self-sustaining chain reaction (became critical) for thefirst time on 25 June 1956. During dockside tests on20 August, a failure occurred in the starboard steamsuperheater, and two steam leaks appeared in thepiping connected to the superheater of the steam-generating plant. The plant was shut down, and itwas determined that the leaks were caused by theaction of the sodium-potassium alloy, which hadleaked into the superheated steam piping. Duringthe shutdown other leaks were found in the star-board steam generator.

    More than three months were needed to modi-fy the Seawolf s steam-generating system to correctthe problems and resume dockside tests. The steamside of both superheaters was bypassed. On 1December, however, another sodium-potassiumleak was detected in the starboard steam generator,requiring further repairs.

    The Seawolf belatedly began sea trials on 21 Jan-uary 1957. She could operate at only 80 percent ofher designed power. Finally, on 30 March 1957, theworlds second nuclear-propelled submarine wasplaced in commission.

    Commander Dick Laning took the Seawolf tosea. She operated primarily in anti-submarine exer-cises. On 26 September 1957, President Eisenhowerbecame the first U.S. chief executive to go to sea ina nuclear submarine as the Seawolf cruised off NewEngland.

    There were periodic problems with the plantand some unusual phenomena. Sometimes, forexample, the Seawolf s hull would glow in the dark.

    The glow was Cherenkov radiationa bluish glowemitted by high-speed charged particles as theypass from one medium to another.32 The radia-tion, more commonly observed in the wateraround a nuclear reactor, was not dangerous. But itwas novel.

    The Seawolf demonstrated the underwaterendurance of nuclear submarines in the fall of 1958when Laning took her on a record-breaking sub-merged run of 13,761 n.miles (25,500 km), remain-ing submerged for 60 days.33 The Seawolf operatedsuccessfully for almost 21 months on her liquid-sodium reactor plant. According to Laning, the Sea-wolf plant was successful. He explained,

    The problem is that sodium is such a superbheat exchange fluid that it can cause veryrapid temperature changes, and thereforestrong gradients in the containment material.

    The 347 Stainless Steel used [in theplant] has a low heat transfer coefficient anda high coefficient of thermal expansion.This means that a sudden temperatureswing can cause cracking, especially atpoints of varying thickness.

    Our very successful operation of Seawolfresulted from very close matching of sodi-um flow with power level and thus minimaltemperature swings, and those as slow aspossible.34

    Then,overriding technical and safety consider-ations indicated the abandonment of the sodium-cooled reactor as a means for propelling navalships, according to Rickover. A second reactor corewas available for the Seawolf, and the Bureau ofShips as well as Laning recommended that the sub-marine be refueled (a three-month process vicealmost two years for replacing the sodium plantwith a water plant) because of the demand for theearly nuclear submarines for fleet ASW training.But Rickover had, on his own authority, alreadydirected that the spare Seawolf fuel core be cut up toreclaim the uranium.

    In late 1958 the Seawolf returned to the ElectricBoat yard, where she was torn open, her sodiumplant was removed, and a duplicate of the NautilusPWR plant was installed (designated S2Wa).35 She


  • returned to service on 30 September 1960. With hernew plant the Seawolf continued in service untilearly 1987, most of the later stages of her careerbeing spent in classified research, intelligence, andseafloor recovery work. For these special opera-tions, the Seawolf was again taken into thePortsmouth Naval Shipyard where, from May 1965to August 1967, she was refueled and was cut in halffor an additional compartment to be added to pro-vide access to the open sea for saturation divers,that is, divers using mixed gases for sustained peri-ods to work at depths of 600 feet (185 m) andgreater.36

    Although Rickover had halted the further devel-opment of sodium-cooled reactor developmentwithin his organization, the Office of NavalResearch (ONR) continued looking into alternatereactor plants because of the promise of lighter ormore capable power plants with the use of moreefficient heat transfer methods. Rickover becamefurious after the subject was raised at a conferencesponsored by ONR in 1974. The Chief of NavalResearch, Rear Admiral Merton D. Van Orden, per-sonally delivered a transcript of the conference toRickover who, using profane language, threatenedto recommend to Congress that ONR be abolishedunless Van Orden halted such activities.37 Chief ofNaval Operations Elmo R. Zumwalt, who was sup-porting the effort, sponsored a follow-on confer-ence on lightweight reactors. However, Rickover, by

    cowing the Navys civilian secretariat, forced ONRto abandon the effort. There were other efforts byfirms directly involved in nuclear propulsion pro-grams to examine possible alternatives to the PWRplant. All were rejected by Rickover.

    In this period, an official history of Navynuclear propulsion summarized the situation:

    The technical competence of Code 1500[Rickovers group] was unquestionablystrong, even outstanding, but was it wise tolet one technical group decide what path theNavy would follow in developing nuclearpropulsion? . . . Although Rickovers tech-nical judgment in this case seemed correct,the absolute certainty with which he assert-ed his opinion did not help to convince oth-ers that Code 1500 was open-minded on thesubject of new reactor designs. It was tempt-ing to conclude that Rickover was simplytrying to establish a monopoly to keep him-self in power.38

    Significantly, beyond the Nautilus and Seawolfplants, back in 1951, Rickover had received author-ity to begin development of a land-based prototypefor a propulsion unit capable of driving one shaft ofa major surface warship. A short time later Rickoverwould also initiate three more reactor programs: aplant one-half the size of the Nautilus, that is, 7,300


    The Skate-class submarinesthe Sargo shown herewere a production version of the basic Nautilus design. The Sargos

    radar mast and snorkel induction mast are raised. She was the first nuclear submarine to be built on the West Coast (Mare

    Island Naval Shipyard). (U.S. Navy)

  • horsepower; a twin-reactor submarine plant; and asmall plant for a hunter-killer submarine. All woulduse pressurized-water reactors. Thus, a vigorousnuclear propulsion effort was under way by thetime the Nautilus went to sea, all employing PWRplants. The Navy had earlier considered a gas tur-bine plant for the third nuclear submarine. Thecomplexity of that plant led to it being discontin-ued at an early stage. Rather, the third U.S. nuclearsubmarinethe Skate (SSN 578)would have aPWR derived from the STR/S2W of the Nautilus.

    The Skate ClassThe size and cost of the Nautilus and Seawolf wereconsidered too great for series-production sub-marines.39 The solution was to revert to the basicTang-class design, using a smaller reactor plantwith the accompanying reduction in speed. How-ever, a large-diameter pressure hull would be need-ed for the reactor and its shielding, resulting in alarger submarine. These scaled-down, simplifiedSTR/S2W plants had two different arrangements,hence the first two were designated S3W and thenext two S4W.

    The Skate retained the derivative Type XXI hulldesign. Like the Tang (and Type XXI), the new SSNwould have a BQR-2 sonar as well as the SQS-4active scanning sonar. Forward the Skate wouldhave six torpedo tubes, while aft two short torpedotubes would be fitted for launching torpedoesagainst enemy destroyers chasing the submarine.A total of 22 torpedoes could be carried.

    The Skate design was essentially completedbefore the Nautilus went to sea, and within sixmonths of that event, on 18 July 1955, the Skate andher sister ship Swordfish (SSN 579) were ordered.Two months later another pair of SSNs were

    ordered, the Sargo (SSN 583) and Seadragon (SSN584). Before the year was out two more nuclearsubmarines were orderedthe high-speed Skipjack(SSN 585) and the giant Triton (SSRN 586). TheNavy was thoroughly committed to nuclear sub-marines the same year that the Nautilus went to sea!

    Electric Boat designed the Skate and would con-struct her and another of the class, the Seadragon.The Swordfish was ordered from Portsmouth, mark-ing that yards entry into nuclear submarine con-struction, while the Sargo introduced the MareIsland shipyard (California) to nuclear construction.


    Skate (SSN 578). LOA 267 ft 8 in (81.6 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

    The USS Skate in Arctic ice in April 1959. U.S. nuclear

    submarines practiced under-ice operations to prepare them

    for penetration of Soviet home waters for intelligence col-

    lection and, later, anti-SSBN missions. Note the subma-

    rines vertical rudder in the foreground. (U.S. Navy)

  • The Skate was placed in commission on 23December 1957. She and her three sister ships,completed in 19581959, were soon available tohelp develop nuclear submarine tactics and beginregular overseas deployments by SSNs. The Skateundertook under-ice cruises in July 1958. The fol-lowing month she steamed under the ice packtoward the North Pole, almost simultaneous withthe epic cruise of the Nautilus. Under CommanderJames Calvert, the Skate reached the top of theworld on 11 August. Although unable to surface atthe North Pole, the Skate did surface nine times inopenings in the polar ice during ten days of opera-tions under ice. Subsequently sailing under the iceduring the winter season, on 17 March 1959, theSkate did surface at the pole while she was spending12 days operating under the ice pack.40 For manyyears the four Skate-class submarines were heavilyengaged in Arctic research and seafloor mapping aswell as fleet operations.41 The Arctic was an ardu-ous operating area. The Arctic region encompasses3.3 million square miles (8.5 million km2) ofoceanabout the same size as the United Statesmost of which is covered with pack ice. The extentof the ice varies considerably with the season. Someareas are extremely shallow, although large areas aredeeper than 6,000 feet (1,830 m). The surface iceprojects downward from about six feet (1.8 m) tomore than 20 feet (6.1 m); some ice keels of162 feet (49.4 m) have been observed. On someArctic transits U.S. submarines have traveled 25feet (7.6 m) above the seafloor with only sevenfeet (2.1 m) between the top of the sail structureand the downward-projecting ice.

    Acoustic conditions also vary greatly in the Arc-tic. At times it is remarkably calm. But when thewinds blow, the ice begins to move, and there is anincessant creaking noise that can interfere withsonar performance. In some areas the marine lifecontributes to the Arctic crescendo. Acoustic effec-tiveness is also affected by the low salinity in thearea, as well as the eddies where warm and cold cur-rents further complicate acoustic conditions.

    SSN operations under the ice would soonbecome a significant factor in anti-strategic missilesubmarine operations. (See Chapter 7.) At the sametime, these arctic operations tested, for the U.S.Navy, the concept of operating missile-launching

    submarines under the Arctic icea concept thatwas never realized.

    One other Skate-class SSN accomplishment isespecially worthy of note: The Sargo, shortly afterbeing commissioned, on 21 October 1958 torpe-doed and sank the abandoned landing ship Chit-tendon County in the Hawaiian Islands. This wasthe first ship to be sunk by a nuclear-propelled sub-marine. (The Sargo also suffered one of the earliestnuclear submarine accidents, when, alongside thepier at Pearl Harbor on 14 June 1960, an oxygen fireerupted in her stern compartment; it could only beextinguished by submerging the ship and floodingthe space. One crewman was killed.)

    Conventional SSN constructionbasedlargely on the Type XXI design plus nuclearpropulsionended with the four Skate-class sub-marines. The fourth Skate was followed in theattack submarine series by the Skipjack, a very dif-ferent kind of SSN.

    Special-Mission SubmarinesTwo other submarine projects are considered to beamong the U.S. first-generation nuclear sub-marines, the radar picket Triton and the missile-launching Halibut (SSGN 587). Studies of animproved submarine power plant were initiated in1951, before construction of the Nautilus began,with the emphasis on high speed and maximumreliability of operation.42 From the beginning atwo-reactor design was chosen to meet these crite-ria. In addition to considering pressurized water(as in Nautilus) and sodium (as in Seawolf) as thecoolant/heat transfer fluid, Rickovers staff lookedat fused salts, hydrocarbons, lithium, potassium,and various gases. One by one these coolants werediscarded from submarine application for techni-cal reasons. By late 1953, after six months of oper-ating experience with the STR/S1W land proto-type, the decision was made to proceed withpressurized water. The complexity of a two-reactorpropulsion plant required that a land-prototypeS3G reactor plant be constructed at West Milton,New York. The similar S4G would be installed inthe submarine.

    With Rickover exerting his growing influencewith Congress, the fiscal year 1956 shipbuildingprogram included funding for a radar picket sub-


  • marine (SSRN) with high surface speed.43 Theradar picket (SSR) concept grew out of the latterstages of World War II, when Japanese suicide air-craft attacked and sank numerous U.S. picketdestroyers that were providing early warning of airattacks against carrier and amphibious forces. TheSSR would submerge to escape attack after provid-ing warning of incoming air raids.

    The first fleet boat/SSR conversions were under-taken shortly after the war. In all, ten fleet boatswere converted, some being lengthened 30 feet (9.1m) to accommodate electronic equipment and air-plotting spaces. Two new SSRs also were built, thelarge Sailfish (SSR 572) and Salmon (SSR 573).44

    However, even as the Triton was being ordered fromElectric Boat in October 1955, the SSR concept wasbeing overtaken by technology. Land-based aircraftand carrier-based aircraft could provide longer-range and more responsive radar coverage. The fewconventional SSRs kept in service after the late1950s were used primarily in the missile-guidancerole to support the Regulus program.

    But Rickover justified continuation of the Tritonproject: The importance of the Triton goes beyondthe specific military task which has been assigned toher. The Triton, in her operations, will test anadvanced type of nuclear propulsion plant and willpave the way for the submersible capital ships of thefuture.45 A most perceptive U.S. flag officer, Admi-ral I. J. (Pete) Galantin, a non-nuclear submariner,

    has written of a discussion in the mid-1950s withMilton Shaw, an early and important member ofRickovers staff:

    In spite of the success being demonstrated byNautilus and the plans to proceed with thesingle-reactor Skate class, [Shaw] said, Rick-over shared the uneasiness of senior engineersin the reactor development community aboutreliance on a single reactor. Difficulties beingexperienced with the liquid-metal cooledreactor prototype plant for Seawolf, and withmany other AEC reactor programs, may havebeen a factor. During this pioneering stage,scientific knowledge and theory were not pre-cise enough to overcome tremendous concernabout the unknowns that could arise in theengineering and operation of reactors.46

    In the event, the U.S. Navy would build onlyone two-reactor submarine plant, the S4G used inthe Triton.

    Captain Edward L. Beach, President Eisenhowersnaval aide, who would become the first commandingofficer of the Triton, later observed that Rickoverwas always engineering-oriented. To him the two-reactor Triton was much more important than thefollow-on Skipjack [and] George Washington [SSBN598], despite all the other exotic stuff the G.W. had.We had, of course, a surface ship plant . . . and its


    The Triton was the worlds largest submarine when she was completed in 1959. She was the only U.S. nuclear submarine

    with a two-reactor plant; a superlative undersea craft, her radar picket mission was pass by the time she joined the fleet.

    Note the fairwater opening for her retracted SPS-26 air-search radar. (U.S. Navy)

  • 66C









    Triton (SSRN 586). LOA 447 ft 6 in (136.4 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • now plain we were the prototype for the surface shipmultiple reactor plants then under design.47

    The Triton would also be the worlds largest sub-marine when she was completed in 1959. Previously,the worlds largest undersea craft had been theJapanese I-400 class of submarine aircraft carriers.(See Chapter 15.) The Triton was longer, with aslightly greater displacementthe nuclear subma-rine was 44712-feet (136.4-m) long, displaced 5,662tons on the surface and 8,500 tons submerged.

    The Triton had a modified Type XXI hull, optimizedfor surface operation. Indeed, she probably was theworlds only nuclear-propelled submarine to bedesigned with the same surface and underwaterspeeds28 knots. At sea, according to CaptainBeach, the Triton was slightly faster surfaced thansubmerged, though capable of more than 30 knots ineither condition, if we slightly exceeded the operat-ing parameters imposed. This we did, with Rick-overs approval and under his observation.48 Thatevent occurred on the Tritons initial sea trials of 27September 1959, with Rickover on board. The two-reactor plant produced 45,000 horsepower when thedelta Tthe difference between the cold leg andthe hot leg of the primary coolantwas increased.Beach believed that the plant could have reached60,000 horsepower had that been necessary.49

    The giant Triton retained a classic double hullconfiguration, with a reserve buoyancy of some 30percent. The ship had ten compartments: the bowcompartment had four torpedo tubes (there wereanother two tubes aft, with a total of 12 torpedoesbeing carried); crews compartment; operationscompartment; air control center-officers countrycompartment; two reactor compartments; No. 1engine (turbine) compartment; auxiliary machinerycompartment; No. 2 engine compartment; and sterncompartment. Amidships the ship had three levels.

    The sailthe largest of any U.S. submarine inheight and lengthcontained a small conningtower (compartment), the last in a U.S. submarine.The huge sail provided a streamlined housing foran AN/SPS-26 air search radar.50 It was the firstelectronically scanned, three-dimension radar,employing frequency scanning for elevation. Itcould track a high-flying aircraft at some 65 n.miles(120 km) at altitude up to some 75,000 feet (22,866

    m). According to Beach,We very seldom used it, orhad a chance to use it. Nearly all of its operatinghours were spent in routine testing to keep it func-tioning.51 The radar had very low reliability.

    The radar antenna and the massive hoistingcylinder took up much of the sails volume. Forstowage the SPS-26 antenna was rotated 90o to thecenterline and fully retracted into the sail.

    Even before the Triton was launched on 19August 1958, controversy was swirling over the$109-million submarine.52 Four months earlier theNavy had announced plans to take half of the exist-ing radar picket submarines out of service. Theremaining five submarines would follow shortly.Although the subsequent crises in Lebanon and theTaiwan Straits delayed their retirement, the end ofthe SSR concept was in sight.

    The presidents wife, Mrs. Mamie Eisenhower,christened the Triton. After launching, the Tritonwas completed at Electric Boat, but behind sched-ule. During 19581959 the emphasis at the yard wason Polaris submarines. The Triton was to have beencommissioned in August 1959, but she did not evenget underway on sea trials until 27 September.Belatedly, she was placed in commission on 10November 1959. She would never serve as a radarpicket, and her career would be short.

    Speaking at the commissioning, Vice AdmiralBernard L. Austin, the Deputy CNO for Plans andPolicy, put a positive perspective on the submarine:

    on this ship will fall the opportunity fordemonstrating the practicability of largesubmarines. Her experience may wellpoint the way for the future course ofnaval science.

    As the largest submarine ever built, herperformance will be carefully followed bynaval designers and planners the world over.

    For many years strategists have speculat-ed on the possibility of tankers, cargo shipsand transports that could navigate underwater. Some of our more futuristic dreamershave talked of whole fleets that submerge.Triton is a bold venture into this field.53

    Electric Boat workmen added the finishingtouches to the Triton. Then, in late January 1960,


  • Captain Beach was ordered to a top-secret meetingin Washington on 4 February. There he wasinformed that the Triton was being sent on anunderwater, around-the-world cruise, essentiallyfollowing the course of Ferdinand Magellans ships(15191522). Such a trip would make importantcontributions to geophysical and oceanographicresearch and would help to determine the problemsof long-duration operationsall important to thePolaris submarine program. However, like the Arc-tic cruises of the Nautilus and Skate, the around-the-world cruise was also looked at as a means ofdemonstrating U.S. technological excellence in theface of continuing Soviet space successes. The high-ly secret voyage would have the code name Sand-blast, the Sand, of course, referring to Beach.

    Like the Arctic cruises, an around-the-worldvoyage would be a dramatic demonstration ofnuclear submarine capabilities. Less than two weekslater, on 16 February 1960, the Triton departed NewLondon with 184 officers, enlisted men, and civiliantechnicians on board. Steaming south, the Tritonwas forced to broach her sail above the surface on 5March to permit a sailor seriously ill with kidneystones to be taken off at Montevideo Harbor and tobe transferred to the U.S. cruiser Macon.54 The sub-marine then rounded Cape Horn, sailed across thePacific and Indian Oceans, rounded the Cape ofGood Hope, and steamed northward. On 2 MayBeach again broached the sail to take aboard twoofficers from a U.S. destroyer off Cadiz. During thecruise the Triton was able to maintain continuousradio reception through the use of a buoyant float-ing cable antenna.

    The Triton surfaced completely for the first timein 83 days, 19 hours on 10 May, off the coast ofDelaware. A helicopter lifted Captain Beach fromher deck and flew him to Washington, where, at aWhite House ceremony, President Eisenhowerrevealed the voyage. Beach was flown back to theTriton and was on board the next morning whenthe submarine tied up at New London. She hadtraveled 35,979 n.miles (66,669 km) submerged.55

    The Tritons achievements, however, were over-shadowed in the news by the shootdown of a U-2spyplane over the Soviet Union on 1 May. Subse-quently, the Triton carried out routine operations.Without publicity her designation was changed

    from radar picket to torpedo-attack submarine(SSN) on 1 March 1961. But the Triton was toolarge, carried too few torpedoes, and was tooexpensive to operate to serve effectively as an SSN.(The SPS-26 radar was not removed.)

    As early as 1958while the Triton was stillunder constructionthere were proposals toemploy the submarine in roles other than as a radarpicket. Lieutenant Commander Walter Dedrick,who would become the first commanding officer ofthe cruise missile submarine Halibut, proposedfour possible roles for the Triton in an informalpaper that he routed to Beach and others: (1) acommand ship for a fleet or force commander, (2)advanced sonar scout for the fleet, (3) Reguluscruise missile ship, or (4) minelayer. All but thefirst would require extensive conversion.

    No action resulted from Dedricks paper norfrom several subsequent proposals. The mostpromising of the latter were to employ the Triton asan emergency high-level command ship or anunder-ice rescue ship for other nuclear submarines.In the role of a command ship, the Joint Chiefs ofStaff or even the president and other senior civil-ians would be flown by helicopter out to the Tritonwhen there was danger of a nuclear conflict. (In theearly 1960s the Navy modified a cruiser-commandship and a light aircraft carrier to emergency com-mand posts for presidential use.)

    Of more interest to naval planners was the prob-lem of a U.S. nuclear submarine becoming disabledunder the Arctic ice. The Tritons twin-reactor,34,000-horsepower propulsion plant made her themost powerful undersea craft afloat. Should anuclear submarine become disabled under ice, theTriton could bring out spare parts and divers tomake repairs, if that were possible. If necessary, theTriton also could serve as a tug to tow the disabledcraft to open water. At Beachs request, plans weredrawn up for this modification, which, he believed,would have been easy and inexpensive.56

    In the event, the Triton continued to operate ina limited SSN capacity for the next several yearsuntil decommissioned on 29 March 1969. She wasthe worlds second nuclear submarine to be takenout of service, the Soviet K-27 having been the first.

    The Triton, overtaken by events, was built for thewrong purpose at the wrong time. Her value as a


  • development ship for multi-reactor surface ships wassmall, as was her role in maturing large submarineconcepts. If she was a failure, however, it was anaberration in the U.S. nuclear submarine program.By May 1960, when the Triton surfaced from herrecord underwater cruise, the U.S. Navy had 11nuclear-propelled submarines in commission andanother 17 under construction. At the time the U.S.Navy was far ahead of the Soviet Navy in the pro-duction of nuclear submarines. And all evidenceavailable to the U.S. intelligence community indicat-ed that the designs of U.S. submarines were superior.

    (The Soviet Navy developed a form of SSR withfour Project 613/Whiskey submarines being convert-ed, rejoining the fleet from 1959 to 1963 in the radarpicket configuration. These submarines had theirconning towers lengthened to provide for installa-tion of a large air-search radar, given the NATO codename Boat Sail, with certain internal equipment andthe two stern torpedo tubes and their reloads beingremoved to provide spaces for electronic gear andaircraft plotting. NATO called the SSR variant

    Whiskey Canvas Bag, the name derived from thecanvas cover sometimes seen over the radar. Whilethe U.S. SSRs were for fleet air defense, the Sovietradar pickets were intended to provide warning ofair attacks on Soviet coastal territory.)

    The U.S. Navy had shown an interest in the possi-bility of nuclear-propelled submarines as early as1939. During World War II that interest was keptalive by Major General Leslie Groves, head of theatomic bomb project. Immediate postwar propos-als for nuclear submarines, while simplistic,demonstrated the continued interest in such shipsat all levels of the Navy.

    By the early 1950s, with solutions being found tothe myriad of engineering problems, the construc-tion of the USS Nautilus began amidst nationalpublicity and hoopla. By the time the Nautilus wentto sea in 1955, series production of SSNs as well asthe construction of several specialized nuclear-pro-pelled submarines had been initiated by the Navy.Most impressive of the latter was the giant radarpicket submarine Triton; her construction specifi-cally to demonstrate the feasibility of a twin-reactorsubmarine in some respects marked the rapidlygrowing control of H. G. Rickover over the Navysnuclear propulsion program. While she was a valu-able test platform for a two-reactor plant, there wasno naval requirement for the Triton.

    Rickover, while a technical manager but not adecision maker in developing the first nukes,was key to ensuring that U.S. nuclear submarineswould be relatively safe and would enjoy a highdegree of support from Congress. These wereboth critical issues in the success of the nuclearsubmarine program in the United States. In thatenvironment total control of the design of sub-marines was being shifted in the mid-1950s fromthe Portsmouth and Electric Boat shipyards to theBureau of Ships in Washington, D.C. The NavalReactors Branch of the Atomic Energy Commis-sionsoon known as NRand code 08 ofBuShips became increasingly powerful, havingprofound influence on all aspects of nuclear sub-marine design and construction.

    The U.S. entry into nuclear propulsion wasslow, measured, and cautious.


    The Nautilus loading torpedoes. The bulbous dome on the

    starboard side is the UQS-1 under-ice sonar, a high-frequency

    sonar normally fitted in minesweepers. The light patch at

    right covers the tethered rescue buoy, to be released if the sub-

    marine is disabled in rescuable water. (U.S. Navy)

  • TABLE 4-2Nuclear-Propelled Submarines

    U.S. Nautilus U.S. Skate U.S. Triton SovietSSN 571 SSN 578 SSRN 586 Project 627


    Operational 1955 1957 1959 1958


    surface 3,180 tons 2,550 tons 5,662 tons 3,087 tons

    submerged 3,500 tons 2,848 tons 7,781 tons 3,986 tons

    Length 323 ft 812 in 267 ft 8 in 447 ft 6 in 352 ft 3 in(98.7 m) (81.6 m) (136.4 m) (107.4 m)

    Beam 27 ft 8 in 25 ft 36 ft 11 in 26 ft 1 in

    (8.46 m) (7.62 m) (11.26 m) (7.96 m)

    Draft 21 ft 9 in 20 ft 6 in 23 ft 6 in 21 ft

    (6.68 m) (6.25 m) (7.16 m) (6.42 m)

    Reactors* 1 STR/S2W 1 S3W/S4W** 2 S4G 2 MV-A

    Turbines 2 steam 2 steam 2 steam 2 steam

    horsepower 13,400 7,300 34,000 35,000

    Shafts 2 2 2 2


    surface 22 kts 15.5 kts 28 kts# 15.5 kts

    submerged 23.3 kts 18 kts 28 kts# 30 kts

    Test depth 700 ft 700 ft 700 ft 985 ft

    (213 m) (213 m) (213 m) (300 m)

    Torpedo tubes*** 6 533-mm B 6 533-mm B 4 533-mm B 8 533-mm B

    2 533-mm S 2 533-mm S

    Torpedoes 26 22 12 20

    Complement 104 95 180 110

    Notes: * See Appendix C for U.S. nuclear plant designations; Appendix B for Soviet nuclear plant designations.** Two submarines built with S3W and two with the similar S4W.

    *** Bow; Stern.# Normal speeds; exceeded on trials. (See text.)



    Soviet Nuclear-PropelledSubmarines

    Project 627/November was the Soviet Unions first nuclear-propelled submarine design; the lead submarine, the K-3, went

    to sea three and one-half years after the USS Nautilus. The sail-mounted and bow sonars of this Project 627A submarine

    are easily distinguished. (Malachite SPMBM)


    Soviet scientists began considering the possi-bility of nuclear-propelled ships and sub-marines soon after World War II. Soviet scien-

    tists had been conducting research in the nuclearfield as early as 1932, and in 1940 the USSR Acade-my of Sciences established a senior research com-mittee to address the uranium problem, includingthe potential results of nuclear fission. The Germaninvasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 curtailednuclear research efforts, with the laboratories thathad been conducting research into nuclear physicsin Leningrad and Kharkov being evacuated east-ward, away from the battles.

    Early in the war academicians I. V. Kurchatovand A. P. Aleksandrov, the leading nuclear scientistsin the USSR, worked primarily on the protection ofships against magnetic mines at the LeningradPhysico-Technical Institute. Subsequently, Kurcha-tov went to Sevastopol and Aleksandrov to theNorthern Fleet to work on mine countermeasures

    problems. However, Soviet leader Josef Stalinsigned a resolution initiating work on the nuclearweapons program on 11 February 1943, and bothKurchatov and Aleksandrov were ordered toresume their nuclear research activities in Moscow.By that time the Soviet government was aware ofthe atomic bomb programs in the United States aswell as in Germany.

    Under the direction of Kurchatov, scientistsand engineers were recalled from the militaryfronts, other research institutes, and industry towork on an atomic bomb. This wartime effort wasunder the overall supervision of Lavrenti Beria,the head of state security (including the NKVD)and one of Stalins principal lieutenants. Threemonths after the atomic bombings of Japan, on 6November 1945, the anniversary of the OctoberRevolution, Commissar of Foreign Affairs andStalin sycophant Vlachyslav M. Molotov publiclydeclared,

  • We ought to equal the achievements of mod-ern world technology in all branches ofindustry and national economy and providethe conditions for the greatest possibleadvance of Soviet science and technology. . . .We will have atomic energy too, and muchelse. [Stormy prolonged applause. All rise.]1

    In 1946 P. L. Kapitsa, an internationallyrenowned physicist, proposed nuclear propulsionfor ships. Kapitsa, head of the Institute of PhysicsProblems, was not involved with nuclear matters,having refused to work on weapons projects. WhenBeria learned of his interest in nuclear propulsion,he ordered all such considerations to cease. Kapitsawas told to direct his attention to nuclear fuel pro-cessing. He continued to refuse to work onweapons. Stalin had him removed from the insti-tute, and Aleksandrov was appointed in his place.(Kapitsa was returned to the post after Stalinsdeath.)

    Aleksandrov, in turn, looked into the issue ofnuclear propulsion in 1948. But Beria againdemanded that all nuclear efforts go towardweapons development. The first Soviet nuclearweapon was detonated on 29 August 1949 (fouryears after the first American A-bomb was detonat-ed). By that time Beria and other Soviet leaderswere seeking means to deliver nuclear weaponsagainst the United States. Several long-rangebomber programs were under way and missile pro-grams were being pursued.

    In 19491950 the development of a submarine-launched nuclear torpedo was begun. The originsof the T-15 torpedoto have been the first nuclearweapon employed by the Soviet Navybeingattributed to Captain 1st Rank V. I. Alferov at Arza-mas 16, the Soviet nuclear development center.2

    This was one of the most ambitious submarineweapon projects ever undertaken, being intended asa strategic attack weapon to be used against suchmajor Western naval bases as Gibraltar and PearlHarbor. Western cities were considered to be eithertoo far inland or, if truly coastal cities, their seawardapproaches were expected to be too well protected.The submarine carrying a T-15 would surfaceimmediately before launching the torpedo to deter-mine its precise location by stellar navigation and

    using radar to identify coastal landmarks. The tor-pedo was to carry a thermonuclear (hydrogen) war-head a distance of some 16 n.miles (30 km).

    The T-15 was to have a diameter of just over fivefeet (1,550 mm) and a length of approximately 77feet (23.5 m). The 40-ton underwater missile wouldbe propelled to its target by a battery-powered elec-tric motor, providing an undersea speed of about30 knots.

    Obviously, a new submarine would have to bedesigned to carry the torpedoone torpedo persubmarine. The long submerged distances that thesubmarine would have to transit to reach its targetsdemanded that it have nuclear propulsion. In 1947Professor Boris M. Malinin, the dean of Soviet sub-marine designers, had addressed the concept ofnuclear-propelled submarines:

    A submarine must become an underwaterboat in the full meaning of the word. Thismeans that it must spend the greater andoverwhelming part of its life under water,appearing on the surface of the sea only inexceptional circumstances. . . . The subma-rine will remain the most formidable weaponin naval warfare. . . . If . . . it is considered thatthe appearance of superpowerful engines,powered by intranuclear (atomic) energy isprobable in the near futurethen the correctselection of the direction in which the evolu-tion must go is . . . the basic condition for thesuccess of submarines.3

    In the fall of 1952, Soviet dictator Josef Stalinformally approved the development of a nuclear-propelled submarine.4 His decision came a fewweeks after a secret meeting with Aleksandrov. Themeeting was the result of a letter that Aleksandrovand Kurchatov had written to Stalin suggestingresearch into the feasibility of such a craft. On 9September 1952at Stalins directionthe Coun-cil of Ministers adopted a resolution for the devel-opment of a nuclear submarine, which he formallyapproved three days later.

    The submarine would be capable of carrying asingle T-15 torpedo. In addition to the T-15 launchtube, for self-defense the submarine would have two21-inch (533-mm) torpedo tubes, without reloads.


  • Design of the subma-rineProject 627began in September1952 at the ResearchInstitute of ChemicalMachine Building (NII-8), which would designthe nuclear reactor forthe submarine.5 Thefollowing March theSKB-143 special designbureau was reorganizedunder Captain 1st Rank

    Vladimir N. Peregudov and was assigned responsibil-ity for design of the submarine.6 Several hundredengineers and supporting staff from other institutesand bureaus were assigned to SKB-143 (part of itsprevious staff being reassigned to TsKB-18 to pur-sue chemical closed-cycle submarines).

    Peregudov had been informed of the nuclearsubmarine project and given his assignment in thefall of 1952 at a meeting in the Kremlin withViatcheslav Malychev, vice president of the USSRCouncil of Ministers, one of the most powerfulmen in the country. Few Navy personnel were towork on the design effort; Peregudov was one of thefew exceptions. An engineering specialist, Peregu-dov was a protg of Malinin.7 He had worked on submarine designs since 1927 and had been theinitial chief designer of the Project 613/Whiskeysubmarine.

    Peregudov and Malinin had discussed thepotential of nuclear propulsion in 1949. As chiefdesigner for Project 627, Peregudov was responsibleto the Ministry of Medium Machine Building. TheNavys leadership was not provided with informa-tion on the projectit was considered too highlyclassified.

    N. A. Dollazhal would be in charge of design-ing the reactor for the submarine, under thedirection of Aleksandrov, director of the NuclearEnergy Institute, and G. A. Gasanov would designand build the steam generators. Thus Peregudov,Dollazhal, and Gasanov were entrusted withdirection of Project 627 and its propulsion plant.Dollazhal had never before even seen a subma-rine; Peregudov knew nothing of nuclear physics.Their ability to talk to experts was severely

    restricted by security rules. The participants werewarned and warned again not to discuss theirwork with even their own colleagues unless it wasabsolutely necessary. Vladimir Barantsev of SKB-143 recalled,

    I was never officially told what we weredesigning. I had to guess it myself. I didntknow what we were engaged in. The wordreactor was never pronounced out loud. Itwas called a crystallizer not a reactor and ittook me about three or even four months tounderstand what kind of submarine wewere designing. . . .

    When I looked at the drawings and sawthe dimensions of the [propeller] shaft Iguessed everything but I was advised not todiscuss it with others.8

    Several types of reactors were considered withvarious heat exchange fluids for the reactor plant:uranium-graphite (already being used for a powerreactor at Obninsk), beryllium oxide, liquid metal(lead bismuth), and pressurized water. The waterreactor was selected, although, as in the UnitedStates, liquid metal was also regarded as promising,and that effort would be pursued. Pressurized waterwould require less development time and had theleast technological risk. A land prototype of thepressurized-water plant that would propel the sub-marine was constructed at Obninsk, near Moscow,in the same manner that the prototype plant of theNautilus (SSN 571) was installed at Arco, Idaho.9

    The facility at Obninsk consisted of three com-partments with a single submarine reactor, turbine,and associated heat exchangers, pumps, and relatedequipment with one propeller shaft. The Obninsksubmarine reactor became critical on 8 March1956. Admiral Pavel G. Kotov recalled the excite-ment of those days:

    When the . . . reactor was tested, it indi-cated a speed of 30 knotsa speed whichwould go on endlessly. It could drive a shipwhich wouldnt need to surface for a longtime. We knew it could reach not only Eng-land, it could reach America without sur-facing and come back.10


    Vladimir N. Peregudov(Malachite SPMBM)

  • The Project 627 submarinenamed K-3featured a new hull design. Whereas the U.S. Nau-tilus had a modified Type XXI configuration, asused in contemporary U.S. diesel-electric sub-marines, a totally new hull shape to fully exploit thepower of her reactor plant was employed byPeregudov for Project 627. He argued that the sub-marine should resemble a torpedo in shape, whichhad been extensively tested in wind tunnels.Barantsev recalled Peregudovs problems:

    The shipyard people were very angry whenthey realized they had to build a submarineof such a shape. It was a very beautifulshape but very complicated to build. Thelayers of material which comprised the hullwere so thick, and they knew how difficult itwas going to be to give such a shape to asubmarine when you had to build it withmaterial of such a thickness.11

    The Project 627 design was based partially onthe U.S. Albacore (AGSS 569) hull. We had detailsof the Albacore from magazine photos, accordingto Russian engineers.12 The K-3s long, sleek linesof the outer hull were melded into a low, stream-lined sail structurewhat became known as thelimousine shape. Aft, Peregudov retained thebasic Type XXI stern configuration (which hadbeen rejected by U.S. designers). The knife sternfeatured a single, large rudder, twin propellershafts penetrating through the horizontal stabiliz-ers, and stern diving planes immediately aft of thepropellers.13

    The classic double hull configuration wasretained, providing a reserve buoyancy of about 30

    percent, roughly twice that of the Nautilus. TheSoviets retained surface unsinkability in Project627and subsequent combat submarinesthrough the use of double hull, high reserve buoy-ancy, and internal pressure bulkheads. This meantthat the submarine could remain afloat with anyone compartment flooded and the loss of twoadjacent ballast tanks. This feature would havegreat significance in later submarine accidents,enabling submarines damaged while underwaterto reach the surface. Internally the Project 627design had nine compartments, three more thanthe Nautilus: torpedo (bow), battery/crew, con-trol, officers, reactor, turbine, two machinerycompartments, and the stern compartment.Amidships the reactor compartment containedtwo VM-A reactors, each providing approximate-ly 70 megawatts thermal power. Two reactors andthe related duplication of machinery were deemednecessary for reliability because Soviet designersand engineers were afraid of equipment faults andmistakes by crewmen. The submarine could oper-ate safely with only one reactor on line. Twinsteam turbines were provided to generate a total of35,000 horsepower (almost three times the powerof the Nautilus).

    Electric motors were provided for quiet, low-speed operation, and in an emergency they couldpropel the submarine at eight knots. In the engi-neering spaces special efforts were made to reducevibrations and noise, although shock absorberswere not used for the main turbines.

    The double-hull submarines pressure hull wasfabricated of the new AK-25 high-tensile steel,which provided Project 627s increased test depth.The submarine would have a test depth of 985 feet


    Project 627 SSN as originally designed to carry a single T-15 nuclear torpedo. (A.D. Baker, III)

  • (300 m), deeper than contemporary U.S. sub-marines.14 (The AK-25 steel was first used in theProject 641/Foxtrot-class submarines.)

    With the double-hull configuration, an internalhull coating was applied to absorb own-shipmachinery noise to reduce the acoustic signature ofthe submarine. Anechoic coatings on the externalhull were applied to reduce the vulnerability toactive sonar detection.15 As a result of the formerattribute, the underwater noise level of the subma-rine when moving at slow and medium speeds wasconsidered to be the same as Project 611 and 613submarines when using electric motors.

    Nuclear submarine noise levels increased con-siderably at higher speeds. The official history ofRussian-Soviet shipbuilding notes that while thefirst generation of Soviet nuclear attack sub-marines, having a good speed quality and an atom-ic installation two times more powerful than Amer-ican nuclear ships, significantly lagged behind instealth.16

    At the time the issue of acoustic quieting wasnot regarded by the designers as a high priority.They faced the task of making the submarine inde-pendent of the atmosphere and, therefore, safefrom detection by surface ships and aircraft. Inaddition, the methods and means of submarinequieting in the early 1950s were not extensivelydeveloped in theoretical or in practical terms.

    Meanwhile, the submarine Narodovolets (D-2)was fitted as a full-scale research craft for the equip-ment to evaluate a long-term, sealed atmospherefor nuclear submarines. Her crew lived and workedfor 50 days in a sealed environment in support ofthe nuclear submarine program.17 For Project 627a complex system of air-conditioning and oxygengeneration was developed for prolonged underwa-ter operations. Chemicals were used to absorb toxicgases in the submarine and regenerate oxygen.Unfortunately, these chemical absorbers were flam-mable and would be the cause of several fires infirst-generation nuclear submarines.

    SKB-143 designers worked day and night tocomplete the design for the strategic attack subma-rine. Wooden scale models for each compartmentwere made with the latest equipment from the ship-building and aviation industries being adopted forthe craft. Peregudov monitored each detail of the

    design. It was intended that a reactor device to pro-duce tritium for the T-15s thermonuclear warheadwould be installed in the submarine. The torpedowould be self-launched, that is, to swim out ofthe tube, a procedure that would increase the lengthof the torpedo tube by 612 feet (two meters), but thescheme was significantly simpler than convention-al launch systems and would save several tons ofweight.

    The Project 627 design was completed in 1954,and construction began that year at the Molotovskshipyard (No. 402) with the formaland secretkeel laying of the K-3 taking place on 24 September1955.18 The yard is the worlds only major ship-building facility above the Arctic circle, in the deltaof the Northern Dvina River, about 30 miles (48km) across the delta from the city of Arkhangelsk.Stalin planned the yard, founded in the late 1930s,as the largest in the world, capable of building battleships. The K-3 was constructed in the maincovered building structure (hall No. 42).19 Signifi-cantly, the first Soviet nuclear submarine was con-structed in a horizontal position in contrast to thefar less efficient inclined building ways used by theUnited States and most other nations to build sub-marines until the 1980s. When ready for launching,the submarine would be pulled from the hall onto alaunch dock, which would then submerge to floatoff the craft.

    Changes in DirectionAs Project 627 was getting under way, the countrywas in a state of political and economic turmoil.When World War II ended, Stalin had allocatedmajor resources to rehabilitate the damaged anddestroyed shipyards and initiated the constructionof a major oceangoing fleet. Programs were initiat-ed for large battle cruisers, heavy and light cruisers,destroyers, submarines, and even aircraft carriers.In this period series production was begun ofadvanced diesel-electric submarines as well aschemical closed-cycle undersea craft.

    The Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, AdmiralNikolai G. Kuznetsov, was aware that a nuclear-propelled submarine was being developed, but sogreat was nuclear weapons secrecy in the USSR thathe was given no information about its giant nucleartorpedo. When the design was completed and he was


  • briefed on the project in July 1954, he is reported tohave declared: I dont need that kind of boat.20

    A Navy panel chaired by Rear Admiral AleksandrYe. Orl reviewed the project and recommended thatthe submarine be changed to a torpedo-attack craftfor use against enemy ships.21 Admiral Kuznetsovsupported the recommendations of Orls panel.Although his tenure was to end soon, Kuznetsovsopinions carried great weight. (When he suffered aheart attack in May 1955, Kuznetsov was effectivelyreplaced by Admiral Sergei G. Gorshkov, who wouldformally relieve him in 1956.)

    In 1955in response to the Navys objectionsand recommendationsthe Tactical-TechnicalElements (TTE) requirement for Project 627 wasrevised for attacks against enemy shipping, to bearmed with conventional (high-explosive) torpe-does. The forward section of the submarine wasredesigned for eight 21-inch torpedo tubes, with12 reloads provided, a total of 20 weapons. (Laternuclear-warhead 21-inch torpedoes were added tothe loadout of conventional torpedoes.) Advancesin torpedo launching equipment permitted firingsto depths of 330 feet (100 m) for the first time.22

    The submarine was fitted with the Arkitka (Arc-tic) M active/passive sonar in her sail and theMars-16KP passive sonar in the bow. The latterwas an array sonar somewhat similar to the Ger-man GHG.

    The K-3 was launched on 9 August 1957. Justover a month lateron 14 Septemberthe K-3snuclear plant was started up and she went to sea forthe first time at 10:30 A.M. on 4 July 1958. Academi-cian Aleksandrov, on board for the trials, wrote inthe ships log, For the first time in [the] countryshistory steam was produced without coal or oil.23

    Unlike her American counterpart, which went tosea three and a half years earlier, these milestones inthe development of the Soviet nuclear submarinewere highly secret.

    Under the command of Captain 1st RankLeonid G. Osipenko, the K-3s trials were highlysuccessful. For safety reasons it had been decided tooperate the twin reactor plant at only 60 percentpower until the completion of test runs with theObninsk land prototype. At 60 percent power theK-3 reached a speed of 23.3 knots, which was quitea surprise, since the speed obtained was 3 knots

    higher than expected.24 That was also the maxi-mum speed of the USS Nautilus.

    Subsequently, when operated at maximumpower, the K-3 was able to reach approximately 30knots, although 28 knots is often listed as the max-imum operating speed for the class. During her tri-als the K-3 reached a depth of 1,017 feet (310 m), aworld record for a military submarine.

    The senior assistant (executive officer) of the K-3, Captain 2d Rank Lev M. Zhiltsov, recalled ofthe trials:

    When in the tests the reactor drove the sub-marine to standard speed, everyone on thebridge was shaken . . . by the quietness.For the first time in all my duty onsubmarines, I heard the sound of the wavesnear the bow end. On conventionalsubmarines, the sound of the exhaust fromthe diesel engines covers everything else. Buthere there was no rattling and no vibration.25

    The K-3 carried out extensive trials, albeit withsome problems. There were leaks in the steam gen-erators, with the crew having to periodically donrespirators while they searched for the leaks. Theearly generators were found to have an extremelyshort service life; those initially installed in Sovietnuclear submarines began to leak after some 800hours of operation. We felt like heroes, recalledone commanding officer of a Project 627A subma-rine when his engineers were able to extend theoperating time to 1,200 hours. (Tests ashore haddemonstrated that the operating time before failureshould have been 18,000 to 20,000 hours. The long-term solution was to change the material in thesteam generators, the design itself having beenfound sound and providing benefits over the simi-lar U.S. system, such as higher operating tempera-tures and hence greater power.)

    Still, the trials of the K-3 were successful trials,and in 1959 Osipenko was honored with the deco-ration Hero of the Soviet Union, and his crewreceived other decorations. Designer Peregudovwas awarded the title Hero of Socialist Labor, theUSSRs highest award for a designer, and SKB-143and the Molotovsk shipyard were awarded the cov-eted Order of Lenin for their accomplishments.


  • The same year that the pioneer K-3 went to sea,the Soviet government made the decision to massproduce nuclear-propelled submarines. AdmiralGorshkov recalled,

    the major meeting, also dedicated to thefuture development of the Navy, which tookplace in Moscow in 1958 was for me verymemorable. The fleet commanders, otherleading Navy admirals, representatives ofthe General Staff, the CinCs of componentservices, and workers of the Party CentralCommittee and Council of Ministers tookpart in it. The correctness of the priorityconstruction of nuclear submarines withmissile armaments was supported. N. S.Khrushchev spoke in favor of creating about70 nuclear submarines with ballisticmissiles, 60 with antiship cruise missiles,and 50 with torpedoes.26

    The mass production of nuclear-propelled sub-marines was approved.

    Although the K-3 was referred to as an experi-mental ship in some Soviet documents, it was, infact, the lead ship for series production nuclear

    submarines, unlike the one-of-a-kind USS Nautilus. Production was initiated at the Molo-tovsk/Severodvinsk yard. Minor changes weremade to the design, especially improvements tothe nuclear power plant, controls, and sonars, andthe production submarinesProject 627Awereequipped with improved diving planes and rud-ders for better control at high speeds. In thesesubmarines the Arkitka M was fitted in the bow(vice sail) and the Mars-16KP was replaced by theMG-10 passive sonar located in the upper portionof the bow.

    The first Project 627A submarine, the K-5, waslaid down in hall No. 42 in August 1956 (a year beforethe K-3 was launched). A total of 12 Project 627Asubmarines were placed in commission from Decem-ber 1959 through 1964, demonstrating the early anddetermined support of nuclear-propelled submarinesby the Soviet government. On trialswith powerlimited to 80 percentthe K-5 reached 28 knots.

    The overall success of the K-3 demonstrated theachievements of Soviet scientists and engineers inthe depths as well as in space. In mid-1962 the K-3was modified, with her sail structure reinforced,and a special, upward-looking sonar, underwatertelevision cameras, and high-latitude navigationequipment were installed. On 11 July the K-3, now


    A detailed view of a Project 627A/November SSN. The ship has a streamlined sail typical of Malachite-designed nuclear

    submarines. This is the K-8 in trouble off the coast of Spain in April 1970; she sank soon after this photo was taken. Her

    forward diving planes are extended. (U.S. Navy)

  • under the command of Zhiltsov, departed her baseat Gremikha on the eastern Kola Peninsula andsteamed north.27 The submarine surfaced on 15July at 84o North latitude, some 360 n.miles (666km) from the geographic top of the world. RearAdmiral Aleksandr I. Petelin, the submarine flotillacommander, and Zhiltsov went onto the ice andraised the flag of the USSR. The K-3 reached theNorth Pole on 17 July but was unable to surfacebecause of the thickness of the ice, estimated at 39feet (12 m). She did surface several additional timesthrough ice before making a 24-knot run back toGremikha, arriving on 21 July 1962.

    At Gremikha the K-3 was met by Nikita Khru-shchev and other government leaders. They were ona visit to the Northern Fleet, which included view-ing extensive displays of the newest naval weaponsas well as submarines, and witnessed the underwa-ter launch of a ballistic missile. Khrushchev personal-ly decorated Zhiltsov, his engineer officer Engineer-Captain 2d Rank R. A. Timofeyev, and Rear AdmiralPetelin with the nations highest decorationHero ofthe Soviet Union. (Timofeyev apparently did notreceive notice of the award presentation. While atwork, wearing dungarees, he was told to report

    immediately to the meeting hall. Upon his arrivalKhrushchev complimented him as a hero in bluedungarees.) The submarine was honored on 21 Julyby being given the name Leninsky Komsomol, namedfor the youth group honoring V. I. Lenin. On 29 Sep-tember 1963 the Project 627A submarine K-181,commanded by Captain 2d Rank Yu. A. Sysoyev,surfaced precisely at the North Pole. Those men noton watch went out onto the ice, and the Soviet flagand naval ensign were raised. The crew thenengaged in sports on the ice. (Sysoyev also wasnamed a Hero of the Soviet Union for the subma-rines polar exploit, while for this and other opera-tions, the K-181 in 1968 became the first warshipsince World War II to be awarded the Red BannerOrder.) Arctic operations by nuclear submarinesbecame a regular activity.28 Another submarine ofthis type, the K-133, took part in the February-March 1966, around-the-world Arctic cruise incompany with two nuclear-propelled ballistic mis-sile submarines, traveling submerged some 20,000n.miles (37,000 km) in 54 days.

    During their careers the K-3, K-5, and K-11 hadthe more advanced and reliable VM-AM reactorplants installed. When the submarines were over-


    Project 627A/November SSN. Inset shows K-3 with bow-mounted sonar. LOA 352 ft 3 in (107.4 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

    K-27 Project 645/Modified November SSN. LOA 360 ft 3 in (109.8 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • hauled at the Zvezdochka shipyard in Severodvinskduring the 1960s, their reactor compartments werecut out and the VM-AM plants (built at theSeverodvinsk shipyard) were installed.

    In 1958, as the K-3 was being completed, the U.S.Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Arleigh Burke,observed that the Russians will soon have nuclearsubmarines. . . . In August 1959, shortly after vis-iting the unfinished nuclear icebreaker Lenin at theAdmiralty shipyard in Leningrad, Vice Admiral H.G. Rickover, stated,

    I think unquestionably we are ahead ofthem. I dislike saying this because I amresponsible for naval atomic propulsion, butas far as we know, the only marine propul-sion plant they have is in the Lenin, and ithas not yet operated at sea. We have hadnaval [nuclear] plants operating since 1953.Mr. [F. P.] Kozlov [Soviet First Deputy Pre-mier], when he was in the United States inJuly, told me that they are building atomic-powered submarines.29

    Four months after the Lenin went to sea, andwith the first few Soviet nuclear submarines alreadycompleted, in January 1960, Admiral Burke told theU.S. Congress that there are indications that theSoviet Union is engaged in a nuclear submarinebuilding program and that it must be expectedthat the Soviets will have nuclear-powered sub-marines in operation in the near future. AccurateU.S. intelligence on the Soviet nuclear submarineprogram was lacking in the pre-satellite era, withsome Western officials questioning at that timewhether the Soviets could in fact construct a nuclearsubmarine with their existing technology base.

    Indeed, Project 627 (given the NATO code nameNovember) was the first of several Soviet nuclear-propelled submarines that Western intelligence gotwrong. It was inconceivable to U.S. intelligenceand engineering analysts that the Soviets hadinstalled two reactors in the submarine, generating35,000 horsepower. Thus, in January 1968, whenthe U.S. nuclear-propelled aircraft carrier Enterprisedeparted San Francisco for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii,there was little concern when intelligence sources

    (primarily the seafloor Sound Surveillance System[SOSUS]) revealed a November-class SSN closingwith the carrier and her escorts.

    As the submarine approached the carrier force,the U.S. warships accelerated. The November wasbelieved to have a maximum speed of 23 to 25knots. The Enterprise force accelerated, the carrierbeing accompanied by a nuclear-propelled and anoil-burning escort ship. Available reports differ asto the speed reached by the task forcesomesources say as high as 31 knots. The November keptpace with the carrier. This incident would have aprofound effect on the U.S. nuclear submarine pro-gram. (See Chapter 17.)

    However, propulsion plant reliability problemswould plague Project 627/November submarinesand cause several major casualties. Soviet nuclearsubmarines did not deploy to the Western hemi-sphere during the Cuban missile crisis of October1962 because of continuing problems with theirunreliable steam generators. Only Soviet diesel-electric submarines participated in that superpow-er confrontation.30

    On 8 September 1967 the K-3 was in the Nor-wegian Sea, returning to her base on the KolaPeninsula, after 56 days at sea. Early that morning afire flared up in the torpedo compartment, proba-bly from the ignition of hydraulic fluid. The sailorsthere had no time to use fire extinguishers and fledto the second compartment, which was closed offfrom the rest of the submarine.

    At the time the submarine was steaming at adepth of 165 feet (50 m). Despite the use of respira-tors, many crewmen suffered carbon-monoxidepoisoning and 39 crewmen died. The survivorswere able to sail the K-3 back to port.

    Late on the night of 8 April 1970, as Sovietnaval forces were conducting a multi-ocean exer-cise known as Okean (Ocean), the submarine K-8suffered an engineering casualty while she wasoperating submerged at a depth of 395 feet (120m) in the Atlantic, off Cape Finisterre, Spain.31 Aspark ignited a fire in the flammable chemicals ofthe air regeneration system. The submarine wasable to reach the surface, but smoke and carbondioxide forced most of the crew onto deck. Soonthe ship was drifting without power, because thereactors had been shut down and the auxiliary


  • diesel generators ran for only one hour when theysuffered a problem with their cooling system.

    After three days on the surface, while the crewattempted to save the K-8 in the face of strong gales,the submarine sank into the depths on 12 April.Half of her crew of 104 was saved by Bulgarian andSoviet merchant ships; 52 men were lost, amongthem her commanding officer.32 This first Sovietnuclear submarine loss occurred after the sink-ingwith all handsof the USS Thresher (SSN593) in 1963 and USS Scorpion (SSN 589) in 1968.

    The casualties in Soviet submarines led U.S.Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman to declare,We know there have been some catastrophichealth-impairment incidents.33 One U.S. subma-rine analyst observed, . . . if Western submarineshad one-tenth of the nuclear reactor casualties andengineering breakdowns that the Soviets have, therewould probably be no Western nuclear sub-marines.34

    Still, Project 627/November submarines servedin the Soviet Navy until the early 1990s. The leadship, the K-3, was decommissioned in January 1988after almost 30 years of service. She is moored atGremikha on the Kola Peninsula. (There are plansto preserve the ship as a museum/memorial shouldfunds become available.)

    The Lead-Bismuth PlantSimultaneous with the development of the pressurized-water plant for Project 627, the Coun-cil of Ministers approved parallel development ofa torpedo-attack submarine reactor plant employ-ing liquid metal (lead bismuth) as the heatexchange medium. Design of the submarine began

    under Peregudov at SKB-143 in late 1953, parallelwith the design of Project 627. The liquid-metaldesign was completed in 1956, with A. K. Nazarovhaving become the chief designer in 1955. It wasgiven the designation Project 645.35 As with thewater-cooled submarine reactor, a land prototypeof the Project 645 plant was constructed, also atObninsk. It became critical in March 1958.

    Like U.S. engineers, the Soviets realized that liq-uid metal offered a higher heat exchange capacitythan did pressurized water and thus promised moreefficient submarine reactor plants. Also, the liquid-metal plant would operate at far lower pressure,which could simplify some plant components.36

    While the U.S. Navy employed sodium as the heatexchange material, the Soviets selected an alloy oflead and bismuth as the coolant. Although lead bis-muth was inferior in thermal properties, it was lesschemically active and less dangerous than sodiumin the event of an accident.

    The Project 645 propulsion system would havetwo VT reactors, each rated at 73 megawatts ther-mal power, slightly more powerful than the VM-Areactors of Project 627. The steam generators of thetwo types of plants had major differences, with theProject 645 design making pipe surfaces accessiblefor the plugging of individual pipes in the event offailure, that having been a problem that plagued theearly Project 627A submarines.

    The use of lead bismuth had negative aspects.The alloy had to be continuously heated to keepthe coolant from hardening. Thus the plant couldnot be completely shut down, as could pressurized-water reactors. Upon returning to base the subma-rine had to be connected to the bases steam-


    Project 645 was a test bed for the lead-bismuth reactor plant, with two VT reactors. Externally, the K-27 resembled an

    enlarged Project 627/November SSN. Like her American counterpart, the USS Seawolf, the K-27 suffered nuclear plant

    problems, but the Soviet submarines problems got out of control. (Malachite SPMBM)

  • heating system, and only then could the reactor beshut down. This requirement greatly complicatedprocedures and raised the cost of providing basesfor such a submarine.

    In a fit of optimism, the designers of Project 645dispensed with diesel generators and diesel fuel,depriving the submarine of an auxiliary power plant.

    The liquid-metal reactor plant required a largersubmarine, although with the same number ofcompartments (nine) as Project 627, and the inter-nal arrangement was different. Project 645 had sev-eral improvements over the Project 627 design: theself-sustaining turbogenerator; an automated,remotely controlled (hydraulic) torpedo reloadingsystem to enable reloading the eight bow torpedotubes in about 15 minutes; and strengthened flatbulkheads between all compartments, whichincreased the survivability of the submarine overthe combination of four spherical (curved) andfour flat bulkheads of Project 627A. These featuresincreased the displacement by 340 tons in compar-ison with Project 627A. For the first time in Sovietshipbuilding, a low-magnetic steel was used for themanufacturing of the outer hull to reduce the sub-marines vulnerability to magnetic mines. Thisallowed a 50 percent reduction in the deperming(demagnetizing) equipment and related cables fit-ted in the submarines hull.

    Design work for the submarine began underPeregudov at SKB-143 in late 1953 and was com-pleted in 1956, with Nazarov becoming chiefdesigner in 1955. The keel for the K-27 was laiddown in building hall No. 42 at Severodvinsk on 15June 1958. Work was slowed because of delays indelivery of the propulsion plant, and the K-27 wasnot launched until 1 April 1962. She began sea trials in the summer of 1963 under Captain 1stRank I. I. Gulyayev.

    Only minor problems were encountered in thetrials. After delivery to the fleet, from 21 April to 11June 1964, the K-27 undertook a cruise of 12,425n.miles (23,024 km), remaining submerged for 99percent of the time. Even operating in tropicalwaters caused no problems for the unique propul-sion plant.

    In the fall of 1966, after continued and extensiveoperations, the K-27 was placed in a dry dock formaintenance and upgrades. There it was discovered

    that the outer hullmade of low-magnetic steelhad suffered numerous cracks that had not beenpreviously found because of the anechoic coatingon the outer hull. Major repairs were required. Sub-sequently, the twin VT reactors were refueledbeginning in 1967. The K-27 returned to sea in Sep-tember 1967.

    A month later the K-27 suffered the first of anumber of serious engineering problems. On 13October, while at sea, the lead-bismuth alloy burstinto the starboard reactors primary loop. The causewas slag deposits (oxides of the lead-bismuth alloy)blocking the coolant loop (or piping). As a result,two pumps were flooded with the cooled alloy. Thestarboard steam-generating system was shut down,and the submarine safely returned to base underher own power.

    After repairs the K-27 again went to sea on 21May 1968. At about 12 noon on 24 May, one of theships reactors suffered an accident. As a result, thecore cooling procedure was disrupted and the fuelelements overheated. This, in turn, forced radioac-tive products into the cooling loops and causedradioactive gas to explode into the reactor com-partment.

    The submarine came to the surface at 12:15 P.M.The port steam-generating plant was shut down,and the subsequent six-hour return voyage back toGremikha was accomplished with the starboardreactor driving both turbines. Most of the crew of124 suffered from radiation exposure and were hos-pitalized; nine men died in this incident.

    In early June a Navy commission came to theconclusion that the plant had to be shut down.Wrote an engineer-historian:

    This was essentially a death sentence for theK-27after the alloy was frozen, it wouldbeen almost impossible to restart the reac-tors. But the commission was forced to takethis step because of the serious radiationhazard which still remained on the ship.37

    By 20 June 1968 the operations necessary tofreeze the alloy in the port reactor were completed.The K-27 was dead. The coolant of the starboardreactor was kept liquid as extensive contaminationexperiments were carried out on the submarine


  • during this period. Studies also were made of thefeasibility of returning the craft to service, replacingthe lead-bismuth plant with a pressurized waterplant as the U.S. Navy had done with the USS Seawolf (SSN 575). But more advanced submarineswere becoming available, and rehabilitating the K-27 was not worth the cost.38 The K-27 wasthe worlds first nuclear-propelled submarine to betaken out of service.

    Neither the United States nor Soviet Union hadbeen successful in these early efforts to put a liquid-metal reactor plant to sea in a submarine. Metallur-gy and other supporting technologies were not yetready for such reactor plants.

    Early in its design efforts, SKB-143 considered amissile variant of the Project 627/November SSN.In the United States the concept of a missile-launching configuration had been considered forthe Nautilus, but it was immediately rejected bythen-Captain Rickover, who wanted no complica-tions for the ship. At SKB-143 design proceededon the P-627A missile variant under Peregudovand Grigori Ya. Svyetayev. A single, large strategicguided or cruise missile was to be housed in acylindrical hangar behind the submarines sail.The surface launch of the missile was to take placefrom a carriage that rolled it from the hangar andelevated it to an angle of 16 degrees for launching.Most of this movement would be automated, withthe submarines time on the surface estimated at612 minutes.

    The missile was to be the P-20, being developedby Sergei Ilyushins OKB-240 aircraft designbureau. It was to be a land-attack weapon thatcould carry a nuclear warhead against targets 1,890n.miles (3,500 km) from the launching ship. Themissile was to attain a maximum speed of Mach 3and was to fly the last portion of its trajectory at lowaltitude and zigzag. At that time this weapon heldmore promise for success against land targets thandid potential ballistic missiles.

    Development of the P-627A began in the sum-mer of 1956 and was completed by the end of 1957,with the issuing of blueprints following soon after.Construction of the first P-627A at the Severodvinskshipyard began in 1958. However, military interest

    in strategic weapons was shifting to land-based bal-listic missiles, and in early 1960 work halted on theprototype P-627A submarine as well as the plannedfollow-on Project 653 cruise missile productionsubmarine. (See Chapter 6.) Next, in 19601961draft designs were prepared for completing theunfinished missile submarine as Project PT-627A,with 2512-inch (650-mm) torpedo tubes as well as anew type of array sonar. These efforts ceased inNovember 1961.

    Almost simultaneous with the construction ofthe Project 627A/November class, Soviet shipyardsbegan building Project 658/Hotel ballistic missilesubmarines and Project 659/Echo I cruise missilesubmarines, both intended for the strategic attackrole. Designed by TsKB-18 (later named Rubin),these submarines had very different configurationsthan Project 627, but retained the same propulsionplant and related machinery. Western intelligencelabeled this first generation of Soviet nuclear sub-marine HENfor the phonetic code names Hotel,Echo, November.

    Political PerspectiveWhen World War II ended and the USSR sought tomove into the nuclear era, Josef Stalin had ruled theSoviet Union for almost two decades. In the late1930s he had begun to construct a balanced fleetbattleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, andsubmarines. This ambitious program, intended pri-marily to confront Great Britain, was halted with theGerman invasion of the USSR in June 1941 and theensuing Great Patriotic War.39 As World War II con-cluded in Europe and the Far East in 1945, Stalinagain initiated a major fleet construction program.Lesser warships were begun in large numberstheSkoryy-class destroyers, the Sverdlov-class light cruis-ers, and several submarine classes. Preparations wereunder way for building the Stalingrad-class battlecruisers and aircraft carriers.

    All major naval decisions during this period hadrequired the personal approval, or at least theacquiescence, of Stalin. Admiral Kuznetsov, Stalinsnaval commander-in-chief from 1939 to 1947 andagain from 1951 to 1956, wrote in his memoirs: Iwell remember the occasion when Stalin replied toa request for more anti-aircraft [guns] on ships in


  • the following words: We are not going to fight offAmericas shores. 40

    The additional guns were not installed.Kuznetsov continued:

    On the other hand, Stalin had a special andcurious passion for heavy cruisers. I got toknow this gradually. At a conference in [A. A.] Zhdanovs office I made several criti-cal remarks on the heavy cruiser project.Zhdanov said nothing, as if he had notheard what I said. When we left his office,one of the leading officials of the PeoplesCommissariat for the Shipbuilding Indus-try, A. M. Redkin, warned me:

    Watch your step, dont insist on yourobjection to these ships.

    He told me in confidence that Stalin hadthreatened to mete out strict punishment toanyone objecting to heavy cruisers. . . .41

    Opposition to Stalins views on naval matters wasminimal. He ordered the execution of eight of theNavys nine flagmen (admirals) in 19381939 as partof his massive purge of the leadership of the Sovietarmed forces.42 Many lesser officers also were shot.In his frightening fictional account of the period,Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler tells how navalhero Michael Bogrov was shot because he differedwith No. 1 on whether to build large, long-rangesubmarines, or small, coastal submarines.43

    On a regular basis Stalinand his successorsNikita Khrushchev and then Leonid Brezhnevmet with generals, marshals, and admirals to reviewand approve (or reject) specific military programs.If a new design or technology was under consider-ation, the senior designers would join them or, fre-quently, the leader would meet alone with thedesigners of aircraft, missiles, and other weapons,including submarines. Khrushchevs memoirs arereplete with descriptions of meetings with aircraft,strategic missile, air defense, and other weapondesigners, as are those of his son, Sergei, a missileguidance engineer.44

    Stalin died on 5 March 1953; within days stopwork orders were sent to Soviet shipyards to halt theconstruction of major warships. The Stalingrad-class

    battle cruisers and the planned carrier programswere cancelled, and construction of the Sverdlov-class light cruisers was cut back, as were destroyerand submarine programs.

    Khrushchev, who succeeded Stalin as the headof the Communist Party and of the Soviet state, in1957 initiated a defense program that wouldemphasize cruise and ballistic missiles over conven-tional air, ground, and naval forces. Some Sovietofficials would refer to this shift as a revolution inmilitary affairs.

    Further, Khrushchev believed that submarineswould be the only important warship in a futureconflict: We made a decision to convert our navyprimarily to submarines. We concentrated on thedevelopment of nuclear-powered submarines andsoon began turning them out virtually on anassembly line.45

    He continued,

    Aircraft carriers, of course, are the secondmost effective weapon in a modern navy.The Americans had a mighty carrier fleetno one could deny that. Ill admit I felt anagging desire to have some in our ownnavy, but we couldnt afford to build them.They were simply beyond our means.Besides, with a strong submarine force, wefelt able to sink the American carriers if itcame to war. In other words, submarinesrepresented an effective defensive capabilityas well as reliable means of launching a mis-sile counterattack.46

    Khrushchev sought a naval commander-in-chief who would support his views. He appointedAdmiral Sergei G. Gorshkov as Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Navy in mid-1955, and Gorshkovofficially succeeded Kuznetsov as head of the Navyin January 1956.47 Khrushchev, who had workedbriefly with Gorshkov in the Black Sea area duringthe war, described him as,

    a former submarine captain. He appreciatedthe role which German submarines hadplayed in World War II by sinking so muchEnglish and American shipping, and he also


  • appreciated the role which submarinescould play for us in the event that we mighthave to go to war against Britain and theUnited States.48

    Gorshkov was not a submarine officer. Rather,he had served in surface ships and small craft dur-ing the war, becoming a rear admiral at age 32.Khrushchev directed Gorshkov to scrap the fleetsbattleships and cruisers, and to instead build a fleetof smaller, missile-armed ships and submarinesthat could defend the Soviet Union against Westernnaval-amphibious attacks. Gorshkov was political-ly astute and would guide the Soviet Navy into thenuclear-missile era, albeit with an initial emphasison submarine warfare. Under Khrushchev, whowould hold office until October 1964, and AdmiralGorshkov, who would command the Soviet Navyuntil December 1985 (29 years), the USSRembarked on a massive program to producenuclear-propelled submarines.49

    The Soviet Union detonated its first nucleardevice in 1949, four years after the United Stateshad demonstrated a deliverable nuclear weapon.50

    The Soviet Union sent its first nuclear-propelledsubmarine to sea less than four years after theUnited States did. The latter accomplishment wasa remarkable achievement in view of the enor-mous bureaucratic, financial, and technologicallimitations of the Soviet Union. Further, by the late1950s the Soviet missile, space, nuclear weapons,and bomber programs all had higher priorities forscarce resources than did submarines.

    The Soviet K-3 was, in many respects, superiorto the USS Nautilus, having significantly greaterspeed, operating depth, and survivability aftersuffering damage. Also, greater consideration wasgiven to quieting the K-3. However, early Sovietsubmarines suffered major engineering prob-lems, much more serious than their Americancounterparts. And the U.S. nuclear submarinesstressed safety considerations.

    While a specialized design bureau was estab-lished to produce the first Soviet nuclear sub-marines, additional design bureaus would soonbecome engaged in nuclear submarine projects.

    Even before the K-3 went to sea, the decision wasmade to undertake series production of thedesign, and several missile submarine designswere already under way. This was in contrast tothe more measured and cautious U.S. entry intothe series production of submarines. This dif-ference was a manifestation, in part, of the Sovi-et decision to concentrate on naval aviation,submarines, and anti-ship missiles, while theU.S. Navys missions demanded a more bal-anced fleet with major surface warships, air-craft carriers, and amphibious ships as well assubmarines.

    Two other interesting and important consider-ations of early U.S. and Soviet nuclear submarinedesigns were (1) the high level of government sup-port for nuclear submarines in both countries,and (2) the U.S. submarine program was beingpursued in the full light of publicity, while theSoviet program was conducted with the greatestof secrecy, as was typical in that society.

    TABLE 5-1Liquid-Metal Coolant Submarines

    U.S. Seawolf SovietSSN 575 Project 645

    Mod. November

    Operational 1957 1963


    surface 3,721 tons 3,414 tons

    submerged 4,287 ton 5,078 tons (approx.)

    Length 337 ft 6 in 360 ft 3 in

    (102.9 m) (109.8 m)

    Beam 27 ft 8 in 27 ft 3 in

    (8.43 m) (8.3 m)

    Draft 22 ft 19 ft 2 in

    (6.7 m) (5.8 m)

    Reactors 1 SIR/S2G 2 VT

    Turbines 2 steam 2 steam

    horsepower approx. 15,000 35,000

    Shafts 2 2


    surface 19 knots 15 knots

    submerged 21.7 kts 29 kts*

    Test depth 700 ft 985 ft

    (213 m) (300 m)

    Torpedo tubes** 6 533-mm B 8 533-mm B

    Torpedoes 22 20

    Complement 105 105

    Notes: * A speed of 32.2 knots was achieved on acceptance trials.** Bow.


  • Germany was the first nation to attempt tolaunch missiles from a submarine. DuringMay-June 1942 the German missile test

    facility at Peenemnde on the Baltic Sea carried outunderwater U-boat launches of short-range rocketsfrom the U-511.

    Six rocket-launching rails were welded to thedeck of the U-511, and waterproof cables wererun from the rockets to a firing switch inside ofthe submarine. The only modification to therockets was waterproofing them by sealing theirnozzles with candlewax. The firing tests from adepth of some 25 feet (7.6 m) were entirely suc-cessful. About 24 rockets were launched from theU-511, and additional rounds were fired from asubmerged launch frame. The slow movement ofthe submarine through the water had no effect on the accuracy of the rockets. The 275-pound(125-kg) projectiles had a range of five miles (8 km). The only problem encountered was an

    electrical ground that caused two rockets to firesimultaneously.1

    Although these were preliminary experiments,Generalmajor Walter Dornberger, the head of thePeenemnde missile facility, presented the findingsto the Naval Weapons Department, contending thatrocket-firing submarines could attack coastal tar-gets in the United States. The Navy predictablyrejected consideration of an Army-designedweapon, the rocket rails were removed from the U-511, and in July 1942 the submarine departed onher first war patrol.

    Subsequently, as the Type XXI U-boat was beingdeveloped, a rocket system was developed forattacking pursuing surface ships. The key to thisweapon was a very precise passive, short-rangedetection system (S-Analage passir) to detect pro-peller noise from ASW ships. The submerged U-boat would then launch a rocket at the target. Theecho-sounding gear performed well during trials,


    Cruise Missile Submarines

    The first and only launch of the Regulus II cruise missile from a submarine was made from the USS Grayback in 1958.

    Here crewmen prepare an unarmed training weapon. Cancellation of the Regulus II deprived U.S. submarines and sur-

    face ships of a cruise missile capability for two decades. (U.S. Navy)


  • but the rockets were still in an early stage of devel-opment when the war ended.2

    In the Pacific near the end of the war, a U.S. sub-marine commander, Medal of HonorwinnerEugene B. Fluckey, experimented with launchingrockets from his submarine while on the surface. AtPearl Harbor, Fluckey had an Army multi-barrel, 5-inch (127-mm) rocket launcher welded to the deckof the fleet submarine Barb (SS 220) and took on astore of unguided projectiles.

    Early on the morning of 22 June 1945, the Barbsurfaced off the coast of the Japanese home islandof Hokkaido and bombarded the town of Shari.The rockets were launched while the submarinewas on the surface, at a range of 5,250 yards (4.8km). During the next month the Barb remained inJapanese waters, attacking ships and carrying outfive additional rocket bombardments, some supple-mented by gunfire from the submarines 5-inch and40-mm cannon.3 The Barbs rocket attacks were theproduct of one aggressive commanders action, notpart of a formal Navy program.

    The initial missiles developed by the Soviet andU.S. Navies for shipboard launching were based onthe German V-1. The first V-1 buzz bombs hadstruck London on 13 June 1944, a week after the

    Allied landings at Normandy.4

    German records indicate that8,564 V-1 missiles were launched;about 43 percent failed or werediverted or were destroyed bydefending fighters, anti-aircraftguns, or barrage balloons. Fight-erspiston engine as well as the jet-propelled Meteorcouldintercept the missiles, and morethan a thousand anti-aircraftguns were positioned in beltsnear the English coast to inter-cept the missiles. In addition,under Operation Crossbow,Allied bombers sought out V-1production facilities and launchsites. (Winston Churchill record-ed that almost 2,000 U.S. ArmyAir Forces and Royal Air Forceairmen died in those attacks.)Still, 2,419 missiles fell on Eng-

    land and 2,448 on the Belgian port of Antwerp afterit was occupied by the Allies.

    The V-1 was powered by a pulse-jet engine thatcould propel the 2712-foot (8.38-m) missile at 400miles per hour (644 kmh) for about 150 miles (241km). It was launched by trolley from a rail 157 feet(48 m) long. When the missile had flown a presetdistance, the engine cut off and the missile tippedover and dove to earth. The 1,830-pound (830-kg)high-explosive warhead detonated as it struck theground, inflicting considerable damage. The totalweight of a missile at launch was 4,917 pounds(2,230 kg), providing an impressive 2:7 payload-to-weight ratio.

    Within a month of their first use, sufficient V-1components were in American possession to initi-ate series production of the missile, given the Armydesignation JB-2 and called Loon by the Navy.5

    Both the U.S. Army and Navy drew up plans for themass production of the missile for use against theJapanese home islands, to be launched from surfaceships and from captured offshore islands. TheArmy Air Forces had grandiose production plansto permit 500 JB-2 sorties per day.6 But the atomicbomb ended the war in the Pacific before the Amer-ican copies of the V-1 could be used in combat.


    Sailors aboard the U-511 prepare rockets for submerged launching, while naval

    officers and officials from the Peenemnde missile facility watch from the conning

    tower. These primitiveand successfultest launchers were the harbinger of

    todays submarine-launched cruise missiles. (Imperial War Museum)

  • Immediately after the warU.S. submarinersseeking newmissions for submarinesexpressed interest in the possi-bility of firing missiles fromthem, and a proposal for thelaunching of V-1/Loon missileswas drawn up. On 5 March 1946,Secretary of the Navy James For-restal approved plans to converttwo submarines to conductexperimental launches of theLoon missile.

    The fleet-type submarineCusk (SS 348) was provided witha launching ramp, and on 12February 1947 she launched aLoon while operating off thecoast of Californiathe worldsfirst launch of a guided missilefrom a submarine.7 At this timethe U.S. Navy used the termguided to describe virtually allmissiles, whether they wereaerodynamic cruise missiles, or ballistic missiles,and regardless of their means of guidance.

    The principal distinction was the missilesmeans of flight: cruise or ballistic. A cruise missile(like the V-1) uses continuous propulsion and aero-dynamic lift (from wings or fins) to reach its target.A ballistic missile is launched in a specific directionon a ballistic trajectory; it is powered for only thefirst few minutes of flight. Both types of missiles areguided in the sense that they can be aimed at aspecific target.

    The U.S. Navy continued launching Loon cruisemissiles from the surfaced Cusk during Februaryand March 1947, with the unarmed missiles flyingout to 87 n.miles (160 km). The fleet submarineCarbonero (SS 337) also was fitted with a launchingramp in 1949, but she was not fitted with a hangar(as was subsequently provided in the Cusk). Amajor change in the Loons from the original V-1was the provision for radio-command guidance sothat submarines or aircraft could guide the missilesduring flight. The Cusk and Carbonero missilelaunches with the subsonic (Mach 0.6) and rela-tively primitive Loon demonstrated the difficulty

    that surface ships would have detecting and inter-cepting such weapons.

    The Loon was never planned as an operationalweapon for use by submarines. Rather, the Navyemployed it for training crews and to obtain expe-rience with the problems involved with launchingmissiles from submarines.8 With this early Loonexperience, in 1947 the U.S. Navy initiated thedevelopment of several advanced land-attack mis-siles for use from surface ships and (surfaced) sub-marines: The Rigel was to be a Mach 2 missile withramjet propulsion intended for land attack; ramjetswere more powerful than turbojets, which wereused to propel existing high-performance aircraft.A follow-on, more-capable ramjet missile namedTriton was proposed to have a speed of Mach 3.5and a range of possibly 2,000 n.miles (3,700 km) inlater versions.

    But ramjet propulsion was a new, difficult tech-nology. Thus the Regulus Attack Missile (RAM) wasinitiated as an interim submarine-launchedweapon.9 Regulus would be the U.S. Navys firstoperational submarine-launched missile and thefirst Navy missile to carry a nuclear warhead. It was


    A Loon test vehiclethe Americanized test version of the German V-1 missile

    blasts off from the submarine Carbonero. When Japan surrendered in August

    1945, the U.S. Army and Navy were planning a massive assault on the Japanese

    home island with V-1 missiles. (U.S. Navy)

  • intended to strike land targets in the Soviet Unionand mainland China, complementing the carrier-based nuclear strike capability then being developed.

    Developed by Chance Vought Aircraft, the Reg-ulus was initially intended to carry a conventionalwarhead of 4,000 pounds (1,800 kg), in partbecause of the limited data on nuclear weaponsavailable to the Navy. In 1949 a nuclear warheadwas proposed in place of the conventional warhead.

    The Regulus had folding wings and tail fin; sub-sonic propulsion was provided by a turbojet enginewith two rocket boosters fitted for launching, the lat-ter falling away into the sea as they were exhausted.The missiles J33-A-18A engine burned high-octaneand highly flammable aviation fuel. Still, this fuelwas far less toxic and more stable than the liquidfuels that would be used with submarine-launchedballistic missiles.

    Regulus guidance was radio command, initiallyfrom the launching submarine (if it kept an anten-na above the water), or from an aircraft, or fromanother submarine. This systemknown asTROUNCErequired continuous control until themissile was virtually over the target, at which timeit would be given the command to dive onto thetarget.10 This meant that an aircraft would have tocome within tens of miles of the target; alternative-ly, a submarine would have to be within radar rangeof the shore to determine its precise location as itguided the missile against a target; that TROUNCEsubmarine would control the missile for the final240 n.miles (444 km) of flight. In a multi-ship test of the TROUNCE radio-control system, on 19November 1957, the cruiser Helena launched a Reg-

    ulus and guided it for 112 n.miles (207.5 km); thesubmarine Cusk then assumed control for 70n.miles (130 km); the guidance was then given overto the submarine Carbonero, which guided the mis-sile for the last 90 n.miles (167 km) to targeta dis-tance of 272 n.miles (504 km) from launching shipto target. This missile impacted about 150 yards(137 m) from the intended target point.11

    The first Regulus test vehicle flew on 29 March1951, being directed by radio control from an air-craft. Fitted with retracting wheels, the Regulustook off under its own power, circled the airfield,and landed safely. The first shipboard launch wasmade from the missile test ship Norton Sound on 3November 1952; the aircraft carrier Princetonlaunched a Regulus missile on 16 December 1952,the first launch from a warship.

    Meanwhile, two fleet submarines were convertedto a Regulus configuration, the Tunny (SSG 282) andBarbero (SSG 317), the latter having served as a cargosubmarine (ASSA 317) from 1948 to 1954.12 Bothsubmarines were fitted with a hangar and launchingramp aft of their conning tower, as well as withTROUNCE guidance equipment. The hangar couldaccommodate two Regulus missiles with their wingsfolded. The Tunny was recommissioned as an SSG on6 March 1953 and the Barbero on 28 October 1955following their conversions at Mare Island. The firstsubmarine launch of a Regulus missile occurred on15 July 1953 from the surfaced Tunny.

    The Regulus missilewith an Mk 5 nuclear warheadbecame operational from surface ships inMay 1954. That warhead had an explosive force of 50to 60 kilotons; from 1956 the Regulus would carry


    The converted fleet submarine Barbero prepares to launch a Regulus I missile while operating in Hawaiian waters in 1960.

    The similar Tunny had a streamlined fairwater. Both submarines made combat patrols into the North Pacific with two

    nuclear-armed Regulus I missiles in their hangars. (U.S. Navy)

  • the W27 warhead, slightly lighter, but with an explo-sive force of one to two megatons. Two megatons wasmore than 100 times the explosive power of theatomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.

    The first overseas deployments of Regulusoccurred in 1955, when the heavy cruiser Los Ange-

    les (three missiles) and the aircraft carrier Hancock(four missiles) deployed to the Western Pacific.Nuclear warheads were provided for all of the mis-siles. Two purpose-built Regulus submarines, theGrayback (SSG 574) and Growler (SSG 577), wereconstructed to a modified Tang (SS 563) design.Built at the Mare Island and Portsmouth navalshipyards, respectively, the ships were completed in1958. They had a streamlined design featuringlarge, twin missile hangars faired into their bows.Each hangar could hold two of the Regulus I mis-siles or one of the improved Regulus II weapons.(See below.) Although similar in general character-istics and appearance, the Grayback and Growlerwere not identical: the former was 32213 feet (98.27m) long and displaced 2,671 tons on the surface,and the latter was 31712 feet (96.8 m) and 2,543tons, the differences reflecting the detailed designsof their respective building yards.

    To launch the Regulus the crew had to surfacethe submarine, open the missile hangar door, man-ually extract the missile from the hangar and placeit on the launching ramp, extend its wings and tailfin, rotate and elevate the ramp, and plug in appro-priate cables before launching the missile. TheGrayback and Growler hangars were significantlylarger than the canister-like hangars in the two fleetboat conversions, and in the event of a hangar-flooding accident the submarine probably wouldhave been lost. (This hangar-catapult arrangementreflected the Navys Bureau of Aeronautics being incharge of the Regulus program and looked at the


    Sailors prepare a Regulus I missile for launching aboard

    the submarine Barbero. The missiles wings (and tail fin)

    are still folded; the missile rests on the retracted launch cat-

    apult. The hangar held two missiles. This unarmed mis-

    sile was loaded with mail and flown ashore under radio

    control. (U.S. Navy)

    The Grayback entering San Diego harbor with a Regulus on the launching rail. Two large hangars are faired into the sub-

    marines bow; four Regulus I missiles could be accommodated. The Grayback and Growler, although based on the Tang

    design, differed in detail. (U.S. Navy)

  • weapon as an unmanned aircraft rather than a truemissile.)

    The next Regulus submarine was even moreambitious, being nuclear propelled. There had beenbrief interest in arming the Nautilus (SSN 571) withRegulus cruise missiles. That concept was rejectedby then-Rear Admiral H. G. Rickover, whodemanded that other than the nuclear plant instal-lation, the submarine employ only existing designfeatures and weapons.

    The original Navy shipbuilding program for fis-cal year 1956 provided for five conventional sub-marines as well as for three nuclear submarines.Admiral Arleigh Burke, who became Chief of NavalOperations in August 1955, was a strong proponentof nuclear propulsion and sea-launched missiles.He directed that two additional nuclear submarinesbe constructed in place of conventional submarinesif funding could be made available. Accordingly, thenext SSGto be built at Mare Islandwould benuclear propelled, becoming the USS Halibut(SSGN 587). The other nuclear submarine wouldexploit a radical new hull design, becoming theSkipjack (SSN 585; see Chapter 9).

    Mare Island was already building nuclearattack submarines and was directed to modify the

    design for the SSG funded in fiscal year 1956 toemploy an S3W reactor plant, the type beinginstalled in that yards nuclear-propelled Sargo(SSN 583). Much larger than the Grayback andGrowler, the Halibut would have a single large mis-sile hangar faired into her bow to accommodatefour of the later (and larger) Regulus II missiles.However, in practice she would carry only fiveRegulus I weapons or two of the later Regulus IImissiles. The Halibuts unusual hangar configura-tion and launching ramp was evaluated on boarda landing ship before installation in the subma-rine.13 (Also considered was a rotary Reguluslauncher that could accommodate four Regulus IImissiles. This scheme did not progress past themodel stage; see drawing.)

    The Halibut was commissioned on 4 January1960 under Lieutenant Commander WalterDedrick. She was the worlds second nuclear-propelled submarine with a missile armament. Thefirst was the USS George Washington (SSBN 598), aballistic missile submarine that had been commis-sioned five days earlier. (The first Soviet SSGN, theK-45 of the Project 659/Echo I design, was placed incommission on 28 June 1960.) But the Halibut wasintended only as a transitional SSGN design. A larg-


    The Halibut as an SSGN. The bulge forward is the top of the hangar that could accommodate five Regulus I missiles.

    The launching rail is in the stowed position, between the hangar and sail. She was the U.S. Navys only SSGN, pending

    conversion of Trident submarines in the early 21st Century. (U.S. Navy)

  • er and more-capable mis-sile submarine design wason the drawing boards:The Permit (SSGN 594),which would have a sur-face displacement of some4,000 tons and about5,000 tons submerged, alength of approximately350 feet (106.7 m), andthe S5W propulsionplant. The Permit SSGNwas to carry four RegulusII missiles in fourhangarstwo faired intothe forward hull and twooutboard of the sail. Thefour smaller hangarswere a major factor in the submarines design, pro-viding increased survivability in the event of dam-age or a hangar flooding casualty compared to theHalibut.

    Early Navy planning had provided for the firstthree of the Permit SSGNs to be funded in fiscalyear 1958, a fourth ship in fiscal 1959 and, subse-quently, seven more units to be built for a class of11 submarines. The Navys long-range plan of 1958showed an eventual force of 12 SSGNs with Regu-lus II or later cruise missiles. This was in addition toa force of 40 or more nuclear submarines armedwith Polaris (ballistic) missiles.14

    The weapon, to be carried by these SSGNs,was the successor to the original Regulus, thelarger, supersonic Regulus II, which would have amaximum range of 1,000 n.miles (1,853 km),twice that of the earlier weapon. This missile alsowould carry the W27 two-megaton warhead. Thefirst flight of the definitive Regulus II land-attack

    missile occurred on 29 May 1956, with a planned1960 operational date. The first and only launchof a Regulus II missile from a submarine wasmade from the Grayback on 18 September 1958.(The only other Regulus II shipboard launch wasfrom the converted LST King County on 10December 1958.)

    Three months after the Grayback launch, on 18December, Secretary of the Navy Thomas S. Gatescancelled the Regulus II program. The decision hadbeen made to accelerate and enlarge the Polaris bal-listic missile program, leading to termination of theRegulus II and its planned successors.15 The Regu-lus II was considered redundant as a strategic strikeweapon, and its cancellation could shift funds tothe Polaris effort. Further, the potential of the Reg-ulus for tactical (anti-ship) operations with high-explosive or nuclear warheads was overshadowedby the massive attack capabilities of the U.S. Navysaircraft carriers.


    A rotary launcher holding four Regulus II missiles was proposed for submarine use. (A.D.

    Baker, III)

    Halibut (SSGN 587). LOA 350 ft (106.7m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • With cancellation of the RegulusII, the five existing cruise missilesubmarines continued to makedeterrent patrols in the North Pacif-ic carrying the Regulus I. The fourPermit-class SSGNs that were in thefiscal 19581959 shipbuilding pro-grams were reordered as Thresher-class SSNs.16

    Beyond cancellation of the Reg-ulus II, work also was halted on themore advanced Rigel and Tritonsubmarine cruise missiles. For abrief moment, with the cancella-tion of the Regulus II missile, theNavy considered using the anti-submarine SUBROC weapon againstshore targets with an air-burst war-head. (See Chapter 10.) But that ideawas discarded.

    Regulus on PatrolThe first Regulus-armed submarine to go to sea ona strategic missile or deterrent patrol was the

    Tunny, carrying two Regulus I missiles. During theLebanon crisis of 1958, she was ordered into theNorth Pacific to substitute for the nuclear strike


    TABLE 6-1Land-Attack Cruise Missiles

    U.S. U.S. SovietRegulus I Regulus II P-5 (4K95)SSM-N-8 SSM-N-9 NATO Shaddock

    Operational 1954 cancelled 1959

    Weight* 13,685 lb 22,564 lb 9,480 lb

    (6,207.5 kg) (10,235 kg) (4,300 kg)

    Length 41 ft 6 in 57 ft 38 ft 1012 in

    (12.65 m) (17.38 m) (11.85 m)

    Wingspan 21 ft 20 ft 12 in 8 ft 212 in

    (6.4 m) (6.1 m) (2.5 m)

    Diameter 5612 in 50 in. 2912 in

    (1.44 m) (1.27 m) (0.9 m)

    Propulsion 1 turbojet 1 turbojet*** 1 turbojet

    4,600 lbst** 15,000 lbst 4,960 lbst

    2 booster rockets 2 booster rockets 2 booster rockets

    Speed Mach 0.9 Mach 2+ Mach 1.2

    Range 500 n.miles 1,000 n.miles 300 n.miles

    (926.5 km) (1,853 km) (550 km)

    Guidance radio control or preset inertial preset

    Warhead nuclear nuclear nuclear

    Mk 5 or W27 W27 RDS-4 or conventional

    Notes: * Gross takeoff weight; does not include booster rockets.** lbst = pounds static thrust.

    *** Fitted with afterburner.

    The ultimate Regulus submarine would have been the Permit SSGN, with

    four Regulus II missiles carried in separate hangars. The cancellation of the

    Regulus program led to completion of the planned SSGNs as torpedo-attack

    submarines of the Thresher design. (U.S. Navy)

  • capability of an aircraft carrier, and the submarinetook up station above the Arctic Circle, with hertwo missiles available to strike targets in the SovietFar East. This was more than two years before thefirst U.S. ballistic missile submarine, the GeorgeWashington (SSBN 598), began the first Polaris mis-sile patrol.

    The Regulus-armed Barbero operated in theAtlantic from April 1956 to late 1958. She shiftedback to the Pacific Fleet as Regulus missiles becamea deterrent force. From September 1959 to July1964, the Regulus-armed submarines were on con-tinuous patrol in the North Pacific, with their mis-siles aimed at targets in the Soviet Far East. The fourdiesel boats would make refueling stops at MidwayIsland or Adak, Alaska, to maintain maximum timeon patrol. Forty-one Regulus patrols were conduct-ed in that period by the five missile submarines; oneor two submarines carrying a total of four or fivemissiles were continuously on station in the west-ern Pacific. While the numbers were small, the Reg-ulus did permit coverage of specific targets withnuclear weapons without requiring that a carriertask force be kept in the area or basing nuclear-armed aircraft in Japan or South Korea.17

    In addition to the five submarines, for briefperiods up to ten aircraft carriers and four heavycruisers carried Regulus I missiles. Space andweight were reserved for the future installation ofthe Regulus II in several missile cruisers, includingthe Long Beach, the worlds first nuclear-propelledsurface warship.18 There were advocates of a muchlarger Regulus program with proposals put forwardto convert several outdated aircraft carriers to Reg-ulus launching ships.19

    The demise of the Regulus II at the end of 1958marked the end of cruise missile development inthe U.S. Navy for more that a decade. A later Chiefof Naval Operations, Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt,would write:

    To my mind the Navys dropping in the1950s of a promising program for a cruisemissile called Regulus was the single worstdecision about weapons it made during myyears of service. That decision was based onthe theory that our carriers were so effectivethat we did not need cruise missiles . . .

    without cruise missiles practically all ourlong-range offensive capability was crowdedonto the decks of a few carriers.20

    The retirement of the Regulus I cruise missile inJuly 1964 occurred five months before the firstpatrol of a Polaris SSBN in the Western Pacificbegan in late December 1964.21 The diesel SSGsBarbero, Growler, and Tunny were decommissioned,with the ex-fleet boats being scrapped and theGrowler becoming a museum ship in New YorkCity. The SSG Grayback was converted to a trans-port submarine for swimmers and commandos,serving in that role until 1984 (redesignated APSS574, subsequently LPSS 574). The Halibuttheonly U.S. SSGN to be completedhad a mostinteresting second career as a spy sub, being con-verted to carry out clandestine deep-ocean searchoperations. Redesignated SSN 587, her highly clan-destine operations continued until 1976. (SeeChapter 10.)22

    Soviet Cruise Missile SubmarinesWhereas the U.S. Navy initially developed subma-rine-launched cruise missiles for strategic attackand then shifted to ballistic missiles for the strate-gic role, the Soviet Navy displayed continuousinterest in both types of missiles for the strategicrole. The USSR was not the target of German V-1cruise missiles.23 In July 1944, however, GreatBritain provided a damaged V-1 to the SovietUnion and by the end of the war, work was underway on cruise missiles at the aircraft design bureausheaded by Georgi M. Beriev, Vladimir N. Chelomei,Sergei V. Ilyushin, and Seymon A. Lavochkin.Chelomei would be the most successful in develop-ing ship-launched cruise missiles.

    During the war Chelomei, already a recognizedmathematician and scientist, had worked on thedevelopment of pulse-jet engines, as used in the V-1 missile. He contacted Georgi Malenkov, amember of the State Defense Commission and aclose associate of Stalin, telling him that he couldbuild a weapon similar to the German V-1 missile.Malenkov supported the 30-year-old designer, and in1944 Chelomei was given the resources of the aircraftdesign bureau previously headed by Nikolai N.Polikarpov, now designated OKB-51.24 Chelomei


  • created the V-1 analogwith the designation10Xin 1945. Meanwhile, in 1950 design bureauTsKB-18 began the design of a cruise missile sub-marine propelled by a closed-cycle steam turbine,that is, the same type of propulsion plant used inthe German Type XXVI/Soviet Project 616. Thissubmarine was Project 624; it was to have a sub-merged displacement of 2,650 tons and to carrycruise missilesdesigned by Lavochkinthatwould have a range against shore targets of 160n.miles (300 km). However, development of boththe missile and submarine were soon halted.

    In 19521953 design efforts began on Project628, an updated Soviet XIV series (K-class) subma-rine configured to conduct experimental launchesof the 10XN Volna (wave) subsonic cruise missile.This missiledeveloped by Chelomeis designbureauwas powered by twin ramjets; the missilewas launched from a ramp with the aid of a singlebooster rocket. Although Western intelligencereported launchers installed near Leningrad andVladivostok for this missile, it did not enter groundor naval service. It was rejected for naval servicebecause of guidance limitations, the high fuel con-sumption of available ramjets, and the ongoingdevelopment of supersonic missiles. (A version ofthe 10XN did enter service with the Soviet AirForces in 1953.)

    A still further refinement of the V-1 design byChelomei was the 15X missile, based on the avail-ability of the Rolls-Royce Nene centrifugal-flowturbojet, provided by Britains Labour governmentfor civil use in the Soviet Union. This engine, whichalso became the powerplant for the famed MiG-15turbojet fighter, and an advanced point-to-pointguidance system gave promise of an effective submarine-launched strategic weapon. The subma-rine would transit to a preselected launch positionwith the missile either in a towed launch containeror fitted in a container on the deck of the subma-rine. The former concept had been developed bythe Germans to tow V-2 ballistic missiles to anunderwater launch position. (See Chapter 7.)

    Chelomeis design bureau was disestablished inDecember 1952 because of political intrigues withinthe defense industry. The decree closing Chemomeisbureau was one of the last such documents signed byJosef Stalin, who died in March 1953. Chelomeis

    facilities were taken over by aircraft designer ArtyemI. Mikoyan.25 From January 1953, as a professor atthe Bauman Institute of the Moscow Technical Uni-versity, Chelomei continued to work on missiledesigns. In 1954 he conceived the idea of ship-launched missiles with wings that automaticallyextend in flight. This would permit the missiles to becarried in containers essentially the same size as themissiles fuselage. Aerodynamic improvements madepossible the elimination of a launch ramp, permit-ting the missile to be launched directly from the can-ister. He applied this concept to the 20X missilewhich, upon provision of more-flexible guidance,become the P-5 (NATO SS-N-3c Shaddock26). Thisdeck-mounted canister would be adopted by theSoviet Navy, with the structure providing both thestorage and launch functions, simplifying installa-tion in surface ships as well as in submarines. Thiswas in contrast to the U.S. Navys method, whichemployed the canister as only a hangar, with the mis-sile having to be manually extracted, placed onlaunch rails, wings extended, and other manualfunctions performed before launching.

    Chelomei gained the support of Soviet leaderNikita S. Khrushchev. In August 1955 his designbureau was re-established as OKB-52, initially todevelop submarine-launched cruise missiles.27

    That year the decision was made to produce boththe P-5/Shaddock cruise missile of Chelomei andthe P-10 cruise missile being developed by OKB-48under seaplane designer Beriev. Both missiles wereintended for strategic strikes against land targets.

    A single Project 611/Zulu design was modifiedin 1955 to the Project P-611 configuration to testlaunch the P-10 missile. The P-10 was housed in ahangar, with the missile extracted from the hangar,its wings opened, and then launched (as with theU.S. Regulus). The hangar was on the deck casing,aft of the conning tower, with the missile to fire for-ward, over the bow. The submarine was modified atMolotovsk shipyard (subsequently renamedSeverodvinsk). During the fall of 1957 four P-10missiles were launched from the submarine P-611.But work on this missile was halted because of thesuccessful tests of the P-5 missile, which was super-sonic (Mach 1.2), had a range of 300 n.miles (570km), and incorporated other advantages whencompared to the P-10 missile.28


  • In that same year, Project P-613the modifica-tion of the Project 613/Whiskey submarine S-146was undertaken to conduct tests of the P-5 missile.That modification, like the P-611, was under chiefdesigner Pavel P. Pustintsev of TsKB-18. The workwas undertaken at the Krasnoye Sovormo yard inGorkiy, inland on the Volga River. The missile can-ister for this submarine was also placed behind theconning tower and, again, the launch took place onthe surface, over the bow.

    Following P-5/Shaddock tests at Kapustin Yar in1956, the first P-5 missile was launched from the S-146 on 22 November 1957 in the White Sea. Afterextensive tests the P-5 system became operationalin 1959 and was installed in operational sub-

    marines. Work on competing anti-ship cruise mis-siles was halted.

    Six Project 644/Whiskey Twin-Cylinder sub-marines were converted in 1960 at Gorkiy to aPustintsev design. Each submarine was fitted withpaired missile canisters aft of the conning tower,built into the deck casing, which elevated and firedaft, over the stern. Simultaneous with this effort,guided missile submarine Project 646 was devel-oped on the basis of Project 641/Foxtrot. Anotherdesign effort of Pustintsev, this craft had a sub-merged displacement of approximately 3,625 tonsand featured several major variants: the basicdesign was to carry four P-5 missiles or two P-10missiles; the improved Project 644P had two P-5

    missiles. However, further devel-opment of these designs was notpursued.

    Instead, the definitive Project613/Whiskey SSG design wasProject 665, known by NATO asthe Whiskey Long-Bin (for theenlarged conning tower struc-ture). These were new-construc-tion submarines of a designdeveloped by TsKB-112 underdesigner B. A. Lyeontyev. Eachhad four forward-firing P-5/Shaddock missiles installed inthe front portion of the large,bulbous conning tower. Thelaunch tubes were fixed at anupward angle of 14 degrees.From 1961 to 1963 the Gorkiyyard and the Baltic shipyard inLeningrad together delivered sixLong-Bin submarines.

    The P-5/Shaddock land-attack missile had a range of 300n.miles (550 km), a terminalspeed of mach 1.2, and an accu-racy of plus-or-minus twon.miles (four km). While limitedin missile range and effective-ness, these submarines providedthe Soviet Navy with valuableexperience and training in cruisemissile submarines. Unlike the


    The Project 644/Whiskey Twin-Cylinder marked the first operational deployment

    of the Shaddock missile system. The paired canisters elevated to fire aft. The

    Whiskey-class submarines served as test and operational platforms for several

    missile systems. Note the blast shields at the forward end of the canisters.

    The definitive Whiskey SSG was Project 665/Whiskey Long-Bin, the term refer-

    ring to the enlarged fairwater configured with four forward-firing Shaddock

    launch tubes. Six of these submarines were produced, their significance soon being

    overshadowed by the large Soviet SSGN program.

  • two converted fleet boats used by the U.S. Navy inthe Regulus program (Barbero and Tunny), theSoviet Project 665 submarines did not undertakelong-distance missile patrols.

    In 1956, simultaneous with the diesel-electriccruise missile submarine program, work began onnuclear submarines with cruise missiles for landattack. Among these was Project P-627A/Novembera modification of the first SSN design that wouldcarry one P-20 missile.29 In the same period workbegan at SKB-143 on Project 653, a nuclear-pro-pelled submarine of some 7,140 tons submergeddisplacement that was to carry two of the long-range P-20 cruise missiles. Design work on the sub-marine was carried out under Mikhail G. Rusanovfrom 1956 to 1959, when, before the completion ofthe technical design stage, SKB-143 was directed tocomplete the working drafts and send them to theSeverodvinsk yard. The lead ship was to be com-pleted in 1962, with 18 submarines planned forconstruction. In early 1960 the P-20 missile wasseen to have major flaws, and construction of boththe P-627A and 653 submarines was halted.

    Also, in 1956 design work was begun on Project659 (NATO Echo I) under Pustintsev and N. A.Klimov at TsKB-18. This craft would have the sameVM-A reactor plant as the Project 627A/NovemberSSN. But Project 659 would not have the advancedhull shape of the Project 627A. Rather, Project659/Echo I and the subsequent Project 651/JuliettSSG, 675/Echo II SSGN, and 658/Hotel SSBN sub-marines would have conventional hulls to enhancetheir stability on the surface while launching theirmissiles.

    The first Project 659 submarinethe K-45was laid down at the Leninsky Komsomol yard (No.199) at Komsomolsk-na-Amur on 28 December1958 and placed in commission on 28 June 1961.

    This was the second Soviet shipyard to producenuclear submarines. The shipyard, the largest inSiberia, was begun in 1931, and submarine con-struction began in the 1930s with components pro-duced in the European USSR. (The largest surfacewarships built at Komsomolsk were heavy cruis-ers.) Through 1963 four more nuclear submarinesof this project were built. These submarines had alength of 36434 feet (111.2 m) and displaced 4,976tons submerged. Missile armament of the sub-marines consisted of six P-5/Shaddock cruise mis-siles in paired launch canisters that were mountedon the deck casing and elevated 15 degrees tolaunch forward.

    The early P-5 cruise missile system had a num-ber of deficiencies, among them low accuracy, lim-ited effectiveness, and a significant amount of timeon the surface (20 minutes) being needed to pre-pare the missiles for launch. Accordingly, from 1958to 1961 the Chelomei bureau designed a new sys-tem based on the P-5 missile and designated P-5D.It had increased range and with a higher probabili-ty of penetrating enemy defenses to reach its target.A Whiskey Twin-Cylinder submarine was fitted totest the missile (Project 644D), and the P-5D wasaccepted for service in 1962.

    Based on the P-5 and P-5D missiles, Chelomeisbureau developed the P-7 missile to have twice therange of the earlier weapons, approximately 540n.miles (1,000 km). Flight tests took place from1962 to 1964, with a Whiskey SSG again planned asa test platform (Project 644-7). However, the P-7missile did not become operational in submarines,because the role of cruise missile submarines wasshifted from strikes against land targets to the anti-ship role.30

    The intensive development of ballistic missilesand the problems with land-attack cruise missiles


    Project P-627A SSGN showing cruise missile hangar fitted aft of the sail. (A.D. Baker, III)

  • changed Soviet policy toward strategic cruise mis-siles.31 The Strategic Rocket Forces was establishedon 14 December 1959 as an independent militaryservice to control all land-based strategic ballisticmissiles; at the time Soviet sea-based strategicforces were downgraded, and the construction ofsubmarines with land-attack guided (cruise) andballistic missiles was halted. Thus, in February1960, the decision was made to halt the furtherdevelopment of several cruise missiles, includingthe P-20 for the Projects P-627A and 653 SSGNs.Work on these projects was stopped.

    From the array of strategic and anti-ship mis-siles begun in the 1950s, only the P-5 and P-6 mis-sile systems designed by Chelomei were placed inservice on submarines in this period. However, by1965 the P-5 land-attack missile was taken off allSSG/SSGNs. In place of land-attack weapons, mostof the SSG/SSGN force was rearmed with anti-shipmissiles.

    During the mid-1950s intensive developmenthad began on anti-ship cruise missiles concurrentwith the development land-attack missiles. The for-mer weapons were intended primarily to attackU.S. aircraft carriers, which carried nuclear-armedstrike aircraft and thus presented a threat to theSoviet homeland. Soviet premier Khrushchev in1955 announced that submarines armed withguided missilesweapons best responding to therequirements indicated for at sea operationswillbe deployed at an accelerated rate.32

    Under the direction of Chelomei at OKB-52, thefirst practical anti-ship missile was produced, the P-6 (NATO SS-N-3a Shaddock). The liquid-fuel,supersonic (Mach 1.2) missile was surface launchedfrom submarines as well as from surface warships,the latter variant designated P-35. With a range upto 245 n.miles (450 km), the missile could carry anuclear or conventional warhead. Beyond its on-board guidance with terminal radar homing, themissile could be provided with guidance updateswhile in flight by a Video Data Link (VDL, given theNATO code name Drambuie). This enabled long-range reconnaissance aircraftprimarily the Tu-20(NATO Bear-D)and, subsequently, satellites toidentify distant targets and relay the radar pictureto the (surfaced) submarine or surface missile-launching ship.33

    In addition, the technique was developed for thesubmarine to launch two missiles at an interval ofsome 90 seconds. Both missiles would climb totheir cruise altitude of some 9,840 feet (3,000 m),but as they descended to a lower altitude for seek-ing the target ship, only the first missile would acti-vate its terminal search radar.

    This radar picture would be transmitted up tothe Bear aircraft and relayed back to the launchingship, and updated guidance data would be transmit-ted to the second missile. This provided the secondmissile with an optimum flight path while prevent-ing the target ship from detecting radar emissionsfrom the second missile. Only in the final phase ofthe attack would the second missile activate itsradar. In this proceduregiven the NATO codename Theroboldtthe lead missiles transponderenabled the VDL system to identify the relative posi-tion of the in-flight missile as well as the launchplatform, thereby providing accurate relative posi-tions to target subsequent missiles. This alleviatedthe need for the then-difficult task of providing theprecise geographic locations of both the launchplatform and the over-the-horizon target.

    The first successful submarine P-6/SS-N-3a testlaunches were conducted by a Project 675/Echo IIin July-September 1963. Modified Tu-16RT Badgeraircraft provided the long-range targeting for thetests. The missile became operational on sub-marines in 1963the worlds first submarine-launched anti-ship missile.

    The missile could carry a conventional warheadof 2,205 pounds (1,000 kg) or a tactical nuclearweapon, with both versions carried in deployedsubmarines. The first P-6 missiles were installed insubmarines of Project 675/Echo II and Project651/Juliett classes. These submarines also couldcarry the P-5 land-attack cruise missile, but few ifany of the Echo II SSGNs and none of the JuliettSSGs appear to have deployed with the P-5.

    The five older submarines of Project 659/Echo Idesigneach carrying six land-attack missileswhich did not have anti-ship missile guidance systemswere later reconfigured as torpedo-attack submarines (redesignated 659T).

    The design work for Project 675/Echo II subma-rine had begun in 1958 at TsKB-18 under Pustin-tsev. The Echo II, with a submerged displacement


  • of 5,737 tons and length of 37812 feet (115.4 m), wasalso propelled by a first-generation nuclear plantwith two VM-A reactors (i.e., the HEN propulsionplant). Again, the missiles were launched while thesubmarine was on the surface with eight stowage-launch canisters fitted in the deck casing. The fourpaired missile canisters elevated 15 degrees beforefiring. Project 675 had an enlarged sail structurecontaining a folding radar, which led to the shipsnickname raskladyshka (folding bed). When sur-faced, the submarine would expose the massiveradar antennas by rotating the forward portion ofthe sail structure 180 degrees. The NATO designa-tion for the radar was Front Door/Front Piece.34

    The lead submarine, the K-1,was built at Severodvinsk andplaced in commission on 31October 1963. Twenty-nine shipswere produced through 196816 at Severodvinsk and 13 atKomsomolsk. Components ofthe terminated Project 658/Hotelballistic missile submarines mayhave been shifted to the SSGNprogram when the constructionof strategic missile submarineswas halted.

    The SSGNs and Juliett SSGswere employed extensively inSoviet long-range operations,deployed to the Mediterranean,and were even deployed as far asthe Caribbean. The nuclear-propelled Echo SSGNs, like the contemporary Project627/November SSNs and Project658/Hotel SSBNs (i.e., HEN sub-marines), suffered a large num-ber of engineering problems. Forexample, in July 1979 the K-116a Project 675/Echo IISSGNsuffered a reactor melt-down because of the accidentalshutting off of a main coolantpump, an operator error. Report-edly, radioactivity reached 6,000rads/hour at the bulkheads of thereactor compartment, far beyond

    safety limits. The submarine was towed back toPavlovsk, 40 miles (65 km) southeast of Vladivostokand permanently taken out of service.

    On 10 August 1985 another Echo II, the K-431,suffered a reactor explosion at Chazuma Bay in theSoviet Far East during a refueling operation.35 Amassive amount of radioactivity was released whenthe 12-ton reactor cover, blown upward, smashedinto the submarine, tore open the hull, and rup-tured the reactor compartment. As the K-431 beganto sink alongside the pier, a tug was used to groundthe submarine. Subsequently, the radioactive hulkwas towed to a permanent berth at PavlovskayaBay. Of the men in the area at the time and subse-


    A Project 675/Echo II photographed in 1979. These submarines were considered a

    major threat to Western aircraft carriers. The paired Shaddock launch canisters ele-

    vated and fired forward. The recess aft of the sail is for the ultra-high-frequency

    antenna mast, shown here in the raised position. (U.K. Ministry of Defence)

  • quently involved in the cleanup, 7 developed acuteradiation sickness, and a radiation reaction wasobserved in 39 others.

    In 1986, while she was moored at Cam RanhBay, Vietnam, the K-175 had a serious reactor acci-dent, also caused by personnel error. She was car-ried back to the USSR in a transporter dock andwas not returned to service. Other submarines ofthis class had breakdowns at sea and were towedback to Soviet ports.

    A few of these submarines also had problemsnot related to their nuclear powerplants. The K-122an Echo I SSNsuffered a battery-relatedfire off Okinawa on 21 August 1980 that left thesubmarine on the surface without power. Nine mendied, others were burned, and the boat had to betowed to Vladivostok. There were no radiationproblems.

    Although by 1965 all land-attack missiles had beenremoved from these submarines, there still wasconcern by some U.S. naval officers that these sub-marines posed a strategic threat to the UnitedStates. For example, late in 1968, the director ofU.S. Navy strategic systems, Rear Admiral GeorgeH. Miller, believed that Soviet submarine-launchedcruise missiles could be dual purpose, and used toattack bomber bases of the Strategic Air Command,presenting a different attack profile than ballisticmissiles, this complicating U.S. detection and warn-ing of strategic attack.36 Miller also noted that thecruise missiles could be used to attack Sentinel, theplanned U.S. anti-ballistic missile system.


    The Front Door/Front Piece of an Echo II SSGN is exposed

    in this view. The antenna to track the Shaddock missile in

    flight and relay mid-course guidance instructions rotates

    180 degrees to become the forward end of the sail when the

    submarine operates submerged.

    An Echo II with the first and third

    pair of Shaddock canisters in the ele-

    vated position. The early Project

    659/Echo I cruise missile submarines

    were suitable only for the land-attack

    role and hence were converted to

    SSNs; the later Echo II SSGNs could

    strike land or naval targets. (U.S. Navy)

    The Front Door/Front Piece radar in a Project 651/Juliett

    SSG in the stowed position. The arrangement required fit-

    ting the bridge in the center of the elongated sail. The same

    radars also were fitted in several Soviet anti-ship missile


  • Non-Nuclear SubmarinesSimultaneous with the building of Project 675nuclear submarines, the Project 651/Juliett diesel-electric submarine was put into production. It hada submerged displacement of 4,260 tons and was28134 feet (85.9 m) long. Missile armament consistedof four P-5/P-6 canisters, paired in the same man-ner as in the SSGNs. This was a TsKB-18 designunder chief designer Abram S. Kassatsier.

    Seventy-two Project 651/Juliett submarineswere planned. In the event, only 16 of these sub-marines were built at Gorkiy and the Baltic ship-yard in Leningrad from 1963 to 1968. As with Proj-ect 675/Echo II submarines, these craft had a large,rotating radar in the leading edge of their sail, withone of these submarines later having a satellite tar-geting system fitted (Project 651K). The first fewsubmarines were built with low-magnetic steel.These soon suffered significant corrosion damageas well as cracks. The later submarines were of stan-dard steel construction.

    The building of diesel-electric SSGs in parallelwith nuclear SSGNs occurred because of limita-tions at that time in producing additional nuclear

    reactors. Because Juliett SSG construction was con-temporaneous to the Echo II SSGN and other fac-tors, some U.S. submarine analysts believed thatthere was sufficient evidence to warrant at leastconsideration of the possibility that, with theadvent of nuclear power, the Soviet Union, in addi-tion to continuing the development of convention-al diesel-electric submarines, also advanced thedevelopment of unconventional nonnuclear[closed-cycle] propulsion systems.37 But the Proj-ect 651/Juliett SSG had conventional propulsionexcept for one unit.

    A small nuclear reactordesignated VAU-6was developed to serve as an auxiliary power sourcein diesel-electric submarines. It was a pressurized-water reactor with a single-loop configuration cou-pled with a turbogenerator. After land-based trialsit was installed in a Juliett (Project 651E) during19861991. The sea trials demonstrated the work-ability of the system, but revealed quite a few defi-ciencies. Those were later corrected.38

    In 1960, on the basis of Project 651, the Project683 nuclear-propelled submarine was designed,also to carry the P-5/P-6 missiles. This was to have


    Project 675/Echo II SSGN. LOA 378 ft 6 in (115.4 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

    The Project 651/Juliett SSG was an attractive submarine and, being diesel-electric, it demonstrated the scope of the Sovi-

    et commitment to the anti-carrier role. An auxiliary nuclear power source was evaluated for these submarines, but appears

    not to have been pursued. (U.S. Navy)

  • been a larger craft with more weapons; two small,7,000-horsepower reactor plants were to propel thesubmarine. However, this design was not furtherdeveloped.

    Submarines with anti-ship cruise missiles weredeveloped specifically to counter U.S. aircraft carri-ers, which since 1950 carried nuclear-capable strikeaircraft on forward deployments to within range oftargets within the Soviet Union. The high priorityof defense of the Soviet homeland against thisthreat led to major resources being allocated to theSSG/SSGN construction. From 1963 to 1968 a totalof 50 modern missile-armed submarines of theJuliett, Echo I, and Echo II classes were sent to seacarrying 326 missiles. These submarines, in turn,forced an increase in U.S. tactical anti-submarinewarfare. While on the surface the SSG/SSGNs wereincreasingly vulnerable to Allied detection,although they were immune to the aircraft-carriedMk 44 and Mk 46 ASW torpedoes, which could notstrike surface targets.39 This led to development ofthe Harpoon anti-ship missile for use by aircraft toattack cruise missile submarines on the surface.(The Harpoon subsequently became the U.S.Navys principal anti-ship weapon; it was carried byaircraft, surface ships, and, briefly, submarines.)

    Cruise missile submarines thus became a main-stay of the Soviet Navy. With both cruise missileand a torpedo armament, these submarines pro-vided a potent threat to Western naval forces.Indeed, some Project 675/Echo II and Project651/Juliett submarines remained in service into theearly 1990s.

    Admiral S. G. Gorshkov, Commander-in-Chief ofthe Soviet Navy from 1955 to 1981, used the termrevolution in military affairs to describe theperiod of the late 1950s when cruise and ballisticmissiles were integrated into the Soviet armedforces. For the Soviet Navy this led to an intensiveperiod of development of cruise missiles, initiallyfor the land-attack role and then for the anti-shiprole, as well as the development and constructionof several cruise missile submarine designs.Gorshkov observed that . . . all the latest achieve-ments in science, technology, and productionwere utilized in the course of building qualitative-ly new submarines, surface ships, and [their]armament.40

    Significantly, of the 56 first-generation (HEN)nuclear-propelled submarines built in the SovietUnion, slightly more than half of them (29) wereProject 675/Echo II cruise missile submarines.While this proportion was achieved, in part, bythe termination of Project 658/Hotel ballisticmissile submarine program, when consideredtogether with the 16 Project 651/Juliett SSGs,cruise missiles represented a major Soviet invest-ment to counter U.S. carriers that could threatenthe Soviet homeland with nuclear-armed aircraft.

    This was in sharp contrast to the U.S. Navy.Having aircraft carriers available for the anti-shipas well as for the land-attack roles, the U.S. Navyrapidly discarded cruise missile submarines asthe Polaris ballistic missile became available.


  • TABLE 6-2Cruise Missile Submarines

    U.S. Grayback U.S. Halibut Soviet Soviet SovietSSG 574* SSGN 587 Project 659 Project 675 Project 651

    NATO Echo I NATO Echo II NATO Juliett

    Operational 1958 1960 1961 1963 1963


    surface 2,671 tons 3,845 tons 3,770 tons 4,415 tons 3,140 tons

    submerged 3,652 tons 4,755 tons 4,980 tons 5,737 tons 4,240 tons

    Length 322 ft 4 in 350 ft 364 ft 9 in 378 ft 6 in 281 ft 9 in

    (98.27 m) (106.7 m) (111.2 m) (115.4 m) (85.9 m)

    Beam 30 ft 29 ft 30 ft 2 in 30 ft 6 in 31 ft 10 in

    (9.15 m) (8.84 m) (9.2 m) (9.3 m) (9.7 m)

    Draft 19 ft 20 ft 23 ft 312 in 23 ft 22 ft 8 in

    (5.8 m) (6.1 m) (7.1 m) (7.0 m) (6.9 m)

    Reactors 1 S3W 2 VM-A 2 VM-A

    Turbines 2 2 2

    horsepower 7,300 35,000 35,000

    Diesel engines 3 2

    horsepower 6,000 m 4,000#

    Electric motors 2 2

    horsepower 4,700 12,000

    Shafts 2 2 2 2 2


    surface 20 knots 20 knots 15 knots 14 knots 16 knots

    submerged 17 knots 20 knots 26 knots 22.7 knots 18 knots

    Test depth 700 ft 700 ft 985 ft 985 ft 985 ft

    (213 m) (213 m) (300 m) (300 m) (300 m)

    Missiles 4 Regulus I 5 Regulus I 6 P-5 8 P-5/P-6 4 P-5/P-6

    or 2 Regulus II or 4 Regulus II

    Torpedo tubes** 6 533-mm B 4 533-mm B 4 533-mm B 4 533-mm B 6 533-mm B

    2 533-mm S 2 533-mm S 2 400-mm B 2 400-mm S 4 400-mm S

    2 400-mm S

    Torpedoes 22 17 4 533-mm 10 533-mm 6 533-mm

    8 400-mm 6 400-mm 12 400-mm

    Complement 84 123 104 109 78

    Notes: * Growler (SSG 577) was similar; see text. Their combat systems were the same.** Bow + Stern torpedo tubes.

    *** Several submarines were fitted to carry 18 533-mm and 4 400-mm torpedoes.# Also fitted with a single 1,360-hp diesel generator for shipboard electric power.


  • Germany led the world in the developmentof ballistic missiles, launching V-2 missilesin combat from 6 September 1944 until 27

    March 1945.1 The German Army fired about 3,200missiles during the 612-month V-2 campaign, theirprincipal targets being London and the Belgianport of Antwerp. These missiles killed some 5,000persons, most of them civilians, and injured thou-sands more.2 Once launched on its ballistic trajec-tory the missile was invulnerable to any form ofinterception.

    Although the warheads of all V-2 missiles com-bined carried less high explosives than a singlemajor 19441945 raid against Germany by Britishand American bombers, and the casualties in-flicted were far fewer than many of those raidsagainst Germany and Japan, the V-2 was a remark-able technological achievement as well as an excep-tional production accomplishment. The V-2became the basis for ballistic missile developmentin Britain, China, France, the Soviet Union, and theUnited States.

    The V-2 was a 13-ton, 46-foot (14.1-m) missilepropelled by a rocket engine fueled by liquid oxy-gen and alcohol. The V-2 carried a high explosive

    warhead just over one ton (1,000 kg) with an initialrange of 185 miles (300 km).3 It was transported bytruck to a forward launch position, where, in a fewhours, it was assembled, erected, fueled, andlaunched. The missile was fitted with preset guid-ance and its initial accuracy was about four miles(6.4 km). This very poor accuracy led to the V-2being a terror weapon rather than a militaryweapon used against specific targets. Later V-2 mis-siles, with beam-guidance during the boost phase,attained an accuracy of approximately one mile(1.6 km).

    While the V-2 was a German Army project, asea-launched version was under development whenthe war ended. Klauss Riedel of the Peenemndestaff proposed launching V-2 missiles from canis-ters towed to sea by submarines, a scheme given thecode name Prufstand XII (Test Stand XII). Accord-ing to German engineers working on the project,Its objective was to tow V-2 rockets in containersacross the North Sea to continue V-2 launch opera-tions against targets in Britain after, in the wake ofthe Normandy invasion, the launching bases inNorthern France and Holland were lost while V-2production continued.4


    Ballistic Missile Submarines

    A Project 658M/Hotel II SSBN in rough seas. The elongated sail structure housed three R-21/SS-N-5 Serb ballistic mis-

    siles. The first Hotel I was completed in 1960, less than a year after the first U.S. Polaris submarine went to sea. The Amer-

    ican submarine carried more missiles with greater capability. (U.S. Navy)


  • The V-2 canisters were approximately 118 feet(36 m) long and 1823 feet (5.7 m) in diameter, anddisplaced about 500 tons. Beyond the missile and thefuel, stored separately, the canisters would have hadballast tanks, a control room, and bunks for a crew ofeight to ten men. Obviously, these accommodations

    would be untenable for long cruises. The underwatervoyage across the North Sea to a suitable launchposition was estimated to take about 24 hours, withthe submarine controlling the submerging and sur-facing of the canisters through the towing lines.5

    Studies indicated that a single U-boat could towthree containers for sustained periods. Long transitswere considered feasible, in which case the missilecrews would be carried in the towing submarine andtransferred to the V-2 canisters by rubber raft, a pre-carious operation. Thus the Germans could bom-bard American cities, with New York most oftenmentioned as the principal target.6

    To launch the missiles the underwater canisterswould be ballasted to achieve an upright position,projecting above the surface of the water. The mis-sile would be fueled, the guidance system started,and the V-2 would be launched. A novel exhaustwas provided for the canister with ducts to carrythe flaming exhaust up through the canister tovent them into the atmosphere. Riedel proposedthe sea-launch project early in 1944. Detaileddesign of the containers was done by the Vulkanshipyard in Stettin with construction of the con-tainers beginning in August 1944. Three of thecontainers were 65 to 70 percent complete whenthe war ended. A prototype model was successful-ly tested ashore at Peenemnde. Discussing thesubmarine-towed V-2s, Generalmajor WalterDornberger, who commanded the Peenemndemissile center, wrote:

    we did not expect any construction difficul-ties that could not be overcome, but workon the problem was temporarily suspendedbecause of the A-4 [V-2] troubles . . . atthe end of 1944, it was resumed. By themiddle of December a full memorandumwas being prepared on the preliminaryexperiments, and we were getting to workon the first design sketches [for series pro-duction]. The evacuation of Peenemndebefore the middle of February of 1945 putan end to a not unpromising project.7

    Peenemnde fell to Soviet troops in the springof 1945, although it had been damaged by Britishbomber raids. When British, Soviet, and U.S.


    Submarine-towed V-2 missile launch container. (Atomic


  • troops entered Germany, the V-2project was high on their lists forintelligence collection. Amongtheir finds were missiles, unas-sembled components, plans, andrelated equipment. German sci-entists and engineers were quick-ly taken into custody. Many, ledby Wernher von Braun, the tech-nical chief of the German missile effort, went to the UnitedStates, where they became thecore of the U.S. Armys missileprogram. The Soviets initiallyestablished the research agencyInstitut Rabe in Nordhausen forGerman missile specialists tocontinue their work.8 Then,without warning, on 22 October1946 the Soviet NKVD securitypolice took into custody the missile scientists andengineers of Institut Rabe and specialists fromother military fieldsincluding those working onsubmarinesa total of some 5,000 men. Withtheir families and belongings, they were sent bytrain to Russia to continue their work undertighter controls.9

    In October 1945 the British fired three cap-tured V-2 missiles from Cuxhaven on the NorthSea in Operation Backfire. Soviet observers wereinvited to the third launch. Subsequently, in boththe United States and USSR, the Germans helpedto assemble and test V-2 missiles. Sixty-eight weretest fired in the United States and 11 in the SovietUnion over the next few years. On 6 September1947 one of the American V-2s was launched fromthe flight deck of the U.S. aircraft carrier Midway(Operation Sandy).10 This was historys onlylaunch of a V-2 from a moving platform. In theUnited States the Navy had some interest in devel-oping a guided missile ship to launch missiles ofthis type.

    At that time the Navy was considering bothmodifying aircraft carriers to launch V-2 missiles(in addition to operating their aircraft) and com-pleting the unfinished battleship Kentucky and bat-tle cruiser Hawaii as ballistic missile ships. In theevent, the U.S. Navylike the U.S. Air Force

    initially concentrated on cruise missile technologyfor the long-range strike role.11

    The Soviet and U.S. Navy learned of the V-2underwater canisters, but there was little interest inthe scheme, because available missile resources inboth countries initially were concentrated on thecruise missiles for naval use (as described in Chapter6). In the United States the newly established AirForce sponsored some ballistic missile development,in competition with the Army effort (under vonBraun). In the Soviet Union the development of bal-listic missiles was sponsored by a complex govern-mental structureas were most Soviet endeavorswith the principal direction coming from the NKVDand the Red Armys artillery directorate.

    In 1949 a preliminary draft for a missilesubmarine designated Project P-2to strike enemyland targetswas drawn up at TsKB-18 (laterRubin) under chief designer F. A. Kaverin. The sub-marine was to have a surface displacement ofalmost 5,400 tons and carry 12 R-1 ballistic mis-silesthe Soviet copy of the V-2as well as theLastochka (swallow) cruise missile. But the design-ers were unable to solve the myriad of problems inthe development of such a ship.

    The first ballistic missile to be considered fornaval use was the R-11.12 Developed by the OKB-1design bureau under Sergei P. Korolev, the R-11


    A model of the P-2 combination cruise/ballistic missile submarine, at left are the

    R-1 ballistic missiles and, beneath the sail, the Lastochka cruise missiles. The

    problems of such a submarine proved to be insurmountable at the time. This

    model was photographed at the Central Naval Museum in Leningrad in 1973.

    (Capt. E. Besch, USMC Ret.)

  • 106C









    Proposed P-2 combination cruise/ballistic missile submarine. (A.D. Baker, III)


    entered Army service in 1956. It was a 412-ton mis-sile with a storable-liquid propellant that coulddeliver a 2,200-pound (1,000-kg) conventionalwarhead to a maximum range of 93 miles (150km). Later, about 1956, the R-11 was fitted with anuclear warhead, which initially reduced the mis-siles range by about one-half.

    In 19531954 Korolev proposed a naval variantthe missile that would be fueled by kerosene andnitric acid in place of the R-11s alcohol and liquidoxygen, which was less stable for long-term storage.Test launches of this R-11FM were conducted atKapustin Yar in 1954-1955.13 Three launches froma fixed launch stand were followed by additionallaunches from a test stand that moved to simulate aships motion.

    The OKB-1 bureau developed a shipboardlaunch scheme wherein the R-11FM missile wouldbe housed in a storage canister; for launching, thesubmarine would surface and the missile would beelevated up and out of the canister. The SovietNavy had specified a submerge-launch capabilityfor the missile, but Korolev opposed it, believingthat his scheme employing the R-11FM could pro-vide a missile capability in less time. Beyond themissile, a multitude of problems confronted theprogram, including establishing the exact locationof the submarine, the bearing to the target, securecommunications, and other concerns. All had to besolved.

    The First Ballistic Missile at SeaThe worlds first ballistic missile-carrying subma-rine was the Project 611/Zulu B-67. She was mod-ified at the Molotovsk (Severodvinsk) shipyardwith two R-11FM missile tubes fitted in the afterend of an enlarged sail structure and related con-trol equipment installed.14 The missile tubesextended down through the fourth compartment,replacing one group of electric batteries and thewarrant officers space. Their accommodationswere moved to the bow compartment, from whichreload torpedoes were removed. The deck gunswere also deleted. The modificationProjectV611 (NATO Zulu IV12)was prepared at TsKB-16 under chief designer Nikolai N. Isanin, whowould be associated with other early Soviet missilesubmarines.15

    In anticipation of submarine launches, a specialtest stand was built at the Kapustin Yar test center tosimulate the effects of a missile tube in a shipencountering rough seas. Sea trials were conductedhurriedly, and on 16 September 1955 in the WhiteSea, the submarine B-67 launched the first ballisticmissile ever to be fired from a submarine. The mis-sile streaked 135 n.miles (250 km) to impact in theremote Novaya Zemlya test range. (Later, in the fallof 1957, the B-67 was employed in an unusual,unmanned underwater test to determine the vul-nerability of missile-carrying submarines to depthcharge attack. After the tests divers connected airhoses to the submarine to blow ballast tanks to sur-face the submarine.)

    Late in 1955 work began at TsKB-16 on a pro-duction ballistic missile submarine (SSB) based onthe ZuluProject AV611, armed with two R-11FMmissiles. Four of these diesel-electric submarines,each with a surface displacement of 1,890 tons,were built in 1957 at Severodvinsk. In addition, in1958, the submarine B-62 of this type was modifiedto the SSB configuration at shipyard No. 202 inVladivostok (also designated AV611).16

    The R-11FM missile became operational in 1959,giving the Soviet Union the worlds first ballistic mis-sile submarines.17 However, the range of the mis-siles limited the effectiveness of the submarines to atactical/theater role. Also, the clandestine operationof the submarines was compromised by the need tosurface or snorkel to recharge their batteries.

    Meanwhile, in 1955 Korolevs OKB-1 bureautransferred all submarine ballistic missile projectsto special design bureau SKB-385 under Viktor P.Makeyev. This shift enabled Korolev to concen-trate on longer-range strategic missiles and spaceprograms. Makeyev, who was 31 years of age whenhe became head of the bureau in June 1955,immediately pursued the D-2 missile system,which would include the new R-13 missile (NATOSS-N-4 Sark) launched from a new series of sub-marines.18 The missile, with a storable-liquid pro-pellant, was surface launched and had a range ofup to 350 n.miles (650 km).

    The submarine to carry this new missile wouldbe Project 629 (NATO Golf), employing the samediesel-electric machinery and other components ofthe contemporary torpedo submarine of Project


    641 (NATO Foxtrot).19 Developed at TsKB-16under Isanin, Project 629 had a surface displace-ment of 2,850 tons and could carry three R-13 mis-siles. The missile tubes penetrated the top and bot-tom of the pressure hull, extending up into the sail.The missiles were raised up out of the sail forlaunching. The R-11FM missile was fitted in thefirst five Project 629 submarines, which later wouldbe rearmed with the R-13 missile.

    As the first submarines were being built, in19581959 TsKB-16 began the development of a

    system by which a small nuclear reactor would befitted in Project 629 submarines as a means ofrecharging the submarines battery without run-ning the diesel engine, a form of closed-cycle or air-independent propulsion. The reactor generated

    The Project AV611/Zulu V SSB demonstrated the early Soviet interest in putting ballistic missiles at sea. Two R-11FM/

    SS-1c Scud-A missiles were fitted in the sail structure. The Soviet Navy carried out the worlds first submarine ballistic

    missile launches at sea.

    Details of the sail structure of a Project AV611/Zulu V SSB

    showing the covers for the two ballistic missile tubes. The

    missile tubes penetrated into the pressure hull. The sub-

    marines periscopes and masts are located between the

    bridge (forward) and missile tubes. (U.S. Navy)The early Soviet submarine-launched ballistic missiles

    were elevated out of the tube and above the sail in prepa-

    ration for launching, as shown here on a Project 629/Golf

    SSB. This was a difficult procedure in rough seas. Subse-

    quently, Soviet SSB/SSBNs were fitted with submerged-

    launch missiles.


    about 600 kilowatts of power.However, this effort was notpursued.

    The lead Project 629/Golfsubmarine was the B-41 (laterK-79), built at Severodvinsk anddelivered in 1959. From 1959 to 1962, 22 submarines wereconstructed15 at Severod-vinsk and 7 at Komsomolsk-on-Amur in the Far East. Sectionsfor two additional submarineswere fabricated at Komsomolskand transferred to the PeoplesRepublic of China, with onebeing assembled at Darien in the mid-1960s (designated Type035). The second submarine wasnever completed. The Chinesesubmarines were to be armedwith the earlier R-11FM missile,but no SLBMs were delivered,and the submarine served as a test platform for Chinese-developed SLBMs.

    Even though part of the pre-launch preparation of R-11FM

    Project AV611/Zulu V SSB. LOA 296 ft 10 in (90.5 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

    Project 629A/Golf II SSB. LOA 324 ft 5 in (98.9 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

    A Project 629/Golf SSB in heavy seas in the North Atlantic. A large number of

    these diesel-electric submarines were produced and proved useful as a

    theater/area nuclear-strike platform. An auxiliary nuclear reactor was also devel-

    oped for installation in these submarines. (U.K. Ministry of Defence)


    and R-13 missiles was conducted underwater, thesubmarine had to surface to launch missiles. Accord-ing to Captain 2d Rank V. L. Berezovskiy: Thepreparation to launch a missile took a great deal oftime. Surfacing, observation of position, the steady-ing of compassessomewhere around an hour andtwenty or thirty minutes. This is a monstrously longtime. . . . The submarine could be accurately detect-ed even before surfacing [to launch].20

    The worlds first launch of an SLBM armed witha thermo-nuclear warhead occurred on 20 October1961 when a Project 629 submarine launched an R-13 missile carrying a one-megaton warhead that det-onated on the Novaya Zemlya (Arctic) test range intest Rainbow. (The first U.S. test launch of a Polarismissile with a nuclear warhead occurred a half yearlater when an A-2 weapon with a warhead of justover one megaton was fired from the submarineEthan Allen/SSBN 608.) Subsequently, R-13 missileswith nuclear warheads were provided to submarines.

    In 1955 experimental work had begun onunderwater launching of ballistic missiles from asubmerging test stand. Major problems had to besolved for underwater launch. After launches fromthe submerging test stand, launch tests of dummymissiles were conducted in 1957 from the Project613D4/Whiskey submarine S-229. The submarinehad been modified at shipyard No. 444 at Nikolayevon the Black Sea with two missile tubes fitted amid-ships. The dummy missiles had solid-propellantengines to launch them out of the tubes and a liquid-fuel second stage.

    Subsequently, the Project V611/Zulu submarineB-67, used earlier for the R-11FM tests, was again

    modified at Severodvinsk for actual missile tests(changed to PV611). The first launch attempt fromthe B-67 occurred in August 1959, but was unsuc-cessful. On 10 September 1960 an S4-7 (modifiedR-11FM) missile was launched successfully fromthe submarine while she was submerged and under-way. (Less than two months earlier, the U.S. nuclearsubmarine George Washington [SSBN 598] carriedout a submerged launch of a Polaris A-1 missile.)

    In 1958just before completion of the firstGolf SSBwork began at the SKB-385 bureau onthe liquid-propellant R-21 ballistic missile (NATOSS-N-5 Serb), with a range up to 755 n.miles (1,400km), twice that of the R-13 missile. The R-21 couldbe launched from depths of 130 to 165 feet (4050m), providing enhanced survivability for the sub-marine, with the submarine traveling up to fourknots at the time of launch.

    Initial underwater launches of the R-21 dummymissiles took place in 1961 from the S-229; that sub-marine was fitted with a single SLBM launch tube aftof the conning tower. A year later two R-21 launchtubes were installed in the K-142, the last Project629/Golf submarine being built at Severodvinsk(redesignated Project 629B). Completed in 1961,that submarine made the first underwater launch ofan R-21 missile on 24 February 1962.

    Through 1972, 13 additional submarines ofProject 629/Golf and seven Project 658/Hotel sub-marines were refitted to carry three underwater-launch R-21 missiles, becoming Projects 629A and658M, respectively. The rearmed Project 629A/GolfII-class submarines were considered theater andnot strategic missile platforms. During September-

    The Project 613D4/Whiskey submarine S-229 as modified for underwater launch tests of ballistic missiles. The United

    States led the USSR in the deployment of submerged-launch ballistic missiles. The later Soviet missile submarines could

    launch their missiles while surfaced or submerged. (Malachite SPMBM)


    October 1976 six of these submarines shifted fromthe Northern Fleet to the Baltic to provide a sea-based theater nuclear strike capability; the otherseven SSBs served in the Pacific Fleet. Theyremained in Soviet service until 1989 with the lastunits retired as SSBs after almost 30 years of con-tinuous service. Some units continued briefly in themissile test and communications roles.21

    The Golf SSBs were relatively successful,although one sank in 1968. This was the K-129, arearmed Project 629A/Golf II submarine, whichhad departed Avacha Bay at Petropavlovsk (Kam-chatka) on 25 February 1968, for a missile patrol inthe North Pacific. In addition to her three R-21nuclear missiles, the submarine was armed withtorpedoes, two of which had nuclear warheads. TheK-129 was manned by a crew of 98.

    En route to patrol in the area of latitude 40North and longitude 180 East, on 8 March 1968the K-129 suffered an internal explosion andplunged to the ocean floor, a depth of three miles(4.8 km). The U.S. Navys seafloor Sound Surveil-lance System (SOSUS) detected the explosion, pro-viding a specific search area of several hundredsquare miles, and the special-purpose submarineHalibut (SSN 587) was sent out to clandes-tinely seek the remains of the K-129 with adeep-towed camera. Once the precise loca-tion of the K-129 was determined, the U.S.Central Intelligence Agency used the spe-cially built salvage ship Glomar Explorer ina 1974 effort to lift the stricken submarine,which was relatively intact.22

    The clandestine salvage effortcodename Jennifersucceeded in raising thesubmarine, but during the lift operationthe hull split, with most of the craftfalling back to the ocean floor. The bowsection (compartments 1 and 2)con-taining two nuclear as well as convention-al torpedoes and the remains of sixsailorswas brought aboard the GlomarExplorer, minutely examined, dissected,and then disposed of. The sailors remainswere recommitted to the sea in a steelchamber on 4 September 1974 withappropriate ceremony.23 Project Jenniferwas the deepest salvage operation ever

    attempted by any nation. The CIA began planninga follow-up lift of the remainder of the submarine,but that effort was halted when Jennifer wasrevealed in the press.

    Personnel failure probably caused the loss of theK-129; of her crew of 98, almost 40 were new to thesubmarine. Some Soviet officials mistakenly contendthat the K-129 was sunk in a collision with the trail-ing U.S. nuclear submarine Swordfish (SSN 579).24

    Another Project 629A/Golf II submarineappeared in American headlines when, on 4 May1972, a U.S. Defense Department spokesmen statedthe submarine had entered a port on Cubas north-ern coast. This visit occurred a decade after theSoviet government had attempted to clandestinelyplace ballistic missiles capable of striking the Unit-ed States in Cuba, leading to the missile crisis of1962.25 Another Golf II visited Cuba in 1974.26 (Nonuclear-propelled ballistic missile submarinesentered Cuban ports, although nuclear-propelledtorpedo and cruise missile submarines did so.)

    Nuclear-Propelled Missile SubmarinesTsKB-18 also was exploring ballistic missile subma-rine designs. In 19571958 the bureau briefly

    TABLE 7-1Soviet Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles

    R-11FM R-13 R-21NATO NATO NATOSS-1b Scud-A SS-N-4 Sark SS-N-5 Serb

    Operational 1959 1961 1963

    Weight 12,050 lb 30,322 lb 36,600 lb

    (5,466 kg) (13,745 kg) (16,600 kg)

    Length 34 ft 1 in 38 ft 8 in 42 ft 4 in

    (10.4 m) (11.8 m) (12.9 m)

    Diameter 3423 in 51 in 55 in

    (0.88 m) (1.3 m) (1.4 m)

    Propulsion liquid- liquid- liquid-

    propellant propellant propellant

    1 stage 1 stage 1 stage

    Range 80 n.miles 350 n.miles 755 n.miles*

    (150 km) (650 km) (1,400 km)

    Guidance inertial inertial inertial

    Warhead** 1 RV 1 RV 1 RV

    conventional nuclear nuclear

    or nuclear 1 MT 1 MT

    10 KT

    Notes: There were several variants of each missile.* A later version of R-21 carried an 800-kiloton warhead to a range of 1,600 km.

    ** RV = Reentry Vehicle.


    looked at a closed-cycle propulsion plant usingsuperoxide-sodium (Project 660). This design, witha submerged displacement of about 3,150 tons, wasto carry three R-13 missiles. It was not pursuedbecause of the substantial development and testingeffort required for the power plant.

    Rather, the next Soviet ballistic missile submarinewould have nuclear propulsion (SSBN). Design workbegan in 1956 at TsKB-18, first under chief designerP. Z. Golosovsky, then I. B. Mikhilov, and finallySergei N. Kovalev. This submarine would be Project658 (NATO Hotel). The submarine had a surface dis-placement of 4,080 tons and an overall length of 374feet (114 m). The submarine initially was armed withthree R-13/SS-N-4 missiles. In addition to four 21-inch (533-mm) bow torpedo tubes, four 15.75-inch(400-mm) stern torpedo tubes were provided fordefense against pursuing destroy-ers, as in the Project 675/Echo IIsubmarine.

    The nuclear power plant wassimilar to the installation in theProject 627A/November SSNsand Project 659/675/Echo SSGNswith two VM-A reactorstheHEN installation. And, as didthose submarines, the SSBNssuffered major engineeringproblems. The keel for the leadship, the K-19, was laid down atSeverodvinsk on 17 October1958. She was placed in commis-sion on 12 November 1960.From the outset the K-19 andher sister ships were plaguedwith engineering problems.

    Less than a year later, whileoperating in Arctic waters off thesouthern coast of Greenland on 4

    July 1961, the K-19 suffered a serious accident whena primary coolant pipe burst. The submarine was ata depth of 660 feet (200 m). The entire crew sufferedexcessive radiation exposure before the submarinewas able to reach the surface. Her crew was evacuat-ed with the help of two diesel-electric submarines,and she was taken in tow. Of 139 men in the K-19 atthe time, 8 men died almost immediately from radi-ation poisoning and several more succumbed overthe next few yearsa total of 14 fatalities. The reac-tor compartment was replaced at Severodvinsk from1962 to 1964, and the original compartment wasdumped into the Kara Sea. The cause of the casualtywas traced to improper welding.

    During 19681969 the K-19 was rearmed withthe underwater-launch RSM-40 missile (NATO SS-N-8). Returning to sea, on 15 November 1969 the

    Production of the Project 658/Hotel SSBN was halted because of the Soviet

    defense reorganization. Design was already under way on the far more capable

    Project 667A/Yankee SSBN. This is the problem-plagued K-19, disabled in the

    North Atlantic on 29 February 1972. (U.S. Navy)

    Project 658/Hotel I SSBN. LOA 373 ft 11 in (114.0 m) (A.D. Baker, III)


    K-19 was in a collision with the U.S. nuclear sub-marine Gato (SSN 615), which was observing Sovi-et submarine operations in the Barents Sea. Bothsubmarines were damaged, but neither was in dan-ger of sinking.

    On 24 February 1972 the K-19 suffered a firewhile operating submerged some 600 n.miles(1,110 km) northeast of Newfoundland. The sub-marine was able to surface. There were fires in com-partments 5, 8, and 9. The fires were extinguished,but 28 of her crew died, and the ship was left with-out propulsion. She was towed across the Atlanticto the Kola Peninsula, a 23-day tow. Twelve sur-vivors were trapped in isolated K-19 compart-ments, in darkness, and with cold rations. Theywere initially forced to drink alcohol from torpe-does. Later rations and water were passed down tothem through an opening from the open deck.There was no radiation leakage.

    After investigations the Soviet governmentdecided to use the K-19 to test the mobilizationpossibilities of the ship repair industrythe abilityto repair a warship in a short amount of time. On15 June 1972 the K-19 was towed to the Zvezdochkayard at Severodvinsk; with the yard workers labor-ing at maximum effort, on 5 November the subma-rine was returned to the fleet.

    The surviving crewmen were sent back to theship. This was done for the morale and psycholog-ical well-being of the crew. The K-19 continued inservice until 1990. The submarine K-19the firstSoviet SSBNwas known in the fleet as theHiroshima.27

    Other Project 658 submarines also sufferedproblems, some having to be towed back to Sovietports. As accident after accident occurred, designerKovalev recalled, It was literally a disastersteamgenerators leaked, condensers leaked and, practical-ly, the military readiness of these submarines wasquestionable.28 The problems that plagued theseand the other submarines of the HEN-series pri-marily were caused by poor workmanship and lackof quality control at the shipyards and by compo-nent suppliers. Personnel errors, however, also werea factor in these accidents. From 1960 to 1962 eightships of the Project 658/Hotel design were built atSeverodvinsk. Additional SSBNs of this class wereplanned, but construction was halted by the late

    1959 establishment of the Strategic Rocket Forcesand cancellation of sea-based strategic strike pro-grams. (See Chapter 11.)

    The design of a larger nuclear-propelled submarineto carry a larger missilehad beenstarted at SKB-143 in 1956.29 Project 639 was tohave a surface displacement of about 6,000 tonsand nuclear propulsion with four propeller shafts,and was to be armed with three R-15 missiles.Reactor plants with both pressurized water andliquid-metal coolants were considered. The R-15,designed at OKB-586, which was headed byMikhail K. Yangel, was a liquid-propellant missilewith a range of 540 n.miles (1,000 km). It wouldhave been surface launched.

    TsKB-16 also was working on a diesel-electricSSB, Project V629, a variant of the Golf design, thatwould carry one of the large R-15 missiles. But thiswas a surface-launch missile, and its performancewas overtaken by other weapons in development;consequently, the decision to halt work on the mis-sile was made in December 1958, and both subma-rine designs were cancelled.30

    The seven Project 658 submarines that wererearmed with the R-21 missile (658M/Hotel II)served until 1991 in the SSBN role. The problem-plagued K-19 was one of the last to be retired. In1979 she was converted to a communications relayship (renamed KS-19). Other units subsequentlywere employed as research and missile test sub-marines after being retired from first-line SSBNservice.31

    However, according to the semiofficial historyof Soviet shipbuilding, the characteristics of theSoviet oceanic missile installations and submarines,the carriers of the first generation [missiles], weresignificantly behind the American submarines andmissile installations. Therefore, during the begin-ning of the 1960s work began on constructing amore modern system for the next generation.32

    The next generation Soviet SSBN would go to sea inthe late 1960s.

    The Soviet Union pioneered the development ofsubmarine-launched ballistic missiles and ballis-tic missile submarines. However, the capabilitiesof these submarinesboth diesel-electric and


    nuclear propelledwere limited, and the lattersubmarines were plagued with the engineeringproblems common to first-generation Sovietnuclear submarines. Still, early Soviet SSB/SSBNsprovided some compensation for the initialshortfall in Soviet ICBM performance and pro-duction. Early planning for more capable ballisticmissile submarines was halted because of thepreference for ICBMs that followed establishment

    of the Strategic Rocket Forces.Further, the Soviets initiated a highly innova-

    tive program of developing submarine-launchedanti-ship ballistic missiles. While the develop-ment of a specific missile for this purpose wassuccessfulwith some speculation in the Westthat an anti-submarine version would followthat weapon ultimately was abandoned because ofarms control considerations. (See Chapter 11.)

    TABLE 7-2Soviet Ballistic Missile Submarines

    Soviet Soviet SovietProject AV611 Project 629 Project 658Zulu V Golf I Hotel I

    Operational 1957 1959 1960


    surface 1,890 tons 2,850 tons 4,080 tons

    submerged 2,450 tons 3,610 tons 5,240 tons

    Length 296 ft 10 in 324 ft 5 in 373 ft 11 in

    (90.5 m) (98.9 m) (114.0 m)

    Beam 24 ft 7 in 26 ft 11 in 30 ft 2 in

    (7.5 m) (8.2 m) (9.2 m)

    Draft 16 ft 9 in 26 ft 7 in 25 ft 3 in

    (5.15 m) (8.1 m) (7.68 m)

    Reactors 2 VM-A

    Turbines 2

    horsepower 35,000

    Diesel engines 3 3

    horsepower 6,000 6,000

    Electric motors 3 3

    horsepower 5,400 5,400

    Shafts 3 3 2


    surface 16.5 knots 14.5 knots 18 knots

    submerged 12.5 knots 12.5 knots 26 knots

    Test depth 655 ft 985 ft 985 ft

    (200 m) (300 m) (300 m)

    Missiles 2 R-11FM 3 R-13/SS-N-4 3 R-13/SS-N-4

    Torpedo tubes* 6 533-mm B 4 533-mm B 4 533-mm B

    4 533-mm S 2 533-mm S 2 400-mm B

    2 400-mm S


    Complement 72 83 104

    Notes: *Bow; Stern.

  • Following the dramatic launching of a V-2from the aircraft carrier Midway in 1947, theU.S. Navy gave relatively little attention to

    ballistic missiles, in part because of other prioritiesfor new weapons, especially those related to air-craft carriers. The ubiquitous Submarine OfficersConference in 1946, while considering a super-bombardment submarine, reported that it mightbe desirable to make exploratory studies of a sub-marine capable of carrying a V-2 type missile, butthere was no follow-up effort.1

    In 1950 Commander Francis D. Boyle, a WorldWar II submarine commander, proposed a guidedmissile submarine based on the wartime fleetboat. Boyles proposal provided a rocket roomand single launch tube aft of the forward torpedo,living, and battery spacesand forward of thecontrol spaces. Innovative features in the craftincluded a vertical launcher and a pump-jet, orducted, propulsion device in place of propellers.But neither the missile nor interest in a ballisticmissile program existed in the U.S. Navy at thetime.

    The proposals to place ballistic missiles in sub-marines received impetus in the aftermath of theSoviet detonation of a thermo-nuclear (hydrogen)device on 12 August 1953. The fear of Sovietadvances in strategic missiles led the U.S. Depart-ment of Defense to direct the Navy to join the Armyin development of an Intermediate Range BallisticMissile (IRBM) that could be launched from sur-face ships.2

    The Navys leadership had objected strenuouslyto the joint program, because the Army was develop-ing the liquid-propellant Jupiter missile. The Navyconsidered liquid propellants too dangerous to han-dle at sea, and a 60-foot (18.3-m) missile would betroublesome even on board surface ships. In addi-tion, there was general opposition to ballistic missilesat sea within the Navy from the cultural viewpointfor two reasons. First, from the late 1940s both theBureau of Aeronautics and the Bureau of Ordnancewere (separately) developing cruise missiles thatcould be launched from submarines against land tar-gets; neither bureau wished to divert scarce resourcesto a new ballistic missile program.


    PolarisFrom Out of the Deep . . .

    The USS George Washington, the Wests first ballistic missile submarine, on sea trials in November 1959. Despite popu-

    lar myth, an attack submarine was not cut in half on the building ways for insertion of the ships missile compartment.

    Note the high turtle back over the 16 Polaris missile tubes. (U.S. Navy)


  • Second, the Navy had lost the B-36 bomber-versus-carrier controversy to the Air Force in thelate 1940s. That loss had cost the Navy prestige andcancellation of the first postwar aircraft carrier, theUnited States.3 As a result, the Navys leadershipwanted to avoid another inter-service battle, thistime over strategic missiles. Indeed, Admiral RobertB. Carney, Chief of Naval Operations from 1953 to1955, had placed restrictions on Navy officers advo-cating sea-based ballistic missiles.

    There was another issue that was very real. Thiswas the fear of having to pay for new weaponssuch as strategic missilesout of the regular Navybudget.4 Navy opposition to developing a sea-basedballistic missile force ended when Admiral ArleighA. Burke became Chief of Naval Operations inAugust 1955. According to Admiral Burkes biogra-pher, Burkes most significant initiative during hisfirst term [19551957] was his sponsorship, in theface of considerable opposition, of a high-priorityprogram to develop a naval intermediate-range bal-listic missile.5

    Fearing that the project would be given low pri-ority within the Navy and that it would be doomedto failure if left to the existing Navy bureaucracy,Admiral Burke established the Special ProjectsOffice (SPO) to provide a vertical organization,

    separate from the existing technical bureaus (e.g.,Bureau of Ships), to direct the sea-based missileproject. Heretofore, all major naval technical devel-opments as well as production had been directed bythe technical bureaus, a horizontal organizationalstructure that dated from 1842. In these actionsBurke was strongly supported by the Secretary ofthe Navy, Charles S. Thomas.6

    As important as establishing the SPO was selec-tion of its director. Admiral Burke appointed newlypromoted Rear Admiral William F. Raborn, a Navypilot who had considerable experience with guidedmissiles. Because of the role of Raborn in Polarisdevelopment, it is important to cite Burkes criteriafor the man to direct this important, controversial,


    An early U.S. Navy proposal for carrying ballistic missiles in submarines saw this 1950 design for adapting a fleet boat to

    carry missiles that would be launched from a single launch tube. The submarinewith a modified conning towerretains

    a deck gun; a pump-jet/ducted propulsor is provided. (U.S. Navy)

    William F. Raborn

    (U.S. Navy)

  • and difficult project. Burke selected an officer whomhe believed had the ability to direct the project on thebasis of his individual qualifications and with mini-mal concern for his membership in the Navys war-fare specialties or unions. According to Burke:

    I realized that he didnt have to be a techni-cal man. He had to be able to know whattechnical men were talking about. He had toget a lot of different kinds of people towork. . . . I wanted a man who could get


    A variety of Jupiter SSBN configurations were considered, all based on variations of the Skipjack design.

  • along with aviators because this [program]was going to kick hell out of aviators. Theywere going to oppose it to beat the devilbecause it would take away, if it were com-pletely successful in the long run, theirstrategic delivery capability.

    It would be bad to have a submariner, inthat because it first was a surface ship[weapon]; submariners were a pretty closegroup and they would have wanted to dothings pretty much as submariners hadalready done . . . besides they wereopposed to ballistic missiles.7

    And, Burke had problems with surface warfare offi-cers as well, because they dont know much aboutmissiles or strategic [matters].

    Admiral Burkes support for Raborn includedtelling him that he could call on the best people inthe Navy for his project staff but the numbers hadto be kept small; and, any time that it looked likethe projects goals could not be accomplished,

    Raborn should simply recommend to Burke thatthe project be stopped.

    On 8 November 1955 the Secretary of Defenseestablished a joint Army-Navy IRBM program.The sea-based Jupiter program, given highestnational priorityBrickbat 01along with theAir Force Atlas ICBM and Army Jupiter IRBM,progressed rapidly toward sending the missile tosea in converted merchant ships. During 1956 aschedule was developed to put the first IRBM-armed merchant ships at sea in 1959. Some studiesalso were addressing the feasibility of submarineslaunching the Jupiter IRBM from the surface, withfour to eight missiles to be carried in a nuclear-propelled submarine of some 8,300 tons sub-merged displacement.

    The Navy still had severe misgivings about theuse of highly volatile liquid propellants aboardship, and studies were initiated into solid propellantmissiles. However, solid propellants had a low spe-cific impulse and hence were payload limited. Themajor boost for solid propellants came in mid-


    Forced to join the Army in the quest for a ballistic missile force, the Navy produced several preliminary designs for a sub-

    marine to launch the liquid-propellant Jupiter missile. This version has four SLBMs carried in a modified Skipjack hull.

    Satellite navigation is shown being used as the submarines sail penetrates the surface. (U.S. Navy)

  • 1956, when scientists found it feasible to greatlyreduce the size of thermo-nuclear warheads. Dr.Edward Tellerfather of the American hydrogenbombis said to have suggested in the summer of1956 that a 400-pound (181-kg) warhead wouldsoon provide the explosive force of a 5,000-pound(2,270-kg) one.8 The Atomic Energy Commissionin September 1956 estimated that a small nuclearwarhead would be available by 1965, with an evenchance of being ready by 1963.

    This development coupled with the parallelwork on higher specific impulse solid propellantspermitted (1) a break from the Armys Jupiter pro-gram in December 1956, (2) formal initiation of thePolaris SLBM program with a solid-propellant mis-sile, and (3) a shift from surface ships to sub-marines as the launch platform.9

    On 8 February 1957, the Chief of Naval Opera-tions (Burke) issued a requirement for a 1,500-n.mile (2,775-km) missile launched from a subma-rine to be operational by 1965. This range wasstipulated to enable a submarine in the NorwegianSea to target the Soviet capital of Moscow. The Feb-ruary 1957 schedule with a goal of 1965 was fol-lowed by a series of revisions and accelerations inthe Polaris program.

    During this period Admiral Burke was financ-ing the Polaris program entirely from existingNavy budgets. At the time he was fighting for amajor naval building program, including the firstnuclear surface ships, as well as the Polaris. Burkestask became more urgent when, on 3 August 1957,a Soviet R-7 missile rocketed several thousandmiles from its launchpad at Tyuratam to impact inSiberia. This was the worlds first long-rangeICBM flight test. Five weeks later, on 4 October1957, the Soviets orbited Sputnik, the first artifi-cial earth satellite. On 23 October Secretary of theNavy Thomas S. Gates proposed acceleration ofPolaris to provide a 1,200-n.mile (2,225-km) mis-sile by December 1959, with three SLBM sub-marines to be available by mid-1962, and a 1,500-n.mile missile to be available by mid-1963. Amonth later the program was again accelerated, toprovide the 1,200-n.mile missile by October 1960.Late in December 1957just as the preliminaryplans for the Polaris submarine were completedthe schedule was again changed to provide the sec-

    ond submarine in March 1960, and the third inthe fall of 1960.

    Building Missile SubmarinesTo permit the submarines to be produced in soshort a time, on the last day of 1957 the Navyreordered a recently begun nuclear-propelled,torpedo-attack submarine and a second, not-yet-started unit as ballistic missile submarines. Thusthe first five Polaris submarines (SSBN 598602)were derived from the fast attack submarines of theSkipjack (SSN 585) class. The Skipjack featured astreamlined hull design with a single propeller;propulsion was provided by an S5W reactor plantproducing 15,000 horsepower. (See Chapter 9.)Thus the basic missile submarine would be an exist-ing SSN design, which was lengthened 130 feet(39.6 m)45 feet (13.7 m) for special navigationand missile control equipment, 10 feet (3.0 m) forauxiliary machinery, and 75 feet (22.9 m) for tworows of eight Polaris missile tubes. The number 16was decided by polling the members of AdmiralRaborns technical staff and averaging their recom-mendations! Obviously, being much larger than theSkipjack with the same propulsion plant, the SSBNswould be much slower.

    The first submarine was to have been the Scor-pion (SSN 589), laid down on 1 November 1957; bythis method the Navy was able to use hull materialand machinery ordered for attack submarines toaccelerate the Polaris submarines. Popular accountsthat an SSN was cut in half on the building waysand a missile section inserted to create the firstPolaris submarine are a myth. The Scorpion/SSN589 was laid down on 1 November 1957 at the Electric Boat yard; she was reordered as a Polarissubmarinedesignated SSGN(FBM) 598on 31December 1957.10 The cutting was done on blue-prints with construction using components of boththe Scorpion and the Skipjack. The new subma-rine was named George Washington.

    Admiral Rickover initially objected to a singlescrew for the missile submarines, although he hadrecently accepted that configuration for SSNs.Atomic Energy Commission historians RichardHewlett and Francis Duncan noted that underwritten orders from Admiral Burke [Raborn andother admirals] excluded Rickover from all the


  • preliminary studies.11 And Raborn, as the directorof the SPO, had over-all responsibility for the sub-marine as well as the missile.12 Raborn and theother admirals involved in the Polaris projectfeared Rickovers participation would lead todomination of the new project by his office.13

    Burke excluded Rickover by simply directing thatthe S5W plant would be used. Rickover did gainone concession: The requirement for Polaris sub-marines to operate under the Arctic ice pack wasdeleted from the SSBN requirements. (Two yearslater, however, Rickover would tell a congressionalcommittee that the Polaris submarines will beable to operate under the polar icecap.)

    Spurred on by Soviet strategic missile develop-mentsgiven the political label missile gap inthe United StatesPolaris was given the highestnational priority. Construction of attack sub-marines and the two-reactor radar picket subma-rine Triton (SSRN 586) were slowed, becausePolaris had priority for shipyard workers andmatriel. By July 1960 there were 14 Polaris sub-marines under constructionthe five GeorgeWashington class, five improved Ethan Allen(SSBN 608) class, and four of the Lafayette (SSBN616) class.

    The first five SSBNs were based on the Skipjackdesign, with a test depth of 700 feet (215 m), exceptthat the first ship, the George Washington, with amissile compartment insert of High-Tensile Steel(HTS) rather than the HY-80 steel used in the hull,

    limited her to about 600 feet (183 m). Theimproved, five-ship Ethan Allen class was larger,incorporating the hull features of the Thresher (SSN593) class with a test depth of 1,300 feet (400 m).These submarines, at 7,800 tons submerged, werelarger (compared to 6,700 tons for the GeorgeWashington); had only four torpedo tubes (vicesix); had Thresher-type machinery quieting; andwere provided with improved accommodationsand other features. The subsequent Lafayette-classshipsthe ultimate Polaris designwere stilllarger, displacing 8,250 tons submerged, with fur-ther improved quieting and other features. Thepropulsion plants in all three classes were similar,with the final 12 submarines of the Lafayette classhaving improved quieting; all would carry 16Polaris missiles.

    The Polaris missiles could be launched while thesubmarines were completely submergedapprox-imately 60 feet (18.3 m) below the surfacewith alaunch interval of about one minute per missile.14

    The major concern for Polaris submarines wascommunications; how long would the delay bebefore a submarine running submerged couldreceive a firing order? Technical improvements, theuse of trailing-wire antennas, and, subsequently,satellites and communications relay aircraft wouldenhance communications to submarines.15 Theone-way communications mode of missile sub-marines and potential message reception delaysmeant that they were unsuitable for a first-strike


    The George Washington at rest, showing the position of the Polaris missile compartment aft of the sail. The reactor com-

    partment is behind the missiles, beneath the square covering. The hull number and name would be deleted before the sub-

    marine went on deterrent patrol. (General Dynamics Corp.)

  • attack (a factor known to leaders in the Kremlinas well as in Washington). Further, the relativelyhigh survivability of submarines compared tomanned bomber bases and land-based ICBMsmeant that submarine missiles could be with-held for a second-strike or retaliatory attack,making them a credible deterrent weapon.

    The George Washington was placed in commis-sion on 20 December 1959, under CommandersJames B. Osborn and John L. From Jr. Polaris sub-marines introduced a new ship-operating concept,with each submarine being assigned two completecrews of some 135 officers and enlisted men(called Blue and Gold, the Navys colors). Onecrew would take a Polaris submarine to sea on asubmerged deterrent patrol for 60 days; that crewwould then bring the submarine into port forrepairs and replenishment, and after a transferperiod, the alternate crew would take the subma-rine back to sea for a 60-day patrol. While onecrew was at sea, the other would be in the UnitedStates, for rest, leave, and training. Thus, sometwo-thirds of the Polaris force could be kept at seaat any given time.16

    The G.W. went to sea on 18 June 1960 carryingtwo unarmed Polaris missiles for the first U.S. bal-listic missile launch by a submarine. Rear AdmiralRaborn was on board as were both the Blue andGold crews and a number of technicians; about 250men crowded the submarine. Numerous minorproblems plagued the missile countdown, and,finally, the submarine returned to port withoutlaunching the two missiles.

    Returning to sea on 20 June, the George Wash-ington, after encountering additional minor prob-lems, successfully carried out two submergedlaunches, several hours apart. Moments after thesecond missile launch, Raborn sent a messagedirectly from the G.W. to President Dwight D.


    The George Washington departed on the firstPolaris deterrent patrol on 15 November 1960,manned by Commander Osborns Blue crew. Thesubmarine carried 16 Polaris A-1 missiles with arange of 1,200 n.miles and fitted with a W47 war-head of 600 kilotons explosive force.18 The GeorgeWashington was at sea on that initial patrol for 67consecutive days, remaining submerged for 66 days,10 hours, establishing an underwater endurancerecord. Before the George Washington returned toport, the second Polaris submarine, the PatrickHenry (SSBN 599), had departed on a deterrentpatrol on 30 December 1960. Additional Polarissubmarines went to sea at regular intervals.

    Significantly, from the outset Navy planners hadprepared for SSBN deployments in the Atlantic andPacific, broad seas where they would be less vulner-able to Soviet ASW efforts. But the Kennedy admin-istration decided to send three Polaris submarinesinto the Mediterranean Sea beginning about 1 April1963, to coincide with the removal of U.S. Jupi-ter IRBMs from Turkey. Those missiles had beentraded by the Kennedy administration in the sur-reptitious negotiations with the Soviet governmentto end the Cuban missile crisis. The Sam Houston(SSBN 609), the first SSBN to enter the Med,assured that all interested parties knew of thePolaris presence when, on 14 April, the submarineentered the port of Izmir, Turkey.19 The first Polarissubmarine to undertake a deterrent patrol in thePacific was the Daniel Boone (SSBN 629), whichdeparted Guam on 25 December 1964 carrying 16A-3 missiles.

    Initially the U.S. Navy had proposed an ultimateforce of about 40 Polaris submarines.20 SomeDefense officials, among them Deputy Secretary ofDefense Donald Quarles, felt that many more such


    George Washington (SSBN 598). LOA 381 ft 8 in (116.36 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • craft were possible, predicting very strong Con-gressional support for the construction of perhapsas many as 100 such submarines.21

    Admiral Burke recalled that he had developed arequirement for 39 to 42 Polaris submarines (eachwith 16 missiles) based on the number of targets fornuclear weapons in the USSR. These were multipliedby two weapons each for redundancy and reliability,multiplied by 10 percent for weapons intercepted orshot down, and multiplied by 20 percent as thenumber that would probably malfunction.22 Burkealso had used 50 submarines as his target forPolaris.23 At all force levels it was planned to keeptwo-thirds of the Polaris submarines at sea throughthe use of dual crews (see above).

    Subsequently, the Navy and Department ofDefense programmed a force of 45 submarinesfive squadrons of nine ships each. Of those, 29 sub-marines were to be at sea (deployed) at all timesand could destroy 232 Soviet targets (i.e., 464 mis-siles with a 50-percent pK24). But by September1961, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamarahad advised President John F. Kennedy that he rec-ommended a final force of 41 Polaris submarinescarrying 656 missiles.25 In January 1962 McNamaratold Congress, Considering the number of Min-uteman missiles and other strategic delivery vehi-cles which will be available over the next few years,it is difficult to justify a Polaris force of more than41 submarines.26

    In the event, through 1967 the U.S. Navy tookdelivery of 41 Polaris submarines (which wereorganized into four squadrons). Each submarine

    carried 16 Polaris missilesa total of 656 SLBMs.In addition, the Royal Navy built four similarPolaris missile submarines, completed from 1967 to1969; these were armed with American-supplied A-3 missiles carrying British nuclear warheads.27

    During the seven-year period 19601967 U.S.shipyards produced an average of almost 912 nuclearsubmarines per year, a construction rate that neveragain was achieved in the United States, but thatwould be exceeded by the USSR in the 1970s. (Nodiesel-electric submarines were added to the U.S.fleet in that period.)

    In contrast to the two or three missiles of thefirst-generation Soviet SSB/SSBNs, the U.S. Polarissubmarines each carried 16 SLBMs. Further, theU.S. missiles could be launched while the subma-rine remained fully submerged and were creditedwith a greater accuracy than the Soviet weapons.28

    As important as the missiles was the development(at an accelerated rate) of the fire control and nav-igation systems for Polaris submarines. The latterwas particularly critical because of the long rangesof the missile and the need for the submarine toremain submerged (except for masts and antennasraised on a periodic basis). Recalling that this was inthe period of primitive navigation satellites such asthe Transit, the Ships Inertial Navigation System(SINS) developed for the Polaris program was aremarkable technological achievement. It providedaccurate navigation based on movement of thesubmarine and using external navigation sourcesonly for periodic updates. Finally, providing theneeded life support systems, including oxygen and


    TABLE 8-1U.S. Nuclear-Propelled Submarines Completed 19601967

    Shipyard Ballistic Torpedo- CruiseMissile Attack Missile(SSBN) (SSN) (SSGN)

    Electric Boat Company, Groton, Conn. 17* 4

    General Dynamics, Quincy, Mass. 1

    Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, Miss. 5

    Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, Calif. 7 3 1**

    Newport News Shipbuilding, Va. 14 4

    New York Shipbuilding, Camden, N.J. 3

    Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Maine 3 4

    Total 41 24 1

    Notes: * Includes the USS George Washington, commissioned on 30 December 1959.** USS Halibut (SSGN 587).

  • potable water while fully submerged for a crew of150 to 160 men in a submarine for 60 to 70 days,was also a major achievement. At the time of theirconstruction, the Polaris SLBM submarines werethe largest, most complex, and from a viewpoint ofweapons payload, the most powerful submarinesyet constructed by any nation.29

    The time to prepare missiles for launching afterreceipt of a launch order was about 15 minutes; themissiles could then be launched at intervals of aboutone minute. The submerged Polaris submarine hadto be stationary or moving at a maximum of aboutone knot to launch. The launch depth (from the keelof the submarine) was about 125 feet.

    In addition to submarines, from the outset theNavy considered placing Polaris missiles in surfacewarships as well as specialized strategic missileships. Particular efforts were made to configurecruisers being built and converted to carry surface-to-air missiles to also have Polaris missiles. Also,extensive analysis was undertaken into the feasi-bility of placing Polaris missiles in Iowa-class bat-tleships, aircraft carriers of the large Forrestal class(76,000 tons full load), and smaller Hancock-classcarriers (42,600 tons). These efforts determinedthat all of the ships could readily accept Polarismissiles.30 Indeed, the Forrestals could accommo-date up to 30 missile tubes (replacing some 5-inchguns and their accessories) without seriouslyaffecting aircraft numbers or operations. TheHancocks similarly could be armed with up to 20Polaris missiles, albeit with more difficultybecause of the lack of weight margin in those ships(built during World War II). The specializedPolaris ships would be merchant designs, armedwith a large number of Polaris missiles andmanned by Navy personnel. They could steam onthe open seas, hiding among the worlds mer-chant traffic, or remain in allied harbors, wherethey would be safe from enemy submarine andpossibly air attack. At one point the U.S. govern-ment proposed multi-national NATO crews forthese ships.31

    In the event, no surface ships ever were armedwith Polaris missiles. The rapid buildup of Polarissubmarines coupled with the increasing range ofsubmarine-launched missiles alleviated the needfor such ships. The surface ship SLBM concept,

    however, would be revisited in the future. (SeeChapter 12.)

    Improved Polaris MissilesThe 1,200-n.mile A-1 missile was considered an interim weapon from the outset of the solid-propellant program, with longer-range variants indevelopment when the George Washington went tosea. The 1,500-n.mile A-2 missile went on patrol inJune 1962 in the Ethan Allen. A month before shedeployed, on 6 May 1962 the Ethan Allen, operatingnear Christmas Island in the mid-Pacific, launched aPolaris A-2 missile with a nuclear warhead that deto-nated in the only full-systems test of a U.S. strategicmissileland- or sea-basedfrom launch throughdetonation (Operation Frigate Bird). The A-2 carriedthe same W47 warhead of the A-1 missile, but with anincreased yield of 1.2 megatons and an increase inrange from 1,200 n.miles to 1,500 n.miles.

    The 2,500-n.mile A-3 missile was first deployedin the Daniel Webster (SSBN 626) in September1964. All three versions of the Polaris had the samediameter (54 inches/1.37 m). This enabled the sub-marines to be upgraded to later missiles duringnormal shipyard overhauls. Thus, all 41 Polarissubmarines eventually were upgraded to launch theA-3 variant.32

    While the A-1 and A-2 carried single warheads,the A-3 carried a Multiple Reentry Vehicle (MRV)that shotgunned three warheads onto a single tar-get. Each of its three W58 warheads had a yield of200 kilotons, with the total MRV weighing some1,100 pounds (500 kg).33 The MRV effect compen-sated for the limited accuracy of the A-3 missile.

    The fourth missile of this series to go to sea wasthe C-3 variant, given the name Poseidon.34 Thiswas a much larger missile, 74 inches (1.88 m) indiameter, with about the same range as the A-3, thatis, 2,500 n.miles. But the Poseidon was the worldsfirst operational strategic missile to carry MultipleIndependently targeted Reentry Vehicles (MIRV).Ten to 14 W68 warheads could be fitted, each withan explosive force of 50 kilotons, which could beguided to separate targets within a given area(footprint).

    The impetus for the Poseidon SLBM came fromindications that the Soviet Union was developing anAnti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) system that would be


  • able to defeat the planned num-ber of U.S. strategic missiles in anuclear strike. This innovativePoseidon SLBM was the result ofa series of Navy studies that beganin March 1964 with the so-calledGreat Circle Study. Initiated bySecretary of the Navy Paul H.Nitze, this and later studiesresponded to demands by Secre-tary of Defense McNamara formore rigorous analysis of U.S.strategic offensive and defensiverequirements. At the time theNavy was proposing the Polaris B-3 missile as an eventual follow-onto the A-3. The B-3 missilewitha diameter of 74 inches (1.88m)would carry six warheads,each of 170 kilotons, plus pene-tration aids, to about the samerange as the Polaris A-3. But Dr.Harold Brown, Director ofDefense Research and Engineer-ing, proposed that the Navyincorporate the latest missiletechnology.35 This became thePoseidon C-3 with enhanced pay-load, range, and separate targetattack capability. The first Posei-don patrol began in March 1971,with the James Madison (SSBN627) taking to sea a loadout of 16missiles. While the conversionof the Polaris submarines wasrequired to carry this larger mis-sile, the changes were relativelyminor, and all 31 submarines ofthe Lafayette class were convertedto launch the Poseidon C-3 mis-sile. A final version of thePolaris/Poseidon was the so-called EXPO (Extended-rangePoseidon), which entered ad-vanced development in the early1970s. This missile was soonrenamed the Trident C-4, with 12of the Lafayette-class submarines


    TABLE 8-2U.S. Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles

    Missile Polaris Polaris Polaris PoseidonA-1 A-2 A-3 C-3UGM-27A UGM-27B UGM-27C UGM-73

    Operational 1960 1962 1964 1971

    Weight 28,000 lb 32,500 lb 35,700 lb 64,000 lb

    (12,700 kg) (14,740 kg) (16,195 kg) (29,030 kg)

    Length 28 ft 31 ft 32 ft 34 ft

    (8.53 m) (9.45 m) (9.75 m) (10.37 m)

    Diameter 54 in 54 in 54 in 74 in

    (1.37 m) (1.37 m) (1.37 m) (1.88 m)

    Propulsion solid- solid- solid- solid-

    propellant propellant propellant propellant

    2 stage 2 stage 2 stage 2 stage

    Range 1,200 n.mi 1,500 n.mi 2,500 n.mi 2,500 n.mi*

    (2,225 km) (2,775 km) (4,635 km) (4,635 km)

    Guidance inertial inertial inertial inertial

    Warhead** 1 RV 1 RV 3 MRV 1014 MIRV

    nuclear nuclear nuclear nuclear

    W47 Y1 W47 Y2 W58 W68

    600 KT 1.2 MT 3 x 200 KT 1014 x 50 KT

    Notes: * With reduced payload.** RV = Reentry Vehicle; MRV = Multiple Reentry Vehicle.

    MIRV = Multiple Independently targeted Reentry Vehicle.

    The Henry Clay (SSBN 625) launches a Polaris A-2 missile from the surface off

    Cape Kennedy, Florida, in 1964. The mast atop the sail is a telemetry antenna

    used for test launches. This was the first of only two surface SLBM launches from

    U.S. submarines. (U.S. Navy)

  • being further converted to carrythe weapon. The C-4 missile, witha diameter of 74 inches (1.88 m),had a theoretical range of 4,000n.miles (7,400 km) and a MIRVconfiguration for eight W76 war-heads of 100 kilotons each.

    The flexibility of the 41Polaris submarines to be rapidlyupdated to carry successiveSLBMs was one of the severalremarkable aspects of the pro-gram. From 1967 to 1980 therewere 41 Polaris/Poseidon SSBNsin service (including thoseundergoing overhaul and mod-ernization). The last Polarispatrol by the original 41SSBNs was completed in 1994,bringing to an end a remarkableachievement.

    As the SSBNs were retired,there were efforts to employsome of the early Polaris sub-marines in the torpedo-attackrole (SSN), but they wereunsuccessful because of theirlimited sonar, too few weapons,slow speed, and high noise lev-els. An innovative proposal forretired Polaris/Poseidon SSBNswas to employ them as forwardradar tracking platforms as partof a national Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) defensesystem. As proposed in the late 1960s to supportthe planned Sentinel/Safeguard ABM program,several early SSBNs were to have been rebuilt tomount large, fixed-array radars on an enlarged sailstructure. During crisis periods the submarineswould surface through the Arctic ice pack to pro-vide early warning/tracking of Soviet or Chineseballistic missiles. Also under consideration was thepossibility of launching ABM intercept missilesfrom the submarine missile tubes, possiblyemploying Polaris missiles as the boost vehicle forthe interceptor. These proposals were abandonedwhen the Sentinel/Safeguard ABM program wascancelled in the early 1970s.36

    More successful, from 1984 onward fourPolaris/Poseidon submarines were reconfigured tocarry special operations forces (commandos). Eachwas modified to carry 65 troops or combat swim-mers, their equipment, and rubber landing craft.37

    The very last of the 41 Polaris submarines in serv-ice was the Kamehameha (SSN 642), retired in 2002after serving as a transport submarine.

    The U.S. Polaris system was born as a reaction toindications in the late 1950s of massive Sovietefforts to develop strategic missile and satellitesystems. These concerns led the United States toinitiate the Polaris SLBM and Minuteman ICBM


    The missile hatches of the Sam Rayburn (SSBN 635) are open, awaiting their

    deadly cargo of Polaris A-3 missiles. The Polaris configuration permitted rela-

    tively simple modifications to launch improved missiles of the Polaris, Poseidon,

    and Trident C-4 series. (Newport News Shipbuilding Corp.)

  • to counter the fear of a strate-gic missile gap. (In fact, themissile gap would exist infavor of the United Statesuntil the mid-1970s.)

    Polaris rapidly becameone leg of the U.S. Triadthe term coined by the U.S. AirForce to rationalize theneed for three U.S. strategicoffensive forces: manned,land-based bombers, land-based ICBMs, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.38

    In 1961 Secretary of DefenseMcNamara described thePolaris as having

    the most survival potentialin the wartimeenvironment of any of ourlong range nuclear deliverysystems. Polaris missilesdo not have to be launchedearly in the war, they canbe held in reserve and usedin a controlled and deliber-ate way to achieve ourwartime objectives. For example, Polaris isideal for counter-city retaliation.39

    Polaris submarines were superior to contem-porary Soviet missile submarines and were spe-cially configured for being upgraded to launchmore advanced missiles as they became available.The Polaris submarines were completely invulner-able to Soviet anti-submarine forces of the time.Writing in 1961, a senior spokesman of the SovietNavy wrotein a classified publicationStrict-ly speaking, we do not yet have finalized methodsfor combating missile-carrying submarines. Eventhe main forces for accomplishing this missionhave not yet been defined.40

    In response to Polaris the Soviets would initiateseveral major ASW programs, but not until the late1970s could these be considered a credible threat to

    U.S. strategic missile submarines. Still, in 1978 Sec-retary of Defense Harold Brown could state,unequivocally,The critical role of the SLBM force,as the most survivable element in the currentTRIAD of strategic forces, both now and in theforeseeable future, is well established.41

    As a result of its survivability, according toSecretary Brown, the SLBM force contributes tocrisis stability. The existence of a survivable, at-sea ballistic missile force decreases the Sovietincentives to procure additional counterforceweapons and to plan attacks on United States soilsince such attacks would not eliminate our abilityto retaliate.42

    The Polaris submarines appear to have beenthe models for subsequent SSBN development inall countries that developed such shipsChina,France, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union.


    TABLE 8-3Ballistic Missile Submarines

    U.S. George U.S. Ethan U.S. LafayetteWashington Allen SSBN 616SSBN 598 SSBN 608

    Operational 1960 1961 1963


    surface 5,900 tons 6,900 tons 7,250 tons

    submerged 6,700 tons 7,900 tons 8,250 tons

    Length 381 ft 8 in 410 ft 5 in 425 ft

    (116.36 m) (125.13 m) (129.57 m)

    Beam 33 ft 33 ft 33 ft

    (10.06 m) (10.06 m) (10.06 m)

    Draft 26 ft 8 in 27 ft 6 in 27 ft 9 in

    (8.13 m) (8.38 m) (8.46 m)

    Reactors 1 S5W 1 S5W 1 S5W

    Turbines 2 2 2

    horsepower 15,000 15,000 15,000

    Shafts 1 1 1


    surface 16.5 knots 16 knots 16 knots

    submerged 22 knots 21 knots 21 knots

    Test depth 700 feet 1,300 feet 1,300 feet

    (215 m) (400 m) (400 m)

    Missiles 16 Polaris 16 Polaris 16 Polaris/Poseidon

    Torpedo tubes* 6 533-mm B 4 533-mm B 4 533-mm B

    Torpedoes 12 12 12

    Complement** 136 136 136

    Notes: * Bow; Stern.** Alternating Blue and Gold crews.

  • Allied code breaking during World War IIrevealed that the Type XXI submarinewould have a much greater submerged

    speed than previous U-boats. In response, begin-ning in 1944 the Royal Navy rapidly modified eightS-class submarines for use as high-speed targetsfor training British anti-submarine forces. The con-verted submarines could attain 12.5 knots under-water, slow in comparison with the Type XXI, butfaster than any other allied submarine.1

    After the war the British, Soviet, and U.S. Naviesbegan to improve the underwater performance oftheir submarines with German design concepts andtechnologies. Britain and the United States rebuiltwar-built submarines to improve their submergedspeeds, and all three navies incorporated Germantechnology in their new designs.

    As early as 1945 a U.S. Navy officer, LieutenantCommander Charles N. G. Hendrix, drew up asingle page of Ship Characteristics that proposeda radical, high-speed submarine design, incorpo-rating such features as:2

    reduced-cavitation propellerrelocation of propeller [aft of rudder]

    radical changes in hull designflood valves on main ballast tanksdouble or triple hull designautomatic depth controlautomatic steeringtwo vertical rudders or an upper rudderhigh-speed bow and stern planesimproved pitot (speed) logabolish conning tower compartmentprovide combat information centerreduce hatches in pressure hull

    This single pagein the opinion of the authorsof this bookrepresents the origins of a remark-able submarine, the USS Albacore (AGSS 569). TheAlbacore was a revolutionary design, because itbegan with a clean sheet of paper. On 8 July 1946the Bureau of Ships requested that the David TaylorModel Basin in nearby Carderock, Maryland,undertake tests of a high-speed hull form, soonknown as Series 58.3 A few days later, on 26 July, Dr.Kenneth S. M. Davidson, chairman of the hydro-dynamics panel of the Committee on UnderseaWarfare of the National Academy of Sciences,wrote to the commanding officer of the model


    The Quest for Speed

    The Project 661/Papa SSGN was the worlds fastest submarine, attaining a speed of 44.7 knots in 1970which is still

    unsurpassed. Like several other Soviet submarine designs, she proved to be too expensive and too complex for large-scale



  • basin, Captain Harold E. Saunders, calling for acompletely new approach to submarine designarational design instead of ceaseless modificationand juggling of existing designs, yielding a secondrate answer. During the next few years several Navyoffices began supporting the development of ahigh-speed undersea research craft, especially RearAdmiral Charles B. (Swede) Momsen, the AssistantChief of Naval Operations for Undersea Warfare.4

    The Albacore was intended primarily To pro-vide information required for future submarinedesign by acting as a test vessel in regard to hydro-dynamics [and] . . . To act as a high-speed targetduring the evaluation of anti-submarine systemsand weapons and to determine the anti-submarinerequirements necessary to defeat this type of sub-marine. The secondary task was to train personnelto operate high-speed submarines.5

    Addressing the need for submarine speed,another admiral declared: the next step in the sub-marine will be to make speeds so that they will beable to outrun any type of homing weapon. Weconsider that as the most important submarinedevelopment that we have in our [shipbuilding]program.6

    Dr. Davidson, professor of engineering at theprestigious Stevens Institute of Technology inHoboken, New Jersey, and John C. Niedermair, inthe preliminary design section of the Bureau ofShips, produced a radical hull design for the Alba-core, using results of model basin tests and model-ing of early, turn-of-the-century submarines (e.g.,John Hollands Plunger of 1897). There also wasinput from aerodynamic analyses in that, while airand water differ in density, both are fluids and keyparameters apply to both. Early papers on the Alba-core refer to her inverted blimp shape or the Lyon-form, an apparent reference to British scientistHilda Lyon, who helped develop the streamlinedshape of the airship R-101. This hull form was astarting point for the Albacore, with a 30-foot (9.15-m) submarine model that was flight tested in theNational Advisory Committee for Aeronautics(NACA) aerodynamic wind tunnel at Langley AirForce Base in Virginia.7

    To reduce the turbulence generated as waterflowed over the hull, all projections were removed(guns, bits, cleats, railings, etc.) except for a stream-

    lined fairwater and the control surfaces. Asdesigned, the submarine was planned to achieve asubmerged speed of 27.4 knots with an electricmotor producing only 4,000 shaft horsepower.8

    The submarine would have a 500-cell battery,enabling her to maintain that speed for 30 minutes,or 21.5 knots, for one hour. Two General Motors16/338 pancake diesel enginesfrom the Tang(SS 563) classwere fitted for charging batteries.Those problem-plagued engines were used becausethey were readily available and, being smaller andlighter than conventional diesel engines, seemedsuitable for the small research submarine. The sin-gle electric motor produced 7,500 horsepower.

    The early Albacore designs provided for a sub-marine with a length of 150 feet (45.73 m), a beamof 30 feet (9.15 m), and a surface displacement of


    An Albacore model undergoing wind-tunnel testing at

    Langley Air Force Base (Virginia) to determine flow/drag

    characteristics. High-speed submarine shapes were also

    tested in water tanks at the David W. Taylor model basin

    in Carderock, Maryland. (U.S. Navy)

  • some 1,600 tons. In time the length grew to 204 feet(62.2 m), but the beam was reduced to 27 feet(8.23 m), and the surface displacement to 1,517tons. The final Albacore design featured a lowlength-to-beam ratio of 7.5:1, rounded bow,tapered stern, and body of revolution, that is, acircular cross section along the entire hull. A dou-ble hull was provided to facilitate the radical outershape of the hull as well as surviving inert torpedohits in the secondary training-target role. The innerhull was 21 feet (6.4 m) in diameter at its widestpoint, four feet (1.2 m) greater than in the Tangdesign. This enabled the Albacore to have the equiv-alent of almost three deck heights amidships.

    No weapons were provided in the submarine,although the issue was continually raised, even afterthe Albacore was completed. Admiral I. J. (Pete)Galantin later explained, If the ship was given atorpedo-firing capability we would gain one attackboat of very limited capability and lose flexibilityand operational time needed for the exploration ofnew design concepts.9

    The consideration of the Albacore for a second-ary role as a target for ASW weapons led to the sub-marine being listed as SST in early planning docu-ments. The designation soon was changed toAG(SST) and, subsequently, to AGSS 569.10

    Construction of the Albacore was authorized inthe fiscal year 1950 shipbuilding program, and thesubmarine was ordered on 24 November 1950 fromthe Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (Kittery, Maine).Portsmouth was the Navys lead submarine construc-tion yard and had a highly innovative design staff.

    The Albacore was commissioned on 5 December1953 and quickly demonstrated that she was themost agile and maneuverable and the fastest under-sea craft yet constructed. The Albacore was fittedwith a fully automated control system featuring aircraft-type joy sticks for high-speed maneuver-ing. Before tests of the automated ship control sys-tem, the Albacores officers went to Lakehurst,New Jersey, to fly blimps to better understand one-operator, automated control systems similar to thatin the submarine. An early commanding officer, JonL. Boyes, wrote:

    One test trial was with Albacore traveling ata certain depth at speeds in excess of twenty-

    five knots; go into a thirty degree dive, andwhen a specified rate of descent wasreached, to reverse propulsion or controls.At times in this maneuver, we took heels ofover forty degrees with down angles aroundfifty degreeslearning from this importantlesson about ship equipment and humanperformance.11


    Later, in other tests and exercises at sea, wefound that in automated flight Albacore wasfrequently quieter than when in a manual-operator control mode. We found also thatwhen operating at high speeds the shipssonar detection range of certain surface andsubmerged targets was somewhat longerthan when in human operator controlmode.12

    The Albacores hull was fabricated of HY-80steel, but because her piping, hull penetrations, andother components were made of High-Tensile Steel(HTS), she was credited with a test depth of only600 feet (185 m). However, Boyes has stated that800 feet (240 m) was a normal operating depth, andon one occasion the Albacore descended to 1,400feet (430 m) in trials. According to Boyes:

    They called for us to go to maximum flightspeed, then roll her over in a direct descentwith a one-pilot override. He [the pilot] wasmesmerized by the instrumentation and wewere at 1,200 feet before we caught it.13

    Boyes also stated that a later dive reached 1,600feet (480 m).

    A large number of modifications and changeswere made to the Albacore to test and evaluate var-ious design concepts during her 19 years of service.The major changes were made under four phasesand several lesser projects. (Phase I was the config-uration as constructed.)

    19561957 (Phase II): The stern control sur-faces were moved forward of the propeller;Aquaplas sound-dampening plasticto absorbvibration and dampen water-flow noisewas


  • applied to the submarines outer structure andballast tank interiors.

    1958: The small bow diving planes were removedto reduce flow noise and drag; these planes had beenuseful only when operating near the surface and atslow speeds.14 And, during 19581959 the Albacorewas fitted with a towed-array sonar mounted in hersail, the first time that hydrophones were towedbehind a U.S. submarine.15

    1959 (Phase III): The original 11-foot (3.35-m)propeller was replaced by a 14-foot-diameter (4.27-m) propeller, which turned more slowly and wasquieter.

    19601961: The stern control surfaces were con-figured in an X configuration; dive brakes werefitted; a new bow configuration, a BQS-4 sonar, anauxiliary rudder at the trailing edge of the sailstructure, and a drag parachute from a B-47bomber were installed.16

    The X-tail consisted of two essentially equalpairs of control surfaces, one forward of the otherto leave space for yokes, tillers, and stocks as well asthe propeller shafting within the tapered stern. Thedive brakesten large, hydraulically operateddoors arranged around the hull, aft of the sailand the sail rudder were among several schemesevaluated to counter excessive pitch or dive anglesduring high-speed maneuvers.

    1962: A Digital Multi-beam Steering (DIMUS)sonar was installed, providing an improvement inpassive acoustic detection.

    19621965 (Phase IV): The submarine waslengthened to 21012 feet (64.18 m), with installa-tion of contra-rotating propellers mounted on asmaller shaft within an outer shaft, with a second,4,700-horsepower electric motor being provided.17

    The spacing between the contra-rotating propellersinitially was set at ten feet (3.05 m); in 1965, aftersea trials, the spacing was reduced to 712 feet (2.29m) and later five feet (1.52 m). The forward, seven-blade propeller had a diameter of 1023 feet (3.25 m)and the after, six-blade propeller was just over 834feet (2.68 m).

    Silver-zinc batteries, a new, 3,000 psi (208kg/cm2) ballast blow system, and an improved sonaralso were installed. While the silver-zinc batteriesprovided more power than conventional lead-acidbatteries did, they required 22 hours to charge whileusing both of the Albacores diesel generators.

    19691971 (Phase V): A polymer ejection sys-tem to reduce drag was installed. Called Project SURPASS, the system had tanks, pumps, and pipinginstalled in the bow compartment for mixing anddistributing the polymer. It also had ejection orificesset in the hull and around the bow and sail. Threesoft tanks were used to carry 40,000 gallons(151,400 liters) of polymer mixed with fresh water.18

    During SURPASS trials that began in November1971 the Albacore demonstrated a 9 percent speedincrease using polymer, at a sustained speed of 21knots with only 77 percent of her normal horse-power. At that expenditure rate her 40,000 gallons of


    The Albacore in her original configuration. The Albacore established the hull form for future U.S. submarines, both con-

    ventional and nuclear. However, the Navy did not pursue all of the performance-enhancing features developed with the

    Albacore. (U.S. Navy)

  • mixed polymer would last for 26 minutes. Thus, theuse of polymer successfully reduced drag and henceincreased performance although only a limitedamount of the polymer mixture could be carried.Other problems were encountered with that earlysystem. The Phase V tests ended in June 1972, short-ly before the submarine was taken out of service.

    The Albacore purportedly attained the highestspeed achieved to that time by a submarine of anynation in the Phase IV/contra-rotating propeller

    configuration. With that configuration the Albacorewas expected to achieve 36 knots.19 In fact shereached 37 knots. Senior submarine designer Cap-tain Harry Jackson explained that, The Albacoreobtained her high speed from a combination ofdevelopments and not just an increase in power.The doubling of [electric motor] power was indeeda large factor but without the others, it would nothave happened.20 Those developments were:

    (1) contra-rotating propellers (driven by sepa-rate electric motors, with the shafts on the


    The Albacore in dry dock, showing her advanced X-stern

    and contra-rotating propellers. The two propellers had a

    different number of blades of different diameters. This

    aspect of the Albacore development effort was continued in

    the nuclear-propelled submarine Jack. (U.S. Navy)

    A close-up view of the dive brakes on the Albacore. These

    and other techniques were evaluated in an effort to

    improve response to the snap-role phenomena during

    high-speed maneuvers. The Albacore also was fitted

    brieflywith a B-47 bombers drag parachute for the same

    purpose. (U.S. Navy)

    Albacore (AGSS 569) in 1964 configuration with X-tail and contra-rotating propellers. LOA 210 ft 6 in (64.18 m)

    (A.D. Baker, III)

  • same axis, turning in opposite directions).(2) X configuration of the after control sur-

    faces.(3) absence of forward control surfaces.(4) attention to detail in the smoothing of the

    outer hull and minimizing the size of holesinto the free-flood spaces.

    (5) closing the main ballast tank flooding holeswith smooth fairing plates.

    (6) attention to detail with a goal of makinghigh speed.

    (7) keeping the submarine to the smallest sizepossible.

    More research and developmentactivities were planned for the Albacore,but continued problems with her pan-cake diesel engines caused repeateddelays in her operations. No replace-ment engines were available; plans weredrawn up to install conventional dieselengines, but that would add a parallelmid-body of 12 feet (3.66 m) amid-ships, which would have increased drag.Accordingly, the decision was made todeactivate the Albacore, and she wasdecommissioned on 1 September 1972after 19 years of pioneering speed-related submarine development.

    Combat SubmarinesAs early as 1954 the Bureau of Ships hadconsidered combat derivatives of theAlbacore. There were major differencesin views about whether or not combatsubmarines should have a single screw:some engineers wanted two screws forreliability; some wanted a single screwfor increased efficiency and speed. Also,the tapered stern of a single-shaft sub-marine would prevent tubes being fittedaft for torpedoes to be launched againsta pursuing enemy warship.

    In November 1954 the Bureau ofShips developed a set of submarineoptions based on the Albacore design(table 9-1). The Electric Boat yard (Gro-ton, Connecticut) had designed the suc-

    cessor to the Tang class and the lead ship was underconstruction. This would be the Darter (SS 576),similar in design to the Tang with improvements inquieting. However, her underwater speed was ratedat only 16.3 knots compared to 18 knots for the ear-lier submarine.

    Meanwhile, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard,which had largely designed as well as built the Alba-core, had proposed a combat variant in late 1953.BuShips approved the project, and Portsmouthproduced the Barbel (SS 580) design, with someinput from the BuShips, especially with respect tothe arrangement of sonars and torpedo tubes.


    TABLE 9-1BuShips Combat Submarine Options

    Darter Twin-Screw Single-ScrewSS 576 Albacore Albacore

    design design


    surface 2,102 tons 2,033 tons 2,020 tons

    submerged 2,369 tons 2,300 tons 2,285 tons

    Length 268 ft 7 in 208 ft 205 ft

    (81.88 m) (63.41 m) (62.5 m)

    Beam 27 ft 2 in 29 ft 29 ft

    (8.28 m) (8.84 m) (8.84 m)

    Shafts 2 2 1


    surface 15.7 knots 14 knots 14.1 knots

    submerged 16.3 knots 17.4 knots 18.6 knots

    Torpedo tubes* 6 533-mm B 6 533-mm B 6 533-mm B

    2 400-mm S 2 400-mm S

    Notes: *Bow + Stern.

    The Albacore in 1966 with her X-tail and contra-rotating propellers. The

    Albacores life as a research platform was shortened by the use of pancake

    diesel engines that had been procured for the Tang-class attack submarines.

    They were difficult to use and maintain, and were short-lived. (U.S. Navy)

  • Because of her combat role, the Barbelrequired forward diving planes to bettercontrol depth while near the surface andfor slow-speed operations. Initially, theplanes were fitted on the bow, but theysubsequently were refitted to the sailstructure (bridge fairwater position).

    Forward, the Barbel had six 21-inch(533-mm) torpedo tubes with 16 reloadscarried; no stern tubes were fitted becauseof the tapered stern. The submarinesspeed and maneuverability were consid-ered sufficient to alleviate the need forstern tubes. Her combat systemtorpe-does, BQR-2/BQS-4/SQS-4 sonars, andfire control equipmentwith the relatedcrew increase, made the Barbel signifi-cantly larger than the Albacore, with a sur-face displacement of 2,150 tons comparedto 1,242 tons for the Albacore. The Barbelswere fitted with three diesel engines andtwo relatively small electric motors; the latter generat-ed only 3,125 horsepower (less than half of the Alba-cores power). Accordingly, the Barbel was slower,capable of only 18.5 knots submerged.

    The broad diameter (29 feet/8.84 m) of the Bar-bel provided three full deck levels amidships, great-ly improving the placement of control spaces andaccommodations.

    The Darter, completed in October 1956, wasinferior to the potential Barbel design. Hence onlyone submarine of the Darter design was built.Series production was planned for the Barbeldesign, with the lead ship ordered from Portsmouthin 1955. The following year one additional subma-rine was ordered from Ingalls Shipbuilding inPascagoula, Mississippi, and one from New YorkShipbuilding in Camden, New Jersey. Neither yardhad previously built submarines; opening them tosubmarine construction would facilitate the pro-duction of large numbers of diesel-electric unitswhile Electric Boat and the naval shipyards concen-trated on producing nuclear submarines.

    Three Barbels were completed in 1959. No morewere built for the U.S. Navy because of the decisionmade by 1956 that all future combat submarineswould be nuclear propelled. The fiscal year 1956shipbuilding program (approved the previous year)

    was the last U.S. program to provide diesel-electriccombat submarines. Significantly, that decision wasmade little more than a year after the pioneer Nau-tilus (SSN 571) had gone to sea, demonstrating theNavys readiness to adopt an all-nuclear submarinefleet. (Subsequently, the Barbel design was adoptedfor diesel-electric submarines by the Dutch andJapanese navies.)

    Meanwhile, the Bureau of Ships and Electric Boatwere moving to combine the two American subma-rine revolutionsnuclear propulsion and theAlbacores teardrop hull. In October 1955, six weeksafter the Barbel was ordered from Portsmouth, theNavy awarded a contract to Electric Boat for con-struction of the Skipjack (SSN 585).

    The Skipjack was half again as large as the Barbelin surface displacement, being longer and having agreater diameter, a requirement for her nuclearpropulsion plant. Further, her hull shape was a body-of-revolution design, whereas the Barbel design hadthe vestiges of a flat superstructure deck. The Skip-jacks forward diving planes were mounted on thesail rather than on the bow. The principal motivationfor this change was to reduce the level of flow-induced noise as well as the mechanical noises of thediving planes near the bow-mounted sonar. Thepenalty in reducing the effectiveness of the planes by


    The Blueback (SS 581), one of the three Barbels, the ultimate U.S. diesel-

    electric attack submarine. These modified Albacore-hull submarines later

    had their forward diving planes moved to the sail structure. The three Bar-

    bels had long service livesan average of 30 years per ship. (U.S. Navy)

  • moving them closer to the submarines center ofbuoyancy was compensated for in part by increasingtheir size. This resulted in more drag, more noise(albeit away from the sonar), reduced maneuverabil-ity, and placing the heavy plane-moving equipmenthigher in the ship. The larger planes and their equip-ment dictated larger sail structures, which generallycreated more drag, more self-noise, and greater dis-turbance of water flow into the propeller. But all ofthese penaltiessome not appreciated at the timewere considered to be acceptable in the face ofenhanced sonar performance. (Also, sail-mounteddiving planes could not be retracted, preventing thesubmarine from surfacing through ice, although alater scheme solved this problem.)

    Being based on the Albacore hull also meant thatthe Skipjack would be a single-hull submarine, thefirst U.S. SSN with that configuration. The single-hull design was favored because of the minimumtotal structural weight as well as smaller outsidedimensions for a given pressure-hull volume.21

    This resulted in less wetted surface area and, there-fore, with all other factors being equal, improvedunderwater speed for a given horsepower. The con-tinuous outer surface of single-hull design alsominimized hydrodynamic flow noise. The transi-tion to single-hull designs involved trade-offs:

    reserve buoyancy was reduced from 25 to 35percent in early U.S. nuclear submarines to 9 to13 percent of surface displacement, which lim-its the amount of flooding a submarine canovercome.

    the pressure hull no longer has the collision orweapons damage protection provided by thestand-off distance between the inner (pres-sure) and outer hulls.

    ballast tanks became primarily located in thebow and stern sections, limiting longitudinalstability should tanks rupture or suffer damage.

    hydrodynamic shaping became more costlywhen pressure hull plates were used in theouter hull in place of lighter, outer plates.

    the number of watertight compartmentswould be reduced to five (in the Skipjack) andsubsequently to three in later submarines,reducing the possibility of recovery from seri-ous flooding casualties.

    The Skipjack was propelled by an S5W reactorplant, an improved pressurized-water systememploying the same basic process as all previous U.S.reactor plants except for the liquid-sodium reactororiginally fitted in the Seawolf (SSN 575). The S5Wwas rated at 15,000 horsepower, slightly more thanthe horsepower of the nuclear plant installed in theNautilus, but was more efficient and easier to main-tain than the earlier reactor plants.22 Its similarity tothe Nautilus S1W/S2W design made it unnecessaryto build a land prototype.23

    Rear Admiral H. G. Rickover opposed the adop-tion of a single propeller shaft for nuclear sub-marines. Captain Donald Kern, in the Bureau ofShips at the time, recalled great arguments withAdmiral Rickover about going to a nuclear subma-rine with a single screw and even more severe argu-ments about going to a nuclear submarine with asingle screw [operating] under the ice, and he justwanted no part of a submarine under the ice with asingle screw.24

    Rickover argued that a submarine going underthe ice with a single screw could be lost if the screwwere damaged. He asked Kern: Suppose you had togo under the ice. Which submarine would youchoose? According to Kern:

    The obvious answer he was looking for wasthat Id choose the twin screw because I hadone screw to get back on if I lost one. I said,Im not sure Id ever want to go under the icewith a twin-screw submarine. . . . Id onlygo under the ice in a single-screw submarine,which was not the answer he wanted at all.

    Rickover: Why would you do an idiotic thing likethat?


    In this case my answer, to me, was perfectlystraightforward and understandable froman engineering point of view, that the twin-screw submarine has a very delicate set ofshafts that are exterior to the hull, are outthere on struts, and you got to have struts tokeep the propeller off the hull and hold theend of the shaft. A single-screw submarinehas no unprotected shaft line. It has an


  • extremely rigid protection on the hullaround the shaft line. It has a much biggerscrew and a much tougher screw.

    Kern continued:

    . . . the Sea Dragon [SSN 584] . . . hitthe whale and we lost the prop. All we didwas run a mushy old whale through thepropeller and we bent the propeller, we bentthe shaft, we bent the strut. We wrecked thebloody submarine by hitting a whale. I saidsuppose you hit a chunk of ice. You wouldhave really some bad damage. If you put asubmarine up there and start running icethrough the blade, youre going to lose bothpropellers in a hurry.

    Rickover finally acquiesced, probably thinking,said Kern: Okay, you dummies, remember, if welose the submarine because of the single screw, itwas your idea, not mine. (In the event, until 1967only the early, twin-screw U.S. submarines wouldoperate under the Arctic ice pack.)

    To provide an emergency come-home capabil-ity in the event of a shaft or propeller casualty, U.S.single-screw submarines would be provided withan electric motor-propeller pod that could becranked down from the engineering spaces. Thepod could provide emergency propulsion.

    Even with a single-shaft propulsion plant theNavy was not prepared to adopt all of the Albacoresfeatures as they were considered too complicated,explained Captain Jackson.25 Thus, the Skipjackhad the teardrop hull shape and single shaft turning

    a single, five-blade, 15-foot (4.57-m) propeller, butwith conventional, cruciform stern control sur-faces, albeit mounted forward of the single pro-peller.26 Also, hull coatings and polymers wereeschewed. (The later USS Jack/SSN 605, completedin 1967, was built with contra-rotating propellerson a single shaft.)

    The Skipjacks weapons and sonar were similar tothe Barbel configurationthe BQS-4 bow-mountedsonar and six 21-inch torpedo tubes; 18 torpedoreloads could be carried for a total of 24 weapons.

    The submarine was placed in commission on 15April 1959 with Lieutenant Commander WilliamW. (Bill) Behrens Jr. in command. The Skipjackimmediately demonstrated the success of herdesign. She achieved just under 33 knots sub-merged with her original, five-blade propeller. This


    The Skipjack on sea trials, showing her modified

    Albacore-type hull with her sail-mounted diving planes.

    This design combined nuclear propulsion and the Albacore

    hull. Several of her periscopes and masts are raised. She has

    a small, crowded bridge. (U.S. Navy)

    Skipjack (SSN 585). LOA 252 ft (76.83 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • was 15 knots faster than the previous Skate-classSSNs. However, the Skipjack had minimal quietingfeatures. A later change in propellerto a seven-blade, slower-turning propeller to reduce cavitationas well as shaft noisereduced her speed.

    Like the conventionally propelled Barbel, theSkipjack had a test depth of 700 feet (215 m), withan estimated 1.5 safety margin, that is, 1,050 feet(320 m). She exceeded the latter depth in the springof 1960 when the U.S. Navy was demonstrating thesubmarines prowess for the British First Sea Lord,Admiral Sir Caspar John. With Sir Caspar and twoBritish submarine officers on board, during a harddive and starboard turn at a speed in excess of 20knots, the controls jammed and the submarineplunged downward at an angle of almost 30 degrees.After some difficulties the crew was able to recover,and the craft returned safely to the surface.27 (TheRoyal Navy procured a Skipjack/S5W power plant forthe first British nuclear submarine, HMS Dread-nought, completed in 1963; she was a hybriddesignforward she was British, aft American withthe transition point called Check-Point Charlie.28)

    Admiral Arleigh Burke, the Chief of NavalOperations, had described the Skipjack as havingunmatched speed, endurance and underwatermaneuverability.29 That endurance was demon-strated in 1962, when the Scorpion (SSN 589) of thisclass remained at sea, submerged with a sealedatmosphere for 70 consecutive days.30

    The Superlative PapaSpeed was important to Soviet attack/anti-shipmissile submarines because of the requirement tocounter U.S. and British aircraft carriers. By the endof 1958the same year that the first Sovietnuclear-propelled submarine went to seaworkbegan in Leningrad and Gorkiy at the submarinedesign bureaus on the next generation of sub-marines. Both conservative and radical designswere contemplated for the next-generation torpedo-attack (SSN), cruise missile (SSGN), and ballisticmissile (SSBN) submarines. These efforts wouldproduce two high-speed submarinesProject 661(Papa SSGN) and Project 705 (Alfa SSN).

    A resolution was issued by the Council of Min-isters on 28 August 1958 On the creation of a newfast submarine, new types of power plants, and the

    development of scientific-research, experimental-design and design work for submarines. The reso-lution called for:

    a twofold increase in speed

    an increase of one and one-half times in diving


    creation of smaller nuclear power plants

    creation of smaller turbine plants

    creation of small-dimension missile systems

    with long range and submerged launch

    development of automation to ensure control

    and combat use of future submarines at full


    improvement of submarine protection against

    mines, torpedoes, and missiles

    decrease in the overall displacement and

    dimensions of submarines

    improvement in crew habitability

    use of new types of materials

    In 1958 design bureau TsKB-16 began toaddress these ambitious goals in an experimentalcruise missile submarineProject 661.31 The shipschief designer was N. N. Isanin, who had been incharge of the design of early Soviet ballistic missilesubmarines. Project 661 was Isanins first totallynew design submarine, and he would design asuperlative submarine with new materials, propul-sion plant, weapons, and sensors. (At the end of 1963 Isanin was appointed head of SDB-143/Malachite and until 1965 he remained the chiefdesigner of Project 661; he was succeeded in bothroles by N. F. Shulzhenko.)

    The goal of Project 661achieving all of thedesired features in a single submarinewould beextremely difficult. Fourteen pre-preliminarydesigns were developed. At the same time, accordingto Dr. Georgi Sviatov, at the time a junior naval engi-neer working for Isanin,It was desired that the sub-marine be totally new: it must have an advanceddesign, new materials, new powerplant, and newweapons systemit must be superlative.32

    No single design option could meet all TTE


  • goals, which required a submerged speed of 35 to40 knots. In July 1959 a proposed design was sub-mitted to the Navy and the State Committee forShipbuilding. This was one of the smallest designoptions but also the one estimated to have the highest speedup to 38 knots. During the pre-preliminary stage three alternative hull materialswere addressed: steel, titanium alloy, and alu-minum. The unsuitability of aluminum was soonestablished; of course, the submarine could be builtof steel, which had been used in submarine con-struction for more than a half century. Titaniumalloy evoked the most interest of Soviet designersand naval officials because of its high strength withlow weight, and resistance to corrosion and becauseit was non-magnetic. Applied to a submarine tita-nium could provide a reduction in structuralweight and increase in hull life, while enabling adeeper test depth for the same relative pressure hullweight. And, the non-magnetic properties affordedincreased protection against magnetic mines andMagnetic Anomaly Detection (MAD) devices.

    Taking into consideration the significance oftitanium for future submarine effectiveness, theState Committee for Shipbuilding adopted thedecision to use this alloy for Project 661. The highcost of titanium alloys compared to steel was nottaken into account.33 The use of titanium in subma-rine construction was approved in 1959 andrequired the creation of special facilities for pro-ducing titanium rolled sheets, stampings, packings,castings, and piping. Up to that time nothing aslarge as a submarine had been fabricated of titani-um alloy. At the time the metal was used in smallquantities in aircraft and spacecraft. There weremany problems in using titanium, in particular thespecial conditions required for welding the metal.Initially titanium was welded in an argon-richatmosphere, with workers wearing airtight suits toprevent contamination of the welds. Special facili-ties had to be provided for handling and weldingtitanium in building hall No. 42 at the Severodvinsk(formerly Molotovsk) shipyard. Atmosphere-controlled areas were required, with special paints,floor coverings, and air purification measures beingprovided in the building hall.34

    Another important issue was the type of nuclearpower plant to be used in Project 661. Both water

    and liquid-metal (lead-bismuth alloy) were consid-ered as the coolant medium. The second optionpotentially gave some benefit in reducing displace-ment; however, there were significant drawbacks(discussed below with project 705/Alfa). The deci-sive argument in favor of a pressurized-water plantwas the additional time required to develop the liquid-metal plant. The two VM-5 pressurized reac-tors would enable the twin turbines to produce80,000 horsepower by a great margin more thanany previous submarine propulsion plant.

    As a result of these decisions, it was calculated thata submarine could be constructed with launchers for10 to 12 anti-ship cruise missiles and a submergedspeed of up to 38 knots. The displacement with a two-shaft propulsion plant exceeded the specified size. Asingle-shaft design was seriously considered; twinshafts were selected to provide reliability throughredundancy and led to the deletion of the auxiliarydiesel-generator plant found in other nuclear sub-marines. Subsequent operations of the submarinewould demonstrate the error of that decision.

    Based on these decisions, work on the prelimi-nary design began at TsKB-16 in February 1960. Atthe same time, the Navy assigned three submarinesto serve as test beds for Project 661 components: TheChernomorsky shipyard (No. 444) at Nikolayev onthe Black Sea modified the Project 613AD/Whiskeyfor trials of the P-70 Amethyst cruise missile; theDalzavod yard at Vladivostok modified the Project611RU/Zulu for the trials of the Rubin sonar system;and the repair yard at Murmansk modified Project611RA/Zulu for the trials of the Radian-1 mine-hunting sonar.35 In addition, the submarine K-3the first Project 627/November submarinewasmodified for shipboard trials of the advanced shipcontrol (Shpat and Turmalin) system and the K-181,a Project 627A submarine, was fitted with the navi-gation (Sigma) system intended for Project 661. TheRubin system was the most advanced sonar yetdeveloped in the Soviet Union and would providelong-range detection of surface ships, especiallymulti-screw aircraft carriers. Its large size and shaperequired a new, rounded bow configuration. TheRadian-1 sonar was designed specifically for thedetection of moored mines.

    The Project 661 submarinegiven the NATOcode name Papahad a double-hull configuration


  • with nine compartments. The forward section of thepressure hull consisted of two horizontal cylinders,19 feet, 412 inches (5.9 m) in diameter; in cross sec-tion this resembled a figure eight. The upper cylinderwas the first compartment (torpedo room) and thelower cylinder was the second compartment (sonarand storage batteries). Behind them was the thirdcompartment. Beginning with the fourth compart-ment the pressure hull had a cylindrical form with adiameter of 2912 feet (9 m) in the area of the centerframes. The narrow pressure hull forward permittedthe installation of five angled launchers for theAmethyst missile along each side of the forwardpressure hull and within the outer hull. The launch-ers had an upward angle of 32.5 degrees. The torpe-do armament consisted of four 21-inch torpedotubes in the upper bow compartment with eightreloads. This would be the smallest number of tor-pedo tubes fitted in a Soviet nuclear submarine.

    The principal armament would be ten Amethystanti-ship missiles (NATO designation SS-N-7).Development of the Amethyst missile was initiatedin April 1959 by V. N. Chelomeis OKB-52. It wasthe worlds first anti-ship cruise missile that couldbe launched from underwater. A solid-propellantmissile, the Amethyst could be launched fromdepths down to 98 feet (30 m). Upon leaving thelaunch tube, the missiles wings automaticallyextended, and the missiles rocket motor ignitedunderwater. The missile streaked to the surface,where the second motor ignited, followed by thethird (cruise) motor. The flight toward the targetwas at an altitude of about 200 feet (60 m) at sub-sonic speed. On trials a range of 38 n.miles (70km) was achieved.

    The Amethyst missile had an autonomous con-trol system that later became known as fire andforget. Radar terminal-homing guidance wasintended to analyze returns of geometric indicatorsof target disposition to determine the location ofthe aircraft carrier within a formation of warships.

    On par with Amethysts many attributes, Rus-sian writers list a number of shortcomings, prima-rily its relatively short range and not being stan-dardized, that is, it could be launched only fromsubmarines and only while submerged. These andother shortcomings led to the Amethyst being pro-vided only in Project 661 and in 12 Project

    670/Charlie I submarines.36 Still, its underwaterlaunch was a milestone in submarine development.

    The launch trials of the Amethyst missile beganon 12 December 1962 from the Project 613AD/Whiskey. Development and launch trials continuedthrough September 1967, at which time the missilebecame operational.

    Meanwhile, construction of the submarinegiven the tactical designation K-162encountereddifficulties. Plates of titanium with a thickness up to213 inches (60 mm) would be used in the craftspressure hull. Two half-scale submarine compart-ments were built with the titanium alloy 48-OT3V.37 One was tested in a pressure chamber atthe building yard, and the other was tested forshock strength on Lake Ladoga (Ladozhskoye) nearLeningrad. While these compartments were beingconstructed, cracks appeared in the welded seams,which propagated into the basic structural material.This occurred not only during the cooling of thestructure immediately after welding, but also after-ward. The destruction of the test compartmentunder hydraulic testing caused grave doubts amongNavy officials and designerseven the enthusiastsof using titanium.

    Concern over this situation led the State Com-mittee for Shipbuilding employing the expertise ofthe nations top naval engineers and technical expertsto solve the titanium problems. At the end of 1961,the first set of titanium alloy construction platesarrived at Severodvinsk, with the submarines officialkeel laying taking place on 28 December 1963.

    Low-quality titanium sheets were delivered bythe Kommunar Metallurgical Plant for the light(outer) hull of the submarine. These sheets had anincreased content of hydrogen and accordingly hada tendency to form cracks. During the on-waysconstruction period, about 20 percent of the sur-face of the outer hull was replaced because ofcracks. When the submarine was launched, it wasfound that ten ballast tanks were not watertight inspite of careful examination of the shell of the bal-last tanks. Further, corrosion appeared where non-titanium components were not properly isolatedfrom the titanium hull.

    The many advanced features of Project 661the hull material, reactor plant, control systems,sonar, and missilescreated a multitude of con-


  • struction challenges. Thus construction of the K-162 progressed slowly and with difficulty. Shewas rolled out of the building hall in December1968, and the launch basin was flooded on the 21st.Work continued for another year.

    Under the command of Captain 1st Rank Yu. F.Golubkov, on 13 December 1969 the K-162 wasplaced in commission. It soon became evident thatthe submarine was a speedster. The speed trialswere very demanding, because the depth of water atthe test range did not exceed 655 feet (200 m).Above was ice. The slightest mechanical failure orerror in control of the diving planes and, in sec-onds, the submarine would slam either into the iceor into the mud. The test depth of the K-162 was1,300 feet (400 m).

    On these trials a speed of 42 knots wasachieved with 90 percent power, instead of the 37to 38 knots guaranteed by the specifications.This was faster than any previous (manned)undersea craft had traveled. During the 12-hourfull-speed run, the fairings on the access hatches,

    the emergency signal buoy in the superstructure,and several grills at the water intakes were rippedoff. Portions of these grills entered the ships cir-culating pumps and were ground up. But the sub-marine continued. The noise was horrific; a Russ-ian account reads:

    the biggest thing was the noise of the watergoing by. It increased together with theships speed, and when 35 knots was exceed-ed, it was like the noise of a jet aircraft. . . .In the control room was heard not simplythe roar of an aircraft, but the thunder ofthe engine room of a diesel locomotive.Those [present] believed the noise level tobe greater than 100 [decibels].38

    Later, in 1970, with the reactor plant at maximumpower, the submarine attained a speed of 44.7knotsthe fastest ever traveled by a mannedunderwater vehicle.

    Trials and modifications continued throughDecember 1971, when the submarine becameoperational with the Northern Fleet. During 1970the issue of constructing additional Project 661submarines was considered by the Navys leader-ship. The tactical shortcomings of the missilearmament, high submerged noise levels, insuffi-cient service life of the basic mechanisms andships equipment, the long construction period,and the high cost of the submarine led to the deci-sion not to produce additional submarines of thisdesign. Indeed, the high cost led to the K-162 beingreferred to as the golden fish (Zolotaya Rybka), aswere submarines of the subsequent Project 705.Russian engineers joked that the K-162 cost morebeing made from titanium than if she had beenmade from gold.

    The K-162 made operational cruises and contin-ued research and development work. Late in the


    K-162 Project 661/Papa SSGN. LOA 350 ft 8 in (106.9 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

    The Project 661/Papa at rest. She has a circular hull form

    with a relatively small sail. There are ten Amethyst/

    SS-N-7 anti-ship missiles fitted forward, between the pres-

    sure hull and the outer hull. The free-flood, or limber, holes

    amidships and aft indicate her double-hull construction.

  • 1970s, as the submarine was being refueled(recored), a workman dropped a wrench into reactor-related machinery. The reactor had to berefueled to correct the damage and, in the haste tocomplete the work, control rods were improperlyinstalled. The problems soon were further com-pounded, but corrections were made and the sub-marine continued to operate for another decade.39

    She was decommissioned and laid up in reserve in1988. The next Soviet titanium-hull, high-speed sub-marine would be series produced.

    The Remarkable AlfaThe direct successor to the Project 627/NovemberSSN would be the second-generation Project 671(NATO Victor). This was a relatively conservativedesign intended primarily for the ASW role. Thenear-simultaneous Project 705 (NATO Alfa) was amajor step forward in submarine development.

    The design team for Project 705 at SDB-143/Malachite was led by Mikhail G. Rusanov, whohad just completed work on Project 653, a missilesubmarine intended to carry the P-20 missile. Proj-ect 705 was to be a high-speed ASW submarine,intended to seek out and destroy Western missile andattack submarines in Soviet defensive areas.40 Theendurance of the ASW submarine was to be 50 days.

    From the outset Project 705 was to have hadminimal manning. Periodically perceptive sub-mariners had realized that numerous submarinefunctions could be automated. In his classic storyDas Boot, journalist Lothar-Gnther Buchheimquoted a wartime U-boat commander:

    Actually we ought to be able to get alongwith a lot fewer men. I keep imagining aboat that would only need a crew of two orthree. Exactly like an airplane. Basically, wehave all these men on board because thedesigners have failed to do a proper job.Most of the men are nothing but links in achain. They fill the gaps the designers haveleft in the machinery. People who open andclose valves or throw switches are not whatyoud call fighting men.41

    By the late 1950s available automation technol-ogy could permit a very small SSN crew. Early pro-

    posals for Project 705 provided for a crew of 12,and subsequently 18, by using aircraft crew con-cepts. As completed the crew consisted of 25 offi-cers, 4 warrant officers, and 1 petty officer(cook)a total of 30 men. Major crew reductionwas possible, in part, by providing the worlds firstintegrated combat information-control system fit-ted in a submarine. The system provided integra-tion of navigation, tactical maneuvering, andweapons employment; it automatically developedoptimum decisions and recommended them to thecommanding officer.42

    By reducing the crew and going to a single-hulldesign with a high-density nuclear propulsionplant, a very small submarine was envisionedpossibly with a submerged displacement of 2,500tons. However, after the design was reviewed byNavy and shipbuilding leaders in 1963 followingthe loss of the USS Thresher (SSN 593), SDB-143was directed to extensively revise the design to pro-vide a double-hull configuration and to build anautomated fast [SSN] with torpedo armament.

    Project 705 would be a small submarine.SDB-143 estimated that going from a single-hull toa double-hull design cost about 5 percent (twoknots) in speed.43 And a 30-man crew would stillbe a dramatic departure from conventional man-ning practices. For example, the contemporaryUSS Skipjack and Project 671/Victor SSNs hadcrews three times as large. The spectacular crewreduction was achieved by having ship control,propulsion plant, weapons, sensors, and commu-nications controlled from the main control center.All crew functions and living spaces were located ina single compartment; other compartments,including the torpedo and propulsion spaces hadno permanent watch standers and were enteredonly for maintenance and limited repair work.Crew concentration in a single compartment,according to SDB-143, provided the prerequisitesto ensure their safety at a heretofore unachieveablelevel.44

    Overall, the submarine would have six compart-ments (the original design having only three).Above the control compartment an escape chamberthat could accommodate the entire crew was pro-vided in the sailanother submarine first.45 In anemergency situation the crew would enter the


  • chamber through a hatch within the submarine; thechamber would then be released upon command,and, with part of the sail structure attached forbuoyancy, float to the surface. The entire crewcould thus leave the submarine together, withoutbeing exposed to cold or pressure. Upon reachingthe surface the chamber would provide protectionfrom the elements until rescue forces could reachthe area. The only disadvantage was an increase insubmarine weight.

    Another means of reducing ship size was the useof 400 Hz electrical power in place of the 50 Hz sys-tems used in previous Soviet submarines. Thischange permitted smaller electrical equipment. Asin the near-contemporary Project 661/Papa, Project705 would have a titanium-alloy, double-hulldesign. Compared to steel, titanium provided anumber of advantages in Project 705:

    30 percent lower mass 25 percent lower displacement 10 percent increase in speed reduction of magnetic field significantly lower operating costs as a result

    of the corrosive resistance of titanium alloy

    The titanium hull, advanced fittings and ballastsystem, and other features would give the subma-rine a test depth of 1,300 feet (400 m), comparableto U.S. second-generation SSNs of the Thresher andlater classes. While titanium would lower the hullsmagnetic field, the submarines acoustic signatureswere higher than contemporary U.S. submarines. Astreamlined sail was blended into the advancedhull shape. The submarine would prove to be high-ly maneuverable.

    Armament of the submarine consisted of six533-mm torpedo tubes with 12 reloads. In additionto standard torpedoes, the submarine could carrythe RPK-2 Vyuga (blizzard) ASW missile, given the U.S.-NATO designation SS-N-15 Starfish. Thiswas a ballistic missile carrying a nuclear warhead,similar to the U.S. Navys SUBROC (SubmarineRocket). The torpedo complex, including rapidreloading, was totally automated. Advanced sonarsand fire control system were provided to supportthe armament.

    In some respects the most futuristic aspect of

    Project 705 was the propulsion plant. Although theProject 645/modified November SSN as well as theUSS Seawolf (SSN 575) had liquid-metal reactorplants, neither submarine was considered success-ful. The Project 705 reactor plant would use a lead-bismuth alloy as the heat exchange medium. Thiswould provide increased efficiency (i.e., a moredense power plant) with a single reactor and singleOK-7 turbine providing 40,000 horsepower.

    Two types of nuclear plants were developedsimultaneously for the submarine: the OK-550 forProject 705 was modular, with branched lines offthe first loop, having three steam lines and circulat-ing pumps; the BM-40A for Project 705K was amodular, two-section reactor, with two steam linesand circulating pumps.

    There were significant drawbacks to bothplants because the use of a liquid-metal heat car-rier required always keeping the alloy in a liquid(heated) condition of 257F (125C) and, in orderto avoid it freezing up, the plant could not be shut down as was done on submarines with apressurized-water plant. At Zapadnaya Litsa onthe Kola Peninsula, the base for these submarines,a special land-based complex was built with a sys-tem to provide steam to keep the liquid metal inthe submarine reactors from solidifying when thereactors were turned off. In addition, a frigate andfloating barracks barge supplied supplementalsteam to the submarines at the piers. Because ofthe inherent dangers of using these externalsources of heat, the submarine reactors were usu-ally kept running when in port, albeit at lowpower.

    Like previous Soviet submarines, the craft wouldhave a two-reactor plant, but with a single propellershaft. The decision to provide a single shaft in thisdesign followed considerable deliberations withinthe Soviet Navy and at SDB-143 (similar to the dis-cussions within the U.S. nuclear program). The sin-gle screw was adopted for Project 705/Alfa almostsimultaneous with the Project 671/Victor second-generation SSN design. To provide these submarineswith emergency come-home propulsion and, insome circumstances, low-speed, quiet maneuvering,these submarines additionally were fitted with small,two-blade propeller pods on their horizontal sternsurfaces. (See Chapter 10.)


  • SDB-143 completed the conceptual design forProject 705 in 1962 and the technical design the fol-lowing year. The first submarine of the class to becompletedthe K-64was laid down at theSudomekh/Admiralty yard in Leningrad on 2 June1968. That ceremonial keel laying was a politicalevent. The K-64 was more than 20 percent completeat the time, with several hull sections already on thebuilding way. This was the second shipyard to qual-ify in the construction of titanium-hull submarinesand was the fifth Soviet shipyard to constructnuclear submarines:46

    Shipyard Location

    No. 112 Krasnoye Sormovo Gorkiy (Nizhny Novgorod)

    No. 194 Admiralty Leningrad (St. Petersburg)

    No. 196 Sudomekh Leningrad (St. Petersburg)

    No. 199 Komsomolsk Komsomolsk-on-Amur

    No. 402 Severdovinsk Severdovinsk

    The Project 705/Alfa made use of processes andtechnologies previously developed for Project661/Papa. The K-64 was launched at Sudomekh on 22April 1969 (V. I. Lenins birthday anniversary). She wasthen moved by transporter dock through the Belomor-Baltic Canal system to Severodvinsk, where her fitting-out was completed and her reactor plant went critical.The K-64 was accepted by the Navy in December 1971,with Captain 1st Rank A. S. Pushkin in command.

    The submarine underwent trials in the North-ern Fleet area beginning in mid-1972. That sameyear the K-64 suffered a major reactor problemwhen the liquid metal in the primary coolanthardened, or froze. She was taken out of service,and her hull was towed to Sverodvinsk, where shewas cut in half in 19731974. The forward portionof the submarine, including control spaces, wassent to Leningrad for use as a training device. Thereactor compartment was stored at the Zvez-dochka yard in Severodvinsk. (Because of the dis-tance between the two hull sections, Soviet sub-mariners joked that the K-64 was the worldslongest submarine!)

    As a result of this accident, in 1974 Rusanovwas relieved of his position as chief designer,although he remained at Malachite. The projectwas continued under his deputy, V. V. Romin.47

    Solving the engineering problem that plagued theK-64 delayed the completion of the other sub-marines of the class. Seven additional units wereorderedfour from Sudomekh (705) and threefrom Severodvinsk (705K), with six units laiddown from 1967 to 1975.48 They were launchedfrom 1969 to 1981, and the first to commission wasthe K-123, built at Severodvinsk, on 26 December1977. The remaining five operational units werecompleted in 19781981.


    A Project 705/Alfa SSN photographed in the Barents Sea in 1983. The Alfa had clean lines, revealing her underwater speed

    potential. Several of her mastsincluding her Quad Loop RDF antennaand periscopes are raised in this photo, as was

    her bridge windshield. (U.S. Navy)

  • The appearance of Project 705/Alfa was a shock toWestern naval officers. Initially there was wide dis-belief that the submarine had a titanium hull. Thisview persisted even after evidence was presented:First, ground-level and satellite photography of theSudomekh yard revealed sections of a submarinehull outside of the closed construction hall. Herb

    Lord, an analyst at the naval intelligence center inSuitland, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C.,believed that the sections were too highly reflectiveto be steel and, over time, showed no signs of oxi-dation or corrosion. He concluded that the Sovietswere building titanium-hull submarines. (In Lon-don a British intelligence analyst, Nick Cheshire,reached a similar conclusion about the same time.)

    Second, Commander William (Bill) Green, anassistant U.S. naval attach, while visitingLeningrad in the winter of 19691970, at great per-sonal risk, retrieved some debris outside of theSudomekh yarda scrap of machined titaniumthat fell from a truck leaving the yard.49

    Third, in the mid-1970s, two U.S. submarineanalysts, Richard Brooks of the Central IntelligenceAgency, and Martin Krenzke, with the Navysresearch center in Carderock, Maryland, visited ascrap yard in Pennsylvania that was buying exoticmetal scrap from the USSR. Looking at every pieceof metal, they made a singular discovery: a piece ofmachined titanium with numbers scratched intothe surface. The first three digits were 705.50

    With this evidence the U.S. Navy submarinecommunity began to accept that titanium was beingused in Soviet submarine construction. (Not untillater did Western intelligence ascertain that Project661/Papa also was built of titanium.)

    The Alfa SSNs speed of 41 knots also tookWestern intelligence unaware. In a 1981 congres-sional colloquy between a U.S. senator and theDeputy Chief of Naval Operations (Surface War-fare), Vice Admiral William H. Rowden, the sena-tor noted that the Alfa could travel at 40-plusknots and could probably outdive most of ouranti-submarine torpedoes. He then asked whatmeasures were being taken to redress this particu-lar situation.

    Admiral Rowden replied, We have modified the Mk 48 torpedo . . . to accommodate to the


    An Alfa on the surface, showing how her sail blends into

    her hull. A mast is raised forward of the windshield. When

    the masts were retracted they were covered over to mini-

    mize water flow disturbance over the sail structure.

    Although a titanium-hull submarine, the Alfalike the

    Papa SSGNwas not a deep diver. (U.S. Navy)

    Project 705/Alfa SSN. LOA 261 ft 2 in (79.6 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • increased speed and to the diving depth of thoseparticular submarines. The admiral was less confi-dent of the Mk 46 ASW torpedo used by aircraft,helicopters, and surface ships: We have recentlymodified that torpedo to handle what you mightcall the pre-Alfa. . . .51

    In private U.S. naval officers were more vocal intheir consternation over the ineffectiveness of exist-ing Western ASW weapons against the Alfa.52 WhileU.S. officials reacted to press inquiries by citing thehigh noise levels of the Alfa at high speed, at lowerspeeds the submarine would have been difficult todetect. (The submarine could not operate at depthsof 2,100 feet [640 m] or more, as estimated by theprincipal Western intelligence agencies.53)

    In the event, the eighth submarine of the classwas not completed. The six operational unitsentered the fleet during 19781981 and served inthe Northern Fleet for more than a decade. SDB-143 considered variants of the design, including anelongated submarine (Project 705D) with a secondtorpedo room and a payload of 30 torpedoes plusfour cruise missiles in the sail, and a cruise missilevariant (Project 705A) with six cruise missiles. (SeeChapter 10.)

    Project 705 was impressive, but it did sufferproblems; according to Malachite designers:

    First, submarine systems had been compli-cated in quality and quantity from themoment of conception of the Alfa Class.That was a consequence of increased require-ments for such combat qualities as stealth,search capabilities, strike power, reliability,and so forth. The full automation of suchcomplex and ramified systems had led tounacceptable levels of complications in thecontrol and automatic systems. As a result, itwas not possible to guarantee their reliability.

    Secondly, operational experience demon-strated the lack in small crews of the reservesnecessary for non-routine conditions ofoperation, such as during a struggle for sur-vivability in an emergency, for repair workon equipment that breaks down at sea, forreplacement of ill crew members, etc. Thedrastic reduction in crew numbers also exacerbated several social problems, includ-

    ing the need to train highly skilled specialists. . . the need to provide their interchange-ability, difficulties in the execution of duties,and the promotion of the officers [of] thesecomplex automated ships.54

    Designer Radiy Shmakov of Malachite concluded:

    But in looking back now, it should be admit-ted that this submarine was the design proj-ect of the 21st Century. She was many yearsahead of her time and so turned out to betoo difficult to master and operate.55

    Beyond the lead submarine, other Project705/Alfa SSNs suffered problems. In the lead oper-ational submarine, the K-123, liquid metal from theprimary cooling circuit leaked and contaminatedthe reactor compartment with almost two tons ofmetal alloy. The compartment was removed in 1982and a new reactor installed. It took almost nineyears to replace the reactor, with the submarinebeing launched again in 1990 and placed back incommission the following year.

    The other Project 705/705K submarines oper-ated until the end of the Cold War, being decom-missioned in 19901991. The K-123 served for sev-eral more years, being finally decommissioned on31 July 1996.56

    Two other unusual submarines were approved fordevelopment in this period. In the summer of1965, Admiral Sergei G. Gorshkov, Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Navy, approved the develop-ment of designs for Projects 696 and 991, both bySDB-143/Malachite. Project 696 was to be a high-speed nuclear submarine with a single turbine andpropeller shaft, contra-rotating propellers,advanced drag reduction featuresboundary layercontrol and polymersand a reactor plant pro-ducing approximately 100,000 horsepower. 57 (SeeChapter 10.)

    Project 991 was to produce an ultra-quietnuclear submarine. A team led by designer G. N.Cherynshev employed advanced sound mitigationsystems (but not polymers). The design work washighly successful, but it was not felt necessary tobuild a specialized quiet SSN. Rather, in 1972 the


  • decision was made to transfer the technologies toProject 945 (NATO Sierra) for series production.

    The U.S. and Soviet Navies initially developedhigh-speed submarines for different reasons. TheU.S. Navylike the Royal Navybecame interest-ed in high submerged speed to train ASW forces tocounter enemy submarines based on Type XXItechnology. Subsequently, the Soviet Navy soughtspeed to enable attack submarines (SSN/SSGN) toclose with Western aircraft carrier groups, a part oftheir homeland defense strategy to counter nuclearstrike aircraft from the carriers.

    The USS Albacore was a revolutionary under-taking, the next major step in submarine hull formand supporting systems developed after the TypeXXI. This test craft reportedly attained an under-water speed of 37 knots. The subsequent USS Bar-bel marked the rapid transition of the Albacore hullform to a combat submarine. But the Albacore wastoo revolutionary for the U.S. Navys leadership;although her basic hull design was adopted for theBarbel, and that submarine was more capable thanthe previous Tang design (based on the Type XXI),many performance features of the Albacore werenot applied to the Barbel.

    The subsequent step in the development ofadvanced submarinesfrom the American per-spectivewas the USS Skipjack. That submarinecombined two underwater revolutions: the Alba-core hull form with nuclear propulsion. The Skip-jack went to sea in 1959, the same year the threesubmarines of the Barbel class were completed.Earlier, the Navys leadership had made the deci-sion to produce only nuclear-propelled combatsubmarines.

    That historic decision was made by 1956only a year after the Nautilus went to sea. Thiscommitment contradicts the later myth that theNavy opposed nuclear submarines and, evenafter the Nautilus proved the efficacy of nuclearsubmarines, persisted in wanting to constructdiesel boats.

    Similarly, the early Soviet government de-cisions to procure advanced submarines so soon after completion of the first Project 627/November (K-3) must be applauded. The use oftitanium, very-high-power density reactorplants, advanced hull forms, and improvedweapons and sensors made Projects 661/Papaand 705/Alfa significant steps in submarinedevelopment. Although titanium was used in theconstruction of these submarines, they did not


    Five of the six operational Project 705/Alfa SSNs moored at Zapadnaya Litsa on the Kola Peninsula. A special base com-

    plex was built to support the use of lead-bismuth alloy as the heat-exchange medium in their reactors. The remote areas

    of most Soviet submarine bases caused privations for crews and their families. (Malachite SPMBM)

  • have a greater-than-normal test depth for theirtime (a characteristic that was attributed tothem by Western intelligence).

    Further, while Project 661 was a one-of-a-kind submarine, Project 705 was produced innumbers. Despite major problems with the pro-totype Project 705 submarine and a major reac-

    tor problem with another submarine of thatclass, Project 705 was in many ways a highly suc-cessful design.

    Essentially simultaneous with the advancedProjects 661 and 705 high-speed submarines, theSoviet design bureaus and shipyards were pro-ducing conventional SSN/SSGN designs.


    TABLE 9-2High-Speed Submarines

    U.S. Albacore* U.S. Barbel U.S. Skipjack Soviet SovietAGSS 569 SS 580 SSN 585 Project 661 Project 705

    NATO Papa NATO Alfa

    Operational 1953 1959 1959 1969 1977#


    surface 1,517 tons 2,150 tons 3,070 tons 5,280 tons 2,324 tons

    submerged 1,810 tons 2,640 tons 3,500 tons 6,320 tons

  • The United States and Soviet Union begandeveloping their second-generation nuclearsubmarines even as their prototype nuclear

    submarines were going to sea. In the U.S. Navy thefirst second-generation nuclear submarine was thehigh-speed Skipjack (SSN 585), which went to seain 1959. Her principal featuresthe S5W reactorplant and Albacore (AGSS 569) hull formgave herexcellent underwater performance. But she retainedessentially the same weapons, sensors, and oper-ating depth of her immediate predecessors, bothnuclear and conventional. And the Skipjacklike her nuclear predecessorswas a very noisysubmarine.

    This last factor was becoming increasingly sig-nificant. The U.S. seafloor Sound Surveillance Sys-tem (SOSUS) was confirming the high noise levelsof U.S. submarines. In 1961 the USS George Wash-ington (SSBN 598) was tracked continuously acrossthe Atlantic by SOSUS arrays along the East Coast.

    The high noise levels of U.S. submarinesconven-tional and nuclearhad long been realized. A decadeearlier Rear Admiral Charles L. Brand had stated,

    There have been practically nodevelopments in silencing of [submarine]machinery. In fact, our submarines are nois-ier now than during the war due to the factthat we have not improved the machineryand the personnel [have] deteriorated andthey dont take as much interest inmaintaining low level of noise. The crewsare less experienced and actually the noiselevel of our present submarines is not asgood as during the war.1

    Little changed in the subsequent decade, andearly U.S. nuclear submarines had high noise levels.The high speed of the Skipjack had exacerbated thesituation. A submarine has five noise sources:


    Second-GenerationNuclear Submarines

    The Thresher on sea trials in July 1961. Her antecedents in the Albacore-Skipjack designs are evident. But the Thresher

    design was deeper diving, significantly quieter, better hardened against explosive shock, and introduced new sensors and

    weapons to the fleet. (U.S. Navy)


  • Machinery operationmain propulsion and

    auxiliary machinery, especially pumps in

    nuclear propulsion plants that circulate

    coolant fluids; unbalanced rotating machinery

    and poorly machined gears are significant con-


    Propellerflow-induced propeller blade vibra-tions and cavitation (formation and collapse ofbubbles produced by the propeller).

    Hydrodynamic flowthe flow of water aroundthe submarines hull, sail, and control surfacesas the submarine moves through the water.

    Transient perturbationspulselike noises creat-ed by the movement of torpedo tube doors orshutters, control surfaces, and other submarineactivities.

    Crewcrewmen opening and closing hatchesand doors, using and dropping tools, and soforth.

    Quieting nuclear submarines would be particu-larly difficult because of their primary and second-ary loop pumps, turbines, and propulsor. Dick Lan-ing, first commanding officer of the Seawolf (SSN575), recalled Admiral H. G. Rickover saying thatmaking nuclear submarines quieter is a biggerproblem than nuclear propulsion.2 In reality, Rick-over had little interest in quieting submarines;rather, he sought innovation in propulsion plants.His attention to the actual submarine was limited,especially if the next SSN used the same S5W plantof the Skipjack. After the loss of the Thresher (SSN593), he told a congressional committee that he hadno responsibility for the Thresher, because it was afollow-on ship. . . . The Thresher was essentially aSkipjack-type submarine except that all the equip-ment was mounted on resilient mounting. . . .3

    The next two second-generation U.S. nuclearsubmarines would be highly innovative in severalways, especially in a dramatic reduction of machin-ery noises. These were the Thresher and Tullibee(SSN 597). The six Skipjack-class SSNs funded infiscal years 19551957 were joined in the last yearby a new-design SSNthe Thresher, which wouldbe the last combat submarine designed largely bythe Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. This submarine

    would incorporate the S5W reactor plant in a mod-ified Albacore hull, but with major advances inweapons, sensors, operating depth, and quieting.

    The design staff at Portsmouth was given rela-tively wide latitude in the Thresher design, in partbecause of employing the existing S5W reactorplant, and in part because of the parallel develop-ment of the Polaris submarines of the Ethan Allen(SSBN 608) class, for which the Special ProjectsOffice sought improved quieting and operatingdepth. The Thresher design marked major advancesin several areas:

    depth quieting sonar shock hardening weapons

    The dominating feature in the Threshers inter-nal arrangement was the AN/BQQ-2 sonar sys-tem, the replacement for the long-serving BQR-2and BQR-4 passive sonars. The BQQ-2 was cen-tered on a 15-foot (4.6-m) diameter sphere thatmounted 1,241 hydrophones. Compared to theolder sonars, the BQQ-2 could achieve greaterpassive detection ranges through the improvedability to distinguish between target noise andown-ship and background sea noises, and its abil-ity to electronically search in three dimensions,enabling it to take maximum advantage of soundenergy propagated by bouncing off the ocean bot-tom. The BQQ-2 also had an active acoustic(pinging) component, although by this timeU.S. submarine sonar doctrine had shifted to passive-only operations.

    Locating the BQQ-2 in the bow placed it in anoptimum search position and as far as possible frommachinery and propeller noises. This locationrequired that the 21-inch (533-mm) torpedo tubesbe moved farther aft and angled outboard at approx-imately 15 degrees, two per side. Amidships torpedotubesfiring afthad been proposed by the Ger-mans in World War II for the Type XXIB, XXIC, andXXVI submarines. The Bureau of Ships was con-cerned that firing at an angle would limit the speedat which a submarine could launch torpedoes, butthe feasibility of angled launch was demonstrated upto a speed of 18 knots.4 The reduction in torpedo


  • tubes was caused by hull constraints (i.e., two perside) and was accepted because of the perceivedeffectiveness of U.S. torpedoes against Soviet under-sea craft. It was believed that the Mk 37 torpedoinservice since 1956would have a probability of killagainst Soviet submarines of almost 1.0, that is, a killfor every torpedo fired.5 This sonar-torpedo tubearrangement was adopted for all later U.S. SSNs aswell as ballistic missile submarines of the Ohio(SSBN 726) class.

    In addition, the Thresher-class SSNs would befitted to launch the SUBROC (Submarine Rocket),operational from 1964.6 This weapon provided ameans of attacking targets detected by sonar at dis-tances beyond the range of Mk 37 and Mk 45ASTOR (nuclear) torpedoes. After being launchedfrom a standard torpedo tube, SUBROC streaked tothe surface, left the water, and traveled on a ballistictrajectory for a predetermined distance out toabout 25 n.miles (46.3 km). At that point theexpended rocket booster fell away and the W55nuclear warhead re-entered the water, to detonateat a preset depth. The warhead could be selected todetonate with an explosive force of from one to five

    kilotons. Before launching a SUBROC the subma-rine had to transmit an active acoustic ping todetermine the range to the target, initially detectedby passive sonar. This use of active sonarhoweverbriefwas eschewed by U.S. submarine captains,who throughout the Cold War embraced passiveacoustic tactics.

    The Thresher also had a greater operating depththan previous U.S. nuclear submarines. The


    The BQQ-2 sonar sphere before being installed in the

    Thresher. The 15-foot-diameter sphere was fitted with

    1,241 hydrophones. All subsequent U.S. attack and strate-

    gic missile submarines have had similar sonar configura-

    tions. (U.S. Navy)

    A SUBROC anti-submarine rocket being lowered to the

    submarine Permit. Produced by Goodyear Aerospace

    Corp., the SUBROC was the first U.S. underwater-

    launched tactical missile. The anti-submarine weapon was

    fitted with a nuclear warhead. (Goodyear)

  • Threshers pressure hull was fabricated of HY-80steel, which had been used in the previous Skipjackclass, but that class was rated at a test depth of 700feet (215 m), the same as other U.S. postWorldWar II submarines.7 Improved welding techniques,piping, and related improvements gave the Thresh-er a test depth of 1,300 feet (400 m). Beyond theoperational advantages of greater depth (e.g., goingbelow thermal layers to escape sonar detection),greater depth increased the margin for recoveryfrom control error or malfunction during high-speed maneuvers.

    The increase in depth became the most contro-versial aspect of the Thresher design. Captain Don-ald Kern, head of preliminary design in the Bureauof Ships, recalled Admiral Rickovers view:

    He wanted no part of the deep diving. Hethought we were wasting our time and thatthis was foolish going to the deeper depth,and he fought that tooth and nail, too. I hadknock-down, drag-out battles with him onthat.8

    While the Thresher was under construction, thefollowing exchange occurred between AdmiralRickover and Representative George Mahon, amember of the House Appropriations Committee:

    Mahon. Are you over designing these ships?I am talking now mostly about submarines.Are you putting on refinements that arereally not necessary? You spoke of theThresher diving to a very great depth.Rickover. Yes, sir.Mahon. How deep are you going?Rickover. The World War II submarines were

    designed for [400] feet. Right after World WarII we developed the present [700]-foot sub-marines. Now we are going to [1,300] feet.The reason is that the deeper a ship goes, theless it is possible to detect it. It can takeadvantage of various thermal layers in theocean. It also is less susceptible to damage byvarious types of depth charges and other anti-submarine devices. The greater depth gives itgreater invisibility, greater invulnerability. Wewould like to go deeper if we could, but apoint comes where existing hull steel may notbe able safely to withstand the greater pres-sure. . . . However, there is considerablemilitary advantage, Mr. Mahon, to be able togo deeper; it is somewhat analogous to havingairplanes which can fly higher.

    Three years laterafter the Thresher was lost atseathe issue of going deep again was discussed inCongress. At the 1964 hearing before the Joint Com-mittee on Atomic Energy, Vice Admiral Lawson P.Ramage, a much-decorated submariner and at thetime a Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, explainedthe advantage of going deep, including enhancedsafety in certain maneuvering situations. Rickoverafter he had repeated to the committee the advan-tages of going deepchanged his viewpoint:

    Sure, you can intuitively sayas AdmiralRamage said in the comparison he madeyou would like to go deeper. It is good tohave a machine that can perform better.However, I claim we have to be realistic andfind out how important this is first, becauseright now we are incurring considerableexpenses in building these ships.9


    Thresher (SSN 593). LOA 278 ft 6 in (84.9 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • In many respects, the most important aspect ofthe Thresher design was quieting her S5W propul-sion plant, with special efforts being made toreduce those narrow-band noises produced bymachinery. Previously, little effort had been madeto reduce machinery noises in U.S. nuclear sub-marinesthe noise of coolant pumps, fluids in thecoolant piping, and turbine noises.

    The Royal Navy had developed the concept ofrafting propulsion machinery in the Ton-classminesweepers built in the 1950s and 1960s, by isolat-ing the machinery from the hull to reduce vulnera-bility to acoustic mines. This arrangement did notaffect the noise-generating machinery, but decreasedsound transmission through the hull into the water.This concept was selected for the Thresher class inApril 1957; the lead submarine was ordered from thePortsmouth Naval Shipyard nine months later.10 Butrafting was not a simple process; British submarinecommander John Hervey wrote:

    Submarine sound isolation is an activity inwhich the good intentions of the designer arevery soon frustrated by a badly briefed, orconfused, construction worker. At worst,quite serious errors may remain concealeduntil the first noise trials. For instance, when[the SSN] Warspite was [sound] ranged in1968, the trials officer reported, quite earlyon, that unlocking the raft did not seem toalter the signature being recorded, newsalmost guaranteed to ruin the day!11

    In the Thresher the twin steam turbines andrelated gearing were mounted on a sound-isolatingraft and not directly attached to the hull. Thismethod increased the volume required for machin-ery and hence the overall submarine size, con-tributing to the two-foot (0.6-m) increase in hulldiameter over the previous Skipjack design. TheThresher had a surface displacement of 3,750tonssome 22 percent larger than the Skipjack,with a parallel midbody section inserted in theAlbacore-type hull. However, with a sail structureabout one-half the size of the Skipjacks sail, andseveral other drag-reducing features (such as small-er hull openings), and improvements to the steamplant, the Thresher had a speed of about 28 knots.12

    The smaller sail was possible, in part, by deletingsome masts and electronic intelligence collectioncapabilities from these submarines. There weresome advocates of doing away completely with thesail to further reduce drag, but it was considerednecessary for mounting the forward diving planes,housing masts and periscopes, and providing a nav-igation bridge for entering and leaving harbor.

    The Thresher was commissioned at Portsmouthon 3 August 1961, with Commander Dean L. Axeneas the first commanding officer. The success of theThresher design was reflected by all subsequentU.S. attack submarines having the same basic con-figuration. Through fiscal year 1961 the Navyordered 14 SSNs of this design; these ships includ-ed four SSGNs reordered as attack submarines


    The Thresher showing her modified-Albacore hull config-

    uration. The design had a short sail structure, which was

    found unsatisfactory from a perspective of space for masts

    and electronic surveillance equipment. Three later sub-

    marines of this class were extensively modified to remedy

    these shortfalls. (U.S. Navy)

  • after cancellation of the Regulus II program(SSGN/SSN 594596, 607).

    Of these 14 submarines, only two beyond theThresher were constructed at Portsmouth, the Jack(SSN 605) and Tinosa (SSN 606). The design teamat the yard, expanding on experience with the contra-rotating propellers in the Albacore, gainedapproval to build the Jack with a similar propulsionconfiguration. The Jack was fitted with a large-diameter, sleevelike outer propeller shaft housing asmaller-diameter inner shaft, each fitted with a pro-peller. The Jacks machinery spaces were ten feet (3.0m) longer than in other units of the class because ofthe turbine arrangement and the use of slow-speed,direct-drive turbines with the elimination of thereduction gear. There was an increase in turbine effi-ciency with speed increased a fraction of a knot.

    This plant was looked on as a potentially quieterpropulsion arrangement, in part as a means of pro-viding a quieter plant than the standard S5W plantas fitted in the Thresher. In the event, the Jacks twoturbines developed problems, mainly because ofdifficulties with seals and bearings in the concentricshafts, and the arrangement was not repeated. Still,in the opinion of Portsmouth engineers, contra-rotating propellers held promise for improved per-formance.13 The Jack also was used to test polymerejection, apparently to reduce flow noises thatcould interfere with sonar performance.

    (In the USSR, the Malachite bureau considereda single-turbine, single-shaft, contra-rotating pro-peller arrangement for Project 696, a large, high-speed submarine design. Project 696 was envi-sioned as having a submerged displacement of5,500 to 6,800 tons, a nuclear plant producing100,000 shp, and capable of speeds up to 45 knots,increased to more than 50 knots with polymer ejec-tion. The design, begun in the late 1960s, encoun-tered numerous problems, and this projectunderdesigner A. K. Nazarovwas cancelled in 1975.Project 696 also would employ polymer ejection.That design was not pursued.14)

    The USS Thresher sank on 10 April 1963 while onpostoverhaul trials, the worlds first nuclear subma-rine to be lost. The Thresher sank with all onboard112 Navy personnel and 17 civilians, themost casualties ever of a submarine disaster.15

    This disaster led to an extensive examination ofsubmarine propulsion emergency procedures,because the first event in her demise was appar-ently a reactor scram (shutdown). A scram couldoccur for many reasons, among them a control sys-tem failure, reactor error, stuck control rod, or atoo-rapid withdrawal of rods.16

    Admiral Rickover ordered a reduction in thetime needed to restart a reactor in an emergency.17

    The Navy ordered careful examination of all pipingand welding in submarines of this class. The ballastblowing systems, which were found incapable ofbringing the submarine to the surface from deepdepths, were modified; and other changes weremade, many collectively known as SUBSAFE (Sub-marine Safety).18

    Rickovers criticism of Navy submarine con-struction and overhaul methodsmade to theJoint Committee and widely publicizedled to hisprocedures and standards being forced on the Navyfor the forward end of the submarine. This signif-icantly increased his influence and even his controlover U.S. submarine design and construction.

    The unfinished Threshers were delayed for SUB-SAFE modifications, and three, the SSN 613, 614, and615, were lengthened 1334 feet (4.2 m), with a sectioninserted forward of the bulkhead for the reactor com-partment. The section provided space for SUBSAFEfeatures, including additional buoyancy, but the pri-mary reason for their delay and for the added sectionwas to provide improved accommodations and intel-ligence collection equipment, and for a larger sail tohouse additional masts. (Table 10-1 shows the princi-pal variations of the Thresher class.)

    Soviet submarine designers carefully monitoredthe Navy Departments statements about the loss ofthe Thresher, primarily through congressional hear-ings. As a senior Soviet designer wrote,

    The Admiralty officials presented tens ofproposals to make monitoring more strict,to institute new methods of checking pres-sure [watertight] structures and systems.Tens and hundreds of people participated inchecking the work already completed, of themetal and hull parts and systems currentlyin work. Everybody understoodthere wereno small details in a submarine.19


  • TABLE 10-1Thresher-class Variations

    Ship Surface Submerged LengthDisplacement Displacement Overall

    Thresher 3,750 tons 4,310 tons 278 ft 6 in

    (84.89 m)

    Jack 3,990 tons 4,467 tons 297 ft 4 in

    (90.63 m)

    SSN 613615 4,260 tons 4,770 tons 292 ft 3 in

    (89.08 m)

    Nuclear Hunter-KillersAlmost parallel with the design of the Thresher, aneffort was under way to develop a small, specializedhunter-killer submarinethe Tullibee. The previ-ous K1-class killer submarines had failed, in part,because of their limited operating range; a nuclear-propelled SSK could reach its deployment area andremain on station to the limit of her crew or untilher torpedoes were expended. A small, nuclear SSKwould be less expensive than an SSN and thus couldbe produced in large numbers to counter theincreasing Soviet submarine threat.

    The proposed SSKN had a design goal of 900tons surface displacement and would be poweredby a new pressurized-water reactor. The NavalReactors Branch developed the S1C/S2C reactorplant that produced 2,500 horsepower, one-sixththe power of the S5W plant in the Skipjack andThresher. The Tullibee had turbo-electric drive,which dispensed with the gears of steam turbinedrive and gave promise of being the quietestnuclear propulsion system possible. Further, thepropulsion system would provide excellentresponse, being able to go from full ahead (200 revolutions per minute) to full astern in seconds.The submarine had a single propeller shaft, as didother second-generation U.S. nuclear submarines.But unlike the other single-shaft submarines, theTullibee did not have an emergency, come-homepropeller pod that could be lowered to provide lim-ited propulsion in the event of a main propulsionplant or shaft failure.20 The prototype S1C reactorplant was installed at the Atomic Energy Commis-sions Windsor, Connecticut, test site; the similarS2C was installed in the Tullibee.

    Electric Boat was chosen to construct the leadSSKN. The Tullibees reactor and other considera-

    tions made her grow during design until her surfacedisplacement was 2,177 tons. The Albacore hullform was corrupted with a lengthy parallel mid-body, topped by a small sail. However, the Tullibeewas built with HTS (High Tensile Steel), and notHY-80, limiting her test depth to 700 feet (215 m).The Tullibee was provided with the AN/BQQ-1sonar system as well as four angled torpedo tubes.The BQQ-1 was the Navys first integrated sonarsystem composed of the BQR-7 low-frequency, pas-sive array, which was wrapped around the firstspherical active sonar, the BQS-6, this combinationbeing fitted in a bow sonar sphere.

    The Tullibee was commissioned on 9 November1960. She was designated SSN 597 vice the SSKNthat had been used during her design and develop-ment. Her crew numbered six officers and 50 enlist-ed men, 32 fewer personnel than initially assignedto a Thresher-class SSN. (The Thresher-class man-ning soon increased to about 100.) The Tullibeesfirst skipper, Commander Richard E. (Dick) Jort-berg, recalled:

    . . . We could stand watch and man battlestations. We were weak in in-port mainte-nance. We solved that problem by adding atraining allowance. In effect, we had a four-section crewof which only three sectionswent to sea at one time. The section remain-ing in port took care of schools, training,and leave. . . . During in-port periods, allpersonnel worked on the shipall four sec-tions. The crew loved itwe had a 100%reenlistment rate for three years.21

    The submarine was employed in research and,subsequently, undertook standard SSN deploy-ments. Operationally, the Tullibee suffered majorlimitations, including low speed for ocean transits todeployment areas, Commander Jortberg observed:In the operational area, people often questioned theslower speed of the Tullibee16 knots. In my expe-rience with the ship, I never found that to be a realproblem.22 As an ASW platform the Tullibee wasunsurpassed at the time.

    The construction of additional submarines of this design was not undertaken, the decisionbeing made by the Navy to instead procure only the


  • larger and more versatile Thresher class for allattack submarine roles.

    The 14 Thresher-class SSNs were followed by thesimilar but larger submarines of the Sturgeon (SSN637) class. Again powered by an S5W reactor plant,these later submarines had increased quieting fea-tures and, significantly, a larger sail structure. Thispermitted the return of the electronic intelligencecapability deleted from the short-sail Threshers andan arrangement whereby the sail-mounted divingplanes could be rotated 90 degrees to facilitate thecraft penetrating through Arctic ice. The cost was asubmarine 510 tons larger than the original Thresh-er design and several knots slower. The last nine

    Sturgeons were lengthened ten feet (3.1 m) duringconstruction to provide additional space for intelli-gence collection equipment and technicians, and tofacilitate their carrying dry-deck shelters orhangars for swimmer operations. And, severalunits of this class received (minor) modifications toserve as mother submarines for rescue sub-mersibles. (See Chapter 13.)

    One Sturgeon, the Parche (SSN 683), was exten-sively modified, to perform ocean-engineering andother special missions. The submarine underwentmodifications at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard forthe ocean engineering role; she was refueled andextensively modified at Mare Island from January


    Tullibee (SSN 597). LOA 272 ft 912 in (83.16 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

    The small hunter-killer submarine Tullibee in October 1960, also on sea trials. The Navy constructed only one ship of this

    design, preferring instead to employ larger, multi-purpose SSNs in the killer role. The fins forward and aft were part of

    the PUFFS fire control system. (U.S. Navy)

  • 1987 to May 1991. These later modifications includ-ed the addition of a 100-foot (30.5-m) section for-ward of the sail to accommodate special search andrecovery equipment. This is reported to have includ-ed a clawlike device lowered by cable to recover satel-lites and other equipment from the ocean floor.

    In a program known as Ivy Bells, beginning in1971 the extensively converted Halibut (SSN 597)and, from 1976, the Parche were employed toinstall recording devices for tapping into an under-water communications cable at a depth of some400 feet (122 m) in the Sea of Okhotsk, betweenSoviet bases on the Kamchatka Peninsula and theSoviet Far Eastern coast. The submarines carrieddivers that could lock out of special living cham-bers at depth to install and service the seafloorwiretaps.23 (This operation was revealed to theSoviets in January 1980 by the U.S. traitor RonaldPelton; the Soviets quickly shut down the Ameri-can spy operation.)

    With the end of the 41-submarine Polaris pro-gram in sight, the Congress provided funds toaccelerate the production of SSNs. A total of 37Sturgeon SSNs were completed from 1967 through1975. The building ratean average of four SSNsper yearoccurred as U.S. shipyards were com-pleting the Polaris program (with the last SSBNcompleted in 1967).

    One modified Sturgeon design was built, theenlarged Narwhal (SSN 671). She had an S5G reac-

    tor plant configured for natural circulation, whereinconvection moved pressurized water at low speeds,alleviating the use of the noisy circulating pumps.Slow-speed, direct-drive turbines were employed inthe Narwhal (as they were in the Jack). Completed in1969, the Narwhal quickly demonstrated the efficacyof this natural circulation, which was adopted forfuture U.S. submarine reactor plants.


    Sail-mounted diving planes in the Sturgeon class could be

    rotated 90 degrees to reduce ice damage when breaking

    through the Arctic ice pack. (Atomic Submarines)

    The Whale was the second submarine of the Sturgeon class. These submarines were essentially enlarged Threshers with

    enhanced quieting, an under-ice capability, and added electronic intelligence collection capabilities (note the taller sail).

    The Whale undertook several under-ice missions. (General Dynamics Corp.)

  • One additional SSN would be built with a mod-ified S5Wa plant, the Glenard P. Lipscomb (SSN 685;see Chapter 17). The S5W represented exactly whatRickover had sought in nuclear plantspractical-ity and simplicity.24 Further, the Thresher served asthe design model for the Ethan Allen (SSBN 608)class of Polaris missile submarines in terms of inte-rior design, systems, and depth capability, in thesame manner that the Skipjack had been the modelfor the George Washington (SSBN 598) class. TheUnited States built 98 submarines with the S5Wreactor plant57 second-generation SSNs, the Lip-scomb, and 41 Polaris SSBNs. Britain built its firstSSNHMS Dreadnoughtwith an S5W plantprovided by the United States.

    With the availability of the Sturgeon-class SSNs,U.S. nuclear submarines returned to under-ice Arc-tic operations. They had abstained from those voy-ages following the loss of the Thresher because oflimitations imposed on SSN operations until theSUBSAFE program was completed. The Queenfish(SSN 651) was the first of several submarines of thisnew class to conduct extensive operations under theArctic ice pack and was the first single-screw sub-marine of any nation to surface through ice, in Feb-ruary 1967 in Baffin Bay. The Whale (SSN 638) and,subsequently, Pargo (SSN 650) were the first sub-marines of this class to surface at the North Pole,both doing so in April 1969.25 Operating underArctic ice was not without problems, including dif-ficulties in firing acoustic homing torpedoesbecause of under-ice reverberations.

    Increasingly, U.S. submarine operations innorthern latitudes were for the purpose of observ-ing and tracking the rapidly growing fleet of Sovietnuclear-propelled submarines. By 1970 the SovietNavy outnumbered the U.S. Navy in numbers ofnuclear-propelled submarines.

    Soviet Second-Generation SubmarinesLike the U.S. Navy, even as its first-generationnuclear submarines were going to sea, the SovietNavy was already engaged in developing the second-generation nukes. And both navies weredeveloping multiple nuclear submarine classes,with the Soviet second-generation effort beingmuch broader.

    In the late 1950s, shortly after the first Project627/November SSN went to sea, the three designbureaus put forward proposals for several advancedsubmarine designs. Beyond the advanced Project661/Papa SSGN and Project 705/Alfa SSN, in 1958the State Committee for Shipbuilding initiated acompetition among three bureausTsKB-18/Rubin,TsKB-112/Lazurit, and SDB-143/Malachiteto de-sign four second-generation nuclear submarines:

    Project 667: nuclear ballistic missile submarine


    Project 669: large nuclear attack submarinewith heavy torpedo armament(SSN)follow-on to Project627/November

    Project 670: small nuclear submarine for massproduction with torpedoarmament (SSN)

    Project 671: nuclear ASW submarine with tor-pedo armament and large sonar(SSKN)

    The last was to have a surface displacement ofnot more than 2,000 tons to permit series construc-tion at inland shipyards; it was to have an arma-ment of four torpedo tubes and carry eight torpe-does, have a speed of about 30 knots, and a testdepth of 985 feet (300 m). By Western criteria thiswould be an SSKN.

    As early as 1961 a chief spokesman for the Sovi-et Navy, Admiral Vasiliy I. Platonov, wrote in ahighly classified publication:

    Anti-submarine submarines armed with themost improved sonar and hydroacousticequipment can be the only real forces forcombating missile-carrying submarines.Underwater sonar search, underwaterpatrolling, and underwater patrols andambushes must become their tactical meth-ods. Active combating of missile-carryingsubmarines and all maneuvering connectedwith hunting and destroying them must nowbe carried on deeply underwater instead ofon the surface. There is no other way.26


  • It soon became evident that Project 671 wouldbe the only SSN that would be built with a torpedoarmament, and the design took on a more univer-sal or multi-purpose character. Its displacementsoon reached the critical mark of 3,500 tons (sur-face), which was the limit for construction in aLeningrad shipyard and being carried by trans-porter dock on the Baltic-Belomor Canal toSeverodvinsk for completion.27 The design of Proj-ect 671 (NATO Victor) was initiated at SDB-143 in1958 under Leonid A. Samarkin. A year later, asProject 671 was formalized, George N. Chernyshevwas named chief designer with Samarkin as hisdeputy.

    Project 671 introduced a single propeller shaftin Soviet combat submarines, that feature beingaccepted on the basis of providing lower noise lev-els, lower displacement, and higher speed in com-parison to two-shaft propulsion plants of the samepower. According to the deputy chief designer ofProject 671,

    The firm position of the Chief Designer andthe bureau leadership on this issue, the sup-port of the leadership of the [State Commit-tee for Shipbuilding] (B. E. Butoma), thebold report of the Chief Navy Overseer V. I.Novikov and the Navy [Commander-in-Chief] S. G. Gorshkov gave his agreementas an exception to use one drive shaft onthis design. This is the way the breach wasmade on this issue.28

    The single propeller was fitted 1434 feet (4.5 m)aft of the stern control surfaces. The submarine wasprovided with twin propeller pods, one on each ofthe horizontal supports for her stern planes, to beused both as a come-home capability in the eventof a main propulsion problem and for slow-speedmaneuvering. (In an emergency propulsion mode,the propeller pods would be powered by the shipsbattery, which could be recharged by the nuclearplant or, if the submarine could raise a snorkel, anauxiliary diesel engine.)

    Project 671/Victor had a modified body-of-revolution configuration (i.e., Albacore-type hull),providing a large-diameter pressure hull that per-mitted side-by-side installation of the twin VM-4P

    reactors and twin OK-300 turbines. The submarinewas fitted with a streamlined (limousine) sail,further contributing to underwater performance.The two-reactor plant had a single steam turbinerated at 31,000 shaft horsepower.

    The single-shaft propulsion plant increased thepropulsive characteristics of the submarine byabout 30 percent relative to a twin-shaft plant andpermitted placing the turbine reduction gear andthe two independent turbogenerators in a singlecompartment with all of their auxiliary systems andequipment. This, in turn, reduced the relativelength of the submarine, thus decreasing sub-merged displacement and wetted surface, whichadditionally increased the ships speed. AlthoughProject 671 had a 30 percent greater displacementthan the earlier Project 627/November SSN, thewetted surface of the two designs was practically thesame.29 With similar horsepower, Project 671 had amaximum speed of some 33 knots.

    Most second-generation nuclear submarineshad a pressurized-water reactor of improveddesign, having the two-reactor configuration sim-ilar to that of the earlier HEN-series submarines.The nuclear plants for Project 671/Victor SSNand Project 667/Yankee SSBN were similar, withthe smaller Project 670/Charlie SSGN having asingle reactor of similar design. The introductionof an alternating-current, 380V 50Hz electricalsystem in Project 671 provided a major improve-ment in the reliability of the ships electrical net-work.30

    There was a major effort in Project 671 toreduce self-generated noise, including limber holecovers that close automatically with depth to reduceflow noise, over the hull. The second and subse-quent submarines of Project 671 had anechoic(anti-sonar) coating on the outer hull and damp-ening coating on the inner (pressure) hull to reducethe transmission of machinery noises.

    With a double-hull configuration, the Proj-ect 671 pressure hull has seven compartmentstorpedo/berthing/battery, command center, reac-tors, turbine, auxiliary equipment, berthing anddiesel generators, and electric motors. The double-hull configuration, with ballast tanks along the hullas well as forward and aft, continued the Sovietpractice of surface unsinkability. The design also


  • introduced the stronger AK-29 steel to submarineconstruction, the equivalent of the U.S. Navys HY-100 steel. This increased test depth by 33 percent to1,300 feet (400 m) over first-generation sub-marines, the same as the Project 661/Papa and Proj-ect 705/Alfa, and the USS Thresher.

    The Project 671 armament consists of six 21-inch bow torpedo tubes with 12 reloads. Allweapons handling is automated with torpedoesloaded aboard (through a bow loading chute),moved within the torpedo compartment, placed onracks, and loaded into tubes with a hydraulic sys-tem. Torpedoes can be launched at depths down to820 feet (250 m). The torpedo tubes are fitted in theupper portion of the bow in two horizontal rowstwo tubes above four tubes. This arrangement per-mits torpedoes to be launched at higher submarinespeeds than possible with the angled tubes of U.S.submarines. The lower bow contains the largeRubin MGK-300 sonar system (as in the Project661/Papa SSGN); later units are fitted with theRubikon MGK-503 sonar.

    The K-38, the first Project 671submarine, was laid down at theAdmiralty shipyard in Leningradin April 1963. She was the firstnuclear submarine to be con-structed at that yard, which hadbuilt the worlds first nuclear sur-face ship, the icebreaker Lenin,completed in 1959. The K-38 waslaunched into the Fontanka Riverfrom the building hall via alaunching dock in July 1966. Thatfall, during a test of the nuclearplant, an accident occurred as aresult of an overpressure in asteam generator. Repairs weremade and construction contin-ued. In July 1967 the submarinewas placed in a transporter dockand moved through the inlandcanal-river system to Severod-vinsk for completion and trials inthe White Sea.

    During trials the K-38 setthree Soviet records: Underwaterspeed, test depth, and weapons

    firing depth. Also noted were the submarines excel-lent maneuvering characteristics. With Captain 2d


    A Project 671/Victor SSN being moved from the building hall at the Admiralty

    shipyard in Leningrad onto a launching dock. The Soviet Union led in the hori-

    zontal construction of submarines, an advantage to building on inclined ways.

    The camouflage nets provide concealment from photo satellites and onlookers.

    (Malachite SPMBM)

    A Victor SSN is eased into a transporter dock at the Admi-

    ralty shipyard. The dock will transport the submarine

    through inland waterways to the Severodvinsk shipyard for

    fitting out and for trials in the White Sea. The transporter

    docks also provide concealment from Western eyes. (Mala-

    chite SPMBM)

  • Rank E. D. Chernov in command, the K-38 wasplaced in commission on 5 November 1967. Project671 was a relatively conservative design, a directsuccessor to the Project 627/November SSN. Thesuccess of the design led to the construction of aclass of 15 submarines completed through 1974, allbuilt at the Admiralty yard.

    Subsequently, the design was enlarged in Project671RT/Victor II, with the ship lengthened 3012 feet(9.3 m) and the diameter of the pressure hullincreased up to about 112 feet (0.5 m), most of theaddition being forward to provide an enhancedweapons/sonar capability and quieting.31 Two ofthe six 21-inch torpedo tubes were replaced by two2512-inch (650-mm) tubes for the large Type 65-76torpedoes.32 Total weapons load would be 18 21-inch torpedoes and six 2512-inch torpedoes (ortube-launched missiles). In addition, the improvedSkat sonar system replaced the Rubin, and therewere enhanced quieting features.

    The Project 671RT introduced rafting toSoviet submarines, significantly reducing machinery-produced noise. According to one Russian refer-ence work, The turb[ine]gear assembly and tur-bogenerators with their mechanisms are mountedon one unit-frame support with . . . shock-absorbing layout to reduce the acoustic field.33

    The U.S. intelligence community estimated thatProject 671RT submarines had the same noiselevels as the U.S. Sturgeon class (completed in1967five years earlier).

    Only seven submarines of Project 671RT wereconstructed in 19721978, three at Admiralty andfour at the Krasnoye Sovmoro yard in Gorkiy. Proj-ect 671RT construction was truncated because ofthe decision to pursue a further improvement ofthe design, Project 671RTM/Victor III.34 Length-ened a further 1534 feet (4.8 m), this final variantwas quieter, was fitted with tandem propellers (fit-ted to the same shaft), had improved electronics(including the Skat-K sonar), and carried moreadvanced weapons than did the earlier submarines.These weapons included the RPK-55 Granat torpe-do tube-launched cruise missile (NATO SS-N-21),


    A Victor SSN is backed out of a transporter dock at Severodvinsk. The extensive use of inland waterways, including canals

    built by tens of thousands of prisoners in the Soviet-era Gulag, permitted submarines and smaller warships to be built at

    inland as well as coastal shipyards. (Malachite SPMBM)

    A Project 671RT/Victor II at sea. The free-flood, or limber,

    holes have spring-loaded covers that close as the submarine

    dives to improve the submarines hydrodynamic qualities,

    reducing drag and noise. Her forward diving planes are

    fully retracted into the hull, forward of the sail. (U.K. Min-

    istry of Defence)

  • a weapon similar to the U.S. Tomahawk. (See Chap-ter 18.)

    The 671RTM improvements include a towed-array sonar (hydrophones) streamed from a mas-sive pod mounted atop the upper tail fin/rudder.This pod is 25712 feet (7.8 m) long and 716 feet (2.2m) in diameter, about the size of a Volkswagenminibus. Several alternative purposes of the podwere suggested by Western observers when it firstwas observeda housing for a towed communica-tions cable, a torpedo decoy system or an auxiliarypropulsion system for extremely quiet underwateroperations at speeds below 12 knots, or for high,burst speeds. The theorized propulsion conceptsincluded Magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) or Elec-tromagnetic Thrust (EMT) drive in which seawateris accelerated through or around the structure,somewhat comparable to waterjet propulsion. For anumber of technical reasons, the use of the pod forMHD or EMT propulsion was not practical, amongthem the very high electrical requirements and thelack of a large frontal opening for water intake.35

    (Similar towed-array pods were fitted in the laterProjects 945/Sierra and 971/Akula SSNs and oneProject 667A/Yankee conversion.) The enlargedhulls of the 671RT and 671RTM, however, report-edly resulted in a loss of speed with the latter sub-marine estimated to have had a maximum speed ofabout 31 knots.

    The Admiralty yard in Leningrad constructedthe first Project 671RTM submarine, the K-524,completed in 1977.36 The Admiralty yard andKomsomolsk in the Far East each produced 13Project 671RTM submarines through 1992. Thusa total of 48 Project 671/Victor SSNs of three vari-ants were produced, the largest SSN series con-structed by the USSR, and exceeded in the Westonly by the near-simultaneous U.S. Los Angelesdesign, with 62 SSNs.

    The primary role of these submarines was ASW.According to a director of U.S. Naval Intelligence, amajor task of Project 671 SSNs was operating inconjunction with [Soviet SSBNs], trying to assurethat we are not trailing.37 Indeed, the adoption ofProject 671/Victor as the principal SSN designmarked the shift of the Soviet attack submarineforce away from an open-ocean, anti-shipping cam-paign, to an emphasis on countering U.S. strategicmissile submarines as well as aircraft carriers.

    Another Director of Naval Intelligence, dis-cussing the Victor III variant, noted that by theearly 1980s, These submarines often are assignedASW missions off our coasts.38 A Victor III, theK-324, operating off the U.S. East Coast, fouledthe towed hydrophone array of the U.S. frigateMcCloy in November 1983. The submarine wastowed to Cuba for repairsand recovery of a por-tion of the U.S. towed array, an intelligence findfor the Soviets.

    A rare, detailed report of a Victor III patrol waspublished in the Soviet Navy journal MorskoySbornik in 1993.39 The article discussed problems ofthe two-month patrol:

    [Day 23] The shortage of spare parts increas-es the demand placed on all the equipment,as a result of which wear and tear is growingthreateningly. Although the decision toextend the use of the equipment is made by acommission on the basis of required calcula-tions, it is left to me to demand themaximum out of our equipment, literallyrunning it until complete failure.

    Successes were also recorded:

    [Day 54] The contact this time is a highlyprized target, a Los Angeles-class submarine.


    Project 671RTM/Victor III SSN. LOA 351 ft 4 in (A.D. Baker, III)

  • The boat is like new, clean, quiet. TheAmericans have been very successful in thisarea, which is why they primarily use pas-sive sonar as their means of detection, so asnot to give themselves away.

    We are no slouches either. This time thetrick was that we picked them up on a pieceof equipment the equivalent of which, as faras I know, the Americans dont have. Weheld the hiding contact for a day and a half.Then we lit off our active sonar, which ofcourse illuminated us.

    As Project 671 evolved from the original SSKNconcept into a large, multi-purpose SSN, the deci-

    sion was made not to pursue other torpedo-attacksubmarine designs, among them Projects 669 and673. The first was conceived as the follow-on tothe Project 627/November SSN and was to bearmed with eight bow torpedo tubes and carry 30weapons. SBD-143 was selected to design Project669, which was to have a single reactor and a dis-placement of 4,000 to 5,000 tons.

    Project 673, developed by SBD-112 in 1960, wasenvisioned as a smaller SSN with a surface displace-ment possibly as small as 1,500 tons with a singlereactor producing up to 40,000 horsepower forspeeds of 35 to 40 knots. The faster variant wouldhave no sail structure (see drawing). Six torpedotubes and 12 to 18 torpedoes were to be provided.


    Project 673a sailless SSN. (A.D. Baker, III)

    A Project 671RTM/Victor III, showing the large sonar-array pod atop her vertical fin and the tandem propellers fitted to

    a single propeller shaft. The submarines electronic surveillance mast is raised (NATO Brick Pulp). When this photo was

    taken in 1983, the submarine had fouled a U.S. frigates towed sonar array. (U.S. Navy)

  • Project 670 Charlie SSGNThe high cost of the Project 661/Papa SSGN led theNavys leadership to consider adopting the P-70Amethyst (NATO SS-N-7) missile to a smaller, lesscostly SSGN.

    Project 672 was developed by SDB-143 during19581960 as a small SSGN with a surface displace-ment of less than 2,500 tons, but with a nuclearplant one-half the specific weight of the Project 627(VM-A) and Project 645 (VM-T) plant that wouldgenerate 40,000 horsepower for a speed of 30 to 35knots. A titanium hull was to provide a test depth of1,640 feet (500 m). Armament was to consist of tor-pedo tubes and Amethyst or longer-range cruisemissiles. To provide that capability in so small asubmarine was found too difficult, and the projectwas not pursued.

    Instead, the Soviets developed Project 670 as acruise missile submarine. Project 670 originally wasintended as a small, mass-production SSN. FromMay 1960 the design was completely revised by SKB-112/Lazurit in Gorkiy to carry the Amethyst (SS-N-7) missile. The bureau previously was involved onlywith diesel-electric submarines. The chief designerof Project 670 was V. K. Shaposhnikov from 1958 to1960, when V. P. Vorobyev succeeded him. SKB-112developed Project 670 specifically to attack Westernaircraft carriers and other high value targets.

    As an SSGN, Project 670 (NATO Charlie) was arelatively small submarine with a surface displace-ment of only 3,574 tons while carrying eightAmethyst missiles.40 It was a double-hull subma-rine with seven compartments; the sail was fabri-cated of aluminum to save weight. Project 670 wasthe first Soviet nuclear submarine to have only onereactor, the VM-4. The OK-350 steam turbine pro-vided 18,800 horsepower to turn a single screw. Thereactor plant was one-half of the plant in Project671, although capable of producing some 60 per-cent of the horsepower of the twin-reactor plant.The SSGN had a submerged speed of 26 knots anda test depth of 1,150 feet (350 m).

    Although given a streamlined hull similar inmany respects to Project 671, the SSGN would havea large, blunt bow section with four Amethyst mis-sile tubes on each side, between the inner and outerhulls, angled upward at 32.5 degrees. Torpedoarmament consisted of four 21-inch and two 15.75-inch (400-mm) torpedo tubes in the bow, with 12and four torpedoes carried, respectively. The Kerch-670 sonarintended to track aircraft carrierswith a large hydrophone antenna fitted in the for-ward section of the sail.

    Eleven Project 670/Charlie I SSGNs were com-pleted at the Krasnoye Sovmoro yard in Gorkiyfrom 1967 to 1972. These were the first nuclear sub-


    A Project 670/Charlie SSGN steams at high speed in the South China Sea in 1974. These submarines had the advantage

    of submerged missile launch in comparison with earlier Soviet SSG/SSGNs. The eight Amethyst/SS-N-7 missiles are

    fitted in the bow; the forward diving planes retract into the hull, immediately forward of the sail. (U.S. Navy)

    Project 670/Charlie I SSGN. LOA 309 ft 4 in (94.3 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • marines to be constructed at the yard, some 200miles east of Moscow on the Volga River. The leadship, the K-43, was placed in commission on 27November 1967, the worlds first submarine withan underwater-launch cruise missile capability.

    Along with its attributes, the Amethyst missilehad a number of shortcomings: It had a relativelyshort range (38 n.miles/70 km), a limited ability toovercome defensive countermeasures, and requireda complex submarine control system. In addition,the missile was not standardized in that it couldbe launched only from submerged submarines.Accordingly, in 1963 advanced development hadbegun on the P-120 Malachite missile system(NATO SS-N-9).41 Major differences between thenew solid-propellant missile, with a submergedlaunch, and the Amethyst were a 1.5 increase inrange and a more capable guidance/control system.Updated electronics and sonar (Skat-M) were pro-vided in the submarine.

    Consequently, SKB-112 designed an enlargedProject 670M/ Charlie II submarine, 2916 feet (8.9m) longer and 680 tons (surface) larger than herpredecessor. The larger size would cost about twoknots in speed.

    The Krasnoye Sovmoro yard produced six Proj-ect 670M SSGNs from 1973 to 1980. While Project670/Charlie submarines were superior to theirpredecessors of the Project 675/Echo II SSGNsbecause of their submerged missile launch, they stilllacked the underwater speed to effectively track andattack Western aircraft carriers. This would havebeen corrected in the Project 661/Papa, and wascorrected in the third-generation SSGN, the Project949/Oscar design.

    After 20 years in Soviet service, the lead ship ofProject 670, the K-43, was leased to the Indian Navy,the first nuclear submarine of any nation to be trans-ferred to another.42 Indian sailors began training at

    Vladivostok in 1983, both ashore and aboard the K-43. The Indian colors were raised on the submarineon 5 January 1988, and she was renamed Chakra.The K-43 was operated by that navy until January1991 and then returned briefly to Soviet colors, beingdecommissioned in July 1992. The K-43/Chakratrained some 150 Indian naval personnel for nuclearsubmarine service. In the event, no additionalnuclear submarines have been operated by India.

    One of her sister ships had a less commendato-ry career: She sank twice! The K-429, a Charlie ISSGN, sank in water 165 feet (50 m) deep offPetropavlovsk in the Far East on 24 June 1983, withthe loss of 16 of the 90 crewmen on board. Rescueforces located the sunken submarine, and the nextday the surviving men were able to escape to thesurface. A series of personnel errors caused theloss.43 She was salvaged in August 1983. Whilebeing repaired, the K-429 sank again, at her moor-ings, on 13 September 1985 (without casualties).She was again salvaged but not returned to service.A sister ship, the K-314, suffered a reactor melt-down while at Pavlovsk in the Far East, again as theresult of personnel error. No crewmen died, and noradiation escaped from the submarine in theDecember 1985 accident.

    Other cruise missile submarine designs were con-sidered in this period, notably Project 705A, anSSGN variant of the Alfa SSN. The preliminarysketches for this variant showed an elongated sailstructure, with six fixed-angle tubes for launchingthe Amethyst/SS-N-7 anti-ship missile. The launch-ers were fitted aft of the periscopes, masts, and theescape chamber of the standard Project 705 SSN.Internally Project 705A had significant arrange-ment changes, with approximately the same lengthas the torpedo-attack submarine (267 feet/81.4 m)and a slightly greater surface displacement (2,385


    Project 705A/Alfa cruise missile variant. (A.D. Baker, III)

  • tons versus 2,300 tons). The number of torpedotubes remained the same. But in this period onlythe Project 670/Charlie SSGN was series-producedfor the anti-ship role.

    While the design and construction of the leadsecond-generation submarines were under way, inOctober 1964, Nikita Khrushchev was ousted in apeaceful coup. His successor as head of the Com-munist Party and subsequently also head of thegovernment was Leonid Brezhnev. Khrushchev hadgenerally held back the development and produc-tion of conventional weapons, instead stressingstrategic nuclear weapons andfor the Navysubmarines.

    Under Brezhnev the armed forces underwent amassive infusion of funds; the development andproduction of conventional as well as strategicweapons was accelerated. Admiral Gorshkov haddutifully followed Khrushchevs dictum to disposeof outdated surface warships and concentrate avail-able resources on submarines, missile ships, andmissile-armed aircraft. He had gained approval toconstruct combination helicopter carriers-missilecruisers of some 19,000 tons full load. These shipshad the designation protivolodochnyy kreyser, oranti-submarine cruiser, reflecting their specializedASW role.44

    Under the Brezhnev regime, Admiral Gorshkovput forward an expanded program of naval con-struction. Large missile cruisers and aircraft carri-ers were constructed, the latter program cumulat-ing in the nuclear-propelled Ulyanovsk of some75,000 tons full load, which was laid down in 1988but which was never completed because of thedemise of the USSR. Significantly, along with thismassive increase of investment in surface warshipsand naval aviation, Gorshkov continued to stresssubmarine construction.

    While the United States produced relatively fewfirst-generation nukeseight SSN/SSGN/SSRNsthe Soviet Union built 56 SSN/SSBN/SSGNs ofthe HEN series. The United States initiated the second-generation nuclear submarines much ear-

    lier than did the USSR andemploying the S5Wreactor plant almost exclusivelybuilt 100SSN/SSBNs during a 17-year period.45 The SovietUnion produced more nuclear submarines of thisgeneration137 SSN/SSBN/SSGNs during 26years.

    The Soviet effort was more remarkable forthe broad approach in design. U.S. nuclear sub-marines of the second generation mostly werebased on the highly capable Thresher. The Sovietefforts included the high-speed, highly auto-mated Project 705/Alfa SSN, the most innovativesubmarine of the era, while the Project 661/Papaand Project 670/Charlie SSGNs introduced submerged-launch cruise missiles to sub-marines. The Alfa and Papa also introduced tita-nium to submarine construction. And, whileU.S. submarines remained acoustically quieter,the Soviets were making progress in this area.

    From the viewpoint of roles and missions,this was a most significant period, because theVictor SSN marked the shift of Soviet navalstrategy from open-ocean, anti-shipping to pri-marily ASW operations against U.S. strategicmissile submarines coupled with the still-important anti-carrier role. Both roles sought toprotect the Soviet homeland against U.S. nuclearstrikes.

    The Project 670/Charlie SSGN overcamemany of the shortcomings of the earlier Projects651/Juliett SSG and 675/Echo II SSGN andpoised a major threat to Western warships: TheCharlies propulsion plant was more reliable, itsmissiles were launched while submerged, andthe shorter-range missiles eliminated the needfor mid-course guidance and flew faster and atlower altitudes than earlier anti-ship missiles.(The submarines major shortfall was its limitedspeed, which made it difficult to operate againsthigh-speed carriers.)

    The second-generation nuclear submarines ofboth nations provided the majority of the sub-marines that served in the U.S. and Soviet Naviesinto the 1990s, carrying the burden of underseawarfare for the second half of the Cold War.


  • TABLE 10-2Second-Generation Nuclear Submarines

    Soviet Soviet Soviet SovietU.S. Thresher U.S. Tullibee U.S. Sturgeon Project 671 Project 671RTM Project 670 Project 670MSSN 593 SSN 597 SSN 637 Victor I Victor III Charlie I Charlie II

    Operational 1961 1960 1967 1967 1977 1967 1973


    surface 3,750 tons 2,177 tons 4,250 tons 3,650 tons 4,750 tons 3,580 tons 4,250 tons

    submerged 4,310 tons 2,607 tons 4,780 tons 4,830 tons 5,980 tons 4,550 tons 5,270 tons

    Length 278 ft 6 in 272 ft 912 in 292 ft 305 ft 351 ft 4 in 309 ft 4 in 344 ft 1 in

    (84.9 m) (83.16 m) (89.0 m) (93.0 m) (107.1 m) (94.3 m) (104.5 m)

    Beam 31 ft 8 in 23 ft 4 in 31 ft 8 in 34 ft 9 in 34 ft 9 in 32 ft 6 in 32 ft 6 in

    (9.65 m) (7.09 m) (9.65 m) (10.6 m) (10.6 m) (9.9 m) (9.9 m)

    Draft 26 ft 19 ft 4 in 28 ft 10 in 23 ft 7 in 26 ft 3 in 24 ft 7 in 26 ft 7 in

    (7.93 m) (5.88 m) (8.8 m) (7.2 m) (8.0 m) (7.5 m) (8.1 m)

    Reactors 1 S5W 1 S2C 1 S5W 2 VM-4P 2 VM-4P 1 VM-4 1 VM-4

    Turbines 2 steam 1 steam 2 steam 1 steam 1 steam 1 steam 1 steam

    horsepower 15,000 2,500 15,000 31,000 31,000 18,800 18,800

    Shafts 1 1 1 1 1 1 1


    surface 15 knots 13 knots 15 knots 12 knots 18 knots 12 knots

    submerged 2728 knots 16 knots 2627 knots 33 knots 31 knots 26 knots 24 knots

    Test depth 1,300 ft 700 ft 1,300 ft 1,300 ft 1,300 ft 1,150 ft 1,150 ft

    (400 m) (215 m) (400 m) (400 m) (400 m) (350 m) (350 m)

    Torpedo tubes* 4 533-mm A 4 533-mm A 4 533-mm A 6 533-mm B 4 533-mm B 4 533-mm B 4 533-mm B

    2 650-mm B 2 400-mm B 2 400-mm B

    Torpedoes 23 12 23 18 18+6 12+4 12+4

    Missiles Harpoon/ nil Harpoon/ nil various*** 8 SS-N-7 8 SS-N-9


    Complement 88** 56 99** 76 82 90 90

    Notes: * Angled; Bow.** Increased during service life.

    *** Torpedo-tube launched weapons.


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  • The Soviet Union had sent ballistic missilesubmarines to sea before the United Stateshad. However, the U.S. Polaris submarines

    that went on patrol from the fall of 1960 were supe-rior in all respects to contemporary Soviet ballisticmissile submarines. Coupled with the limitations ofSoviet anti-submarine forces, the Polaris SSBNsrepresented an invulnerable strategic striking force.

    By 1967 the Polaris force was complete, with 41SSBNs in commission, carrying 656 missiles. TheSoviet Union had earlier constructed eight nuclearand 29 diesel-electric submarines, carrying a totalof 104 missiles.1 In comparison with the Soviet sys-tems, all U.S. missiles were carried in modernnuclear-propelled submarines; the U.S. Polaris mis-siles had greater range, were more accurate, andwere capable of underwater launch. The Poseidonmissile, introduced in 1971, carried the worlds firstMultiple-Independently targeted Re-entry Vehicles(MIRVs), up to 14 warheads per missile that could

    be directed to separate targets within a specific geo-graphic footprint. (See Chapter 7.)

    The Soviet second-generation SSBNs sought toalter this U.S. advantage. Design of the Soviet second-generation SSBNs had begun in the late1950s at TsKB-18 (Rubin). But in 1959 the Sovietgovernment ordered a halt to production of SSBNsas defense policy underwent a reappraisal at thedirection of Nikita Khrushchev. Based on this reap-praisal, the Strategic Rocket Forces (SRF) wasestablished on 14 December 1959.2 This was a sep-arate military service, on par with the Army, Navy,Air Forces, and Air Defense of the Country (PVO),that last having been established in 1954.3 The SRFwas given responsibility for development and oper-ation of all Soviet land-based intermediate andintercontinental-range ballistic missiles.4

    Academician and chief designer Sergei N.Kovalev attributed the delay in new SSBN con-struction to a combination of factors, including the


    The Ultimate Weapon I

    A Project 667BD/Delta III ballistic missile submarine after surfacing in Arctic ice pack. The Arctic Oceanthe backyard

    of the USSRwas a major operating area for Soviet submarines. SSBNs practiced surfacing through the ice to launch their

    missiles. Massive ice chunks rest on the submarines deck. (Rubin CDB ME)


  • high priority given to construction of Project675/Echo II SSGNs at Severodvinsk; the influenceof Vladimir N. Chelomei, head of special designbureau OKB-52, who urged the deployment ofstrategic cruise missiles rather than ballistic missilesfor land attack; and difficulties encountered indevelopment of the D-4 missile system (R-21/NATO SS-N-5 Sark), the first underwater-launchmissile.5

    With the halt in the construction of strategicmissile submarines, some components for unfin-ished Hotel SSBNs reportedly were shifted to theEcho SSGN program.6 Nevertheless, as a result ofshortcomings in the Soviet ICBM program and theCuban missile crisis, in 19621963 the decision wasmade to resume the construction of SSBNs. Thelead submarine of the Project 667A (NATO Yankee)was laid down at the Severodvinsk shipyard on 4November 1964.

    Modern Ballistic Missile SubmarinesThe first second-generation SSBN design was Proj-ect 667, a large submarine intended to carry eightR-21/SS-N-5 ballistic missiles.7 Developed underthe direction of chief designer A. S. Kassatsier, theProject 667 design was highly complicated becauseof the proposal that the R-21 missile undergo finalassembly in the submarine and provision of a rotat-ing launcher for the missile.8 As usual, a number ofdesigns were considered; one design model, in theCentral Naval Museum (Leningrad), shows acruise-missile launcher firing forward through thesail with ballistic missiles fitted amidships.

    However, a new generation of smaller Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) was underdevelopment that were to have increased range andaccuracy as well as improved launch readiness.

    Development began in 1958 on the first solid-propellant SLBM system, the D-6. Major difficultieswere encountered and work on the D-6 system wasdiscontinued in 1961.

    At that time work began on a naval version of aland-launch missile with a solid-propellant firststage and second stage, the RT-15M.9 The subma-rine Project 613D7 (Whiskey S-229) was fitted fortest launching the RT-15M; but this missile alsoproved to be too difficult and was cancelled in mid-1964. The Soviet missile design bureaus wereunable to produce a missile comparable to the U.S.Polaris SLBM, which had become operational inlate 1960.

    In place of solid-fuel SLBMs, the SKB-385 bur-eau, directed by V. P. Makeyev, proposed the liquid-propellant R-27 missile (NATO SS-N-6 Serb) of theD-5/RSM-25 missile system for the Project667A/Yankee submarine. Smaller than the R-21, theR-27 was a single-stage, submerged-launch missilewith a range of 1,350 n.miles (2,500 km). The mis-sile was test launched from the modified Project613D5 (Whiskey) submarine, which had been fittedwith two launch tubes in 19631967; further trialstook place with the K-102, a modified Project629/Golf SSB that was redesignated Project 605when fitted with four launch tubes.

    In the early 1960s the possibility of rearming theearlier Project 658 (Hotel) SSBNs with the D-5/R-27 system was considered. In addition, in19641965 in TsKB-16, preliminary designs wereconsidered for Project 687, a high-speed submarinebased on Project 705/Alfa with a submerged dis-placement of about 4,200 tons carrying D-5SLBMsthe R-27 or R-27K anti-ship variant (seebelow). At the same time, in SKB-143 work beganon the Project 679 SSBN based on Project 671/Victor, also to be armed with the D-5 missile sys-tem, schemes that somewhat imitated the U.S. con-version of the Skipjack (SSN 585) design to a Polarisconfiguration. Work ceased on these preliminarySSBN designs before any came to fruition.

    Rather, based on the promise of the D-5/R-27missile, in 1962 TsKB-18 shifted SSBN designefforts to Project 667A. Chief designer for the proj-ect was Kovalev, who had been the final chiefdesigner of the Project 658/Hotel SSBN. As con-struction began at Severodvinsk, preparations also


    Sergei N. Kovalev

    (Rubin CDB ME)

  • were being made for series production at the Komsomolsk-na-the-Amur shipyard.

    The Project 667A/Yankee had a surface displace-ment of almost 7,760 tons and an overall length of420 feet (128 m). Internally the double-hull subma-rine had ten compartments. Later, after engineeringproblems cut off men trapped in the after sectionfrom the forward portion of a submarine, a two-man escape chamber that could be winched up anddown was fitted in the stern of these submarines.10

    Superficially similar to the early U.S. PolarisSSBN design, the Project 667A/Yankee also had 16missiles, fitted in two rows aft of the sail; however,the 16 missile tubes were fitted in two compart-ments (No. 4 and 5), unlike the one-compartmentmissile arrangement in U.S. submarines. Andafirst in Soviet submarinesthe SSBN had sail-mounted diving planes; the sail position was closerto the ships center of gravity to help hold her at theproper depth for missile launching.11

    Other major differences between the U.S.Polaris and Soviet Yankee SSBNs included the latterhaving twin VM-2-4 reactors providing steam toOK-700 turbines turning twin propeller shafts. TheSoviet submarine also had a greater diving depthand, significantly, could launch missiles at a fasterrate, from a greater depth, at higher speeds thancould Polaris SSBNs. The 667A/Yankee couldlaunch from depths to 165 feet (50 m), compared toless than half that depth for Polaris launches,12 andthe submarine could be moving at three to six

    knots, while U.S. missile submarines were requiredto move considerably slower orpreferablytohover while launching missiles.13 The time forprelaunch preparations was approximately tenminutes; the launch time for a salvo of four missileswas 24 seconds. However, there were pausesbetween salvoes so that at least 27 minutes wererequired from the launching of the first and lastmissiles. (The later Project 667BDRM/Delta IVSSBN could launch all 16 missiles within oneminute while steaming up to five knots.)

    Still, Soviet officials candidly admitted that theYankees missiles were inferior to the contemporaryPolaris A-3 missile, while their submarines werenoisier and had other inferiorities in comparison toU.S. SSBNs. Kovalev observed,

    The submarines of Project 667A from the verybeginning were good except for theirnoisiness. It was not that we did not pay atten-tion to this problem, but simply that in thescientific and technical field we were not pre-pared to achieve low levels of noise. In the sci-entific field we poorly appreciated the natureof underwater noise, thinking that if a low-noise turbine reduction gear was made allwould be in order. But then, in trials we wereconvinced that this was not altogether so.14

    The first Project 667A submarine was launchedon 28 August 1966, and the ship was commissioned


    The Project 667A/Yankee was the Soviet Navys first modern strategic missile submarine. While outwardly resembling

    the U.S. Polaris SSBNs, in actuality the Yankee design was very different. The open hatch at the forward end of the sail

    was for a telescoping satellite antenna device, given the NATO code name Cod Eye.

  • 170C









    Project 667A/Yankee SSBN. LOA 420 ft (128.0 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • the Leninets (K-137) on 5 November 1967. Thirty-four of these submarines were built through 197224 at Severodvinsk and 10 at Komsomolsk, a build-ing rate that exceeded the U.S. Polaris programthatis, approximately 5.5 Polaris per annum compared to6.8 Yankee SSBNs. And while the U.S. construction ofballistic missile submarines halted at 41 units, SovietSSBN construction continued.

    The first Project 667A/Yankee SSBNs went oncombat patrol in the Atlantic in June 1969. Sixteenmonths later, in October 1970, SSBNs of this classbegan patrols in the Pacific. These submarinescame within missile range1,350 n.milesofAmerican coasts. Although their missile range wassignificantly less than the contemporary Polaris A-3 (i.e., 2,500 n.miles/4,630 km), principal U.S.cities and military bases were along the coasts,whereas the most important Soviet targets were farfrom the open seas. By 1971 there were regularlytwo and on occasion up to four Project 667A SSBNsin that western Atlantic within missile range of theUnited States and one in the eastern Pacific.15

    While construction of these submarines contin-ued, existing units were upgraded from 1972 to1983 with the D-5U missile system and the R-27Uballistic missile. This weapon increased range to1,620 n.miles (3,000 km), with one or three nuclearwarheads that would strike the same target, the lat-ter similar to the Multiple Re-entry Vehicle (MRV)warhead of the Polaris A-3 missile. All but one ofthe 34 ships were refitted with the D-5U andadvanced navigation systems during the course ofconstruction or modernization. (The submarineswere redesignated 667AU.)

    From 1973 to 1976 one of the earlier Project667A submarines, the K-140, was modernized atthe Zvezdochka yard at Severodvinsk, being refittedwith the first solid-propellant missile, the D-11 system. This was a two-stage RSM-45/R-31 mis-sile (NATO SS-N-17 Snipe). The SLBM had a rangeof 2,100 n.miles (3,900 km) and demonstrated theSoviet ability to put solid-fuel missiles to sea.As modified, the K-140designated 667AMaccommodated 12 missiles in place of the standard16. (From 1969 to 1973 a ship design was begunthat would carry 16 RSM-45/R-31 missiles; this wasProject 999 at TsKB-16 (Volna) under S. M. Bavilin.The missile system was not pursued, and Project

    667AM became the only ship fitted with thisweaponthe only operational Soviet SLBM withsolid-propellant until the RSM-52/SS-N-20 Stur-geon entered service in 1983.)

    During the 1970s and early 1980s, there wasconcern among some Western defense leaders thatthe Yankee SSBNs on patrol off the U.S. coastswould launch their missiles on depressed trajec-tory or reduced-flight-time profiles. Such a tech-nique could reduce flight times substantially, mak-ing strategic bomber bases, command centers, andother time-urgent targets significantly more vul-nerable to submarine-launched missiles because ofshorter radar warning times.

    However, no evidence has been forthcomingfrom Soviet sources that depressed-trajectory tech-niques were employed. The U.S. Central Intelli-gence Agency expressed doubt that such techniqueswere being developed, noting that while Theoreti-cally, depressed trajectories can reduce flight timessubstantially below those normally expected. . . .We believe that the current Soviet SLBM forcewould require extensive modifications or, morelikely, redesign to fly a reduced-flight-time pro-file.16 Further, Western intelligence had notobserved any Soviet SLBM flights that demonstrat-ed a deliberate attempt to minimize flight time.17

    Liquid missile propellant continued to cause prob-lems in SSBNs. In 1979 the K-219 suffered a missilefuel leak, a fire, and an explosion while at sea. Theship survived and a well-trained crew brought herback to port. She was repaired, although the dam-aged missile tube was not rehabilitated. While car-rying 15 nuclear missiles, the K-219 suffered anoth-er missile fuel accident while submerged on patrolsome 600 n.miles (1,110 km) off Bermuda on 3October 1986. The ship came to the surface, butthe crew could not handle the fire. Moreover,unskilled actions led to the sinking of the ship andthe death of [four] men.18 A Soviet merchant shiphad triedunsuccessfullyto tow the submarine.She then took on board the survivors when the K-219 sank on 6 October. Four crewmen wentdown with the K-219.19

    A few months later, in March 1987, a strangeevent transpired in which five submarines sailedfrom bases along the Kola Peninsula to the area of


  • the Bermuda Triangle in Operation Atrina. Somewere SSBNs, others were attack submarines.Although some of the submarines were detected enroute, U.S. naval intelligence did not detect theassembly until the submarines reached the objec-tive area; then all were (incorrectly) identified asstrategic missile submarines. At the same time, Tu-20 Bear-D reconnaissance-missile guidance aircraftflying from bases on the Kola Peninsula and fromCuba coordinated their operations with the sub-marines.

    The White House was informed of the assembly,and a crisis condition briefly existed. The Sovietsclaimed a victory.

    The SSBN missile patrols continued.

    U.S. Strategic ASWThe appearance of the Project 667A/Yankee SSBNhad a profound impact on the U.S. Navys anti-submarine strategy.20 Heretofore Western navalstrategists looked at the Soviet submarine force as areincarnation of the U-boat threat of two worldwars to Anglo-American merchant shipping.

    From the late 1940s, for two decades the U.S.Navy contemplated an ASW campaign in which, inwartime, Soviet submarines would transit throughbarriers en route to attack Allied convoys in theNorth Atlantic and then return through those samebarriers to rearm and refuel at their bases. Thesebarrierscomposed of maritime patrol aircraftand hunter-killer submarines guided or cued by theseafloor Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS)would sink Soviet submarines as they transited,both going to sea and returning to their bases.21

    Also, when attacking Allied convoys, the Sovietsubmarines would be subjected to the ASW effortsof convoy escorts.

    In reality, by the mid-1950s the Soviets had dis-carded any intention of waging an anti-shippingcampaign in a new Battle of the Atlantic. The U.S.Navys development of a carrier-based nuclearstrike capability in the early 1950s and the deploy-ment of Polaris missile submarines in the early1960s had led to defense against nuclear strikesfrom the sea becoming the Soviet Navys highestpriority mission. New surface ship and submarineconstruction as well as land-based naval and, sub-sequently, Soviet Air Forces aircraft were justified on

    the basis of destroying U.S. aircraft carriers andmissile submarines as they approached the Soviethomeland.

    When the Project 667A/Yankee SSBNs went tosea in the late 1960s, the Soviet Navy was givenanother high-priority mission: Strategic (nuclear)strike against the United States and the protectionof their own missile submarines by naval forces.

    The Yankee SSBNs severely reduced the effec-tiveness of the U.S. Navys concept of thebarrier/convoy escort ASW campaign. These mis-sile submarineswhich could carry out nuclearstrikes against the United Stateswould be able topass through the barriers in peacetime and becomelost in the ocean depths, for perhaps two months ata time. Like the U.S. Polaris SSBNs, by going slow,not transmitting radio messages, and avoidingAllied warships and shipping, they might remainundetected once they reached the open sea.

    If the Soviets maintained continuous SSBNpatrols at sea (as did the U.S. Navy) there wouldalways be some ballistic missile submarines at sea.During a period of crisis, additional Soviet SSBNswould go to sea, passing through the barriers with-out Allied ASW forces being able to attack them.

    Efforts to counter these submarines requiredthe U.S. Navy to undertake a new approach to ASW.A variety of intelligence sources were developed todetect Soviet submarines leaving port, especiallyfrom their bases on the Kola Peninsula. Theseincluded High-Frequency Direction Finding(HF/DF) facilities in several countries, ElectronicIntelligence (ELINT) intercept stations in Norwayand, beginning in the 1950s, Norwegian intelligencecollection ships (AGI) operating in the BarentsSea.22 Commenting on the AGI Godoynes, whichoperated under the code name Sunshine in 1955,Ernst Jacobsen of the Norwegian Defense ResearchEstablishment, who designed some of the monitor-ing equipment in the ship, said that the Godoynesa converted sealerwas bursting at the seams withmodern American searching equipment, operatedby American specialists.23 The Central IntelligenceAgency sponsored the ship and other NorwegianELINT activities. The Norwegians operated a seriesof AGIs in the ELINT role in the Barents Sea from1952 to 1976. In the Pacific, there was collaborationwith Japanese intelligence activities as well as U.S.


  • HF/DF and ELINT stations in Japan to listen forindications of Soviet submarine sorties.

    From the early 1960s U.S. reconnaissance satel-lites also could identify Soviet submarines beingprepared for sea. Once cued by such sources,SOSUS networks emplaced off the northern coastof Norway and in the Greenland-Iceland-UnitedKingdom (GIUK) gaps would track Soviet SSBNsgoing to sea. Presumably, SOSUS networks in theFar East were cued by similar ELINT and otherintelligence sources.

    Directed to possible targets by SOSUS, U.S.attack submarines would attempt to trail the ballis-tic missile submarines during their patrols. TheseSSBN trailing operations were highly sensitive anduntil the late 1970s were not referred to in even top secret U.S. Navy documents. Navy planningpublicationshighly classifiedbegan to discusstrailing operations at that time as the U.S. under-standing of the Soviet submarine roles in wartimebegan to change.

    Beginning in the late 1960s, the Soviet Uniongained an intelligence source in the U.S. Navy thatcould provide details of U.S. submarine operations,war plans, communications, and the SOSUS pro-gram. This source was John A. Walker, a Navy com-munications specialist who had extensive access toU.S. highly classified submarine material. Based onWalkers data and other intelligence sources, theSoviets restructured their own naval war plans. Theprevious American perception was that the U.S.Navy would win easily, overwhelmingly, accordingto a senior U.S. intelligence official.24 From the late1970s . . . we obtained special intelligence sources.They were available for about five years, untildestroyed by [Aldrich] Ames and others. Based onthose sources, we learned that there would be moreholes in our submarines than we originallythoughtwe had to rewrite the war plan.25

    In the mid-1980s U.S. officials began to publiclydiscuss the Western anti-SSBN strategy. Probably thefirst official pronouncement of this strategy was a1985 statement by Secretary of the Navy JohnLehman, who declared that U.S. SSNs would attackSoviet ballistic missile submarines in the first fiveminutes of the war.26 In January 1986, the Chief ofNaval Operations, Admiral James D. Watkins, wrotethat we will wage an aggressive campaign against all

    Soviet submarines, including ballistic missile sub-marines.27 Earlier Watkins had observed that theshallow, ice-covered waters of the Soviet coastal seaswere a beautiful place to hide for Soviet SSBNs.28

    Only in 2000 would the U.S. Navy reveal someof the details of trailing Soviet SSBNs. In conjunc-tion with an exhibit at the Smithsonian InstitutionsMuseum of American History commemoratingone hundred years of U.S. Navy submarines, heavi-ly censored reports of two U.S. trailing operationswere released: the trail of a Yankee SSBN in theAtlantic,29 and that of a Project 675/Echo II SSGNin the Pacific by SSNs.30 This particular Yankeetrailing operationgiven the code name EveningStarbegan on 17 March 1978 when the USS Bat-fish (SSN 681) intercepted a Yankee SSBN in theNorwegian Sea. The Batfish, towing a 1,100-foot(335-m) sonar array, had been sent out from Nor-folk specifically to intercept the SSBN, U.S. intelli-gence having been alerted to her probable depar-ture from the Kola Peninsula by the CIA-sponsoredNorwegian intelligence activities and U.S. spy satel-lites. These sources, in turn, cued the Norway-basedSOSUS array as the Soviet missile submarine sailedaround Norways North Cape.

    After trailing the Soviet submarine for 51 hourswhile she traveled 350 n.miles (650 km), the Batfishlost contact during a severe storm on 19 March. A P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft was dispatchedfrom Reykjavik, Iceland, to seek out the evasivequarry. There was intermittent contact with thesubmarine the next day and firm contact wasreestablished late on 21 March in the Iceland-Faeroes gap.

    The trail of the SSBN was then maintained bythe Batfish for 44 continuous days, the longest trailof a Yankee conducted to that time by a U.S. sub-marine.31 During that period the Yankee traveled8,870 n.miles (16,440 km), including a 19-dayalert phase, much of it some 1,600 n.miles (2,965km) from the U.S. coast, little more than the rangeof the submarines 16 RSM-25/R-27U missiles.

    The Batfish report provides day-to-day detailsof the Yankees patrol and the trailing procedures.Significantly, the SSBN frequently used her MGK-100 Kerch active sonar (NATO designation Blocksof Wood).32 This sonar use and rigidly scheduledmaneuvers by the Soviet submarine, for example, to


  • clear the baffles, that is, the area behind the sub-marine, and to operate at periscope depth twice aday continuously revealed her position to the trail-ing SSN.33 The Batfish ended her trailing operationas the Yankee SSBN reentered the Norwegian Sea.

    The routine repetitiveness of the target wasused to considerable advantage by the Batfish. Cer-tain maneuvers indicated a major track change orimpending periscope depth operations. But wouldsuch predictable maneuvers have been used inwartime? The repeated use of her sonar in the Bat-fish operation was highly unusual for a YankeeSSBN on patrol. Would the missile submarine haveemployed countermeasures and counter-tactics toshake off the trailing submarine during a crisis or inwartime? You bet they would change their tacticsand procedures, said the commanding officer ofthe Batfish, Commander Thomas Evans.34

    There are examples of tactics being employed bySoviet submarines to avoid U.S.-NATO detection.Among them have been transiting in the proximityof large merchant ships or warships in an attemptto hide their signatures from Western sensors, andreducing noise sources below their normal levelwhen transiting in areas of high probability ofSOSUS detection.35 When the Russian cruise missile submarine Kursk was destroyed in August2000, a Russian SSBN, believed to be a Project667BDRM/Delta IV, may have been using the fleetexercise as a cover for taking up a patrol stationwithout being detected by U.S. attack submarinesin the area. (Another Delta IV, the Kareliya [K-18]was participating in the exercise at the time.)

    Not all U.S. trailing operations were successful.Periodically Soviet SSBNs entered the Atlantic andPacific without being detected; sometimes the trailwas lost. A noteworthy incident occurred in Octo-ber 1986 when the U.S. attack submarine Augusta(SSN 710) was trailing a Soviet SSN in the NorthAtlantic. The Augusta is reported to have collidedwith a Soviet Delta I SSBN that the U.S. submarinehad failed to detect. The Augusta was able to returnto port; but she suffered $2.7 million in damage.The larger Soviet SSBN suffered only minor dam-age and continued her patrol.

    (U.S. and Soviet submarines occasionally collid-ed during this phase of the Cold War, many of the

    incidents undoubtedly taking place during trailoperations. Unofficial estimates place the numberof such collisions involving nuclear submarines atsome 20 to 40.)

    It is believed that the limited range of the Yan-kees RSM-25/SS-N-6 missile forced these sub-marines to operate relatively close to the coasts ofthe United States. Under these conditions, andupon the start of hostilities, the trailing U.S. sub-marines would attempt to sink the Soviet SSBNs asthey released their first missiles (or, under someproposals, when their missile tube covers wereheard opening). If feasible, the U.S. submarineswould call in ASW aircraft or surface ships, andthere were proposals for U.S. surface ships to try toshoot down the initial missiles being launched,which would reveal the location of the submarineto ASW forces. These SLBM shoot-down proposalswere not pursued.36

    U.S. anti-SSBN efforts again were set back in1972 when the first Project 667B/Delta I ballisticmissile submarine went to sea. This was an enlargedYankee design carrying the RSM-40/R-29 (NATOSS-N-8 Sawfly) missile with a range of 4,210 n.miles(7,850 km). This missile range enabled Delta I SSBNsto target virtually all of the United States while re-maining in Arctic waters and in the Sea of Okhotsk.In those waters the SSBNs could be defended byland-based naval aircraft as well as submarines and(in ice-free waters) surface warships. These SSBNswere equipped with a buoy-type surfacing antennathat could receive radio communications, target des-ignations, and satellite navigational data when theship was at a considerable depth.

    Further, communications with submarines inArctic waters were simplified because of their prox-imity to Soviet territory. The use of surface shipsand submarines for communications relay werealso possible. It was possible that civilian nuclear-propelled icebreakerswhich were armed on theirsea trialswere intended to provide such supportto submarines in wartime.37

    Also, having long-range missiles that wouldenable SSBNs to target the United States from theirbases or after short transits fit into the Soviet Navysprocedure of normally keeping only a small portionof their submarine fleet at sea, with a majority oftheir undersea craft held in port at a relatively high


  • state of readiness. These submarinesof alltypeswould be surged during a crisis.

    This procedure was radically different than thatof the U.S. Navy, which, for most of the Cold War,saw up to one-third of the surface fleet and manySSNs forward deployed, with more than half of theSSBN force continuously at seaat a cost of morepersonnel and more wear-and-tear on ships.

    The Soviet SSBN operating areas in the Arcticand Sea of Okhotskreferred to a sanctuariesand bastions by Western intelligencewere cov-ered by ice for much of the year and created newchallenges for Western ASW forces. Attack sub-marines of the U.S. Sturgeon (SSN 637) class werewell suited for operating in those areas, being rela-tively quiet and having an under-ice capability.38

    However, the Arctic environment is not ASWfriendly: communicationseven receptionareextremely difficult under ice; passive sonar isdegraded by the sounds of ice movement andmarine life; and under-ice acoustic phenomenainterfere with passive (homing) torpedo guidance.Also, the Arctic environment, even in ice-free areas,is difficult if not impossible for Allied ASW aircraftand surface ship operations.

    The Soviet SSBN force thus became an increas-ingly effective strategic strike/deterrent weapon,especially when operating in the sanctuaries or bastions.

    The Delta SeriesIn 1963 work began on an advanced, long-rangeSLBM, the D-9 system with the R-29 liquid-propellant missile (NATO SS-N-8 Sawfly). Thatsame year, at TsKB-16, A. S. Smirnov and N. F. Shul-zhenko developed the preliminary proposals forProject 701, a strategic missile submarine for whichthe bureau initially examined variations of diesel-electric as well a nuclear propulsion. The proposedProject 701 SSBN would have a surface displacementof some 5,000 tons and carry six R-29 SLBMs.

    As a result of their work, in 1964 the Navydecided to rearm a Project 658/Hotel SSBN as a testplatform for the new missile. That submarine, theK-145, was lengthened and fitted to carry six R-29missiles (designated Project 701/Hotel III). She wasfollowed by the Project 629/Golf SSB K-118, whichalso was lengthened and rearmed with six R-29

    missiles (designated Project 601/Golf III). The con-versions were undertaken at Severodvinsk and atthe adjacent Zvezdochka yards, respectively.

    A completely new-design SSBN to carry the R-29 was rejected by the Navy, and in 1965 workbegan at TsKB-18 under the direction of S. N.Kovalev on Project 667B (NATO Delta I). This wasan enlarged Project 667A/Yankee SSBN to carry theR-29. Although only 12 missiles were carried, theirinitial range of 4,210 n.miles (7,850 km) would per-mit a major revision in Soviet naval strategy andoperations.39

    As Delta I SSBN production was succeeding the Yankee SSBN in the building halls at Severo-dvinsk and Komsomolsk, the Soviet and U.S. gov-ernments concluded the worlds first nuclearweapons agreementSALT I.40 In 1974 the SovietSSBN construction program overtook the U.S.SSBN force of 41 modern submarines; the follow-ing year the number of Soviet SLBMs in modernsubmarines overtook the 656 missiles carried inU.S. submarines.41 Although the United Statesretained the lead in independently targetable SLBMwarheadsprimarily because the Poseidon missilescould carry up to 14 MIRVsand in missile accu-racy, the larger Soviet SLBM warheads led to thegross warhead yield of Soviet SLBMs, also exceed-ing that of U.S. SLBMs by the early 1970s.42

    In addition, older Project 629/Golf and658/Hotel submarines remained in service,although their missiles were targeted againstregional threats; for example, six Golf SSBs wereshifted to the Baltic Fleet. (Several of these oldersubmarines also were used as test beds for newerSLBMs.)

    Under the SALT I agreement, signed in 1972,both nations would accept limitations on the num-ber of nuclear delivery platforms as well as onnuclear-armed strategic missiles. The United States,already planning the Trident missile program,accepted a limit of 44 SSBNs carrying 710 SLBMs.The Soviet Union accepted a limit of 62 modernSSBNsthe number reported to be in service andunder construction at the timecarrying 950SLBMs. However, the Soviet SLBM number couldexceed 740 only as equal numbers of land-basedICBMs or missiles on older submarines (deployedbefore 1964) were dismantled.


  • Thus, a finite limitation wasplaced on the strategic submarineforces of both nations. This wasthe first international agreementintended to limit warship con-struction since the London navalarms conference of 1930. Al-though SALT I was applicableonly to Soviet and U.S. strategicmissile submarines, Soviet offi-cials called attention to the factthat Britain, China, and Franceall potential enemiesalso weredeveloping SSBNs.

    Meanwhile, construction of theProject 667B/Delta I submarinesproceeded at a rapid rate. Thelead ship, the K-279, was laiddown at Severodvinsk in 1971;construction was rapid, and shewas placed in commission on 27December 1972. Ten ships werebuilt at Severodvinsk and eightat Komsomolsk through 1977. These submarineshad a surface displacement of some 9,000 tons andhad been lengthened 36 feet (11 m) over the 667Ato accommodate the larger missiles (albeit only 12being fitted). In most other respects the two designswere similar.

    Even as these Project 667B submarines werebeing built, Severodvinsk additionally constructedfour enlarged Project 667BD/Delta II submarines,again slightly larger to accommodate 16 of the R-29/

    SS-N-8 missiles. These submarines were too large tobe built at Komsomolsk, located some 280 miles(450 km) inland from the mouth of the Amur River.The K-182 and three sister SSBNs were completed in1975. No additional units were built because of theshift to the longer-range RSM-50 missile system.

    A Delta II, the K-92, launched two SLBMswhile operating under the Arctic ice pack in 1983.This marked the worlds first under-ice ballisticmissile launch.


    Project 667B/Delta I was an enlarged Yankee SSBN, armed with a longer-range

    and more capable missile. Note the increased height of the turtle back over the

    missile compartment. The Delta I had only 12 missile tubes; all other 667-series

    SSBNs had 16 tubes, except for the single Project 667AM/Yankee II conversion.

    The K-118 was a Project 629 submarine that was lengthened and rearmed with six R-29/SS-N-8 Sawfly ballistic missiles,

    becoming the single Project 601/Golf III. Several early Soviet SSB/SSBNs were modified to test and evaluate advanced mis-

    sile systems. (Malachite SPMBM)

  • In all, during the decade from late 1967 to 1977,the two Soviet SSBN building yards produced 56submarines:

    34 Project 667A/Yankee18 Project 667B/Delta I

    4 Project 667BD/Delta II

    This average of 512 ballistic missile submarines per year was contemporaneous with a large SS/SSN/SSGN building rate.

    The early Project 667B submarines were used todevelop tactics for the launching of ballistic missilesfrom pierside (the first experiments being conduct-ed in 1975), missile launching from a bottomedposition in shallow water, and surfacing throughthe Arctic ice and subsequent launch of missiles.These tactics significantly increased survivability ofSoviet SSBNs; with the increase in the missile range,these missile ships became the least vulnerablestrategic force component.43


    A Project 667BDR/Delta III showing the massive missile structure. There are three rows of free-flood holes along the base

    of the missile structure, speeding the flooding of the area for diving and draining when surfacing. The Delta III was the

    oldest Russian SSBN in service at the start of the 21st Century.

    The Project 667BD/Delta II SSBN had a more gentle slope from her turtle back to the after-hull section compared to the

    steps in the Delta I. All 667-series submarines had sail-mounted diving planes, the only Soviet nuclear submarines with

    that feature. The tracks along the deck are safety rails for men working on deck.

  • 178C









    Project 667BDR/Delta III SSBN. LOA 508 ft 6 in (155.0 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • The Soviet modus operandi for these sub-marines, according to U.S. intelligence sources, wasdescribed as:

    The day-to-day disposition of Soviet SSBNsis governed by the wartime requirement togenerate maximum force levels on shortnotice. The Soviet Navy seeks to maintain75 percent of its SSBNs in operational sta-tus, with the remaining 25 percent in long-term repair. . . . Every operational SSBNcould probably be deployed with threeweeks preparation time. To maintain thishigh state of readiness, a relatively smallportion of the modern SSBN forcetypically about 25 percent, or 14 unitsiskept at sea. However, additional [Delta] and[Yankee] class units are probably kept in ahigh state of readiness in or near home portin order to be ready to fire their missiles onshort notice.44

    At TsKB-18 work began in 1972 on Project667BDR/Delta III, again under the direction of theindefatigable Kovalev. This submarine would carrythe first Soviet SLBM with MIRV warheads forstriking individual targets, the two-stage, liquid-propellant RSM-50/R-29R (NATO SS-N-18 Stingray). This missile coulddeliver a single warhead to a range of4,320 n.miles (8,000 km) or three orseven MIRV warheads to a range of atleast 3,500 n.miles (6,500 km). Sixteenmissiles were carried.

    The Project 667BDRwhich wouldbe the penultimate manifestation of thebasic designwould have a surface dis-placement of almost 10,600 tons with alength of 50812 feet (155 m). Althoughstill propelled by a twin-reactor plantwith twin screws, the stern configura-tion was extensively modified to pro-vide separate propeller bodies for eachshaft, a move intended to improve quieting and increase speed. Indeed,each successive class of SSBNs was qui-eter, albeit at significant expense.45 And,as nuclear submarinesincluding

    SSBNswent into the yards for overhaul and refuel-ing, efforts were made to further quiet their machin-ery and in other ways reduce their acoustic signature.According to a senior U.S. flag officer, The Sovietsare incorporating quieting technology in every newand overhauled submarine, and this has seriouslyreduced our ability to detect them.46

    Also, with regard to habitability, the Delta IIIand all subsequent Soviet nuclear submarines wereprovided with a specially ventilated smokingroom for those men addicted to tobacco. Histori-cally all navies forbade smoking in submarinesbecause of atmospheric contamination.

    From 1976 to 1982 the Severodvinsk yard, atthat time the only Soviet yard capable of construct-ing big SSBNs, built 14 of these ships. Thesebrought to 70 the number of modern Soviet SSBNscarrying a total of 1,044 missiles.

    Tactical Ballistic MissilesSoviet ballistic missile submarines initially weredeveloped for attacking strategic land targets. Theearly patrol areas for the Project 629/Golf and Project658/Hotel ballistic missile submarines in the Atlanticwere generally believed to be holding areas fromwhich the submarines would move to within missilerange of U.S. coastal targets in time of crisis or war.


    TABLE 11-1Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles

    Missile R-27 R-29 R-29RNATO NATO NATOSS-N-6 SS-N-8 Sawfly SS-N-18 Stingray

    Operational 1968 1974 1979

    Weight 31,300 lb 73,400 lb 77,820 lb

    (14,200 kg) (33,300 kg) (35,300 kg)

    Length 31 ft 6 in 42 ft 8 in 46 ft 3 in

    (9.61 m) (13.0 m) (14.1 m)

    Diameter 59 in 71 in 71 in

    (1.5 m) (1.8 m) (1.8 m)

    Propulsion liquid- liquid- liquid-

    propellant propellant propellant

    1 stage 2 stage 2 stage

    Range 1,350 n.miles 4,240 n.miles 4,300 n.miles*

    (2,500 km) (7,800 km) (8,000 km)

    Guidance inertial inertial inertial

    Warhead** 1 RV*** 1 RV 1 or 3 or 7 MIRV

    1 MT

    Notes: * Range with single RV; range with 3 to 7 RVs is 3,510 n.miles (6,500 km).** RV = Re-entry Vehicle.

    *** The R-27U variant carried three RVs (200 KT each).

  • However, these holding areas were located on thegreat circle routes used by U.S. aircraft carriers tosteam from East Coast ports to the Norwegian Seaand the Mediterranean Sea for forward deployments.Further, these SSB/SSBN holding areas were regular-ly overflown by Tu-20 Bear-D aircraft that providedtargeting data to Soviet submarines (see page 97).47

    Some Western analysts argued that the presumedstrategic submarine holding areas were in fact anti-car-rier positions. Their R-13/SS-N-4 and R-21/SS-N-5Sark missiles fitted with nuclear warheads could beused as area bombardment weapons against carriertask forces.48 Also there were instances when Project675/Echo II cruise missile submarines sometimesoccupied those SSB/SSBN holding areas. In the event,in 1962 the Soviet government approved the develop-ment of SLBMs for use against surface ships, especial-ly U.S. aircraft carriers that threatened nuclear strikesagainst the USSR. At the time the improved R-27/SS-N-6 SLBM was under development in MakeyevsSKB-385 bureau. The decision was made to providethe nuclear missile with a terminal guidance for theanti-ship role, designated R-27K.49 The R-27 and R-27K were similar with the 27K having a second stagecontaining the warhead and terminal guidance.

    After preliminary research, the TsKB-16 de-sign bureau was directed to develop a suitable platformProject 605based on the reconstruc-tion of a Project 629/Golf-class SSB to test R-27Kmissiles. V. V. Borisov was the chief designer for thisand other Project 629 upgrades. The design was notapproved by the Navy until October 1968, and thefollowing month the submarine K-102 (formerly B-121) entered the Zvezdochka shipyard. There thesubmarine was refitted with four launch tubes,interchangeable for the R-27 and R-27K missiles. Toaccommodate the missiles as well as improved tar-get acquisition, fire-control, navigation, and satel-lite link equipment, the K-102 was lengthened to38012 feet (116 m), an increase of 56 feet (17.1 m),and her surface displacement was increased byalmost 780 tons to 3,642 tons. (Submerged dis-placement was approximately 4,660 tons.)

    Submarine trials began on 9 December 1972,but were curtailed on the 18th because the Record-2 fire control system had not yet been delivered.Other aspects of the K-102 trials continued. Evenafter the control system was installed, there were

    several malfunctions that delayed completion of themissile-firing trials. From 11 September to 4 De-cember 1973 the K-102 belatedly carried out test fir-ings of the R-27K missile, using both the Record-2and the Kasatka B-605 target acquisition system,which used satellite tracking data. Trials of theweapon system continued with the K-102 firing R-27strategic (land-attack) as well as R-27K anti-shipmissiles. The submarine and missile system wereaccepted for service on 15 August 1975.

    The R-27K/SS-NX-13 would be targeted beforelaunch with data provided from aircraft or satellitestracking U.S. and British aircraft carriers and othersurface ships. Western intelligence credited the mis-sile with a range of 350 to 400 n.miles (650740km) and a homing warhead that had a terminallyguided Maneuvering Re-entry Vehicle (MaRV) tohome on targets within a footprint of about 27n.miles (50 km). An accuracy of 400 yards (370 m)was reported. Warheads between 500 kilotons andone megaton could be fitted.

    The anti-ship weapons system was fitted only inthe Project 605/Golf SSB. Although the missilecould be accommodated in the Project 667A/Yankee SSBNs, those submarines were not fittedwith the requisite Kasatka B-605 target acquisitionsystem. The R-27K missile did not become opera-tional, because the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks(SALT) agreements of the 1970s would count everySLBM tube as a strategic missile regardless of whetherit held a land-attack or anti-ship (tactical) missile.50

    Western intelligence had expected the R-27K tobecome operational about 1974.

    Some Western analysts also postulated that themissile also might be employed as an anti-submarineweapon.51 This evaluation fit with the U.S. shift ofsea-based strategic strike forces from carrier-basedaircraft to missile-armed submarines, and the relat-ed shift in the Soviet Navys emphasis from anti-carrier warfare to anti-submarine warfare in the1960s. Kovalev would say only that ASW calcula-tions for the R-27K were made.52 Other submarinedesigners would say only that the ASW conceptwas not real.53 (When discussing the use of land-based ballistic missiles against submarines, thesource called that proposal science fiction,although, he observed, very serious peoplebelieved in this [role for ICBMs].) In the event, the


  • R-27K was not deployed. The Chairman of the U.S.Joint Chiefs of Staff observed:

    The SS-NX-13 is a tactical ballistic anti-shipmissile. It may have been intended fordeployment in Yankee class SSBNs. It has notbeen tested since November 1973 and is notoperational. However, the advanced technol-ogy displayed by the weapon is significantand the project could be resurrected.54

    The Yankee and Delta SSBNs continued to operatein the strategic role, making regular patrols.Although some Yankees were withdrawn from theSSBN role for conversion to specialized cruise mis-sile (SSGN) and research configurations, manyremained in the SSBN role for the duration of theSoviet era. Even after Delta SSBNs took over themajority of strategic submarine patrols, YankeeSSBNs periodically patrolled in the Atlantic andPacific, moving closer to U.S. coasts during periodsof tension between the two super powers. Forexample, in June 1975 a Yankee came within 300n.miles (555 km) of the U.S. East Coast. A U.S.national intelligence report noted:

    Because the warning time for missileslaunched from a submarine at such a close-in location would be very short, some U.S.targetssuch as strategic bomberswouldbecome quite vulnerable unless relocatedfarther inland or maintained at a higherstate of readiness.55

    Significantly, with the SSBN operations in bas-tions, the U.S. Navy increased torpedo-attack sub-marine operations in those waters, primarily todetermine Soviet patrol patterns, operating tech-niques, submarine noise signatures, and other char-acteristics. As noted above, operations in thosewaters were difficult for U.S. submarines. Periodical-ly there were incidents, with several collisionsbetween U.S. submarines and Soviet SSNs, some ofthe latter operating in support of missile submarines.

    The Soviet SSBN patrol rates continued at about15 percent of the force during the latter stages ofthe Cold War.56 The majority of the submarines noton patrol were pierside at bases along the Kola

    Peninsula, in the Far East at Pavlovsk near Vladivos-tock, and at Petropavlovsk on the KamchatkaPeninsula, and were kept at a relatively high state ofreadiness for going to sea.57 Although their reliabil-ity and readiness were significantly less than com-parable U.S. strategic missile submarines, a U.S.admiral who visited a 21-year-old Delta I SSBN atPetropavlovsk in February 1997 stated:

    Clearly the capabilities of this ship were verylimited and it will soon be decommissioned.But, the crew and her captain seemed com-mitted and proud of what they were doingwith the tools they [had] been given. As weall know, the Russian submarine force hassome very impressive platforms and shipslike those in the hands of a well trained crewwill remain a force to be reckoned with foryears to come.58

    Soviet development of modern ballistic missilesubmarines had been delayed for a variety ofreasonsestablishment of the Strategic RocketForces as a separate military service, the influenceof cruise missile designer Chelomei in the decadeafter the death of Stalin, and difficulties in pro-ducing solid-propellant and underwater-launchmissiles. Thus, the first modern Soviet SSBNProject 667A/Yankeewent to sea in late 1967,eight years after completion of the first U.S.Polaris submarine.

    Like the United States, once the decision wasmade and the technology made available to pro-duce a modern SSBN, the Soviet Union undertookmass production of these ships. Similarly, thebasic Project 667A designas in the U.S. Polarisprogramperiodically was updated, evolvinginto the Project 667B-series/Delta SSBN classes.

    However, whereas the United States haltedPolaris SSBN production at 41 ships, the Sovietconstruction program appeared to be open-endedand to be limited in the near-term only by strate-gic arms agreements. (In the longer term, withoverwhelming numerical superiority in SLBMs aswell as ICBMs, the Soviets probably would haveemphasized other nuclear as well as conventionalmilitary forces.)


  • Further, the geography of the USSRlongconsidered a limitation to naval operationsbecause of the remote locations of major basesbecame an asset in the deployment and protectionof SSBNs carrying long-range missiles. Theirlonger-range SLBMs also permitted the Soviets tokeep more of their force in port at a high state ofreadiness rather than on deterrent patrols at sea,as were U.S., British, and French SSBNs. Still,some in the Westincluding senior submarineflag officerswould contend that the U.S. Navysattack submarines chased the Soviet Navy intothe Arctic and Sea of Okhotsk bastions.59

    The decision to retain liquid propellants forSLBMs and to exploit their range flexibility

    made it obvious that Soviet missile submarineswould operate where they could be more readilyprotected while making it difficult for Alliedanti-submarine forces to reach them. (Indeed, asimilar logic led to continuing U.S. efforts toincrease SLBM range.) Further, according to aU.S. CIA analysis, long-range missiles also pro-vided increased accuracy (because the subma-rine could operate in home waters where morenavigational aids were available) as well as ahigher degree of strategic readiness by reducingthe time submarines required to reach launchpositions, thereby reducing the number ofSSBNs needed to be kept at sea.60

    TABLE 11-2Strategic Missile Submarines

    Project Project Project Project667A 667B 667BD 667BDRYankee Delta I Delta II Delta III

    Operational 1967 1972 1975 1976


    surface 7,760 tons 8,900 tons 10,500 tons 10,600 tons

    submerged 9,600 tons 11,000 tons 13,000 tons 13,000 tons

    Length 420 ft 456 ft 506 ft 9 in 508 ft 6 in

    (128.0 m) (139.0 m) (154.5 m) (155.0 m)

    Beam 38 ft 4 in 38 ft 4 in 38 ft 4 in 38 ft 4 in

    (11.7 m) (11.7 m) (11.7 m) (11.7 m)

    Draft 26 ft 27 ft 6 in 28 ft 2 in 28 ft 6 in

    (7.9 m) (8.4 m) (8.6 m) (8.7 m)

    Reactors 2 VM-2-4 2 VM-4B 2 VM-4B 2 VM-4S

    Turbines 2 2 2 2

    horsepower 52,000 52,000 52,000 60,000 shp

    Shafts 2 2 2 2


    surface 15 knots 15 knots 15 knots 14 knots

    submerged 28 knots 26 knots 24 knots 24 knots

    Test depth 1,475 ft 1,475 ft 1,475 ft 1,300 ft

    (450 m) (450 m) (450 m) (400 m)

    Missiles 16 R-27/SS-N-6 12 R-29/SS-N-8 16 R-29/SS-N-8 16 R-29R/SS-N-18

    Torpedo tubes* 4 533-mm B 4 533-mm B 4 533-mm B 4 533-mm B

    2 400-mm B 2 400-mm B 2 400-mm B 2 400-mm B

    Torpedoes 12 + 8 12 + 6 12 + 6 12 + 6

    Complement 120 120 135 130

    Notes: *Bow.


  • The Soviet buildup of strategic nuclearweapons in the 1960sboth ICBMs andSLBMsbecame a major concern to U.S.

    defense officials. Beyond the numbers of Sovietmissiles, the development of improved missileguidance and multiple warheads, officials feared,could place the U.S. ICBMs at risk to a surprise firststrike by Soviet land-based missiles. In addition,there were indications of Soviet development of anAnti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) system that wouldreduce the effectiveness of U.S. strategic missilesthat survived a Soviet first strike. At the same time,

    the U.S. Navy was developing the Poseidon SLBMto succeed the Polaris missile, while the Air Forcewas promoting a very large ICBM, at the timeknown as WS-120A.1

    In response to these concerns and the lack ofcoordination of the new strategic missile programs,Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara estab-lished the so-called Strat-X study in late 1966 to

    characterize U.S. alternatives to counter thepossible Soviet ABM deployment and theSoviet potential for reducing the U.S.


    The Ultimate Weapon II

    The Ohiothe first submarine built to carry the Trident SLBMapproaching Bangor, Washington, the West Coast base

    for strategic missile submarines. This foreshortened perspective belies the submarines huge size. This design carries 24 bal-

    listic missiles, more than any other SSBN design. (U.S. Navy)


  • assured-destruction-force effectiveness dur-ing the 1970s. It is desired that U.S. [missile]alternatives be considered from a uniformcost-effectiveness base as well as from solu-tion sensitivity to various Soviet alternativeactions.2

    The Start-X study, which included Air Force andNavy officers as well as civilian scientists and engi-neers, marked the first time that U.S. strategicweapon requirements had been addressed in anintegrated and analytical manner. The study took ahalf year in which time about 125 candidate missilesystems were seriously consideredof which onlytwo were sea-based.3 (Some of the land-basedoptions were waterborne, with proposals to mountICBMs on barges on existing waterways or on anew series of canals to make them mobile andhence more survivable.)

    The survivability of U.S. missiles from a Sovietfirst-strike attack was given particular considera-tion by the Strat-X participants, hence mobileICBMsmoved by truck, railroad, and even in aircraftwere particularly attractive.4 Two of themost expensive methods of enhancing ICBM sur-vivability were to provide ABM interceptors todefend the weapons and to provide hardened mis-sile silos that could survive a nearby detonation ofa Soviet warhead.

    The two sea-based candidates proposed carry-ing missiles in surface ships and in a new genera-tion of nuclear-propelled submarines. (Subop-tions of Strat-X looked into fitting the newPoseidon missile in up to 31 of the Polaris sub-marines plus building 20 to 25 new submarines tocarry Poseidon. This probably would have been theleast-costly method of reaching the Strat-X war-head weight objective with a high degree of weaponsurvivability.)

    The final Strat-X recommendations to SecretaryMcNamara proposed the consideration of four newmissile systems, which were determined as much byinterservice politics as by analysis. Two were land-based and two were sea-based: (1) ICBMs in hard-ened underground silos, (2) land-mobile ICBMs,(3) a Ship-based Long-range Missile System(SLMS), and (4) an Undersea Long-range MissileSystem (ULMS). Thus, rather than providing the

    best strategic optionsas Secretary McNamara hadrequestedStrat-X proposed a set of options bal-anced between land-based (Air Force) and sea-going (Navy) alternatives.

    The SLMS option consisted of specialized,merchant-type ships carrying long-range missilesthat could operate in U.S. coastal waters, at sea incompany with other naval ships, or in merchantshipping lines. They also could launch their missileswhile in ports or harbors.5 Although surface shipswere far more vulnerable than were submarines, theargument could be made that they were less vulner-able than fixed, land-based ICBMs and were thelowest cost of the proposed four options for attain-ing a fixed amount of missile payload.

    Significantly, the ULMS submarine option wasthe only Strat-X candidate to be developed. Fromits inception, ULMS was envisioned as the succes-sor to the Polaris and Poseidon. At the time the old-est SSBNs were scheduled to begin being retired inthe early 1980s. The ULMS submarinewith mis-sile ranges of more than 6,000 n.miles (11,100km)would have a very high at-sea to in-port timeratio, would be designed for rapid missile modern-ization, and would have enhanced noise-reductionfeatures.

    The last was particularly significant. AlthoughU.S. Navy officials steadfastly denied that the Polaris-Poseidon submarine force was vulnerable to detec-tion or attack by Soviet forces, there was continuedconcern over possible Soviet advances in ASW.

    Soviet Strategic ASWBy 1967 U.S. spy satellites had identified Soviet second-generation submarines under construction,including new SSNs intended primarily for the anti-submarine role. Within a year the Soviets were test-ing their first ocean surveillance satellites for detect-ing surface ships.6 Satellites offer many advantagesfor ASW, including high search rates and autonomyfrom land bases. Obviously, there are difficulties inemploying satellites for submarine detection beyondthe limited ability of their sensors to discriminatebetween natural ocean disturbances and those pro-duced in the ocean, on the surface, or even in theatmosphere by a submerged submarine. Other diffi-culties include data links to cue ASW forces to bringweapons to bear against submarines that could be


  • hundreds or thousands of miles from the nearestRussian ASW ship or land base.

    Still, in this period there was increasing concernwithin the U.S. Department of Defense and evenamong Navy officials over the possibility of a Sovi-et ASW breakthrough. The Chairman of the U.S.Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, in1972 told Congress:

    the Soviets are believed to be working on anumber of new ASW developments whichcould significantly improve their anti-submarine warfare capability in thosewaters in which our [missile] submarinesare now required to operate. Therefore, asthe Soviet anti-submarine warfare capabilityimproves, we need to expand our area ofoperations in our constant effort to main-tain our survivability.7

    Historically the Soviet Navy has sought a muchbroader anti-SSBN effort than that of the U.S. Navy.(See Chapter 11.) This wide-ocean search evolvedbecause of the inferior state of Soviet electronics(e.g., passive sonar), the increasing ranges of U.S.submarine-launched missiles, and the evolvingSoviet doctrine of combined arms operations that provides for the cooperation of combatarmsand multiple military servicesto a fargreater degree than within the U.S. defense estab-lishment.

    Soviet wide-area search efforts were manifestedin the development of ocean surveillance satellitesto detect, identify, and track surface ships. This pro-gram subsequently was expanded into a majoreffort to detect SSBNs, using various combinationsof optical, electronic intercept, radar, infrared, andother sensors. It became a most controversial issuein the West.

    Two knowledgeable Soviet Navy officers statedin 1988 that space reconnaissance is accomplishingmany missions, including the detection of sub-merged submarines, and that radars deployed onaircraft and satellites were being used to detect thewakes of submarines. These specific statements, byCaptain 1st Rank Ye. Semenov and Rear AdmiralYu. Kviatkovskii, the latter the head of Soviet navalintelligence, apparently referred to systems for sub-

    marine detection that had already been deployed.8

    A 1993 report in the Russian general staff journalVoennaia mysl declared:

    All-weather space reconnaissance and othertypes of space support will allow detectingthe course and speed of movement of com-bat systems and surface and subsurfacenaval platforms [submarines] at any time ofday with high probability, and providinghigh-precision weapons systems with tar-geting data in practically real time.9

    Probably as significant as space-based radar inSoviet ASW efforts were space-based radio-locationand optical detection systems. The most compre-hensive U.S. analyses of these Soviet ASW effortsundertaken on an unclassified basis are the worksof Hung P. Nguyen, who at the time was at the Cen-ter for Naval Analyses.10 His conclusion: A third-generation satellite detection system for use againstsubmarines was ready for deployment by the early1990s. The Soviets, Nguyen wrote, believed thatmobile strategic targets (i.e., submarines) at seacould be destroyed with high confidence by a singlenuclear warhead if (1) the warhead is a nuclear re-entry vehicle that can be guided to the target and(2) the requisite global, near-real-time detectionsystems are available. Nguyens analysis cites a 1992article by Vladislav Repin, a Russian official respon-sible for designing Soviet early warning systems,stating that the first is already a routine techno-logical task and the second is a technological featdeemed fully possible within the sufficiently nearfuture (five to ten years).11

    U.S. officials were long aware of Soviet efforts.The testing of radars for submarine detection on theSoviet Salyut-7 satellite in 19831984 was reportedin U.S. newspapers. In 1985 Admiral James Watkins,the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, said that scien-tific observations from an American space shuttle(orbital) flight the year before had perhaps revealedsome submarine locations. A Navy oceanographeron the flight found some fantastically importantnew phenomonology [sic] that will be vital to us intrying to understand the ocean depths, the admiralexplained. While not releasing details of these obser-vations, which were called incredibly important to


  • us, a U.S. Navy spokesman implied that internalwavesleft by a submarines underwater transitwere involved while Watkins acknowledged that thetechnology is clearly opening some doors on sub-marine tracking.12

    Beginning in the early 1980s the U.S. CentralIntelligence Agency undertook a series of studies inthe field of non-acoustic ASW at the request ofCongress.13 Results of those effortsProjectTsunamiremain classified although the magni-tude of the non-acoustic ASW problem was consid-ered so great that a broader, independent programsubsequently was established in the Office of theSecretary of Defense. Congressional support wasvital to these non-Navy efforts, because the Navyssubmarine leadership protested strongly againstother agencies looking into their domain of anti-submarine warfare.14 In the words of one partici-pant in the effort the studies demonstrated:15

    Radar detections of ocean subsurface objects[submarines] are feasible and possible.

    We gained significant insight into the possibilityof submarine detections from space.

    The United Kingdom, Norway, [West] Ger-many and Russia have made significantprogress in understanding ASW phenomenol-ogy, submarine signature characteristics, flowfield and other hydrodynamics effects such asvorticity controland in some instances arewell ahead of the U.S.

    We have a much better understanding ofmulti-spectral sensor capabilities and poten-tial.

    It would be interesting for the [Senate] com-mittee to evaluate the expenditures and returnon investment of the [Department of Defense]program with the Navys programsboth spe-cial access and unclassified.16

    Several types of non-acoustic phenomena havebeen associated with submarine detection. Most ofthese could best be exploited some of the timebut not alwaysby aircraft or submarines; nonecould be exploited from space according to oneAmerican involved in much of this effort.17

    While some of these phenomena could be

    exploited some of the time, a key question is howmuch could be exploited at a given time and placeto indicate the presence of a submerged nuclear-propelled submarine. Participants in these studieshave said little in public, but one, Dr. Richard Two-good of the Lawrence Livermore National Labora-tory, observed, We have discovered new phenome-na that are not fully understood, nor explained byany known models, that appear to be very impor-tant to the sensing of surface effects produced byundersea disturbances. . . , and

    These discoveries bring into question thevalidity of all previous assessment that werebased on models that did not include theseeffects. In addition, the nature of our resultsalso raises the possibility that certain claimsby Russian scientists and officials that theyhave achieved non-acoustic ASW successwith radars merits serious consideration.18

    One ASW area of great interest to the SovietNavy has been submarine wake detection. Dr. JohnCraven, former chief scientist of the U.S. Polaris-Poseidon project and the first director of the Navysdeep submergence project, observed as early as1974 that the Soviets were conducting researchmeant to study the turbulence characteristics ofnatural wakes associated with storms and to differ-entiate between those wakes and the wakes of sub-marines.19 By the late 1980s several Project 671/Victor SSNs and subsequent ASW submarines hadbeen fitted with wake sensor devices. Earlier a dis-armed Project 658M/Hotel SSBN had been fitted asa multi-sensor test bed. Coupled with the introduc-tion of wake-homing torpedoes, it is evident thatthe Soviets placed considerable importance onwake detection and other in-situ phenomena forhunting and trailing submarines.20

    The Soviets also developed seafloor acousticarrays, although they are believed to have been farless effective than SOSUS. These arrays had a limit-ed capability to detect quiet Western submarines, inpart because of their deployment in relatively shal-low waters, and they were not as widely positionedas were the U.S. arrays. But the Soviet arrays pur-portedly could detect the unique sounds related tothe underwater launch of ballistic missiles, possibly


  • providing both early warning and counterfiretargeting for anti-SSBN forces. Such arrays in theArctic and Sea of Okhotsk areas were intended tocontribute to the security of Soviet SSBNs by track-ing intruding Western SSNs. There has additional-ly been interest by the USSR in bottom-mounted,non-acoustic submarine detection of the electro-magnetic field of a ship or submarine passingoverhead. These are usually considered short-rangesystems, but they could be used in narrow straitstransited by Western SSNs. Research also has beenconducted into Extremely Low Frequency (ELF)electromagnetic signatures radiated by surfaceships and submarines.21

    The Soviet approach to countering SSBNs alsocalled for the targeting of U.S. strategic submarinebases, their communications stations, and fixedsensors (e.g., SOSUS terminals). Similarly, the U.S.Navys Transit navigation satellites, necessary toprovide accurate navigation for early U.S. SSBNs,appear to have been the target of the initial Sovietanti-satellite program.22 (Later, as U.S. SSBN navi-gation improved and became less dependent onexternal data, such as the Transit satellites, Sovietanti-SSBN strategy became more focused on thedetection of submarines.)

    The Soviet anti-SSBNs strategy also includedthe early observation of missile submarines leavingport. These attempts to detect Western SSBNs asthey departed their bases included stationing intel-ligence collection ships (NATO designation AGI)and oceanographic research and surveying shipsnear submarine bases in the United States and over-seas.23 The detection capabilities of these shipsincluded visual, electronic intercept (e.g., radiotransmissions of pilot boats and escorting CoastGuard craft), radar (against surfaced SSBNs), andacoustic. In some situations these surface shipscould point Soviet SSNs toward their targets; theseAGIs, research, and surveying ships periodicallywere observed operating with Soviet SSNs (andsometimes air and surface forces) off of WesternSSBN bases.24 A U.S. intelligence appraisal of theSoviet Ocean Surveillance System (SOSS) stated:

    The Soviet Navy views all combatants, aux-iliaries, research ships, naval aircraft, mer-chant ships, and fishing ships as potential

    contributors to SOSS. Every bit of data,regardless of source, is validated, enteredinto the SOSS data base, and correlated withother information in an effort to provide anear-real-time picture of the locations andprojected locations of Western targets ofinterest, including submarines.25

    Still another indication of operating areas ofWestern strategic missile submarines apparentlycame from the intercept of U.S. radio transmissionscontaining SOSUS tracking reports. These commu-nications were compromised from about 1968 byJohn A. Walker, the U.S. Navy warrant officer whosold communications secrets to the Soviets. As asenior U.S. intelligence officer later remarked,Remember the uncanny coincidence of Victor[SSNs] being sent to the Med[iterranean] coinci-dental with a U.S. SSBN coming in? If you knowwhere they [SSBNs] are going and [then you] canman natural barriers or choke points while waitingfor them. . . .26

    Indeed, Walkers espionage efforts generally arecredited with the vulnerability of U.S. strategic mis-sile submarines that may have been at the heart ofMikhail Gorbachevs comment to President RonaldReagan at Geneva in November 1985 when theSoviet leader declared that the USSR would havewon a war between the two countries.27

    Beginning in 1967 the Soviet Navy completed nu-merous large ASW ships, in reality multi-purposecruisers and aviation ships. Western intelligenceconsidered those ships to have limited open-oceanASW capabilities because of the perceived need tosupport their long-range, 30-n.mile (55-km) SS-N-14 ASW missiles and helicopters with off-boardsensors. However, the ships were fitted with the850-megahertz Top Sail radar (Russian MR-600)and, subsequently, later radars that could appar-ently detect submarine-generated convection cellsthat can extend up to the local temperature inver-sion altitude (up to 1.86 miles/3 km) at intervalsalong the track of a submerged submarine. Theconvection cells result from rising vortex rings cre-ated as the submarine passes through the ocean.28

    At the same time, long-range ASW aircraft andhunter-killer submarines were too few in number


  • to constitute an effective anti-submarine force. Thespecialized Project 671/Victor SSNs and Project705/Alfa SSNs were introduced in limited numbersas they competed on the building ways with othertypes of submarines. (See Chapter 10.) Not untilthe 1980s were large numbers of SSNs available.

    Beyond the use of aircraft, surface ships, andsubmarines to attack Western SSBNs, the Sovietsalso considered the use of land-based ballistic mis-siles in the anti-SSBN role. A 1983 U.S. intelligenceanalysis cited vague references in Soviet writings tothe possible use of land-based ballistic missilesagainst submarines in the open ocean.29 Thereport continued, Exploring such a techniquewould be consistent with past Soviet interest ininnovate solutions to naval problems. . . . Itwould also be consistent with Soviet doctrinalemphasis on a multi-service approach to theaccomplishment of wartime tasks.

    The U.S. analysis also noted, We are skepticalthat such problems [related to the use of land-basedmissiles] could be overcome, at least during theperiod of this estimate and believe the Sovietswould be unlikely to pursue seriously such a courseunless they had high confidence that the initialdetection problem would soon be solved.

    Articles in Soviet professional journals contin-ued to discuss the use of land-based missiles againstWestern SSBNs. And there have been periodicactivities that indicated interest in this concept. Forexample, on 2 April 1984, six SS-20 Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBM) were fired into theBarents Sea, reportedly in conjunction with a large-scale naval exercise taking place in the same area.30

    Another U.S. SSBN security concern was pin-downthe fear that during a conflict the Sovietswould launch ICBMs/IRBMs to detonate over U.S.missile submarine operating areas to employ Elec-tromagnetic Pulse (EMP)the radiated electro-magnetic field from high-altitude nuclear detona-tionsto destroy or damage SLBM guidancesystems and warheads. The U.S. Navy, respondingto this threat, sought to harden missile componentsand provided SSBNs with a receiver on a trailing-wire antenna to detect EMP pulses (Project Look).The crews of U.S. SSBNs were to monitor onboardradio receivers to determine the pattern of EMPbursts and launch their missiles between them.31

    Also, ballistic missile defense systems in the USSRwould attempt to intercept surviving SLBMs andICBMs launched against the Soviet Union.32 Ananti-SSBN strategy is exceedingly difficult. But, asone U.S. naval officer observed, to a Soviet war plan-ner working out his strategy for waging nuclear war,an SSBN attrition of 10 or 20 percent may be suffi-cient to justify the costs, on grounds that it couldmake the difference between victory (that is, sur-vival) and defeat (obliteration).33 He concluded,

    There can be no clear-cut conclusion as tothe likely effectiveness of such measures, butfor the advocates of a counterdeterrentstrategy, the anti-Polaris tasks are perhapsnot as impossible as conventional Westernthinking tends to assume.34

    From ULMS to TridentThe expanding Soviet strategic offensive and defen-sive capabilitiesespecially ASWformed thebackdrop for development of the Undersea Long-range Missile System (ULMS). During the Strat-Xdiscussions, a generic missile size was used to sim-plify comparisons between the various missile-basing options. This generic weapon was 50 feet(15.2 m) long and 80 inches (2 m) in diameter, sig-nificantly larger than the Poseidon missile.35

    The use of such a large weapon led to prelimi-nary ULMS studies envisioning a submarine with asurface displacement of 8,240 tons and a length of443 feet (135 m). The missiles24 was a nominalnumberwould be carried horizontally, external tothe pressure hull in protective canisters. With thisscheme, Missiles may be released from the subma-rine at all speeds and at depths up to the [subma-rines] maximums, and missile firing may bedelayed to avoid the backtracking of trajectory sothat submarine survivability is not inhibited bymissile launch constraints.36

    The ULMS submarine, of course, would benuclear propelled. However, it would not be fast,probably capable of some 25 knots at most. Atfaster speeds it would be more vulnerable toacoustic detection, and a large missile submarinecertainly could not outrun a Soviet SSN.

    The U.S. Navys Special Projects Office (SPO),which had managed the Polaris and Poseidon mis-


  • siles and submarines, was redesignated StrategicSystems Projects Office (SSPO) in July 1968 and thedirector, Rear Admiral Levering Smith, was madeproject manager for ULMS. Smith, who had beenwith the Polaris project almost since its inception,had became director of SPO in 1965. He was anordnance engineering specialist and, like AdmiralRabornthe father of Polarishe had no sub-marine experience.37

    Many observers envisioned that ULMS wouldbe developed much like Polaris had been, rapidlyand efficiently outside of the standard Navybureaucracy. But as historian Graham Spinardiwrote: in marked contrast to Polaris, the develop-ment of the next generation FBM submarine was tobe a divisive and contested battle. . . .38

    The S5G natural-circulation reactor being devel-oped for the submarine Narwhal (SSN 671) was pro-posed for the ULMS submarine. Adopting an exist-ing plant would alleviate or at least reduce ViceAdmiral H. G. Rickovers role in the project (muchthe same as the S5W plant had been used in thePolaris-Poseidon SSBNs with minimal participationby Rickover). Because it was questionable whether asingle S5G reactor of some 17,000 horsepower couldprovide the speed desired for ULMS, the submarinespropulsion soon became a major issue.

    Meanwhile, the design concept for ULMSunderwent a major revision in early 1969 whenAdmiral Smith decided against external encapsulat-ed missiles; instead, the missiles would be launchedfrom internal missile tubes, as in the Polaris-Poseidon submarines. This approach would savetime and reduce development risks.

    The next major change occurred early in 1970 asSSPO requested technical data on the S5G reactorplant, which had gone to sea the previous year inthe Narwhal. Rickover argued that the ULMS sub-marine must be able to attain at least 24 knotsand preferably more. He wanted to employ a reac-tor plant that would produce as much as 60,000horsepower. This was the plant he was developingfor a high-speed cruise missile submarine, thedesign of which had also started in 1970. Interest-ingly, 60,000 horsepower was one of the fourpropulsion plant options proposed by the Bureauof Ships in 1950! (See table 4-1.)

    Rickover increasingly took control of the ULMS

    design. In March 1971, in response to pressure fromRickover, the Chief of Naval Operations establisheda separate ULMS project office, under Rear AdmiralHarvey E. Lyon, a submarine officer, to managedevelopment of the submarine. (Smiths SSPOwould retain control of missile development.) Ashort time later Electric Boat/General Dynamics wasawarded a contract for design of the submarine.

    Rickover pushed for a very large submarine toaccommodate his proposed reactor plant as well as24 large missiles; his proposals ran afoul of theDepartment of Defense as well as Admiral Elmo R.Zumwalt, who had become Chief of Naval Opera-tions on 1 July 1970.39 Zumwalt objected to theconstruction of an all high-end fleet with all air-craft carriers and major surface warships beingnuclear propelled, as demanded by Rickover. AndZumwalt opposed the development of the largecruise missile submarine proposed by Rickover,which was to be powered by the 60,000-horsepowerreactor plant.

    Rickover was forced to scale back his proposalsfor the SSBN, finally agreeing to provide a newreactor plant, the S8G that generated some 35,000horsepower through two steam turbines to a singlepropeller shaft. This would be the most powerfulsingle-reactor plant placed in a U.S. submarine.Still, with 24 internal missile tubes and the S8Greactor plant, ULMS would have a conventionalSSBN design that would, ultimately, have a surfacedisplacement of almost 17,000 tonstwice the dis-placement initially estimated for ULMSwith alength of 560 feet (170.7 m). The submarine wouldbe longer than the height of the Washington Mon-ument in Washington, D.C.

    The submarine would have a submerged speed ofapproximately 25 knots. Special emphasis was placedon quieting the propulsion plant and, reportedly, thesubmarine exceeded design goals for quieting at lowspeeds, that is, when using natural circulation (con-vection) rather than pumps for the circulation ofpressurized water in the primary loop.

    The ULMS would follow the U.S. third-generation nuclear submarine design, with theBQQ-6 spherical passive sonar array in the bow,four 533-mm torpedo tubes mounted farther aft,and three full deck levels for most of the subma-rines pressure hull. The submarine had four major


  • compartments: forward (torpedo, control, livingspaces); missile; reactor; and engineering. TheseSSBNs had the most comfortable level of accom-modations yet provided in a U.S. submarine.

    The submarine would carry 24 missiles, halfagain as many as the Polaris-Poseidon SSBNs. Theincreased weapons load was looked upon as a moreefficient means of taking missiles to sea. The poten-tial implications of strategic arms agreements werenot considered.

    Admirals Rickover and Zumwalt collaborated onobtaining congressional approval for ULMS, whichwas renamed Trident on 16 May 1972.40 Severalmembers of Congress as well as anti-nuclear organ-izations lobbied against the Trident. The SALTagreement of 1972 was used by both advocates andopponents of Trident to justify their positions. Asubsequent factor complicating the Trident effortwas President Jimmy Carters desire for drasticnuclear arms reduction. After he became presidentin January 1977, he asked the Joint Chiefs of Stafffor an opinion on the possibility of eventuallyreducing the entire U.S. strategic offensive force tosome 200 submarine-launched missiles.

    But Harold Brown, Carters Secretary ofDefense, in January 1980 announced that for thenext few years the nation would build one SSBNper year and then increase the rate to three shipsevery two years. He used the designation SSBN inpart to indicate that these ships might not be sub-marines of the existing Trident design; he noted,

    Funds are programmed to support conceptand design studies leading to a follow-on,less expensive SSBN. This SSBN could be are-engineered Trident design or a newdesign of a 24-tube SSBN with tubes thesame size as the Trident SSBN.41

    Dubbing the design the SSBN-X, the Carteradministration proposed spending more than $106million for research and development of a smaller,lower-cost strategic missile submarine. To manyobservers, this meant that the end of the existingTrident program was in sight.

    However, President Carter was defeated byRonald Reagan in the November 1980 election. As

    part of the Reagan administrations strategic andnaval buildup, the Trident program was reinstatedat the building rate of one submarine per year,although the Trident programas well as theattack submarine programcontinued to beplagued by problems at the Electric Boat yard,attributed to the Navys poor program manage-ment and to rapidly increasing submarine costs.

    Meanwhile, these problems and delays had ledAdmiral Smiths SSPO to propose an interim Tri-dent missile, initially called EXPO (for Extended-range Poseidon). This was put forward as a weaponthat could be available by 1972, several years beforethe Trident missile albeit with a lesser rangeamaximum of 4,000 n.miles (7,410 km); eight MIRVwarheads of 100 kilotons each could be delivered tolesser ranges. That missile, eventually designatedTrident C-4, also could be backfitted into existingPolaris-Poseidon SSBNs as well as being used in theTrident submarines before the full-range, TridentD-5 missile would be available.42

    The Lockheed Corporation was selected todevelop both the C-4 and D-5 missiles, building onthe firms experience with Polaris and Poseidon.Indeed, the first two stages of the EXPO/Trident C-4 was the two-stage Poseidon missile.

    The C-4 missile was designed to alternativelycarry the Mk 500 Evader, a Maneuvering ReentryVehicle (MaRV) warhead; this re-entry system wasintended to overcome ballistic missile defenses butwas not developed.

    Trident SubmarinesAfter extensive debate, the lead Trident submarinehad been funded in fiscal year 1974. An initialschedule was put forward to build ten TridentSSBNs at an annual rate of 1-3-3-3, to be complet-ed from 1977 to 1982. But when the first Tridentsubmarine was ordered from Electric Boat in July1974, the planned delivery had slipped to 30 April1979. The shipyard agreed to attempt to makedelivery in December 1977 because of the high pri-ority of the program. Like Polaris two decades ear-lier, Brickbatthe highest prioritywas assignedto Trident.43 Subsequent delays caused by Navymismanagement of the project, design changes, andchaotic problems at the Electric Boat yard resultedin the late deliveries of the early submarines, with


  • authorizations for the first ten submarines coveringa ten-year period instead of four years. The prob-lems at Electric Boat included construction diffi-culties with the new Los Angeles (SSN 688) attacksubmarines. Thus, with the start of the Trident pro-gram, Electric Boats capabilities were overloaded.44

    Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia also wasencountering difficulties with the L.A. class; from1972 onward these were the only U.S. shipyardsconstructing nuclear submarines.

    The disarray in submarine construction and,especially, the rapidly deteriorating Navy relation-ship with the Electric Boat yard, a component ofGeneral Dynamics Corporation, had another effecton Cold War submarines. Admiral Rickover hadfavored EB over other shipyards since building theNautilus (SSN 571). Now he spoke out against theyard. And his relationship with Newport NewsShipbuilding had deteriorated to the point that theyards management told the Navy all work wouldstop if he again entered the yard unannounced.45

    Rickover had reached the statutory retirementage of 62 in 1962. He was retained on active duty asthe head of nuclear propulsion by presidentialorderand congressional political pressure. TheReagan administration realized Rickovers role in thechaotic submarine situation and on 13 November1981two days after the commissioning of the first

    Trident submarineSecretary of the Navy JohnLehman announced that Admiral Rickover wouldnot be retained on active duty after January 1982.46

    In the past Rickovers supporters in Congresshad frustrated such efforts to fire him. Now, mostof his supporters had retired, had died, or had cometo acknowledge that Rickover was part of theproblem and not part of the solution.47 His suc-cessors as head of nuclear propulsion, submarineadmirals appointed for eight-year terms, wouldhave less influence in Congress and the Navy.

    The lead Trident submarine, the Ohio (SSBN726), was launched at EB on 7 April 1979.48 She wasthe largest submarine built by any nation up to thattime. The Ohio was commissioned on 11 November1981 and went to sea on her first Trident missilepatrolin the North Pacificon 1 October 1982,carrying 24 C-4 missiles. The C-4 had already goneto sea in October 1979 on board the Francis ScottKey (SSBN 657), a Polaris-Poseidon submarine thathad been modified to carry the C-4 missile. Elevenmore of these older SSBNs were so modified tocarry 16 of the weapons, again demonstrating theflexibility of the Polaris submarine design.

    The ultimate U.S. submarine-launched ballisticmissile was the Trident D-5. The missile introducedgreater range and more accuracy than previousSLBMs, with D-5 accuracy generally credited to be


    The Ohio on sea trials in 1981, showing the long turtle back that faired into her hull lines. Like second-generation and

    later SSNs, the Trident missile submarines are single-hull ships. Efforts are under way to convert up to four Trident SSBNs

    to combined cruise missile/special operations submarines. (U.S. Navy)

  • 192C









    Ohio (SSBN 726). LOA 560 ft (170.7 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • superior to contemporary U.S. land-based ICBMs.Reportedly, the missiles guidance could place theeight warheads within a circle 560 feet (170.7 m)in diameter at a range of 4,000 n.miles (7,400km).49 The D-5 missile normally carries eightMIRV nuclear warheads, each having an explosiveforce of between 100 and 475 kilotons.50 After adifficult development period, with several majorlaunch failures, the D-5 missile became opera-tional in the USS Tennessee (SSBN 734) in March1990. The Tennessee was the ninth Trident subma-rine to be completed.

    By the early 1980s the Navy was planning a classof 24 Ohio-class submarines (with 576 SLBMs).These were to replace the 41 Polaris-Poseidon sub-marines (with 656 SLBMs). The SALT I strategicarms agreement of 1972 required the decommis-sioning of the Polaris A-3 submarines Theodore Roo-sevelt (SSBN 600) and Abraham Lincoln (SSBN 602)to compensate for the Ohio entering service; thosewere the first U.S. SSBNs to be taken out of service.

    The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 also markedthe end of the Trident construction. The eighteenthand final Trident SSBN was authorized in 1990 (fis-

    cal year 1991 program). When thatsubmarine was completed in 1997,all 41 Polaris-Poseidon-Trident C-4submarines had been discardedexcept for two former SSBNsemployed as special operations/transport submarines. (See Chapter14.) Thus, through the end of theCold War, U.S. submarine construc-tion programs had produced threecruise missile submarines (1 SSGN,2 SSG) and 59 ballistic missile sub-marines (SSBN).

    Of the 18 Trident SSBNs, thefirst eight were completed with theC-4 missile, the next ten with the D-5 missile.51 Initially the Navyintended to rearm all early sub-marines with the D-5 missile, butthat plan ran afoul of Soviet-U.S.strategic arms agreements.


    The worlds largest submarine is the Project 941/Typhoon SSBN. The design departed from the missile arrangement used

    in previous U.S., Soviet, British, and French strategic missile submarines. The location of SLBMs forwardbetween twin

    pressure hullspushed the massive sail structure aft. (U.K. Ministry of Defence)

    A Typhoon at high speed, demonstrating the power of her large twin-reactor

    plant. The 20 large SLBM tubes are arranged in two rows, forward of the sail.

    A built-in escape chamber is located just outboard of the sail on each side. The

    retracted bow diving planes are visible in this view. (U.K. Ministry of Defence)

  • The Worlds Largest SubmarineThe American pursuit of the Trident programcaused an acceleration of the third-generationSoviet SSBN.52 During their November 1974 meet-ing at Vladivostok in the Soviet Far East, GeneralSecretary Leonid Brezhnev and President GeraldFord agreed on a formula to further limit strategicoffensive weapons (SALT II). In their discussionsBrezhnev expressed his concern over the U.S. Tri-dent program and declared that if the United Statespursued deployment of the Trident system theUSSR would be forced to develop its Tayfun strate-gic missile submarine.

    Although Soviet naval officials and subma-rine/missile designers believed that liquid-propellantmissiles had irrefutable merit, and those SLBMswere used in the first- and second-generation SSBNs,research continued on solid-propellant SLBMs at

    V. P. Makeyevs SKB-385design bureau. In 1972 workhad began on the missile sub-marine, Project 941 (NATOTyphoon), and the followingyear on the solid-propellantRSM-52/R-39 missile (latergiven the NATO designationSS-N-20 Sturgeon).53

    The Project 941/TyphoonSSBN would be the largestundersea craft to be construct-ed by any nation. The subma-rine was designed by S. N.Kovalev at the Rubin designbureau. Kovalev and his teamconsidered numerous designvariations, including conven-tional designs, that is, a singleelongated pressure hull withthe missile tubes placed in two

    rows aft of the sail. (See sketch.) This last approachwas discarded because it would have produced a sub-marine more than 770 feet (235 m) long, far too greata length for available dry docks and other facilities.54

    Instead, Kovalev and his team developed aunique and highly innovative designthe 441stvariant that they considered. The ship has two par-allel main pressure hulls to house crew, equipment,and propulsion machinery. These are full-size hulls,48834 feet (149 m) long with a maximum diameterof 2323 feet (7.2 m), each with eight compart-ments.55 The 20 missile tubes are placed betweenthese hulls, in two rows, forward of the sail. Theamidships position of the sail led to the submarinesmassive diving planes being fitted forward (bow)rather than on the sail, as in the Project 667 designs.

    The control room-attack center and other command activities are placed in a large, two-


    Project 941/Typhoon SSBN. LOA 564 ft 3 in (172.0 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

    The massive sail of a Project 941/Typhoon SSBN. A single periscope is raised; the

    other scopes and masts are recessed and protected. The anechoic tiles are evident as

    is (bottom center) the outline of the top of the starboard-side escape chamber (with

    exit hatch). (U.K. Ministry of Defence)

  • compartment pressure hull between the parallelhulls (beneath the sail). This center hull is justover 98 feet (30 m) in length and 1923 feet (6 m) indiameter. The sail structure towers some 4223 feet(13 m) above the waterline. An additional com-partment was placed forward, between the mainpressure hulls, providing access between the paral-lel hulls and containing torpedo tubes andreloads. Thus the Typhoon has a total of 17 hullcompartments, all encased within a massive outerhull 56416 feet (172 m) long. This arrangementgives the Project 941/Typhoon a surface displace-ment of 23,200 tons. Although the submarine isapproximately as long as the U.S. Ohio class, it hasa beam of 7434 feet (23.3 m). With a reserve buoy-ancy of some 48 percent, the submerged displace-ment is 48,000 tons, about three times that of theOhio (which has approximately 15 percent reservebuoyancy).

    The large reserve buoyancy helps decrease thedraft of the ship. In addition, it contributes to theability of the submarine to surface through ice tolaunch missiles. (On 25 August 1995 a TyphoonSSBN surfaced at the North Pole, penetrating abouteight feet [2.5 m] of ice, and launched an RSM-52missile with ten unarmed warheads.)

    Beneath the forward hull is the ships large Skat sonar system, including the MGK-503 low-frequency, spherical-array sonar (NATO Shark Gill).

    There are crew accommodations in both paral-lel hulls, and in the starboard hull there is a recre-ation area, including a small gym, solarium, aviary,and sauna. The crew is accommodated in smallberthing spaces; the large number of officers andwarrants have two- or four-man staterooms. Aboveeach hull there is an escape chamber; together thechambers can carry the entire crew of some 160men to the surface.

    Within each of the parallel hulls, the Typhoonhas an OK-650 reactor plant with a steam turbineproducing about 50,000 horsepower (190 mega-watts) and an 800-kilowatt diesel generator. Thetwin propellers are housed in shrouds to protectthem from ice damage. The ship also has twopropulsor pods, one forward and one aft, that canbe lowered to assist in maneuvering and for hover-ing, although missiles can be launched while theTyphoon is underway.

    The design and features of the Typhoon SSBNwere evaluated in a one-tenth scale model built atLeningrads Admiralty shipyard. The model wasautomated and provided an invaluable design andevaluation tool.

    The keel of the lead Project 941/TyphoontheTK-208was laid down on 30 June 1976 at Severod-vinsk, by that time the only Soviet shipyard con-structing SSBNs.56 A new construction hallthelargest covered shipway in the worldwas erected atSeverodvinsk, being used to build the TyphoonSSBNs and Project 949/Oscar SSGNs. Most U.S. intel-ligence analysts had been confused by Brezhnevs ref-erence to a Tayfun missile submarine. Not until1977when U.S. reconnaissance satellites identifiedcomponents for a new class of submarines atSeverodvinskwas it accepted that an entirely newdesign was under construction.57 The TK-208 wasput into the water on 23 September 1980; trials beganin June 1981, and she was commissioned in Decem-ber 1981. Series production followed.

    The D-19 missile system, however, lagged behindschedule with failures of several test launches of theRSM-52/R-39 missile. The Project 629/Golf subma-rine K-153 was converted to a test platform for theRSM-52/R-39, being provided with a single missiletube (changed to Project 619/Golf V). That missilebecame operational in 1984. It carried a larger pay-load, had greater accuracy than any previous SovietSLBM, and was the first Soviet solid-propellant SLBMto be produced in quantity.58 The missile is estimatedto have a range of 4,480 n.miles (8,300 km) carryingup to ten MIRV warheads of approximately 100 kilo-tons each. Their firing rate is one missile every 15 sec-onds (the same firing rate as the U.S. Trident sub-marines59). Still, the use of solid propellant in the R-39led to a sharp increase in the dimensions of the mis-sile, with the launch weight reaching 90 tons.

    Six Typhoon SSBNs were completed through1989. Eight ships had been planned, with the seventh,the TK-210, having been started but then abandonedwhile still in the building hall. The six-Typhoon SSBNdivision was based at Nerpichya, about six miles (tenkm) from the entrance to Guba Zapadnaya Litsa onthe Kola Peninsula, close to the border with Finlandand Norway. The Typhoon base was distinguished bythe extremely poor facilities ashore for the crews aswell as for the base workers and their families.60


  • At sea the Typhoon SSBN had some difficultieswith control and seakeeping.61 Still, the ships couldbe considered highly successful and provided ahighly capable strategic striking force. Their Arcticpatrol areas made them immune to most WesternASW forces, and simplified Soviet naval forces pro-viding protection, if necessary. On 9 September1991, during a missile test launch by one of theseSSBNs of this type, a missile did not exit the tubeand exploded and burned. The submarine sufferedonly minor damage.

    The TK-208 entered the Severodvinsk shipyardin October 1990 for refueling of her reactors andfor modernization to launch the improved R-39Mmissile (NATO SS-N-28 Grom). The other shipswere to follow, but the end of the Cold War broughtan end to the Project 941/Typhoon program. TheTK-208, which was renamed Dmitri Donskoi in2000, did not emerge from the Severodvinsk yard(renamed Sevmash) until 2002. She sailed for herhome base of Guba Zapadnaya Litsa on 9 Novem-ber 2002. She had been refueled but instead of theR-39M missile, which had encountered develop-ment problems, she was refitted to carry the small-er, solid-propellant RSM-52V Bulava, a variant ofthe land-based Topol-M (SS-27).

    Meanwhile, of the five other Typhoon SSBNs,the TK-12 and TK-202 were taken out of service in1996, and the TK-13 in 1997. They are beingscrapped. When this book went to press the TK-17(renamed Arkhangelsk) and TK-20 were also to be

    refueled and rearmed with theRSM-52V missile, although suchplanning was considered tentativein view of the continuing Russianfiscal problems. The three mod-ernized Typhoon SSBNs would beexpected to remain in service atleast until 20102012.62

    There have been proposals toconvert some of the giant sub-marines to cargo carriers; thiscould be done expeditiouslyalbeit at considerable costbyreplacing the missile tubes with acargo section. Ironically, an earlieranalysis of the Typhoon by theCentral Intelligence Agency

    addressed the possibility of using submarines ofthis type to (1) carry mini-submarines; (2) supportother submarines in the milch cow replenishmentrole; (3) carry troops for special operations; and (4)serve as major command ships.63

    Discussing Project 941/Typhoon on the macrolevel, Viktor Semyonov, the deputy chief designer ofthe Typhoon, stated that the program had encoun-tered No technical problemsthe problems are allfinancial.64 But Soviet views of the submarine andher D-19 missile system were not unanimous. Onesubmarine designer wrote:

    To my mind the creation of the D-19 missilesystem and the Project 941 was a great mistake.

    A solid-propellant SLBM had no appre-ciable advantages [over] a liquid-propellantSLBM. . . . Such an expensive project likethe D-19 missile system and the Project 941which had been [developed] parallel withD-9RM and Project 667BDRM were theruin of the USSR. Such ill-considered deci-sions, which were lobbied by the definiteindustrial circles, undermined the economyof the USSR and contributed to the loss [of]the Cold War.65

    Almost parallel with Project 941/Typhoon, anotherSSBN was developed under Academician Kovalev atRubin. Project 667BDRM/Delta IVas its designa-tion denotesoutwardly was a further develop-


    A Typhoon at rest with crewmen on deck. The twin propellers are housed in pro-

    tective, circular shrouds, outboard of the upper rudder. The stern diving planes

    are fitted behind the propellers, attached to the shrouds. (Russias Arms Catalog)

  • ment of the Yankee-Delta series but in large partwas an entirely new, third-generation nuclear sub-marine. The submarine was significantly largerthan its predecessors, had enhanced quieting fea-tures, and carried a larger missile, the three-stage,liquid-propellant RSM-54/R-29RM (NATO SS-N-23 Skiff). Depending on the number of warheads,the missile could reach 4,480 n.miles (8,300 km).This long-range missile was the last submarineweapon developed by Makeyev.

    Like its predecessors, the Delta IV had twinreactor plants (VM-4SG reactors) and twin pro-pellers, but with an improved stern configurationthat enhances propeller efficiency and quieting.One Soviet analyst addressing the Project667BDRM/Delta IV observed,

    The second generation of Sovietsubmarines was less noisy, but progress indecreasing the SSBN signature wasachieved by the Soviet shipbuilding indus-try only during the 1980s with the appear-ance of the strategic submarine design667BDRM. During this period new tech-nologies were introduced which resulted inan order of magnitude improvement in theaccuracy of manufacturing gear assembly,shafts and propellers. A sig-nificant decrease in noiselevel was also achieved withthe application of activenoise suppression methodsfor submarines.66

    The last was a notable inno-vation by the Soviets. This tech-nique of active sound andvibration control is a remark-ably simple method of remov-ing an unwanted disturbance.The disturbance can take theform of either a pressure wave(sound) or structural motion(vibration). It is detected as asignal using suitable sensors,and the detected signal is thenused to control actuators insuch a way that the disturbance

    is essentially suppressed by cancellation (insertionof an out-of-phase signal) or by interference. Toachieve this, it is necessary to reproduce not onlythe temporal characteristics of the disturbance,but also its spatial propagation and distribution.This often requires the use of high-speed comput-ing and signal processing techniques. With suchtechniques, it is possible to achieve substantialreductions in sound or vibration intensity.Depending on the circumstances, reductions ofover 40 decibels are possible. The enlarged Project667BDRM/Delta IV submarine also stressed crewhabitability for long patrols, with an exercisespace, solarium, and sauna.

    The lead submarine was the K-51, laid down in1981, launched in 1984, and commissioned on 29December 1984. Thus construction of this classlagged several years behind the Typhoon schedule.The Severodvinsk shipyard completed seven DeltaIV submarines through 1992. At least two addition-al units had been started when President BorisYeltsin directed a halt to SSBN construction. TheSoviet Navy accordingly took delivery of 83 mod-ern SSBNs during the Cold War (compared to 59U.S. SSBNs). Because of SALT agreements, the totalnumber of SSBNs in service probably did notexceed 63 ships.67


    Four hatches of this Typhoons 20 missile tubes are open. The safety tracks that are

    fitted over the tubes are evident in this photograph. The Soviets developed a

    scheme to rearm SSBNs from supply ships. The U.S. Navy had provided that

    capability for its Polaris submarines. (Russias Arms Catalog)

  • The Delta IV submarines joined other SSBNs incombat patrols in the Arctic and Sea of Okhotskareas, with the K-18 surfacing at the North Pole inAugust 1994.68 During firing demonstrations in1990, a Delta IV launched an entire loadout of 16missiles in a single, sequential salvo.

    When the Cold War ended in 1991, the U.S. andSoviet Navies each provided a significant portion oftheir nations strategic offensive forces:69

    Soviet Union United States

    Modern SSBNs 62 34

    Missiles 940 632

    Percent of offensive

    warheads 27%70 45%

    The U.S. Trident D-5 missile had the same orbetter accuracy than did land-based ICBMs, pro-viding the sea-based missiles with a hard-target-kill capability, that is, Soviet ICBMs in under-ground silos and other hard targets. At thesame time, according to U.S. officials, the accura-cy of both of the missiles carried by Typhoon andDelta IV SSBNs could eventually have a hard-

    target-kill potential against U.S. ICBM silos.71

    Further, despite massive efforts to develop effec-tive anti-SSBN capabilities, these sea-basedstrategic forces continue to enjoy a high degree ofsurvivability.

    As the latest generation SSBNs emerged from the Electric Boat yard in Groton, Connecticut,and from Shipyard 402 at Severodvinsk, the submarine-launched ballistic missile wasacknowledged as a principal component of U.S.and Soviet strategic offensive forces. Further,these SSBNs undoubtedly had the highest surviv-ability level of all strategic offensive forces.

    The U.S. Trident program required more than11 years from initiation of the program (1970)until completion of the USS Ohio (1981). Thatcontrasts to three years from the decision todevelop the solid-propellant Polaris SLBM(December 1956) until completion of the GeorgeWashington (December 1959). The Trident sub-marine was an adaptation of advanced SSNdesigns; the Trident C-4 (ne EXPO) and D-5 mis-


    The Project 667BDRM/Delta IV submarine had a bizarre turtle-back structure accommodating 16 SLBMs. The lines of

    limber holes along the base of the missile housing familiar in previous Deltas appears to be absent in this design. Rubin

    designers stated that they encountered no major problems with this configuration. (U.K. Ministry of Defence)

  • siles were improvements of the Polaris-Poseidonmissile systems.

    The disparity in the development period ofPolaris and Trident was caused by several factors:(1) the more complex development procedures andregulations of the Department of Defense in the1970s; (2) the lack of comparative emphasis on Tri-dent development by the Navys leadership; (3) thechaotic state of the U.S. submarine constructionindustry in the late 1960s and into the 1970s; and(4) the extensive involvement of Admiral Rickoverin the Trident program (in comparison with hislimited role in the Polaris effort).

    The U.S. Navy did not launch a strategic missilesubmarine from 1966 (Will Rogers/SSBN 659) until1979 (Ohio), a 13-year building holiday. This waspossible because of the effectiveness of the 41Polaris submarines and the feasibility of updating

    their missile system. The Soviet construction ofsecond- and third-generation SSBNs was continu-ous from the launching of the K-137 in 1966 untilthe end of the Cold War.

    The Soviet government sought a strategicoffensive forceincluding ballistic missile sub-marinesas large as those of the United Statesand all other nations combined.72 Some SovietNavy and civilian officials believed that the largesize of the SSBN program was unnecessary. Aca-demician Igor Spassky, head of the Rubin designbureau, said that there were more [SSBNs] thanwe really needed to fulfill the mission.73

    In both countries the third-generationSSBN building program was superimposed onlarge attack submarine construction pro-grams as well as impressive surface warshipprograms.

    TABLE 12-1Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles

    Trident Trident RSM-52/R-39R RSM-54/R-29RMC-4 D-5 NATO SS-N-20 Sturgeon NATO SS-N-23

    Operational 1979 1990 1983 1986

    Weight 73,000 lb 130,000 lb 198,420 lb 88,850 lb

    (33,115 kg) (58,970 kg) (90,000 kg) (40,300 kg)

    Length 34 ft 44 ft 5212 ft 4812 ft

    (10.37 m) (13.4 m) (16 m) (14.8 m)

    Diameter 74 in 83 in 9412 in 7434 in

    (1.9 m) (2.1 m) (2.4 m) (1.9 m)

    Propulsion solid- solid- solid- liquid-

    propellant propellant propellant propellant

    3 stage 3 stage 3 stage 3 stage

    Range 4,000 n.miles >4,000 n.miles 4,480 n.miles 4,480 n.miles

    (7,400 km) (>7,400 km) (8,300 km) (8,300 km)

    Guidance inertial inertial inertial** inertial**

    Warhead 8 MIRV 8 MIRV 10 MIRV 4 MIRV***

    (100 KT each) * (100 KT each)

    Notes: * The Trident D-5 carries either eight W88 (100-KT) or eight W76 (300475 KT variable yield) re-entry bodies.** Possibly with stellar inflight update.

    *** Up to eight MIRVs can be carried; under arms agreements four are carried.


  • TABLE 12-2Strategic Missile Submarines

    U.S. Ohio Soviet SovietSSBN 726 Project 941 Project 667BDRM

    NATO Typhoon NATO Delta IV

    Operational 1981 1981 1984


    surface 16,764 tons 23,200 tons 11,740 tons

    submerged 18,750 tons 48,000 tons 18,200 tons

    Length 560 ft 564 ft 3 in 547 ft 9 in

    (170.7 m) (172.0 m) (167.0 m)

    Beam 42 ft 76 ft 1 in 38 ft 4 in

    (12.8 m) (23.2 m) (11.7 m)

    Draft 36 ft 3 in 36 ft 28 ft 10 in

    (11 m) (11 m) (8.8 m)

    Reactors 1 S8G 2 OK-650 2 VM-4SG

    Turbines 2 2 2

    horsepower ~35,000 ~100,000 60,000

    Shafts 1 2 2


    surface 12 knots 14 knots

    submerged ~25 knots 25+ knots 24 knots

    Test depth 985 ft 1,300 ft 1,300 ft

    (300 m) (400 m) (400 m)

    Missiles 24 Trident C-4/D-5 20 RSM-52/R-39R 16 RSM-54/R-29RM

    Torpedo tubes* 4 533-mm A 6 533-mm B 4 533-mm B

    2 650-mm B

    Torpedoes 24 22 12

    Complement 165** 160 135

    Notes: * Angled + Bow.** Alternating Blue and Gold crews.


  • The U.S. Navy had made the decision to stopconstructing diesel-electric submarines by1956. The Navys long-term blueprint for the

    future fleetdeveloped in 1957provided for 127submarines by the 1970s:1

    40 Polaris ballistic missile submarines

    (1,500-n.mile/2,780-km missile range)

    12 cruise missile submarines (1,000-n.mile/1,850-km missile range)

    75 torpedo-attack (ASW) submarines

    All but ten of the attack submarines were tohave nuclear propulsion. Those exceptions were theexisting six submarines of the Tang (SS 563) class,the Darter (SS 576), and the three Barbel (SS 580)class; they would serve many years in the U.S. Navy.The last of these non-nuclear submarines to beretired would be the Blueback (SS 581), decommis-

    sioned in 1990 after 30 years of service. The Navysleadership realized that nuclear propulsion pro-vided the long-range capabilities needed to supportthe nations worldwide military operations.

    Of the other nations that have constructednuclear submarines, Britains Royal Navy, facedwith severe fiscal constraints, also decided, in theearly 1990s, to operate an all-nuclear submarineforce.2 Subsequently France reached a similar deci-sion. Thus, only China and Russia have continuedto operate diesel-electric as well as nuclear sub-marines. And, when possible, all have sold new orsurplus diesel-electric submarines to other nations.

    During the Cold War a U.S. Navy intelligenceofficer, then-Captain Thomas A. Brooks, observed,

    The Soviets see a continuing utility of thediesel submarine. It is excellent for confinedwaters such as those in the Mediterranean; itmakes a superb mobile minefield in Soviet


    Diesel Boats Forever

    Project 641/Foxtrot was an attractive and highly capable torpedo-attack submarine. The successor to the long-range Pro-

    ject 611/Zulu design, these submarines operated far and wide during the Cold War with several units being in the

    Western Atlantic during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. (Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force)


  • parlance; for purposes of forming submarinebarriers, it can be more effective; and it canserve quite successfully for delousing high-value units, reconnaissance, sealing off chokepoints and many traditional submarine mis-sions where the speed and endurance of anuclear submarine are not required. . . .the Soviets clearly have a commitment todiesel boats forever.3

    In the Cold War era, that commitment beganwith the massive submarine construction programsinitiated immediately after World War IIthe long-range Project 611/Zulu, the medium-range Project613/Whiskey, and the coastal Project 615/Quebecclasses. Not only did these craft serve as the founda-tion for the Soviet Navys torpedo-attack submarineforce for many years, but converted Zulus andWhiskeys were also the first Soviet submarines tomount ballistic and cruise missiles, and several otherships of these designs were employed in a broadrange of research and scientific endeavors.

    These construction programs were terminatedin the mid-1950s as part of the large-scale warshipcancellations that followed dictator Josef Stalinsdeath in March 1953. But the cancellations alsoreflected the availability of more-advanced subma-rine designs. Project 641 (NATO Foxtrot) wouldsucceed the 611/Zulu as a long-range torpedo sub-marine, and Project 633 (NATO Romeo) wouldsucceed the 613/Whiskey as a medium-range sub-marine. There would be no successor in the coastalcategory as the Soviet Navy increasingly undertookblue water operations. Early Navy planning pro-vided for the construction of 160 Project 641/Foxtrot submarines.

    Designed by Pavel P. Pustintsev at TsKB-18(Rubin), Project 641 was a large, good-looking sub-marine, 29912 feet (91.3 m) in length, with a surfacedisplacement of 1,957 tons. Armament consisted often 21-inch (533-mm) torpedo tubessix bow andfour stern. Project 641/Foxtrot had three dieselengines and three electric motors with three shafts,as in the previous Project 611/Zulu (and smallerProject 615/Quebec). Beyond the increase in rangebrought about by larger size, some ballast tankswere modified for carrying fuel. Submergedendurance was eight days at slow speeds without

    employing a snorkel, an exceptional endurance forthe time. The Foxtrot introduced AK-25 steel tosubmarines, increasing test depth to 920 feet (280m). The large size also provided increased endur-ance, theoretically up to 90 days at sea.

    The lead ship, the B-94, was laid down at theSudomekh yard in Leningrad on 3 October 1957;she was launched64 percent completein lessthan three months, on 28 December. After comple-tion and sea trials, she was commissioned on 25December 1958. Through 1971 the Sudomekh-Admiralty complex completed 58 ships of thisdesign for the Soviet Navy.4

    Additional units were built at Sudomekh from1967 to 1983 specifically for transfer to Cuba (3),India (8), and Libya (6). The Indian submarines weremodified for tropical climates, with increased air-conditioning and fresh water facilities.5 Later, twoSoviet Foxtrots were transferred to Poland. The for-eign units brought Project 641/Foxtrot productionto 75 submarines, the largest submarine class to be


    A Foxtrot at speed, showing the clean lines of these sub-

    marines. The red-and-white buoy recessed into the deck

    forward of the sail is the tethered rescue buoy. The bow div-

    ing planes retract into the hull almost level with the long

    row of limber holes, which provided free flooding between

    the double hulls. (Soviet Navy)

  • constructed during the Cold War except for the Proj-ect 613/Whiskey and Project 633/Romeo programs.

    (Two Project 641 submarines are known to havebeen lost, the B-37 was sunk in a torpedo explosionat Polnaryy in 1962 and the B-33 sank at Vladivos-tok in 1991.)

    The Soviet units served across the broad oceansfor the next three decades. They operated through-out the Atlantic, being deployed as far as theCaribbean, and in the Pacific, penetrating intoHawaiian waters. And Foxtrots were a major factorin the first U.S.-Soviet naval confrontation.

    Cuban Missile CrisisThe Cuban missile crisis of 1962 demonstrated thatSoviet submarines could operate at great distancesand could have an influence on world events. On 1October 1962 four Project 641/Foxtrot submarinesdeparted bases on the Kola Peninsula en route to theCaribbean to support the Soviet weapons buildup inCuba. In addition to conventional torpedoes, each ofthese submarines had one nuclear torpedo onboard.6 Another Foxtrot and one Project 611/Zulusubmarine were already in the Western Atlantic.

    Earlier, Soviet leaders had considered sendingsurface warships to escort the merchant ships car-rying weapons to defend the island and ballisticmissiles capable of striking the United States. Thatproposal was dropped because of the overwhelm-ing superiority of U.S. naval and air forces in theregion. Further, at one point it was proposed thatthe nuclear warheads being sent to Cubaalmost200would be carried in submarines. The sub-marines would have been able to carry only two orthree warheads at a time, with protection of thecrew from warhead radiation being a major prob-lem.7 Accordingly, it was decided to transport themin two Soviet merchant ships that would blend inwith the stream of shipping.

    During the Cuban missile crisis, all Soviet sub-marines in the Western Atlantic were detected byU.S. ASW forcesone Project 611/Zulu and fourFoxtrots. One other Foxtrot (pennant No. 945) suf-fered mechanical difficulties; she was sighted on thesurface, en route back to the Kola Peninsula in com-pany with the naval salvage tug Pamir.8 The Zuluwas also sighted on the surface, refueling from thenaval tanker Terek.

    The United States and Canada mounted a majoreffort to locate the four other submarines, which haddeparted the Kola Peninsula on 1 October.9 Argus,P2V Neptune, and P3V Orion maritime patrol air-craft, flying from Argentia, Newfoundland, and basesin Canada and the United States, searched for thesubmarines. U.S. Air Force RB-47 and RB-50 recon-naissance aircraftwithout ASW equipmentbriefly joined in the search. The quarantine (block-ade) naval forces that were to stop merchant shipsbelieved to be carrying offensive arms to Cubaincluded the specialized ASW aircraft carrier Essex,later joined by two additional ASW carriers.

    The Cuban crisis reached a critical point a fewminutes after 10 A.M. (Washington, D.C. time) onWednesday, 24 October. At the time Secretary ofDefense Robert S. McNamara advised PresidentKennedy that two Soviet freighters were within afew miles of the quarantine line, where they wouldbe intercepted by U.S. destroyers. Each merchantship was accompanied by a submarineAnd thisis a very dangerous situation, added McNamara.10

    Robert F. Kennedy, the attorney general andbrother of the president, recalled, Then came thedisturbing Navy report that a Russian submarinehad moved into position between the two [mer-chant] ships.11

    The decision was made at the White House tohave the Navy signal the submarine by sonar to sur-face and identify itself. If the submarine refused, small


    Project 641/Foxtrot SS. LOA 299 ft 6 in (91.3 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • explosives would be used as a signal. Robert Kennedyrecalled the concern over that single Foxtrot subma-rine: I think these few minutes were the time ofgravest concern for the President. . . . I heard thePresident say: Isnt there some way we can avoid hav-ing our first exchange with a Russian submarinealmost anything but that?12

    At 10:25 that morning word was received at theWhite House that the Soviet freighters had stoppedbefore reaching the blockade line.

    No one participating in the White House discus-sions nor anyone else in the U.S. government knewthat each of the four Soviet submarines in the areahad a nuclear torpedo on board in addition to 21conventional weapons. Rear Admiral Georgi Kostev,a veteran submarine commander and historian,described the views of Nikita Khrushchev in approv-ing the sending of submarines to support the clan-destine shipment of ballistic missiles to Cuba (Oper-ation Anadyr): Khrushchev believed that it wasproper for the submarines, if the convoy would bestopped, to sink the ships of the other party.13 Whenasked how he believed a nuclear war could have beensparked at sea, Admiral Kostev replied:

    The war could have started this waytheAmerican Navy hits the Soviet submarine[with a torpedo or depth charge] and some-how does not harm it. In that case, the com-mander would have for sure used hisweapons against the attacker.

    Some of the Soviet submarine commandersbelieved that they were under attack as U.S.destroyers and aircraft harassed them, droppingsmall explosive signal charges. To some command-ers these were simply small depth charges.

    One of the submarine commanding officers,Captain 2d Rank Aleksey F. Dubivko of the B-36,recalled, I had my orders to use my weapons andparticularly [the] nuclear torpedo only by instruc-tions from my base. Absolutely.14

    Dubivko added: As far as Im concerned, havingreceived an order to use my nuclear torpedo, I wouldsurely have aimed it at an aircraft carrier, and therewere plenty of them there, in the area.

    Intensive U.S. search operations reported sixSoviet submarines, albeit two of them on the surfaceand returning to the USSR. The four Foxtrot-classsubmarines in the Cuban area during the crisiswere the B-4, B-36, B-59, and B-130. (Early Sovietplans had proposed major surface and subma-rine groups to support the missile deployment toCuba. The latter was to consist of four Project658/Hotel SSBNs and seven diesel-electric torpedosubmarinesall with nuclear weapons.)

    One Foxtrot was forced to the surface after 34continuous hours of sonar contact and harassmentby the U.S. destroyer Charles P. Cecil and maritimepatrol aircraft on 3031 October.15 The subma-rine/ASW aspects of the Cuban missile crisis provid-ed considerable insight into Soviet submarine capa-bilities and tactics as well as problems. However, asthe official U.S. analysis of the ASW operationsgiven the code name CUBEXstates:16

    The reliability of results of CUBEX evalua-tion is affected by small sample size andbiased by two major artificialities. The facti-tious aspects of the operation included thenon-use of destructive ordnance and the pri-ority scheduling of aircraft during daylighthours for the visual/photographic needs ofthe Cuban quarantine force. The unnatural

    case of not carrying a contactthrough to the kill affected the tac-tics of both the hunter and hunted,as did the unbalanced day/night coverage.17

    The Soviet submarines sought toevade detection by short bursts of highspeed, radical maneuveringincludingbacking down and stopping, takingadvantage of thermal layers, turninginto the wakes of ASW ships, and


    TABLE 13-1Soviet Submarines Identified by the U.S. NavyDuring the Cuban Missile Crisis

    FirstSighting* Position Type Notes

    22 Oct 1024Z42o55N 39o30W 611/Zulu returning to USSR

    24 Oct 1929Z25o25N 68o10W 641/Foxtrot returning to USSR

    25 Oct 2211Z27o30N 68o00W 641/Foxtrot northeast of Cuba

    26 Oct 1048Z21o31N 69o14W 641/Foxtrot east of Cuba

    26 Oct 1908Z24o40N 72o15W 641/Foxtrot northeast of Cuba

    26 Oct 2105Z18o05N 75o26W 641/Foxtrot south of Cuba

    Notes: * Greenwich Mean Time (Z).

  • releasing slugs (bubbles) of air and acousticdecoys. But knowing that they probably were safefrom attack with lethal weapons, and not beingrequired to carry out attacks against U.S. ships, theSoviet submarine captains were not realisticallytested in a conflict situation. Also, the submarinesmade extensive use of radar, which they might notemploy to the same extent in wartime. Extensivesnorkeling also occurred with durations of one-halfhour to 11 hours being detected by U.S. forces.Undoubtedly in wartime the submarines wouldhave practiced less frequent and shorter-durationsnorkel operations.

    The experience for both Soviet submariners andU.S. ASW practitioners was invaluable.

    The success of Project 641/Foxtrot, led to severalcruise missile (SSGN) variants being proposed. (SeeChapter 6.) In 19561957 preliminary designs weredeveloped at TsKB-18 for Project 649, a moreadvanced diesel-electric submarine with a surfacedisplacement of some 2,560 tons, a submerged dis-placement of 3,460 tons, and an underwater speedup to 20 knots. The project was not pursued.

    Instead, from 1965 a TsKB-18 team under YuriKormilitsin developed Project641B (NATO Tango). This wasa major improvement of theFoxtrot design with respect tohull form and battery capacity,the latter providing an increasein submerged endurance. Also,the sonar was linked directly tothe torpedo fire control sys-tem, enabling more rapid han-dling of firing solutions andthe automatic transmission ofdata to torpedoes before firing.

    Eighteen submarines ofthis long-range design weredelivered from 1973 to 1982by the Krasnoye Sormovoshipyard in Gorkiy (nowNizhny Novgorod). Construc-tion of these submarines, inturn, was halted with develop-ment of the improved Project877 (NATO Kilo) design.

    Meanwhile, with the com-

    pletion of the truncated Project 613/Whiskey pro-gramthe last submarine being delivered in1958work was under way on a successor medi-um-range submarine, Project 633 (NATO Romeo).Design work had begun at SKB-112 (Lazurit) in1954 under chief designers Z. A. Deribin and, after1959, A. I. Noarov.18 The new design had enhancedarmament, sensors, and performance over Project613.

    The number of bow torpedo tubes wasincreased to six, in addition to the two stern tubes,while sonar, habitability, and food storage wereimproved, the last increasing practical endurancefrom 30 days for the Whiskey to 60 days for theRomeo. The latter submarine was viewed as theultimate undersea craft of its type by the SovietNavys leadership with preliminary plans beingmade for the production of 560 ships!

    The first Project 633/Romeo, the S-350, was laiddown on 22 October 1957 at the Krasnoye Sormo-vo shipyard in Gorkiy, which had been the leadyard for the Whiskey class. The submarine wasdelivered to the Navy in December 1959 with a totalof 20 units being built through 1962. The early can-cellation of large-scale production and the subse-


    The simplistic lines of the Project 941B/Tango are evident in this view. The Tango

    was intended as the successor to the Foxtrot class, but, in the event, few were built.

    The Tangos principal advantage over her predecessor was increased submerged

    endurance. (U.K. Ministry of Defence)

  • quent transfer of 15 of theseships to other countriesreflected the Soviet Navysemphasis on nuclear propul-sion and long-range conven-tional undersea craft. Therecipients were Algeria (2),Bulgaria (4), Egypt (6), andSyria (3), with the Egyptianunits being transferred uponcompletion.

    China was given plans anddocumentation for Project633/Romeo and initiated massproduction construction ofthese submarines at four ship-yards. According to Chinesesources, slightly more than160 units were completed inChina from 1962 to 1987,which would make this thesecond largest class of under-sea craft constructed afterWorld War II.19 (Westernsources place Chinese production of the Romeo at92 units, completed between 1960 and 1984; eightof those were transferred to Egypt (4) and NorthKorea (4).20

    One Soviet unit of this class, the S-350, sank in1962 at the naval base of Polyarnyy on the KolaPeninsula as a result of a torpedo explosion in thenearby submarine B-37. The S-350 was salvaged,repaired, and placed back in service in 1966.


    The Project 633/Romeo had the same sonars as the larger Foxtrot. The Romeos sail was distinguished by the top hat

    extension that housed the submarines periscopes. The massive Romeo construction program was cut back in the USSR

    because of the shift of emphasis to nuclear propulsion and long-range submarines.

    Project 690/Bravo was a specialized target submarine for Soviet ASW forces. The rein-

    forced outer hull has a hump aft of the sail, the aim point for practice torpedoes.

    The U.S. Navy constructed two smaller training submarines in the early 1950s, the T1

    (SST 1) and T2 (SST 2). They were of limited use. (U.K. Ministry of Defence)

  • In 1956 work began at SKB-112 on the moreadvanced Project 654, a medium-range submarinewith a surface displacement of some 1,600 tons.This was the first Soviet submarine design based onthe high-speed USS Albacore (AGSS 569). Con-struction of the lead submarine was begun at theKrasnoye Sormovo yard, but soon halted. Thismarked the end of the development and construc-tion of medium-range submarines in the USSR.

    Specialized SubmarinesBeyond combat submarines, the Soviet Navy con-structed and converted submarines for a large num-ber of specialized roles. In 1961 work began at SKB-112/Lazurit in Gorkiy on the diesel-electric Project690 (NATO Bravo), a targetsubmarine. Developed underchief designer Ye. V. Krilov,the submarine had a specialouter hull to absorb non-explosive strikes by ASWrockets and torpedoes. From1967 to 1969 four ships ofProject 690 were completed atthe Komsomolsk yard on theAmur River in the Far East.21

    These target submarines wereemployed for ASW trainingand weapons development.From the late 1970s a new tar-get submarine was designedto replace these ships; howev-er, work on this design, basedon Project 877/Kilo and des-ignated Project 690.2, wasstopped in the mid-1980s.

    Another specialized designproduced at SKB-112 was forcarrying submersibles thatcould be employed for salvageor to rescue survivors fromsubmarines disabled on theocean floor above their col-lapse depth. The submersibleconcept was tested on modi-fied Whiskey-class submarineswith the project numbers613S and 666. In 1968 the

    Lazurit bureau initiated the design of Project 940(NATO India), a large mother submarine with asurface displacement of 3,860 tons. The submarinecarried two rescue submersibles (Project 1837) thatcould be launched while submerged to travel to andmate with the disabled submarine. After takingsurvivors aboard, the rescue submersibles wouldreturn to the submerged mother submarine to trans-fer the rescuees. The two ships of the India class werecompleted at Komsomolsk in 1976 and 1979.

    The U.S. Navy had earlier developed a similar butmore flexible underwater rescue submersible, desig-nated Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle (DSRV). Aspart of an extensive deep submergence program initi-ated after the loss of the Thresher (SSN 593) in April


    Project 940/India was a specialized submarine that could nest two rescue sub-

    mersibles. The submarine had sail-mounted diving planes. The markings on the after

    deck are underwater landing aids for the submersibles. This was the Pacific Fleet

    unit; the other was in the Northern Fleet. (Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force)

    The attack submarine Pintado (SSN 672) of the Sturgeon class modified to a DSRV

    mother configuration. The DSRV Avalon is mated to the submarines after

    hatch. Temporary markings are evident on the Pintados sail. Submarines carrying

    the DSRVs retain their full combat capability. (U.S. Navy)

  • 1963, the U.S. Navy planned a force of 12 DSRVs, to becarried to sea in mother submarines as well as by spe-cialized surface ships.22 In the event, only two of these

    craft were completed by the Lockheed Corporation in19711972. However, the DSRVs could be carried byand operated from standard attack submarines (SSN)

    that have minimal special fit-tings in contrast to the Sovietscheme, wherein only the twoProject 940/India submarinescould carry rescue sub-mersibles. Eight U.S. SSNs werefitted as mother submarineswithout detracting from theircombat capabilities, and twospecialized DSRV surface sup-port ships were built.23 TheDSRVs have a high degree ofstrategic mobility, beingcapable of being air transport-ed to overseas ports by C-5cargo aircraft. Each of the tworescue vehicles, the Mystic(DSRV-1) and Avalon (DSRV-2), is operated by a crew ofthree and can embark 24 sur-vivors.24 Their operating depthis 5,000 feet (1,525 m), that is,significantly beyond the col-lapse depth of U.S. submarines.

    During their developmentthe DSRV program helped toprovide cover for deep-ocean search and recovery sys-tems in highly covert orblack programs, includingequipment for the extensivelymodified Seawolf (SSN 575),Halibut (SSN 587), and Parche(SSN 683). Those submarines


    Numerous U.S. World War IIera submarines were configured for various research roles and served into the mid-1970s.

    This is the Grouper (SS/AGSS 214), configured as a sonar test ship. The three large fins are antennas for the PUFFS pas-

    sive ranging system. (U.S. Navy)

    The Dolphin was built specifically as a deep-diving research submarine. During her

    career she has undergone many modifications, with different sonars, hull materials, and

    sail configurations being fitted. This photo shows her configuration in 1983. (U.S. Navy)

    Closeup of the DSRV Avalon, while mated to a British submarine. One French and

    several British submarines as well as several U.S. submarines were configured to

    carry and support DSRVs. The openings in the bow are twin ducted thrusters for pre-

    cise maneuvering; there are two more thrusters aft. (U.S. Navy)

  • were modified to carry outclandestine operations and tosearch for and recover objectsdropped on the ocean floor(foreign weapons, re-entryvehicles, etc.).

    The only special-purposesubmarine built by the U.S.Navy in this period was thedeep-diving research craftDolphin (AGSS 555). Completed in 1968, the Dol-phin is a small undersea craft with a length of 165feet (50.3 m), a displacement of 860 tons surfaced,and 950 tons submerged. She was employed to testequipment and materials to depths of 3,000 feet(915 m). The Dolphin was unarmed, althoughwhen completed she was fitted with a single testtorpedo tube (removed in 1970). She was the lastdiesel-electric submarine to be constructed by theU.S. Navy.

    Into the mid-1970s the U.S. Navy also operatedvarying numbers of World War IIera submarinesconverted to various research configurations.

    The Soviet Navy acquired several specialized sub-marines from the 1970s onward, most designed bythe SDB-143/Malachite bureau and constructed atSudomekh-Admiralty, that yard being known forbuilding specialized submarines. The diesel-electricProject 1840 (NATO Lima) completed in 1979 wasas an underwater laboratory for research activities,with two hyperbaric chambers. The diesel-electricProject 1710 (NATO Beluga) was a full-scale hydro-dynamic test ship.

    The Beluga had her beginnings in 1960 whenMalachite engineers recommended creating a sub-marine to examine the means of reducing a subma-rines water resistance or drag, the same concept as

    the Albacore in the U.S. Navy.25 The proposal waswell received by the Navy and by the SiberianDepartment of the USSR Academy of Sciences,which was engaged in research of underwatershapes. The project received preliminary approvaland, as an early step, a large, buoyant-ascent modelknown as Tunets (Tuna) was constructed forresearch into various means of controlling theboundary layer, including the use of gas infusionand polymer ejection.

    The 3734-foot (11.5-m) model Tunets wasdesigned by Malachite and built by the SiberianDepartment for testing at an acoustics range nearSukhumi on the Black Sea. Model tests with poly-mers demonstrated a decrease of 30 to 40 percent intotal resistance to provide more than a 12 or 13 per-cent increase in speed.

    The technical design for the Project 1710/Beluga submarine was developed in 1975, and theAdmiralty-Sudomekh yard began construction in1985. The lengthy interval was caused by having toovercome the opposition to the project by some sci-entists at the Krylov Research Institute who consid-ered that all data required from the project could beobtained from laboratories. The diesel-electric Bel-uga was completed at Leningrad in February 1987and transferred through inland waterways to theBlack Sea for trials.


    The enigmatic Project 1840/Lima, a research submarine. Forward she has two large

    hyperbaric chambers within her pressure hull; divers can easily transit from the

    chambers to the open sea. (Malachite SPMBM)

    Project 1840/Lima AGSS showing the two forward, inter-connected hyperbaric chambers. LOA 278 ft 10 in (85.0 m)

    (A.D. Baker, III)

  • The Belugas hull form is a body-of-revolutionwith a length-to-beam ratio of 7:1, similar to thatof the USS Albacore. The hullwith a low-profilefaired-in sailreveals a very high degree ofstreamlining. A large sonar is provided in the bowsection with fully retractable bow planes. The sub-marine has a system for delivering a polymer solu-tion to the boundary layer flow over the hull,appendages, and propeller. The propeller andshaft are configured to permit changing the axialdistance between the propeller and hull, providingresearchers with the opportunity to investigate theeffects of polymer on the thrust deduction factor.There is extensive interior space for researchequipment.

    After arriving at Balaklava on the Black Sea, insea trials the Beluga demonstrated the perform-ance promised by her designers and the Tunetstests. However, the Belugas operations were cur-tailed because of the political conflict between thenew Russian regime and newly independentUkraine. Also halting research was the shortage offunds within the Russian Navy. During her rela-tively short period of trials, the Beluga did provideimportant insights into submarine hydrodynamicsas well as scaling data to improve the accuracy ofpredictions based on model tank testing. Amongthe Belugas notable achievements were a betterunderstanding of submarine hull shaping and theeffectiveness of polymers on both hull drag andpropulsion efficiency.

    Several Soviet diesel-electric as well as nuclear sub-marines were converted to specialized roles in thisperiod, among them:

    Type Project NATO Role

    SS 613RV Whiskey ASW missile trials

    SS 617 Whiskey ballistic missile trials

    SS 633V Romeo ASW missile-torpedo

    (2 units)

    SSBN 658 Hotel sensor trials

    SSBN 667A Yankee sonar trials (Proj. 09780)

    SSGN 675 Echo II support deep-sea


    SSBN 667A Yankee support deep-sea

    operations (Proj. 09774)26

    SSBN 667BDR Delta III support deep-sea


    Additional submarines of Projects 611/Zulu and613/Whiskey classes were refitted for variousresearch projects. (See Chapter 2.)

    In the early 1990s the Rubin bureau proposedthe conversion of a Project 667BDR/Delta III to anunderwater Arctic research platform, capable ofcarrying one or two submersibles. That proposalwas not pursued.

    The United States PerspectiveThe United States became the first nuclear powerto cease the construction of diesel-electric submarines because of (1) the promisedand fulfilledefficacy of nuclear submarines, (2) thelong distances to the U.S. Navys forward operat-ing areas, and (3) the already high level of defensefunding for much of the Cold War, especially fordeterrence (e.g., Polaris, Poseidon, and Tridentprograms). Because the opposition by the U.S.submarine community to non-nuclear sub-marines was distinctive, an examination of thisissue in the context of Cold War submarinerequirements and developments is warranted.

    As the U.S. conventional submarine forcebegan to decline precipitously in the 1970s, sever-al voices were heard advocating that the Navy pro-cure new diesel-electric submarines. Foremostamong the early advocates were retired Captain K.G. Schacht and Commander Arthur (Art) VanSaun, the latter a former commanding officer ofthe USS Barbel. Both men argued for a small num-ber of non-nuclear submarines to supplement the


    Stern aspect of the Beluga, showing her body-of-revolution

    cross section. The doors atop the sail are visible. Her role

    was similar to that of the USS Albacore, completed almost

    35 years earlier. (Leo Van Ginderen collection)

  • Navys growing and costly nuclear submarinefleet.28

    The ranks of non-nuclear submarine advocatessoon were joined by members of Congress, especiallyRepresentative William Whitehurst and Senator GaryHart, as well as by several non-submarine flag officers,among them Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, former Chiefof Naval Operations (1970 to 1974), and Vice AdmiralJohn T. Hayward, a pioneer in the development ofnuclear propulsion and nuclear weapons, who was theNavys first Assistant CNO and then Deputy CNO forresearch and development (1957 to 1962).

    The diesel-submarine issue was intensified by theFalklands War of 1982. The British nuclear subma-rine Conqueror sank an Argentine cruiser, forcing theArgentine Navy to return to its bases, except for sub-marines. Meanwhile, the inability of British nuclearsubmarines to effectively support commando oper-ations forced the dispatch of the diesel-electric sub-marine Onyx from Britain to the South Atlantic, adistance of some 7,000 n.miles (12,970 km).29

    During the war the Argentine submarine SanLuis, a German-built Type 209, undertook a 36-daypatrol, during which she located and operated in


    Project 1710/Beluga AGSS. LOA 209 ft 11 in (64.0 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

    Project 1710/Beluga was a hydrodynamics test platform. All of her masts and periscopes retracted into the sail, with doors

    covering the openings to reduce drag. The Beluga also carried out polymer ejection tests during her abbreviated sea trials.

    (Malachite SPMBM)

    TABLE 13-2U.S Submarine Force Levels, 19451980

    Ship Type 1945 1950 1953* 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980


    SS-SSK-SSR 237 73 122 121 131 83 59 11 6

    SSG 1 2 4

    AGSS auxiliary 7 18 20 15 26 2 1


    SSN-SSRN 1 7 22 48 64 73

    SSGN 1

    SSBN 2 29 41 41 40

    Total 237 73 130 142 165 149 174 118 120

    Notes: * End of Korean War (June 1953).

  • the area of the British carrier force. Although theSan Luis reported firing several torpedoes at Britishships, she scored no hits because of faulty wiring ofher fire control system (which had been overhauledduring a recent yard period). British ASW forcesprosecuted numerous suspected submarine con-tacts, expending a large number of weapons, butwithout success.30

    U.S. Secretary of the Navy John Lehmanobserved,

    The ability of a modern diesel-electric sub-marine to engage a naval task force that isessentially stationary while operating in aspecific area is not surprising. Thesesubmarines are extremely quiet when oper-ated at low speeds and for this reason sub-stantial helicopter, subsurface, and surfaceanti-submarine warfare defense is requiredwhenever a naval task force is constrained toa limited area.31

    After the war, Admiral Sandy Woodward, whohad commanded the British forces in the Falklandscampaign, said that the U.S. Navy probably shouldhave a half dozen diesel submarines for high-risksubmarine operationsinshore surveillance; oper-ating in shallow, mined waters; landing agents; andother activities when one should risk a smaller,cheaper diesel submarine rather than a nuclear sub-marine. He also pointed out that a modern dieselcosts one-third to one-fifth as much as an SSN.32

    In the 1980s the Israeli Navy approached theU.S. government for funds and support for the con-struction of three modern diesel submarines toreplace a trio of older boats. Almost simultaneous-ly, U.S. shipyards were being approached by SouthKorean representatives who wished to build per-haps two submarines in the United States, to be fol-lowed by additional construction in Korea. SeveralU.S. yards that were not engaged in nuclear subma-rine construction expressed interest, and a tentativeagreement was reached with the Todd Pacific Ship-yards whereby Israel and South Korea would con-struct submarines of the same design, which hadbeen developed for Israel by the Dutch firm RDM.The Australian Navy also expressed some interest inbuying into the arrangement.33

    Such a construction program, it was estimated,could have led to a production run of two or threesubmarines a year while providing employment forup to 7,000 shipyard workers and supporting-industry workers in the United States.34 This was acritical factor in view of the numerous Americanshipyard closings during the 1970s and 1980s. Fur-ther, building those submarines could have actual-ly facilitated importing technical data into the Unit-ed States. This would have provided U.S. navalofficers and members of Congress with an up-to-date view of this field while providing a basis forfuture understanding of the non-nuclear subma-rine threat to the U.S. Navy. The submarine com-munity immediately opposed the program, citingnuclear submarine technology loss to other coun-tries if diesel submarines were built at any U.S.shipyards. The vehemence of those objections ledRepresentative William Whitehurst to write to Sec-retary of Defense Caspar Weinberger:

    I know that the Navy has been adamant intheir opposition to a diesel submarine pro-gram of their own, but their going to thislength [halting foreign construction in U.S.yards] absolutely confounds me. There is nopossibility of the transfer of technology, sowhat on earth is their objection? The oppor-tunity to create additional jobs for Ameri-can workers and keep these shipbuildingcompanies viable ought to outweigh anysuspicion the Navy might have that this rep-resents the nose of the camel under the tentin forcing diesel submarines on them.35

    The submarine communitys objections pre-vailed. The Israeli submarines were built in Ger-many, the South Korean submarines were built to aGerman design in Germany and South Korea, andthe Australian submarines were built in that coun-try to a Swedish design.

    The adamant objection to diesel submarinesbeing built for the U.S. Navy or allied navies originat-ed with Admiral H. G. Rickover, who had longclaimed that the Navy had opposed nuclear sub-marines, preferring instead diesel submarines, whichwere less-capable (and less-costly) than nukes.Although Admiral Rickover was forced out of the


  • Navy in January 1982, from mid-1982 until 1994, theU.S. Navy had a succession of nuclear submariners asChief of Naval Operations, all Rickover protegs. Fur-ther, after Rickovers departure the head of navalnuclear propulsion continued to be a full admiral,appointed for an eight-year term (the CNO normal-ly serves for only four years). With these and othernuclear submarine flag officers in key Navy positionsin Washington, advocates of non-nuclear submarineswere actively opposed by the senior submarine admi-rals, who were known as the submarine mafia.36

    But interest in non-nuclear submarines in theUnited States continued. In 1990 former Secretary ofthe Navy Paul H. Nitze and Admiral Zumwalt pro-posed acquisition of a small number of such craft tocompensate for the expected decline in the number ofnuclear submarines. The non-nuclear submarineswould be employed for a variety of missions, bothcombat and support.37 Increasingly, the principal roleenvisioned for non-nuclear submarines was anti-submarine training. With an all-nuclear U.S. subma-rine force, even the smallest attack submarines inservice after the year 2001the Los Angeles (SSN 688)classcould not effectively simulate diesel-electric submarine targets for ASW forces. The SSNs are toolarge, have very different signatures than the typicalsubmarines operated by Third World navies, and areoperated quite unlike the submarines the U.S. Navywould be countering. As one submarine officer wrote,Substituting the artificially handicapped SSN forsimulated enemy [diesel submarines] in any exerciseborders upon the ridiculous.38

    The postCold War cutback in U.S. SSNs madethis situation critical, with few submarines beingavailable for training air and surface ASW forces.This problem has been demonstrated periodicallyin several exercises with foreign navies. U.S. ASWforces have encountered unexpected difficulties inoperations against some South American sub-marines during recent UNITAS operations, andIsraeli submarines are said to always sink thehigh-value ships in exercises against the U.S. SixthFleet in the Mediterranean. The situation is furtherexacerbated in the relatively shallow waters of lit-toral regions, the expected primary battlegroundof future U.S. naval operations.

    One officer in a Los Angeles-class submarinewrote,

    To overcome our lack of experience andperspective, we need a new solution. Wemust create an aggressor unit, the mission ofwhich would be to portray, as accurately aspossible, the capabilities of those diesel sub-marine forces about which we are most con-cerned. This aggressor unit must operate onone of those submarines of concern, prefer-ably a [Soviet] Kilo or [German] Type 209.Its time for the U.S. Navy to build or buyone or more of these submarines.39

    Another supporter of this concept, wrote,

    Buying a pair of diesel submarines wouldgive us practice not only against Kilo-classsubmarines, but would help to return us toproficiency against all diesels. This is not tosay that we arent proficient, just that thelack of a real-diesel platform to continuallytrain with has been a clear deficiency for allunits that search for subs.40

    The term diesel includes the Air-IndependentPropulsion (AIP) submarines, which began enteringservice at the end of the century. These non-nuclearsubmarines, with several in operation and moreunder construction, have the ability to cruise at slowspeeds for up to 30 days without snorkeling at verylow noise levels. Vice Admiral John J. Grossenbacher,Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet,called the Swedish submarines and the German Type212 submarines also fitted with AIP A challenge toour undersea dominance.41

    Beyond ASW training, another role appearshighly suitable for non-nuclear submarines: specialoperations, landing and recovering SEAL teams andother personnel, and intelligence collection andsurveillance operations in hostile areas. Today theU.S. Navy uses submarines of the Los Angeles classfor this purpose. The U.S. Navy in 2002 was begin-ning the conversion of four Trident missile sub-marines, with a submerged displacement of 18,750tons, to a combination cruise missile and specialoperations/transport role.42 While these sub-marines would have great value in some scenarios,in most situations postulated for the future, a sub-marine will be required to deliver or remove a small


  • number of people, perhaps a dozen or less, in a rel-atively shallow, restricted area. Should a large,nuclear-propelled submarine, with a crew of 130 ormore be employed for such missions when a small,diesel-electric/AIP submarine with a crew of 30 to55 could carry out many of those special missions?

    The usual objection to employing non-nuclearsubmarines for this or any other combat mission istheir limited transit speed. But a look at U.S. specialoperation submarines before the mid-1980s, whendiesel-electric submarines were employed exclu-sively for this role, shows that they performedadmirably. As noted, in the Falklands War of 1982the Royal Navy had to dispatch a diesel-electricsubmarine, HMS Onyx, to the war zone for specialoperations because such craft were more suitable inthat role than were nuclear submarines. Similarly,the Onyx and another British diesel-electric sub-marine, the Otus, carried out special operations inthe Persian Gulf during the 1991 conflict, thoseoperations being carried out thousands of milesfrom the nearest naval base.

    By the early 1980s the U.S. submarine commu-nitys opposition to non-nuclear submarines hadcentered on three issues: (1) the perception that theNavys leadership had long opposed nuclear sub-marines, preferring instead lower-cost diesel-electric craft; (2) the concern that nuclear subma-rine technology would be transferred to countriespurchasing U.S.-produced diesel submarines; and(3) the fear that monies spent for non-nuclear sub-marines would take away funding from nuclearsubmarines. However, after more than two decades,these objections are no longer as convincing toobjective consideration.

    The first issue no longer has credibility, as from1982 onward the Navys leadership has includednuclear submariners in the most senior positions.With respect to the second issue, non-nuclear sub-marines now built in the United States would bebased on foreign design as would their key compo-nents; U.S. sonars, pumps, quieting techniques, andother sensitive nuclear submarine components arenot applicable to power-limited, non-nuclear sub-marines. Further, during the past two decades, sever-al non-nuclear shipyards expressed interest in con-structing such submarines, especially the Litton/Ingalls and Todd Pacific shipyards.

    Only the third issuefiscalhas any merit. Onseveral occasions senior members of Congress haveexpressed interest in funding non-nuclear sub-marines for the U.S. Navy outside of the existing sub-marine budget.43 However, the probable cost of anadvanced non-nuclear/AIP submarine is about one-sixth the cost of a modern U.S. nuclear attack sub-marine. Coupled with the lower manning costs, andthe availability of overseas bases for the foreseeablefuture, the nonnuclear submarine becomes especial-ly attractive, especially in view of the continually stat-ed shortfalls of nuclear submarines.44 Non-nuclearsubmarines will be increasingly attractive as subma-rine requirements outstrip nuclear submarine avail-ability, and nuclear submarine construction andmanning costs continue to increase.

    Forever . . .As then-Captain Brooks had observed, the Sovietsconsistently showed a major commitment to diesel-electric submarines to complement their growingfleet of nuclear-propelled submarines. In 1975, workbegan on the new generation submarine, Project877 (NATO Kilo).45 Designed at the Rubin bureauunder chief designer Yuri N. Kormilitsin, the single-shaft ship has electric drive. The diesel engines (gen-erators) are not connected to the propeller shaft, butserve to charge the batteries for the electric motorsthat drive the single propeller shaft. (In 1990 theBlack Seabased Kilo B-871 began conversion to apump-jet propulsor of 5,500 horsepower; however,progress was slow, and the submarine did not returnto sea until 2000 because of the lack of batteries.46 Atthe time she was the only fully operational Russiansubmarine in the Black Sea Fleet.)

    The Kilo has six bow torpedo tubes and anadvanced sonar installation. Two of the tubes arefitted for launching wire-guided torpedoes. Theautomated reloading system provides for rapid tor-pedo firing: The first salvo of six can be launchedwithin two minutes and the second salvo five min-utes later. The submarine can carry up to 24 tube-launched mines in place of torpedoes.47

    Like previous Russian combat submarines, theKilo retains the double-hull configuration and hasbow-mounted diving planes. The 32 percent reservebuoyancy provides surface survivability, the abilityto remain afloat with at least one of the submarines


  • six compartments and adjacentballast tanks flooded.

    Construction began at threeshipyardsKomsomolsk in theFar East, Sudomekh/Admiralty inLeningrad, and the inland Kras-noye Sormovo yard at Gorkiygiving promise of a large buildingprogram. The lead ship, the B-248, was built at Komsomolskand entered Soviet service on 12September 1980. Through 1991and the breakup of the SovietUnion13 submarines had beenbuilt at Komsomolsk and 9 atGorkiy. Beginning with the 14thship, these submarines wereincreased in length to accommo-date improved machinery. (Twomore Kilos were completed forthe Russian Navy in 19921993.)

    The Project 877MK variant ofthe Kilo was a quieter submarine,and Project 636 was a greatlyimproved variant, initially intend-ed only for Soviet service, butmade available for export from1993. The Project 636/Kilo has more powerful elec-tric motors, increasing the underwater speed to 19knots, while more effective machinery permits slow-er propeller rotation, significantly lowering noiselevels. Also, Project 636 was fitted with the MGK-400EM digital sonar, which provided improved pas-sive detection of submarine targets.

    From the outset it was envisioned that Kilo vari-ants would be supplied to Warsaw Pact and othernavies, accounting for the non-standard projectnumber and the Russian nickname Varshavyanka(woman from Warsaw). The Krasnoye Sormovoand Sudomekh/Admiralty yards worked together toconstruct ships for foreign use, most designated


    The Projects 636 and 877/Kilo were the last conventional submarine to be series produced in the USSR. A relatively sim-

    ple design, the Kilo has been popular with foreign navies and licensed production may be undertaken in China. (Japanese

    Maritime Self-Defense Force)

    The Kilo has an advanced hull form, but falls far short of most performance

    characteristics of the U.S. Barbel design, which went to sea two decades earlier.

    Except for SSBNs and a few specialized submarines, Soviet designers have avoid-

    ed sail-mounted diving planes.

  • 877EKM. Since 1985 the yards have completed 21submarines specifically for transfer: Algeria (2),China (4), India (10), Iran (3) Poland (1), andRomania (1). Some U.S. reports cited a large num-ber of units being sought by China.48 However,Chinas economic situation, coupled with its sub-marine construction capability, makes indigenousproductionwith Russian assistancemore likely.With some modifications, the foreign units are des-ignated 877E and, with features for tropical opera-tion, 877EKM.

    In all, two dozen Kilos were produced for Rus-sia, the final Kilo for Russian service being launchedat Komsomolsk on 6 October 1993. With another21 built for foreign customers, the total productionof Projects 636/877 was 45 submarines.

    While the Russian submarines can launch bothanti-ship and anti-submarine missiles, the foreignvariants are armed only with torpedoes, except forthe Indian units. Five or six of the Indian Kilos arefitted to fire the 3M-53E Klub-S anti-ship missile,which India also hoped to modify for land attack.

    While Russian and many foreign sources arehighly complimentary of the Kilo, a British subma-rine officer who had an opportunity to visit one wasnot as sanguine. Commander Jonathan Powess hadjust relinquished command of an Upholder-classSSK, Britains last diesel-electric submarine design:

    The two classes had almost identical layouts.Talking to crew members, it was plain thatthe Russian boat had similar endurance andperformance, but its noise isolation andshock resistance [were] suspect. Also, thelarger crew12 officers, 12 warrant officers,and 33 conscriptswas crammed in withlittle regard for comfort or ability to restwhile off watch. The most obviousshortcoming of the Russian boat was thecrude control-room equipment. It reliedupon manual operation of all systems, usingthe remote controls as a backup.Interestingly, the Russian officers dismissedthe Upholder class as being too delicate andlikely to fail because of over-reliance onautomated systems.49

    Still, there may be some mitigation of the viewsof Commander Powess as the Project 877/Kilo wasinitially designed for Warsaw Pact navies to operate.

    Kormilitsin subsequently designed a follow-on sub-marine, intended primarily for foreign transfer, tocompete with the low-end diesel-electric sub-marines being marketed by several other nations.This was Project 677, given the Russian name Lada,with the export submarines designated as the


    Amur 1650/Project 677E SS. LOA 219 ft 10 in (67.0 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

    Project 877/Kilo SS. LOA 238 ft 112 in (72.6 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • Amur series. Six variants were proposed, with thesuffix number indicating the surface displacement;most Rubin marketing documents have emphasizedthree variants. The sixth and largest variant1,950tonswas intended as the follow-on to Project636/Kilo in Russian service. (See table 13-3.)

    Special emphasis in Project 677 was placed onquieting and versatility of weapons payload; like theKilo, the larger Amur-type submarines would beable to launch anti-ship cruise missiles from torpe-do tubes. Features include placing the forward div-ing planes on the sail (fairwater), the first Sovietsubmarines other than SSBNs to have this configu-ration. In addition, the Amur design provides foran optional AIP module to be inserted in the sub-marines to provide submerged endurance (withoutsnorkeling) of 15 to 20 days.50 The Kristal-27E fuel

    cell installation is some 33 to 39 feet (1012 m) inlength and employs hydrogen and oxygen. The sin-gle Russian unit that was under construction whenthis book went to press was being provided withfuel cells.

    Construction of the first two submarines of thenew design was begun at the Admiralty yard in St.Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) late in 1996 withthe formal keel laying for both units on 26 December1997Project 677E for export and the larger Project677 for the Russian Navy (named Sankt Petersburg/B-100). However, the anticipated purchase of theformer submarine by India was not realized.Kormilitsin said that the two submarines werevirtually identical, except that the export modelwould lack classified electronic and communica-tions systems and would be modified for specific


    TABLE 13-3Amur Series Conventional Submarines

    Soviet Soviet Soviet SovietAmur 550 Amur 950 Amur 1650 Amur 1950

    Project 677E Project 677

    Operational (2003)


    surface 550 tons 950 tons 1,765 tons 1,950 tons

    submerged 700 tons 1,300 tons 2,300 tons 2,700 tons

    Length 150 ft 11 in 196 ft 9 in 219 ft 10 in 236 ft 2 in

    (46.0 m) (60.0 m) (67.0 m) (72.0 m)

    Beam 14 ft 5 in 18 ft 4 in 23 ft 3 in 23 ft 6 in

    (4.4 m) (5.6 m) (7.1 m) (7.2 m)

    Draft 14 ft 5 in

    (4.4 m)

    Diesel engines* 2 2 2 2


    Electric motors 1 1 1 1

    horsepower 2,700 2,700

    Shafts 1 1 1 1


    surface 10 knots 11 knots

    submerged 18 knots 18 knots 21 knots 22 knots

    Range (n.miles/kt)

    snorkel 1,500/ 4,000/ 6,000/ 6,000/

    submerged 250/3 350/3 650/3 500/3**

    Test depth 655 ft 820 ft 820 ft 820 ft

    (200 m) (250 m) (250 m) (250 m)

    Torpedo tubes*** 4 400-mm B 4 533-mm B 6 533-mm B 6 533-mm B

    Torpedoes 8 12 18 16

    Complement 18 21 34 41

    Notes: * Diesel generators.** On battery; 15 to 20 days at 3 knots on AIP (fuel cells).

    *** Bow torpedo tubes.

  • climatic conditions.51 Series production of thesesubmarines for the Russian Navy is doubtful becauseof the critical financial situation in Russia.52

    The U.S. Navys decision in 1956 to cease the construction of conventional submarines as thefirst nuclear-propelled undersea craft was goingto sea reflects the great confidence that the Navysleadershipespecially Admiral Arleigh Burkehad in nuclear technology. That decision, and sub-sequent efforts by senior Navy officers and civiliansto build nuclear-propelled submarines, belies thesubsequent myths that the Navys leadershipopposed nuclear submarine construction.

    The other nations developing nuclear-propelled submarines initially continued theconstruction of diesel-electric submarines, espe-cially the Soviet Union. While diesel submarineconstruction of the post-Stalin period did notapproach the numbers of the immediate postwarprograms, considered with the concurrentnuclear submarine programs, the Soviet conven-tional programs were also impressive, farexceeding the combined efforts of the Westernnavies.

    Beyond providing large numbers of underseacraft for the Soviet Navy to complement nuclear-propelled submarines and for special purposes,this diesel-electric effort enabled a continuousflow of relatively modern submarines to Sovietallies and to Third World clients. This, in turn,

    provided additional orders for Soviet shipyardsand contributed to Soviet influence on foreignmilitary forces.

    Soviet construction of diesel-electric sub-marines continued up to the end of the Cold War.New designs were under way when the SovietUnion fell, most significantly the Amur/Ladaseries, a family of undersea craft for both Rus-sian use and export. Like many other postColdWar military projects, however, the realization ofthis program is questionable.


    The sail of a Project 641/Foxtrot submarine operating in

    the Mediterranean in 1976. Her Quad Loop direction-

    finding antenna, Snoop Tray radar, and a radio aerial are

    raised from the fairwater, while the massive UHF antenna

    is raised against the after end of the sail. Several navies

    continue to operate Foxtrots. (James Bishop/U.S. Navy)

  • DIE









    TABLE 13-4Second and Third Generation Conventional Submarines

    Soviet Soviet Soviet Soviet Soviet Soviet Soviet U.S.Project 633 Project 641 Project 641B Project 877 Project 636 Project 1710 Project 1840 DolphinNATO Romeo NATO Foxtrot NATO Tango NATO Kilo NATO Kilo NATO Beluga NATO Lima AGSS 555

    Operational 1959 1958 1973 1980 1989 1987 1979 1969


    surface 1,330 tons 1,957 tons 2,640 tons 2,300 tons 2,350 tons 1,407 tons 1,870 tons 861 tons

    submerged 1,730 tons 2,475 tons 3,560 tons 3,036 tons 3,126 tons 2,500 tons ~2,900 tons 950 tons

    Length 251 ft 3 in 299 ft 6 in 295 ft 10 in 238 ft 112 in 242 ft 1 in 209 ft 11 in 278 ft 10 in 165 ft

    (76.6 m) (91.3 m) (90.2 m) (72.6 m) (73.8 m) (64.0 m) (85.0 m) (50.29 m)

    Beam 21 ft 4 in 24 ft 7 in 28 ft 3 in 32 ft 6 in 32 ft 6 in 29 ft 6 in 42 ft 8 in 19 ft 5 in

    (6.5 m) (7.5 m) (8.6 m) (9.9 m) (9.9 m) (9.0 m) (13.0 m) (5.92 m)

    Draft 15 ft 1 in 16 ft 9 in 18 ft 8 in 20 ft 4 in 20 ft 4 in 19 ft 22 ft 4 in 16 ft

    (4.6 m) (5.1 m) (5.7 m) (6.2 m) (6.2 m) (5.8 m) (6.81 m) (4.9 m)

    Diesel engines 2 3 3 2* 2* 1 1 2

    horsepower 2,000 6,000** 5,570

    Electric motors 2 1 3 1 1 1 1

    horsepower 2,700 8,100 8,100 5,500 5,500 5,500 1,650

    Shafts 2 3 3 1 1 1 1 1


    surface 15.5 knots 16.8 knots 13 knots 10 knots 11 knots 11 knots 7.5 knots

    submerged 13 knots 16 knots 15 knots 17 knots 19 knots 26 knots 8 knots 15 knots

    Range (n.miles/kt)

    snorkel 9,000/9 17,900/8 14,000/7 6,000/7 7,500/7

    submerged 350/2 400/2 450/2.5 400/3 400/3 245 n.miles

    Test depth 985 ft 920 ft 985 ft 820 ft 985 ft 985 ft 1,230 ft 3,000 ft

    (300 m) (280 m) (300 m) (250 m) (300 m) (300 m) (375 m) (915 m)

    Torpedo tubes*** 6 533-mm B 6 533-mm B 6 533-mm B 6 533-mm B 6 533-mm B none none removed

    2 533-mm S 4 533-mm S 4 533-mm S

    Torpedoes 14 22 24 18 18 none none

    Complement 52 70 78 52 52 22 41 + 6# 27

    Notes: * The submarine has two 1,000-kW diesel generators (1,500-kW in Project 636). Also fitted are a 190-hp motor for creeping operations and two 102-hp emergency propulsion units.** 5,475 horsepower in early units.

    *** Bow + Stern.# Divers in long-term decompression.

  • This page intentionally left blank

  • From the beginning of modern submarinedevelopment at the start of the 20th Century,submarine size increased continuously to

    accommodate more torpedoes and larger propulsionplants. However, the design andon occasiontheconstruction of significantly larger submarines inany period came about because of the quest forundersea craft to carry:

    large-caliber guns cargo troops crude oil aircraft missiles

    During the Cold War both Russian and Ameri-can submarine designers sought large submarinesfor a number of reasons; although few of their pro-posals and designs were realized, to some degreethey did provide the basis for the large Soviet andU.S. missile submarines that emerged as the largestundersea craft to be constructed.

    The origins of many Cold Warera submarineprojects can be traced to World War I. The largestsubmarines constructed by any nation in that peri-od era were the British K-class submarines, intend-ed to operate as scouts with the battle fleet. Thesesubmarines, led by the K1 completed in 1917, werelarge mainly because of the steam turbines andboilers required to drive them at 24 knots on the


    Unbuilt Giants

    The U.S. Navy looked at several large and innovative submarine designs during the Cold War, but none was pursued except

    for the Triton (SSRN 586) and ballistic missile submarines. This painting, produced for Mechanix Illustrated magazine,

    shows a large transport submarine using amphibious flying platforms to land more than 2,000 marines on a hostile

    beach. (U.S. Navy)


  • surface. When diving, the boilers were shut downand the trapped steam continued to turn the tur-bines as the ship submerged; electric motors wereused for underwater propulsion. The engineeringspaces reached temperatures in excess of 100F(38C) as they submerged.

    Those submarines displaced 1,800 tons on thesurface and were 338 feet (103.1 m) in length. Theywere armed with four bow and four beam-mounted18-inch (457-mm) torpedo tubes, two 4-inch (102-mm) deck guns, and one 3-inch (76-mm) anti-aircraft gun. Seventeen of these ships were built.They suffered critical engineering problems, andfive were operational losses.1 An improvedandlargerseries of K-class submarines was planned,but only one was completed, the K26, in 1923. (Seetable 14-1.) The problems with the steam plants ofthe K-boats led to abandoning that type of subma-rine propulsion until development of nuclear-propelled submarines a quarter century later.

    At the start of World War I, submarines were fit-ted with small-caliber guns for attacking merchantships and coastal craft. Deck guns were adequate forsinking the small, unarmed merchant vessels of thetime. Further, the cost of a dozen rounds of small-caliber ammunition was far less than that of a sin-gle torpedo. And a submarine of that period couldcarry several hundred rounds of ammunition com-pared to perhaps a dozen torpedoes.

    The largest guns ever mounted in submarines,however, were for land attack. The Royal Navysthree submarine monitors of the M class, led bythe M1 completed in 1918, were each armed with a

    12-inch (305-mm) gun. Displacing 1,600 tons onthe surface and 296 feet (90.24 m) long, these sub-marines were slightly smaller than the K class andhad conventional diesel-electric propulsion.

    The M-class submarines were developed specif-ically to bombard targets along the German-heldcoast of Belgium. The 12-inch weapon had suffi-cient elevation for the muzzle to break the surfacewhile the submarine was submerged. There was aforesight on the muzzle and the periscope acted asa rear sight such that the gun could be fired whilethe submarine remained submerged. However, thecraft had to surface to reload the gun, which couldbe accomplished in less than a minute. Still, surfac-ing and submerging took time. The 12-inch gunproved highly reliable and could be fired after hav-ing been loaded for a week, with the submarineperiodically submerging. It fired an 850-pound(385.5-kg) shell.2 Beyond their 12-inch Mk XIguns, taken from discarded battleships, the M1 andM2 had four 18-inch bow torpedo tubes; the M3had four 21-inch (533-mm) tubes.

    The M1, the only one of the trio to see servicebefore the war ended, was sent to the Mediter-ranean but had no contact with the enemy. Afterthe war the 12-inch gun was removed from the M2,and she was converted in 19251927 with a hangarand catapult installed forward of her conningtower.3 Thus rebuilt she carried a small, ParnallPeto floatplane.4 The M3 also had her big gunremoved and was refitted to carry 100 mines. (Afourth M-class submarine was never finished andthe hull was scrapped.)


    The K26 was the last of the steam-propelled submarines built by the Royal Navy to operate with surface forces. Most of the

    K-boats were built during World War I; they were unsuccessful and were more dangerous to their own crews than to the

    Germans. Because of their numerous accidents, the crews of these submarines quipped that the K stood for coffin. (Impe-

    rial War Museum)

  • The largest guns mounted in submarines builtin the 1920s and 1930s were 6-inch (152-mm)weapons, except for the French Surcouf. She wasproceeded by another submarine cruiser, theBritish experimental X1, completed in 1925. Thisconcept evolved from the German submarinecruisers of World War I, being intended (like theSurcouf) for long-range operations against mer-chant convoys that had light warships as escorts.The X1 carried four 5.2-inch (132-mm) guns intwo cupola-type gun shields. The heavy gun arma-ment and large fuel bunkers made the X1 signifi-cantly larger than the previous K or M classes.5 Shealso had six 21-inch torpedo tubes. But the subma-rine was not considered successful, sufferedmachinery problems, and was scrapped in 1931after very brief service. The X1 had the dubiousdistinction of being the only RN warship laiddown after World War I to be broken up before thestart of World War II.

    More impressive was the French submarinecruiser Surcouf, completed in 1934, the worldslargest undersea craft of the time. She carried twin8-inch (203-mm) guns in a turret forward of theconning tower; a hangar aft could accommodate aBesson MB411 floatplane. Her torpedo armament

    consisted of eight 21.7-inch (550-mm) tubes andfour 15.75-inch (400-mm) tubes.6

    Again, this was a large submarine, displacing3,304 tons on the surface with a length of 36056 feet(110.0 m). Her large fuel bunkers provided a longcruising range for hunting ocean convoys10,000n.miles (18,530 km) at ten knots on the surface.

    Underwater Cargo ShipsThe development of cargo submarines began onthe eve of World War I, when Germany produced aseries of cargo-carrying undersea craft led by theDeutschland.7 The origins of these submarines mayhave been a dinner in Berlin in 1909 at whichAmerican submarine designer Simon Lake had satnext to Alfred Lohmann, a director of the NorthGerman Lloyd shipping line. During a conversationof several hours Lake tried to convince Lohmann ofthe potential of cargo submarines.8

    Soon after war began in Europe in August 1914,Lohmann proposed a class of specialized cargo-carrying submarines to penetrate the British block-ade of Germany and bring home needed strategicmetals and rubber. Rudolf Erback, a Krupp engineer,was named to design the cargo craft, based on theminelaying submarine U-71. The cargo submarine


    The largest guns ever mounted in an undersea craft12-inch gunswere fitted in the three M-class submarines. The M1

    was the only one to see service in World War I, but she never fired her gun in anger. The gun could be fired while submerged,

    but the submarines had to surface to reload. (Imperial War Museum)

  • project was given the code designation U-200with two boats being initially ordered.

    Launched at Flensburg on 28 March 1916 and fitted out at Kiel, Project U-200namedDeutschlandwas the largest submarine yet built inGermany. She had a conventional design except forthe enlarged space between her inner and outerhulls, as much as five feet (1.55m) amidships. This space couldbe used to carry wet cargo inaddition to the cargo stowedwithin her pressure hull. She hada 780-ton cargo capacity with asurface displacement of 1,440tons. Of this cargo, some 250 tonsof crude rubber were to be car-ried in floodable compartmentsexternal to the pressure hull. Shewas unarmed, being fitted withneither torpedo tubes nor deckguns. The Deutschland was cred-ited with a surface range of14,000 n.miles (25,940 km) at9.5 knots and an underwaterendurance of two hours at a max-imum speed of 7.5 knots.

    Her commanding officerwas Kapitaenleutnant Paul L.Knig, a veteran merchant

    marine officer. He entered the Navy when the warbegan and was in action against the Russians. Heand the two other officersone Navy and onemerchant servicewere hurriedly given subma-rine training; the 30 sailors assigned to the sub-marine, however, were qualified submariners inthe Imperial Germany Navy. The entire crew was


    The worlds first commercial cargo submarine was the German Deutschland, shown here returning to Bremen after her

    first of two successful voyages to the United States. She has the American flag at her foremast. Her two radio masts hinged

    down into recesses in the deck. (U.S. Navy)

    The Deutschland at New London, Connecticut, on her second trans-Atlantic

    cargo voyage. The ships broad beam and small conning tower are evident. In the

    foreground are her propeller guards, immediately aft of her retracted stern diving

    planes. (U.S. Navy)

  • discharged from the Navy to serve in theDeutschland as merchant seamen.

    After being placed in service in June 1916, theDeutschland made two voyages to the United States,on both occasions evading British warships blockad-ing Germany and specifically hunting for the cargosubmarine. In JuneJuly 1916 she traveled to Balti-more, Maryland, carrying a cargo of dyes and pre-cious stones. Simon Lake visited the Deutschlandwhile she was in Baltimore. He reached an agreementwith representatives of the North German Lloydshipping firm to build additional cargo submarinesin the United States. That project was stillborn.

    On her return voyage to Germany in August1916, the Deutschland carried 341 tons of nickel, 93tons of tin, and 348 tons of crude rubber (of which257 tons were carried external to the pressure hull).The cargo was valued at just over $17.5 million, aconsiderable sum for the time and several times thecost of the submarine. After safely returning to Bre-men, the Deutschland made a second, equally suc-cessful trip to the United States. She arrived in NewLondon, Connecticut, in December 1916 and, afterloading cargo, she quickly sailed back to Germany.

    The second submarine of this design, the Bre-men, departed the city of that name en route to theUnited States in September 1916 under the com-mand of Kapitaenleutnant Karl Schwartzkopf. Thesubmarine disappeared at sea with all hands. Anexamination of British war records indicate noaction against a U-boat that could have been theBremen. Paradoxically, the Bremen may have beencarrying financial credits for Simon Lake to beginbuilding cargo submarines for Germany.

    After the Bremens trials in the summer of 1916,the German government ordered six additionalcargo U-boats of the same design. These submarineswere launched from April to May 1917, after Ameri-can entry into the war. The German decision to wageunrestricted submarine warfare, an act that led toU.S. entry into the war in April 1917, ended the voy-ages of cargo submarines. The German Navyacquired the Deutschland and the six similar sub-marines that were being fitted out. The Deutschlandwas fitted with two 21-inch (533-mm) torpedo tubesexternal to her pressure hull and two 5.9-inch (150-mm) and two 3.47-inch (88-mm) deck guns. Desig-nated U-155, she proved a poor combat submarine,

    difficult to maneuver and taking a long time to dive.Still, she made three war patrols and was creditedwith sinking ten ships totaling 121,000 tons.9

    The six similar cargo submarinesdesignatedU-151 through U-154, U-156, and U-157werecompleted as U-boat cruisers with the sameweapons as the rearmed Deutschland/U-155. Five ofthe classincluding the U-155survived the war.During the war there were proposals to further con-vert them to tankers to refuel other U-boats, or touse them as command submarines to coordinateU-boat attacks, a precursor of wolf pack opera-tions of World War II.

    The Deutschlands two voyages to the UnitedStates had demonstrated the feasibility of atransocean merchant submarine. But her voyageswere events never to be repeated. After the UnitedStates entered the war in April 1917, Lake heldnegotiations with the U.S. Shipping Board andEmergency Fleet Corporation. According to Lake,his proposal to construct a fleet of 11,500-ton submarines, each to carry 7,500 tons of cargo, wasaccepted by the government.10 In the event, nonewas built. Lake continued to advocate cargo-carrying submarines until his death in June 1945.

    (The German Navy designed, but never built,large submarine cruisers during World War I. Thelargest of several designs was Project P for Panzer-kreuzer [armored cruiser]; the June 1916 character-istics called for a submarine with a surface displace-ment of 2,500 tons; a length of approximately 360feet [110 m]; a surface speed of 21 knots; and anarmament of four 105-mm deck guns and ten tor-pedo tubes of various sizes.11 An even larger sub-marine cruiserto have been propelled by foursteam turbineswould have had a surface dis-placement of some 3,800 tons, a length of 410 feet[125 m], a surface speed of 25 knots, and an arma-ment of three or four 150-mm guns plus six torpe-do tubes.12)

    World War II Cargo-TransportSubmarinesDuring World War II several naviesand onearmydeveloped cargo-carrying undersea craft.The U.S. Navy used submarines to carry ammuni-tion and supplies to the beleaguered garrison onCorregidor Island in Manila Bay as the Japanese


  • overran the Philippines early in 1942. Those sub-marines, running the Japanese naval blockade,brought out military nurses, communications spe-cialists, and gold bullion. These were fleet-type sub-marines, with most of their torpedoes removed.

    After this experience, President Franklin D.Roosevelt directed the Navy to develop cargo-carrying submarines. The three submarines of theBarracuda (SS 163) class, unsatisfactory as fleetboats, were converted to equally unsatisfactorycargo craft. They were never employed in the cargorole and saw secondary service in U.S. coastalwaters during the war.13

    American forces began their offensive in thePacific in August 1942 in the Solomons. SoonJapanese-held islands were being bypassed by U.S.forces, and the Japanese Navy began using sub-marines to carry cargo and to tow cargo canisters tosustain cut-off garrisons. Subsequently, the Japan-ese Navy and Army developed and built several spe-cialized cargo submarines, some of which sawextensive service.14

    Germany used submarines to carry cargo toNorway during the assault on that nation in 1940;seven U-boats made nine voyages carrying muni-tions, bombs, lubricating oil, and aircraft fuel aswell as spare parts for a damaged destroyer. BothGermany and Japan used submarines to carry high-priority cargoes between the two Axis nations, withGermany also employing Italian submarines in thatrole. Also, as Allied armies closed on the survivingGerman and Italian troops trapped in Tunisia inMay 1943, the German naval high command beganplanning to employ U-boats to carry gasoline fromItalian ports to North Africa.15

    During the war the German Navy developedseveral specialized cargo submarine designs. Thefirst of these were the so-called milch cowsspecialized craft to provide fuel, torpedoes, andother supplies to U-boats at sea to enable them tooperate at greater distances, especially off the U.S.Atlantic coast, in the Caribbean, and in the IndianOcean.16 The first milch cow was the U-459, a TypeXIV submarine built specifically for the U-boatsupply role. Completed in April 1942, she was rela-tively large, although she had no torpedo tubes; shedid mount anti-aircraft guns for self-protection.The U-459s cargo included almost 500 tons of fuel,

    sufficient to add an extra four weeks on station for12 Type VII submarines or eight more weeks at seafor five Type IX submarines. Four torpedoes werecarried outside of the pressure hull for transfer byrubber raft to other submarines.

    The U-459 carried out her first at-sea refuelingon 22 April 1942 some 500 n.miles (925 km) north-east of Bermuda. In all, she successfully refueled 14submarines before returning to her base in France.Subsequent refueling operations became highlyvulnerable to Allied attacks, because they concen-trated several U-boats in one location, and becausethe radio messages to set up their rendezvous oftenwere intercepted and decoded by the Allies. TenType XIV submarines were built, all of which weresunk by Allied air attacks.17 In addition, severalother large submarines were employed in the milchcow role.

    The first German U-boat designed specificallyfor cargo operations to and from the Far East wasthe Type XX. This U-boat was to have a surface dis-placement of 2,700 tons and was to carry 800 tonsof cargo, all but 50 tons external to the pressurehull. The first Type XX was to be delivered inAugust 1944, with an initial production at the rateof three per month. No fewer than 200 of these sub-marines were planned, but construction was aban-doned before the first delivery in favor of allocatingavailable resources to the Type XXI program.18

    In 1944, when it became evident that the TypeXX program was suffering major delays, the NavalStaff considered the construction of Type XXI vari-ants as supply and cargo submarines. No decisionwas made to pursue this project, although severaldesigns were considered. They are significantbecause of the role of Type XXI submarines in thedevelopment of early U.S. and Soviet submarines ofthe Cold War era.

    The Type XXID was to have been a milch cowand the Type XXIE a cargo submarine. The supplysubmarines were to carry out replenishment whileboth U-boats were submerged. The Type XXID1retained the Type XXI pressure hull and internalarrangement, but all but two torpedo tubes (and allreloads) were deleted, and the outer hull wasenlarged (as in the earlier Deutschland). Light anti-aircraft guns were to be fitted, and later designchanges included the addition of two bow torpedo


  • tubes as a counter to ASW ships. This project wasabandoned, however, in favor of the Type XXIV fuelsupply boat, because construction changes wouldput too much of a demand on an already-criticalsituation in the shipbuilding industry. In the TypeXXIV the outer hull configuration of the originalType XXI was retained with the exception of anenlarged upper deck. A large portion of the subma-rines battery was eliminated to provide space forcargo. Still, the design could not come even close tothe cargo capacity of the aborted Type XIV.

    The Type XXIE1, E2, and T variants also werecargo ships. Their internal arrangements were toremain unaltered except for the torpedo arma-ment; hence there was to be a major enlargementof the outer hull. There were variations in conningtowers, gun armament, and torpedo tubes. To useas many standard sections as possible, the TypeXXIT and (earlier) Type XXIV gained cargo spaceby reducing the size of the crew spaces, battery, andtorpedo compartment. These changes would haveprovided for carrying 275 tons of cargo on a returnvoyage from East Asia125 tons of rubber, 12 tonsof concentrated molybdum, 67 tons of zinc in bars,67 tons of concentrated wolfram, and 4 tons ofmiscellaneous cargo. None of these Type XXI vari-ants was constructed before the collapse of theNazi state.19

    Details of these U-boat programs and planswere acquired and studied by the American, British,and Soviet navies after the war, andcoupled withtheir own wartime experienceswould influencesubmarine developments.

    Early in World War II the Soviet Navy employedsubmarines to carry small numbers of people, usu-ally saboteurs and agents, and limited cargo. Thesituation changed when German forces began thesiege of the Crimean port of Sevastopol. WhenSoviet defenses collapsed in the Crimea in the fall of1941, about 110,000 troops, sailors, and marinesremained in Sevastopol. Soviet ships and sub-marines, running a gauntlet of bombs and shells,brought men, munitions, and supplies into the city.

    Heavy losses in surface ships led the command-er of the Black Sea Fleet in April 1942 to order submarines to deliver munitions and food to Sevas-topol and to evacuate wounded troops as well as the

    remaining women and children. The largest avail-able Soviet submarines of the Series XIII (L class)could carry up to 95 tons of cargo, while the small-er units delivered far less. Not only was every avail-able space within the submarines used for cargo(including containers of gasoline), but cargo alsowas loaded into torpedo tubes and mine chutes.

    Some 80 runs were made into Sevastopol by 27submarines. They delivered 4,000 tons of suppliesand munitions to Sevastopols defenders and evac-uated more than 1,300 persons. (Sevastopol fell on3 July 1942 after a siege of 250 days.)

    Based on the Sevastopol experience, the SovietNavys high command initiated an urgent programto build transport submarines. First an effort wasundertaken at TsKB-18 (later Rubin) to designsubmarine barges for transporting cargosolidand liquidthat could be towed by standard sub-marines or a specialized submarine tug (Project605). It was envisioned that these underwaterbarges could be rapidly built in large numbers.From the beginning of the project, the major com-plexity was not with the underwater barge, butwith the towing operation by a submarine. TheNavy was forced to cancel the project because ofthis problem.20

    The Tactical-Technical Elements (TTE)requirement for a small cargo submarine wasissued by the Navy in July 1942, becoming Project607. This was to be a submarine with a capacity of250 to 300 tons of solid cargo not larger than 21-inch torpedoes, and also 110 tons of gasoline infour ballast tanks. Two folding cargo cranes wouldbe fitted.

    The engineering plant was diesel-electric, with asingle propeller shaft. No torpedo tubes would beprovided, although two small guns were to bemounted. These cargo submarines were to use thesame equipment and fittings in the small submarinesof the earlier VI and VI-bis series (M class202 tonssubmerged). This approach would simplify thedesign and construction of the submarines, whichcould be built at inland shipyards. The chief design-er of Project 607 was Ya. Ye. Yevgrafov.

    TsKB-18 began issuing blueprints by April 1943.But by that time the general military situation hadchanged in favor of the Soviets and the need forunderwater transports disappeared; Project 607


  • was canceled. No technical or operational problemswere envisioned with the project. While the SovietUnion did not construct Project 607 submarines,the concept of cargo-transport submarines contin-ued to occupy the thoughts of Soviet (as well asU.S.) submarine designers in the postWorld WarII era. The Soviets may also have considered ocean-going cargo submarines in this period. According tothe memoirs of the U.S. ambassador to the USSR,Admiral William H. Standley, while discussing withJosef Stalin the problems of shipping war matrielto Russia, Stalin asked: Why dont you build cargosubmarines? Cargo submarines could cross theocean without interference from Nazi submarinesand could deliver their supplies directly to our ownports without danger of being sunk.21

    Admiral Standley responded that he was surethat the question of building cargo submarines hasreceived consideration in my country. Stalin

    replied, Im having the question of cargo sub-marines investigated over here.

    During World War II most U.S. submarines couldcarry mines in place of torpedoes, launchedthrough standard 21-inch tubes. Mines werelaunched from special chutes in the Soviet SeriesXIII (L class) and XIV (K class), and the USS Argonaut (SM 1).22 These larger submarines ofboth navies also were employed in commando raidsand, in some respects, became the progenitors ofspecialized transport submarines.

    Soviet Submarine TransportsIn 1948 TsKB-18 developed a draft design forProject 621a landing ship-transport submarineto carry out landings behind enemy lines. This wasto be a large submarine, with a surface displace-ment of some 5,950 tons. Designed under the


    TABLE 14-1PreCold War Large and Cargo Submarine Designs

    Country Class/Ship Comm. Built Displacement* Length Notes

    Germany Deutschland 1916** 8 1,440 tons 21314 ft 2 cargo submarines

    1,820 (65.0 m) 6 cruisers

    Britain K1 1917 17 1,800 tons 338 ft steam powered

    2,600 (103.05 m)

    Britain M1 1918 3 1,600 tons 296 ft 12-inch gun

    1,950 (90.24 m)

    Britain K26 1923 1 2,140 tons 35114 ft steam powered

    2,770 (107.09 m)

    Britain X1 1925 1 2,780 tons 36312 ft submarine

    3,600 (110.82 m) cruiser

    USA Argonaut 1928 1 2,710 tons 381 ft minelayer-

    4,080 (116.16 m) transport

    USA Narwhal 1930 2 2,730 tons 371 ft fleet submarine

    3,960 (113.11 m)

    France Surcouf 1934 1 3,304 tons 36056 ft submarine

    4,218 (110.0 m) cruiser

    Germany Type XB 1941 8 1,763 tons 29434 ft

    2,177 (89.86 m)

    Germany Type XIV 1942 10 1,688 tons 22014 ft milch cow

    1,932 (67.15 m)

    Germany Type XX 2,708 tons 255 ft cargo submarine

    2,962 (77.74 m)

    USSR Project 607 740 tons 210 ft cargo submarine

    925 (64.0 m)

    USSR Project 632 2,540 tons 328 ft minelayer-

    (85.0 m) (100 m) transport-tanker

    Notes: * surface submerged

    ** Completed as cargo submarine; transferred to the German Navy in 1917.


    direction of F. A. Kaverin, this underwatergiantwith two vehicle deckswas to carry a fullinfantry battalion of 745 troops plus 10 T-34tanks, 12 trucks, 14 towed cannon, and 3 La-5fighter aircraft. The troops and vehicles would beunloaded over a bow ramp; the aircraft would becatapulted, the launching device being fitted intothe deck forward of the aircraft hangar.23 Bothconventional diesel-electric and steam-gas turbine(closed-cycle) power plants for both surface andsubmerged operation were considered for Project621. (The latter plant had been planned for a vari-ant of the Type XXVI U-boat.)

    TsKB-18 also developed the draft for Project626, a smaller landing ship-transport ship intendedfor Arctic operations. The ship would have had asurface displacement of some 3,480 tons and wasintended to carry 165 troops plus 330 tons of fuelfor transfer ashore or four T-34 tanks.

    But neither of these designs was constructed.About this time the SKB-112 bureau (later Lazurit)developed Project 613B, a variation of the Whiskey-class torpedo submarine fitted to refuel flyingboats. This design also was not pursued.

    Simultaneously, interest in specialized minelay-ing submarines was renewed.24 In 1956 the SovietNavys leadership endorsed a TTE for a largeminelayer capable of carrying up to 100 of the newPLT-6 mines plus transporting 160 tons of aviationfuel in fuel-ballast tanks. This was Project 632, withYevgrafov of TsKB-18 assigned as chief designer.

    Preliminary designs addressed carrying minesboth wet and dry (i.e., within the pressure hull).Soon the heavy workload at TsKB-18 led to thedesign work on Project 632estimated to be 33percent complete at the timebeing transferred toTsKB-16 (later Volna/Malachite), with Yevgrafovbeing reassigned to that bureau. The design wascompleted in two variantswet storage for 90mines or dry storage for 88 mines. A combinedwet/dry configuration could carry 110 mines. Afurther variant of Project 632 showed a smallincrease in dimensions that would permit 100troops to be carried in the mine spaces, with theminelaying gear being removable. The latter featurewas a consequence of the wartime Sevastopol expe-rience, which would require that these and otherlarge submarines be able to transport aviation fuels

    and to be reconfigured at naval bases to transportcombat troops or wounded (with medical atten-dants) in place of mines.

    Project 632 was approved for construction inFebruary 1958. Significantly, in October 1958 thedesign for a nuclear-propelled variant of theminelayer was approved as Project 632M, employ-ing a small O-153 reactor plant.25 This ship wouldbe some 100 to 200 tons heavier than the basic 632design. The nuclear variant would have had a sub-merged cruising range estimated at 20,000 n.miles,compared to 600 to 700 n.miles for the convention-al propulsion plant. But when the Central Commit-tee and Council of Ministers approved the seven-year shipbuilding program in December 1958, theProject 632 submarine was deleted.

    In its place a replenishment submarine wasproposed. Project 648, which was already underdesign, would have had a secondary minelayingcapability.26 N. A. Kiselev, new to TsKB-16, wasnamed the chief designer of the project. This wasthe first submarine project of Kiselev, a state prizewinner and the chief designer of the Project68/Chapayev-class gun cruisers. The submarinesprimary mission requirement would be to replen-ish and rearm submarines attacking Allied mer-chant shipping, that is, a milch cow role. Project 648was to carry missiles (ten P-5/P-6 [NATO SS-N-3Shaddock)] or torpedoes (40 21-inch and 2015.75-inch) plus 34 tons of food,27 60 tons ofpotable water, and 1,000 tons of diesel fuel (or theequivalent in aviation fuels).28

    The weapons and stores were to be transferredat sea to submarines, a considerable challenge,especially with respect to the cruise missiles. Dieselfuel was to be transferred to a submarine whileboth were submerged. Aviation fuel would be car-ried for transfer to seaplanes in remote operatingareas. Again, the Sevastopol experience led to theTTE requiring the submarine to transport 120troops and their weapons, or to evacuate 100wounded personnel.

    Preliminary at-sea replenishment tests wereconducted in 1957 using a Project 611/Zulu and anolder prewar L-class submarine. In late 1958 theNavy assigned the Project 611/Zulu submarine B-82, the Project 613/Whiskey submarine S-346, anda Project 30-bis/Skoryy-class destroyer to carry out

  • 230C









    Project 621 submarine LST. (A.D. Baker, III)

  • more complex submarine replenishment tests. Thethree ships were modified in 1960 at Severodvinsk,and at-sea testing began shortly thereafter.

    Meanwhile, the design for Project 648 had beenapproved on 10 July 1958. Because of the termina-tion of Project 632, the new submarine was tocarry up to 98 mines in place of replenishmentstores. Work on Project 648 began at the Severo-dvinsk shipyard (No. 402), with a section of thesubmarines hull being fabricated with specializedreplenishment equipment installed. The projectwas complex, and according to Russian historians,As it was more profitable to construct the large-series orders for atomic submarines, the shipyardsdirector, Ye. P. Yegorov, tried in every possible wayto shift construction of the transport-minelayersubmarine to another yard or shut down the proj-ect overall.29

    The difficulties in replenishing submarines atsea and interest in nuclear propulsion for a replen-ishment submarine led to cancellation of Project648 in June 1961. There already was a preliminarydesign for Project 648M in which three of the shipssilver-zinc batteries and two diesel engines wouldbe replaced by two small O-153 nuclear plants of6,000 horsepower each. It was estimated that thenuclear capability would increase submergedendurance from the 600 hours with diesel-electricpropulsion to 1,900 hours.

    The design was presented to the Navy and ship-building committee, but this modification of theoriginal Project 648 design was already being over-taken by the more ambitious Project 664 subma-rine.30 Project 664 combined the characteristics ofa submarine LST with a replenishment subma-rine having nuclear propulsion. Design work hadbegan in 1960 at TsKB-16 under Kiselev. Thiswould be a very large submarine, with a surface dis-placement of 10,150 tons, and would carry 20cruise missiles or 80 21-inch torpedoes or 160 1534-inch torpedoes for transfer to combat submarines.Liquid cargo would include 1,000 tons of diesel oilor aviation fuel, plus 60 tons of lubricating oil and75 tons of potable water as well as 31 tons of food.In the LST role the submarine would carry 350troops, although up to 500 could be carried for afive-day transit.

    There obviously was interest in replenishmentsubmarines at the highest levels of the Navy. A 1961issue of Voyennaya Mysl (Military Thought), thesenior (classified) Soviet military journal, con-tained an article by Admiral Yuri Panteleyev look-ing at future submarine operations. Among thetechnical problems he said must be resolved was:to create a class of special submarine tankers andsubmarine transports for the shipment of combatsupplies, equipment, and contingents of person-nel.31 (Panteleyev also called for a system for all


    An at-sea replenishment trial in 1957 with a Zulu (above) and a pre-war Series XIII L-class submarine. This operation

    occurred in the Sea of Okhotsk; the photo was taken by a U.S. Navy patrol plane. Deck guns have been removed from the

    L-class boat. (U.S. Navy)

  • 232C









    Project 664 replenishment submarine. LOA 462 ft 3 in (140.9 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • types of underwater supply, for submarines lyingon the bottom at points of dispersal and at definitedepths and not moving.32)

    Construction of Project 664 began at Severo-dvinsk in 1964. But soon it was determined thatcombining three missionsreplenishment, trans-port, and minelayingin a single hull causedmajor complications, even in a nuclear-propelledsubmarine. Both range and operating depth werereduced. In May 1965 all work on the lead subma-rine was halted. The proposal was made to transferthe project to a Leningrad shipyard to make roomat Severodvinsk for accelerated construction ofProject 667A/Yankee SSBNs. But the project washalted completely.

    Accordingly, in August 1965 TsKB-16 wasdirected to respond to the TTE for a large diesel-electric submarine LSTProject 748.33 Kiselevagain was assigned as chief designer. The designbureau, realizing the limitations of conventionalpropulsion for this submarines missions, addition-ally initiated nuclear-propelled variants.

    Six variants of Project 748 were developed, withsurface displacements from 8,000 to 11,000 tons.Most variants had three separate, cylindrical pres-sure hulls side by side, encased in a single outerhull. The first variant met the basic TTE; the secondvariant carried a larger number of PT-76 amphibi-ous tanks; the third variant had VAU-6 auxiliarynuclear power plants; the fourth variant had twoOK-300 reactor plants generating 30,000 horse-power; the fifth variant had the VAU-6 system witha single pressure hull; and the sixth variant replacedthe OK-300 plant with four VAU-6 units.34

    This large submarine could carry up to 20amphibious tanks and BTR-60P armored personnelcarriers, and up to 470 troops. (See table 14-2.) Inaddition to a torpedo armament of four bow 21-inch torpedo tubes with 12 to 16 torpedoes, thesubmarine was to be fitted with two 57-mm anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-air missiles. And, ofcourse, the submarine could serve as a minelayer.

    TsKB-16 recommended proceeding with thefourth (nuclear-propelled) variant. Still, construc-tion was not initiated, because the Navy, Ministry ofShipbuilding Industry, and General Staff of theArmed Forces ordered a review of the features ofProjects 632, 648, 664, and 748 in an effort to devel-

    op a ubiquitous or multi-purpose nuclear subma-rine. TsKB-16 (now named Volna) was directed todevelop a preliminary design for the submarineProject 717with Kiselev once more the chiefdesigner.35 The TTE called for the clandestinedelivery of up to 800 marines and four personnelcarriers; the transport of arms, munitions, fuel, andprovisions; or 250 commandos and ten amphibioustanks and ten personnel carriers and the evacuationof troops and wounded, as well as minelaying. Thiswas to be the worlds largest submarine designed tothat time, with a surface displacement of more than17,600 tons and nuclear propulsion.

    The preliminary design effort was completedearly in 1969. In July the Navy and the Ministry ofShipbuilding Industry added to the TTE therequirement for the rescue of the crews of sunkensubmarines with the aid of rescue apparatus. Thischange led to revised specifications, which were notformally approved until February 1970. Comple-tion of the revised contract design for Project 717was delayed until October 1971.

    The Severodvinsk shipyard made preparationsfor constructing five submarines to this design.Full-scale mockups were made of the control room,cargo spaces, and other portions of the submarine.However, this project, too, was stillborn, because in the late 1970s the available building ways atSeverodvinsk were needed for the construction ofnuclear submarines, especially Project 941/Typhoon SSBNs that were being developed as acounter to the U.S. Trident program, the Ohio(SSBN 724) class.

    Thus ended the design of large minelaying/transport/replenishment submarines in the SovietUnion. There still was some interest in submarinetankers. In the 1960s TsKB-57 undertook the designof a large submarine tanker, Project 681, intendedprimarily for commercial operation. With two VM-4 nuclear reactor plants, the submarine would havea cargo capacity of 30,000 tons. Subsequently,TsKB-16 began design of another nuclear-propelledsubmarine tanker in 1973 designated Project 927,but neither of these projects was pursued.

    There again was interest in submarine tankersand container submarinesin Russia in the 1990s.The Malachite bureau (former TsKB-16/SDB-143)put forward preliminary designs for a submarine


  • 234C









    Project 748 submarine LST. LOA 521 ft 6 in (159.0 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • capable of transporting petroleum or freight con-tainers, especially in the Arctic region. Envisioningunder-ice navigation between European and Asianports, and possibly northern Canada, according toMalachite designers, Given equal cargo capacity,the efficiency of an underwater container ship isconsiderably higher, for example, than that of anicebreaker transport ship of the Norilsk type. Theunderwater tanker is competitive.36

    Malachite proposed tanker and container vari-ants of the same basic nuclear submarine design,employing an elliptical cross-section. The tankervariant would transport almost 30,000 tons ofpetroleum, which could be loaded and dischargedfrom surface or underwater terminals. The under-water container carrier could transport 912 stan-dard (20-foot/6.1-m) freight containers, loadedthrough a series of hatches. It was estimated to take30 working hours to load or unload a full shipload.Large cargo hatches and an internal container mov-ing scheme would facilitate those operations. (Seetable 14-3.)

    A single-reactor, single-shaft propulsion plantwas proposed with three diesel generators to pro-vide for maneuvering in harbor and for ship elec-trical needs. Two of the diesel generators would befitted to work as closed-cycle/Air-IndependentPropulsion (AIP) systems for emergency under-iceoperation. Thirty tons of oxygen was to be carriedto provide an AIP endurance of 20 hours at a speedof seven or eight knots.

    No detailed design or procurement followed,because Russia fell into financial extremis in thepost-Soviet era.

    U.S. Transport Submarines In the 1950s and 1960s, the U.S. Navy contemplat-ed large submarines for amphibious landings.During World War II the Navys three largest sub-marines, the Argonaut, built as a minelayer, andthe slightly smaller Narwhal (SS 167) and Nautilus(SS 168) were used as amphibious transports.

    In early August 1942 the Argonaut and Nautilusunloaded their spare torpedoes and took aboard


    Malachite design for submarine container ship. (A.D. Baker, III)

    Project 681 submarine tanker. LOA 515 ft (157.0 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • 219 marine raiders. On 17 August the troops werelanded by rubber boats on the Japanese-held MakinIsland in the Marshalls.37 After catching the Japa-nese garrison by surprise, the marines were soonconfronted by a tenacious defense. The marinescaptured some documents and blew up a fueldump before withdrawing. There were about 70Japanese troops on the island; 46 were killed at thecost of 30 marine raiders lost.38

    The second major U.S. submarine landinginvolved the Nautilus and Narwhal; their target wasAttu, one of two Aleutian islands the Japanese hadoccupied in June 1942. The submarines conducted arehearsal landing at Dutch Harbor in April and thentook on board 200 Army scouts and set off for Attuas part of Operation Landcrab. The submarinesarrived off Attu on 11 May 1943 and successfullylanded their troops by rubber boat five hours beforethe main U.S. assault. The submarine landings werea useful complement to the main landings, but theywere not a critical factor in the recapture of Attu.

    Soon after the war the U.S. Navy converted sev-eral fleet boats to cargo and transport configura-tions.39 The Barbero (SS 317) was converted to acargo configuration at the Mare Island shipyard in1948.40 Her four stern 21-inch torpedo tubes weredeleted, and she was provided with storage for justover 100 tons of aviation gasoline or 120 tons of drycargo for landing ashore. From October 1948 sheparticipated in several exercises, but her use waslimited and she was inactivated in June 1950 (andsubsequently converted to a Regulus missile sub-marine; see Chapter 6).

    A second cargo submarine conversion was theGuavina (SS 362), converted to a tanker.41 Her 1950conversion at Mare Island provided blister tanksthat could carry 585 tons of aviation fuel160,000gallons (605,650 liters) of transferrable fuel. Onlytwo stern torpedo tubes were retained. Like theBarbero, she was to provide support for troopsashore during amphibious operations. And, like theBarbero, exercises revealed her limited effectiveness.However, in 1957 the Guavina was modified at theCharleston (South Carolina) naval shipyard torefuel seaplanes. She was fitted with a platform aftand refueled seaplanes astern and by floating fuelbladders to the aircraft.

    The modified Guavina was intended to be oneof several undersea craft supporting the MartinP6M Seamaster, a four-turbojet flying boat intend-ed primarily for aerial minelaying and long-rangereconnaissance. The P6M was to operate from thewater for as long as six to eight months, beingmaintained, refueled, and rearmed by seaplane ten-ders and by submarines. Weapons were loadedthrough the top of the fuselage, enabling the air-craft to be rearmed and refueled while in the water.Twelve aircraft were completed before the programwas cancelled in 1959, principally to help fund thePolaris SSBN program.

    The U.S. Navy modified two fleet submarines toserve as troop transports, the Perch (SS 313) andSealion (SS 315), both initially changed to SSP.42

    Modified at the Mare Island and San Francisconaval shipyards, respectively, they rejoined the fleetin 1948 with accommodations for 115 troops; a


    The minelayer Argonaut was the largest non-nuclear submarine built by the United States. She was built as the V-4

    and designated as a fleet submarine (SF 7); renamed and changed to SM 1 in 1931, she also carried the designations

    SS 166 and APS 1. This 1931 photo clearly shows her two 6-inch guns, with practice torpedoes on deck near the forward

    6-inch (152-mm) gun mount. (U.S. Navy)

  • hangar fitted aft of the conning tower could accom-modate a tracked landing vehicle (LVT) carrying ajeep and towed 75-mm cannon; eight ten-man rub-ber boats also were carried.43

    During the Korean War, on the night of 12October 1950, the Perch usedrubber boats to land 67 Britishmarines behind communistlines to blow up a railroad tun-nel that could not be struck byaircraft. (One marine waskilled in the raid.) This was theonly U.S. submarine combataction of the Korean War.Many similar raids were car-ried out by U.S. surface shipsduring the Korean War, ques-tioning the need for the sub-marine in that operation. Thiswas the largest submarinecombat landing ever undertak-en except for the U.S. subma-rine landings on Makin Island(1942) and Attu (1943).

    Subsequently, the U.S.Navy employed a series ofconverted submarines in thetransport role, with two nor-mally being in commissioninto the 1990s. During the

    Vietnam War the transport submarine Perch,based at Subic Bay in the Philippines, conductedtraining operations on a regular basis with U.S.and British special forces. For example, as part ofJungle Drum III, a multination exercise in the


    A Martin P5M Marlin flying boat taxies up to the stern of the submarine tanker Guavina during a refueling exercise. The

    Guavinas fuel capacity has been increased by side blisters; a refueling station has been installed on her stern, with sailors

    standing by to handle lines and hoses. The Guavina had a streamlined fairwater. (U.S. Navy)

    The U.S. Navy converted several fleet submarines to troop transports during the

    Cold War. Here the well-worn Sealion unloads Marines into rubber boats in a very

    non-clandestine exercise in 1966. A Sikorsky HRS helicopter sits on the after deck;

    at times the Sealion carried a hangar aft of the conning tower for rubber boats or an

    amphibious tractor. (U.S. Navy)

  • spring of 1965, the Perch landed 75 U.S. Marineson the Malay Peninsula.

    Beginning in November 1965 the Perch landedmarine recce troops and Navy swimmer personnelon the coast of South Vietnam, in areas held by orsuspected to be under Viet Cong control. Often theseoperations were in preparation for landings byMarines from the Seventh Fleets amphibious force.

    In this period the Perch carried an armament oftwo 40-mm deck guns plus .50-caliber machineguns that could be mounted on her conning tower.During Operation Deckhouse III in August 1966,while Navy swimmers were conducting a beachreconnaissance, the Viet Cong began firing at thelanding party. The Perch answered with cannon andmachine gun fire. Similarly, when a South Viet-namese unit working on the beach in conjunctionwith Navy swimmers was threatened by Viet Cong,the Perch stood by 500 yards (457 m) offshore toprovide gunfire support as the submarine took the85 Vietnamese troops and several refugees off thebeach and transported them out of the area.

    The USS Tunny (SS 282), a former Regulus sub-marine, was converted to an APSS in 1966 at thePuget Sound (Washington) naval shipyard. She beganoperations off Vietnam in February 1967. Two oper-ations proposed for the Tunny were stillborn: Afterthe capture of the U.S. intelligence ship Pueblo byNorth Koreans in January 1968, it was proposed thatthe Tunny carry commandos into Wonsan Harbor toblow up the ship; that plan was vetoed by senior U.S.commanders. Another proposal called for the Tunnyto carry commandos to a point off Haiphong Harborto attack a major target near Hanoi, the North Viet-namese capital; that plan also was vetoed.

    The Grayback (SSG/APSS 574), converted in19681969 at Mare Island, had her two former Reg-ulus missile hangars modified to carry self-propelledswimmer delivery vehicles and rubber boats. Sheparticipated in special operations in 19701972 offthe coast of Vietnam.44

    The Grayback was succeeded in the transportrole by two ex-Polaris SSBNs, which had been with-drawn from the strategic missile role with theirmissile tubes deactivated, the Sam Houston (SSBN609) and John Marshall (SSBN 611). They, in turn,were replaced by two later and larger ex-Polarissubmarines, the Kamehameha (SSBN 642) and

    James K. Polk (SSBN 645); all being changed to SSNas transports, as the nuclear community eschewedspecialized designations.

    These ex-missile submarines could carry one ortwo dry-deck shelters, or hangars, fitted aft of the sailand used as lock-out chambers for swimmers orcould carry a small swimmer delivery vehicle. Thesubmarines were fitted to carry 65 Marines or swim-mers and their gear. Like the Grayback, the ex-SSBNsretained their torpedo armament andfor politicalreasonswere designated as attack submarines(SSN) and not as transport submarines. (No Sovietsubmarines were converted to the transport role.)

    In all, eight U.S. submarines were converted tothe amphibious transport role during the Cold Warand immediately afterward:45

    Number Former Name Transport

    APSS 282 SSG Tunny 19661969

    SSP 313 SS Perch 19481959

    SSP 315 SS Sealion 19481969

    APSS 574 SSG Grayback 19691984

    SSN 609 SSBN Sam Houston 19861991

    SSN 611 SSBN John Marshall 19841992

    SSN 642 SSBN Kamehameha 19922002

    SSN 645 SSBN James K. Polk 19931999

    In addition, several attack submarines (SSN)were modified to carry one dry-deck shelter and asmall number of swimmers. The retirement of theKamehameha left the Navy with only SSNs for thetransport role.46 However, in 1999 the submarinecommunity proposed conversion of four Tridentmissile submarines of the Ohio class, being retiredunder strategic arms agreements, to a combinationcruise missile/transport role. Under that plan, thefour ships would each be fitted to carry some 65commandos or swimmers, their small boats, equip-ment, and an ASDS submersible. (See Chapter 16.)In the SSGN configuration two Trident missiletubes would be converted to large swimmer lock-out chambers (to be made with submersibles ordeck chambers). The remaining 22 Trident tubeswould be modified to carry commando/swimmergear, unmanned vehicles, or seven vertical-launchTomahawk land-attack missiles per tube.

    The U.S. Navy, like the Soviet Navy, consideredthe construction of specialized, nuclear-propelledtransport submarines, but the only design sketch


  • to be developed was for a largesubmarine approximately 565feet (172.26 m) long. Based onNavy information, artist FrankTinsley drew a future transportsubmarine for Mechanix Illus-trated magazine. It showed a10,000-ton submarine with alength of 720 feet (219.5 m) anda beam of 124 feet (37.8 m)unloading Marines into high-speed, 100-m.p.h. air rafts foran amphibious assault. Thatsubmarine was to carry 2,240troops and their equipment.

    None of these proposals waspursued.

    Commercial TankersMore effort was expended in the United States todevelop commercial submarine tanker designs.Shortly after the historic Arctic transit of the Nau-tilus (SSN 571) in August 1958, her commandingofficer, Captain William R. Anderson, wrote:

    Mans last unknown sea, the ice-mantledArctic Ocean, has yielded to the Atomic Age.Across the top of the world, blazed by thou-sands of instrument readings, lies amaritime highway of tomorrowstrategic,commercially promising, and, I amconvinced, safe.

    ***This ice may forever bar the routine transitof surface ships. But it will not deny theArctic Ocean to submarinesprovided theyare nuclear powered.47

    Almost simultaneously, submarine designers inBritain, Japan, and the United States began detailedstudies and preliminary designs of nuclear-propelled

    submarine tankers for Arctic operations. The ElectricBoat yard, under contract to the U.S. MaritimeAdministration, in 1958 undertook a study of princi-pal dimensions and power requirements for subma-rine tankers of 20,000, 30,000, and 40,000 deadweighttons with submerged speeds of 20, 30, and 40 knots.48

    These tanker variants were examined in themost detailed study of the period in a paper entitledSubmarine Tankers, presented in November1960.49 That paper, prepared under the auspices ofthe U.S. Maritime Administration, reflected analy-sis and model tests to provide unprecedented detailof the variants. (The characteristics of the 20,000-ton and 40,000-ton variants are provided in table14-3.) Significantly, to limit the tankers draft toabout 36 feet (11 m) to enable entry to a number ofports, the paper offered a rectangular outer hullform as well as the conventional circular hull cross-section. The former would have a central mainpressure hull with four separate, cylindrical cargotanks fitted parallel to the main pressure hull.

    With respect to speed, the study addressed arange of speeds, noting:


    The Sturgeon-class submarine Silversides (SSN 679)a straight attack

    submarinefitted with a dry deck shelter for special forces in a 1992 exercise. Con-

    verted Polaris submarines could each carry two shelters, which could be used to

    lock-out swimmers and to store rubber boats or small submersibles. (Giorgio Arra)

    U.S. submarine LST (preliminary design). (A.D. Baker, III)

  • 240C









    U.S. commercial submarine tanker (40,000 deadweight tons; approx. 40 knots). (A.D. Baker, III)

  • It is realized that there is no demand for 40knots speed in the oil trade. It could even begranted that a submarine mode of trans-portation at such speeds would be uneconom-ical, unproven, difficult to man and manage,and so on. The fact remains, however, thatbased on the technology available today[1960], and the research study described inthis paper, it could be possible, from an engi-neering viewpoint, to design an optimum sub-marine tanker which could carry 40,000 tonsof oil products at about 37 knots withinstalled power of about 250,000 shp.50

    The various tanker designs of the study requiredfrom one to four pressurized-water reactors, withturbines turning from one to four propeller shafts.Speeds of 38 knots (40,000-ton tanker) to 42 knots(20,000-ton tanker) could only be achieved withcircular cross-section hulls; the largest and fastesttanker would require four reactors and four tur-bines generating 240,000 horsepower to four pro-peller shafts. That design provided a hull diameterof 10212 feet (31.25 m)!

    Despite the apparent feasibility of such ships andthe periodic reinforcement of these papers by otherstudies and articles, no action was forthcoming. Inthe early 1970s the American decision to exploit theoilfields at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, led the U.S. Nation-al Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as wellas the Maritime Administration to again look intosubmarine tankers as an alternative to the pipelineacross Alaska and the use of surface tankers to carrythe petroleum from a southern Alaskan port to thecontinental United States. Their studies once moredemonstrated the feasibility as well as certain advan-tages to using submarine tankers. Political factors,however, led to the construction of the trans-Alaskanpipeline and employment of surface tankers to movethe petroleum.

    There was still another effort to obtain backingfor submarine cargo ships in the summer of 2000when Russias RAO Norilsk Nickel, a giant metalsconglomerate, proposed the conversion of Project941/Typhoon strategic missile submarines to cargocarriers.51 Under this proposal the giant, 23,200-ton (surface) submarines would be converted tocarry 12,000 tons of oresnickel, palladium, plat-

    inumfrom the firms mining-and-smelter centerin northwestern Siberia to the ice-free port of Mur-mansk. The submarines would be capable of under-ice transits up to 25 knots, according to a Norilskspokesman. The cost of conversion was estimated at$80 million per submarine, much less than thereplacement costs for the nuclear icebreakers andcargo ships now used in this role in the Arctic seas.A year later, Russian designers put forward a pro-posal to convert Typhoon SSBNs to Arctic contain-er carriers. Their massive missile battery would bereplaced by cargo bays and several internal eleva-tors for handling hundreds of containers.52

    However, the adverse publicity following the lossof the nuclear-propelled submarine Kursk in August2000, coupled with the conversion costs and the con-cern for nuclear submarine operations in coastalwaters, made such conversions unlikely. (At the timethree of the original six Project 941/Typhoon sub-marines remained in naval service; the others werebeing decommissioned and dismantled.)

    Early in the 20th Century, relatively large underseacraft were proposed for a variety of specializedmissions. In many respects the most significantlarge submarine of the preWorld War II era wasthe German merchant submarine Deutschland.Two wartime cargo voyages to the United States bythe Deutschland were highly successfulbut havenever been repeated, in war or in peace.

    Navies soon produced large undersea craft assubmarine monitors (British M class), fleet-scouting submarines (British K class), long-range, big-gun cruisers (British X1 and FrenchSurcouf), minelayers, replenishment subma-rines, and aircraft-carrying submarines. (SeeChapter 15.)

    During World War II submarines were usedextensively by the United States and Japan astroop carriers and to transport supplies to isolat-ed garrisons. These experiences led the U.S. Navy,after the war, to convert fleet submarines to sev-eral specialized configurationstroop trans-port, cargo, tankerto support amphibiousoperations. Subsequently, the U.S. Navy and,especially, the Soviet Navy undertook the designof large, specialized troop/equipment transports,


  • TABLE 14-2Large Military Submarine Designs

    Soviet Soviet Soviet Soviet SovietProject Project Project Project Project648 664 717 748 748

    (Revised) Variant I Variant IV


    surface 5,940 tons 10,150 tons 18,300 tons 9,800 tons 11,000 tons

    submerged 13,100 tons ~27,450 tons ~14,700 tons ~17,000 tons

    Length 334 ft 8 in 462 ft 3 in 623 ft 6 in 521 ft 6 in 501 ft 10 in

    (102.0 m) (140.9 m) (190.1 m) (159.0 m) (153.0 m)

    Beam 42 ft 46712 ft 75512 ft 64 ft 69 ft 6 in

    (12.8 m) (14.2 m) (23.0 m) (19.5 m) (21.2 m)

    Draft 29 ft 32 ft 6 in 22 ft 4 in 16 ft 10 in 19 ft 8 in

    (8.85 m) (9.9 m) (6.8 m) (4.9 m) (6.0 m)

    Reactors 2 OK-300 2 2

    Turbines 2 2 2

    horsepower 30,000 39,000 30,000

    Diesel engines 2 2D-43 2 1D43

    horsepower 8,000 8,000

    Electric motors 2 2

    horsepower 8,000 5,200

    Shafts 2 2 2 2 2


    surface 14 knots

    submerged 12.5 knots 18 knots 1718 knots 10 17

    Test depth 985 ft 985 ft 985 ft 985 ft 985 ft

    (300 m) (300 m) (300 m) (300 m) (300 m)

    Torpedo tubes* 4 533-mm B 6 533-mm B 6 533-mm B 4 533-mm B 4 533-mm B

    2 400-mm B

    2 400-mm S

    Torpedoes 4 533-mm 12 18 16 14

    20 400-mm

    Mines 98** 162*** 252#


    Guns 2 57-mm## 2 57-mm## 2 57-mm##

    Complement 77 79 117 80 80

    Notes: * Bow; Stern.** 98 AGM type or 96 APM Lira type or 92 PLT-6 type or 94 Serpei type.

    *** 112 PM-1, RM-2, PM-3 types or 162 RM-1, APM Lira, Serpei, UDM types.# 126 PMR-1, PMR-2, PMT-1 types or 252 PM-1, PM-2, PM-2G types.

    ## Surface-to-air missiles also would be fitted.

    primarily for amphibious operations. The Sovi-ets also designed large supply submarines toreplenish other submarines on the high seas. Inthe event, none of these submarines was con-structed. However, this Soviet design experiencewould have a direct impact on the design of largenuclear-propelled combat submarines.

    The U.S. government, the U.S. ElectricBoat/General Dynamics firm, and the Malachite

    design bureau in Russia all designed large,nuclear-propelled submarine tankers for thebulk transport of petroleum products for thecivil sector. Despite the feasibility and potentialeconomic success of such craft, primarily in theArctic region, none was pursued. But, as demon-strated by the proposal in 2000 to convert Proj-ect 941/Typhoon SSBNs to ore carriers, the ideaof Arctic cargo-carrying submarines persists.


  • TABLE 14-3Large Submarine Tanker Designs

    Soviet Russian U.S. U.S. U.S. U.S.Project Malachite 20,000 DWT* 20,000 DWT* 40,000 DWT* 40,000 DWT*681 Tanker 20 knots 30 knots 20 knots 30 knots

    30,000 DWT*


    surface 24,750 tons 78,000 tons 38,000 tons 43,600 tons 73,300 tons 81,800 tons

    submerged 87,500 tons 41,800 tons 47,900 tons 92,000 tons 90,000 tons

    Length 515 ft 780 ft 8 in 555 ft 570 ft 710 ft 780 ft

    (157.0 m) (238.0 m) (169.2 m) (173.8 m) (216.46 m) (237.8 m)

    Beam 85 ft 3 in 87 ft 11 in 80 ft 90 ft 120 ft 120 ft

    (26.0 m) (26.8 m) (24.4 m) (27.44 m) (36.58 m) (36.58 m)

    Draft 29 ft 6 in 54 ft 2 in 40 ft 40 ft 40 ft 40 ft

    (9.0 m) (16.5 m) (12.2 m) (12.2 m) (12.2 m) (12.2 m)

    Reactors 2 VM-4 1 1 2 1 3

    Turbines 2 1 2

    horsepower 30,000 50,000 35,000 105,000 53,300 168,000

    Shafts 2 1 1 2 1 3



    submerged 17 knots 20 knots 20 knots 30 knots 20 knots 30 knots

    Test depth 660 ft 330 ft

    (200 m) (100 m)

    Cargo 15,000 tons 30,000 tons** 20,000 tons 20,000 tons 40,000 tons 40,000 tons

    Complement 50 35

    Notes: * DWT = Deadweight Tons.** 29,400 tons as a container carrier.


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  • Two revolutionary weapons were introducedearly in the 20th Century: the aircraft andthe submarine. Both were avidly pursued by

    the Russian and U.S. Navies. During World War Ithere were several precursory efforts to combinethese two weapons. The British and German Naviesused standard submarines to carry floatplanes tosea, submerging to float off the aircraft, which, aftercarrying out their mission, would return to a land

    base or put down at sea, to be scuttled after the crewwas recovered.

    Between the world wars, trials of operatingfloatplanes from submarines were carried out byBritain, France, Japan, and the United States.Britain converted the submarine monitor M2 tocarry a floatplane, while France built the submarinecruiser Surcouf, which operated a single floatplane.(See Chapter 14.)



    Submarine aircraft carriersthe Japanese I-14 (left) and I-400 and I-401 (order unknown) at Pearl Harbor in 1946.

    Japan was the only nation to operate submarine aircraft carriers in wartime. The I-14s hangar door is completely open;

    the others have their aircraft cranes raised. Two U.S. fleet boats are in the photo. (U.S. Navy)


  • The U.S. Navys effort wasmore modest, with the rela-tively small submarine S-1(SS 105), completed in 1920,being fitted with a hangar thatcould accommodate a small,collapsible floatplane. From1923 to 1926 the S-1 carriedout trials with the MartinMS-1 and Cox-Klein XS-1and XS-2 aircraft. There wasno follow-up effort. Neitherthe German nor Soviet Naviesexperimented with aircraftaboard submarines betweenthe world wars.

    When World War II beganin the late 1930s, only the French and Japanesefleets had aircraft-carrying submarines. During thewar the Surcouf, operated by the Free French afterJune 1940, did not fly her aircraft before being sunkin a collision with a merchant ship in 1942. Japan-ese efforts in this field began in 1923, using a Ger-man Caspar-Heinkel U-1 biplane fitted with floatsfor trials aboard a submarine. A series of float-planes was developed for submarine use beginningwith the Watanabe Type 96 (E9W1), which enteredservice in 1938.1 This biplane aircraft and themonoplane Yokosuka Type 0 (E14Y1), later giventhe Allied code name Glen, which entered service in

    1941, had far-reaching service in the early years ofWorld War II in the Pacific.

    At the start of the war, the Japanese Navy had 12large I-series submarines that could each carry asingle floatplane. More aircraft-carrying sub-marines were under construction, several of whichbecame operational during the war.2 They hadhangars for a single, disassembled floatplane, with acatapult built into the deck.

    These planes flew missions throughout thesouthwest Pacific and Indian Ocean areas. InAugust 1942 the submarine I-25 twice launched an E14Y1 Glen from a position off Cape Blanco,


    The S-1 was the only U.S. submarine to operate a fixed-wing aircraft, shown here with

    a Cox-Klein XS-2 in 1926. Note the small hangar between the conning tower and the

    twin-float biplane. Later U.S. transport submarines would have helicopters land

    aboard, but were not hangared. (U.S. Navy)

    The British M2 launches a Parnall Petro floatplane from her catapult. The hangar door is open, and the ships aircraft

    recovery crane is extended. The M2 was originally a submarine monitor, one of three such submarines that each

    mounted a 12-inch gun. (Royal Navy Submarine Museum)

  • Oregon, on incendiary bombing raids against theUnited States. The Japanese sought to ignite forestfires in the northwestern United States. These werethe only aircraft attacks against the continentalUnited States; they inflicted no significant damageand no casualties. (The Japanese also employedlarge submarines to refuel flying boats, includingtwo seaplanes that bombed Pearl Harbor on thenight of 34 March 1942.)

    In 1942 the Japanese Navy initiated the I-400-class Special Submarines or Sen-Toku (STo).3 The I-400s were the largest non-nuclear submarines everconstructed, and their unique design calls for spe-cial mention in this volume. These submarineswere developed specifically to launch aircraft tobomb Washington, D.C., and New York City. Whilethe first units were under construction, the chang-ing course of the Pacific War caused the Navysleadership to reassign the I-400 submarines tostrike the Panama Canal in an effort to slow theflow of U.S. reinforcements to the Pacific.

    The original 1942 design of the I-400 provideda hangar for two floatplanes; subsequently, the sub-marine was enlarged to handle three aircraft. Theaircraft hangar, beneath the conning tower, openedto an 8513-foot (26-m) catapult track forward of thehangar. The aircraft were pre-warmed in the hangarthrough a system of circulating heavy lubricatingoil while the submarine was submerged. The sub-marine then surfaced to launch aircraft.

    The design had a vertical figure-eight hull con-figuration forward, evolving into a horizontal fig-ure eight (with side-by-side pressure hulls) amid-ships. This arrangement permitted the submarineto have two forward torpedo rooms, one above theother, while housing four diesel engines, pairedside-by-side amidships. The submarines aircraftmagazine could hold four aerial torpedoes, three1,760-pound (800-kg) bombs, and 12 550-pound(250-kg) bombs. Beyond aircraft, each I-400 wasarmed with eight 21-inch (533-mm) torpedo tubesforward. One 5.5-inch (140-mm) deck gun and ten25-mm anti-aircraft guns were fitted.

    Eighteen submarines were planned. The I-400was completed in December 1944, followed by theI-401 and I-402 in 1945. The I-402 was modifiedbefore completion to a tanker configuration tocarry fuel from the East Indies to Japan, but the war

    ended before she undertook a tanker mission.4

    Air operations by the I-400s were delayedbecause of the lag in producing the aircraftdesigned specifically for these submarines, thehigh-performance Aichi M6A1 Seiran floatplane.5

    This was the worlds only aircraft built specificallyfor bombing missions from submarines. The spec-ifications initially called for no undercarriage; iffeasible, after a bombing mission the aircraft wouldreturn to the submarine and come down at sea. Asbuilt, the large, single-engine aircraft had large,twin cantilever floats. It could carry a torpedo or1,875-pound (850-kg) bomb or two 551-pound(250-kg) bombs.

    During practice, the time to unfold an aircraftswings and tail surfaces, and ready a plane forlaunchingin darknesswas less than seven min-utes. Three aircraft could be readied for flight andlaunched within 30 minutes of a submarine comingto the surface. Although this was a long time for thesubmarine to be exposed, even at night, it was aremarkable achievement.

    The two submarines of the AM type, the I-13and I-14, were slightly smaller than the I-400 designand were configured to embark two M6A1 aircraft.They were intended to operate with the I-400s inlong-range air strikes.6

    On 26 July 1945 the I-400 and I-401 sortiedfrom the Inland Sea to raid the U.S. naval anchor-age at Ulithi with their attack aircraft, OperationHaikari. The I-13 and I-14 accompanied them, eachwith one aircraft to scout the lagoon at Ulithi. Thewar in the Pacific ended on 15 August, two daysbefore the planned strike. All three completed sub-marines survived the war, never having fired a shotin anger. Future plans for the undersea crafthadthe war continuedincluded replacing their air-craft with Baka rocket-propelled suicide aircraft,7

    and there were unconfirmed reports of proposals touse the submarines to launch aircraft against theUnited States carrying biological (germ) agents.

    U.S. naval officers went through the submarinesafter the war. There was some consideration by theU.S. Navy of converting one or more of these giantsto transport submarines. To meet U.S. Navy safetystandards and rehabilitate the ships would take sixmonths of yard work and would cost some$750,000 per submarine; this did not include later


  • modifications that would be needed to employ U.S.batteries.8 In the event, no work was undertaken.The I-402 was scuttled off the coast of Japan in1946; the I-400 and I-401 as well as the I-14 weresailed to Pearl Harbor for further examinationbefore being scuttled, also in 1946.

    Several German U-boats also operated aircraftduring World War IItowed autogiros. Unpow-ered, these devices were launched by the sub-marines on the surface to provide aerial surveil-lance around the U-boat. The aircrafttheFocke-Achgelis Fa 330required a 17-mile-per-hour (27 km/h) airspeed, generated by submarinespeed plus wind speed. Some 200 to 500 feet (61152m) of steel cable was usually winched out for opera-tion, with a telephone line being imbedded in thecable to enable the airborne observer to communi-cate with the submarine. The free-wheeling rotorkept the craft aloft, with a normal altitude of about330 feet (100 m). Although the Fa 330/U-boat opera-tions were limited, the device was an interesting one,reflecting the highly innovative approach of the Ger-mans to submarine development and operations.

    The Germans also planned to employ real heli-copters from submarines. The Flettner 282 was partof the massive German helicopter program of WorldWar II. The diminutive aircraftcalled Kolibi

    (Humming Bird)was the worlds first helicopter tobecome operational with a military service. Afterflight trials in 19401941, which included operations


    An I-400-class submarine comes alongside the U.S. submarine tender Proteus after Japans surrender in August 1945. The

    base of the conning tower, offset to starboard, contains the three-aircraft hangar, which opens onto the catapult. There were

    proposals after the war to convert the surviving submarine carriers into cargo ships. (U.S. Navy)

    U.S. sailors examine the hangar of an I-400-class subma-

    rine. The massive hangar door is at left. The hangar could

    accommodate three M6A1 Seiran floatplanes, whose

    engines could be warmed up while the submarine was sub-

    merged. These underwater giants were conceived to attack

    U.S. cities. (U.S. Navy)

  • from the cruiser Kln duringheavy seas in the Baltic, the Fl 282was ordered into mass produc-tion for the German Navy.

    The Fl 282 was unarmed andwas used for anti-submarinereconnaissance. A productionorder for one thousand Fl 282swas placed in 1944 for both theNavy and Air Force, but less than30 pre-production aircraft werefinished before the war ended.Some of those were used as ship-board ASW aircraft in the Baltic,Aegean, and Mediterranean. Theaircraft was designed with rapid-ly removable rotors, in part tofacilitate possible stowage incanisters on submarines. (One Fl282 was reported to have landedon the deck of a U-boat.)

    After the war, in 1948, TsKB-18 (later Rubin) developed adraft design for Project 621alarge landing ship-transportsubmarine. In addition to a bat-talion of troops, tanks, and vehi-cles, the submarine was to carrythree La-5 fighter aircraft in ahangar built into the conningtower. The aircraft would belaunched by catapult. This wasthe only known Soviet aircraft-carrying submarine to reach thisstage of design.

    Although there was no se-rious Soviet consideration ofaircraft-carrying submarines,U.S. intelligence in the early1950s did give credence to a submarine-launched nuclear airattack against Strategic AirCommand (SAC) bomber bases.A secret Project Rand study in1953sponsored by the U.S. AirForceconcluded that, Usingthe submarine-launched or low-altitude Tu-4 surprise attack, the


    The large Aichi M6A1 Seiran was the worlds only aircraft built as a submarine-

    launched bomber. With a crew of two, the aircraft had a maximum weight of

    9,800 pounds. Its top speed was 295 miles per hour, and range was in excess of 700

    statute miles. This aircraftthe only survivor of 28 producedis in the collec-

    tion of the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C. (Eric Long/NASM)

    A Focke-Achgelis Fa 330 is prepared for flight atop a U-boats conning tower. The

    tethered, unpowered autogiro kite was intended to provide the submarine with

    long-range surveillance. Rarely used and with limited effect, the idea was yet

    another manifestation of German innovation in submarine warfare.

  • enemy can destroy a major part of SAC potential atrelatively small cost in A-bombs and aircraft. With nomore than 50 aircraft and bombs, two-thirds ormore of SAC bomber and reconnaissance aircraftcould be destroyed.9 (Emphasis in original)

    The Rand study postulated that Soviet sub-marines each would carry one aircraft with per-formance similar to the North American F-86Sabre, a Mach 1 fighter aircraft with the F-86H andF-86K variants being able to carry a nuclearweapon.10 The submarine-launched attack, witheach aircraft armed with a 40-kiloton bomb (i.e.,twice the explosive power of the Hiroshima A-bomb), could strike all occupied SAC bomberbases in the United States and overseas within 700n.miles (1,300 km) of the coast. Most bases in thecontinental United States and 15 overseas SACbases would be targets of the proposed submarineattack. Only 8 of 39 U.S. strategic bomber baseswere beyond that range. The Rand study estimatedthat only a slight increase in Soviet aircraft sizewould provide a range of about 1,200 n.miles(2,225 km), enabling attacks on the remainingeight U.S. bases.11

    Without warning the submarine attack againstthe United States was estimated to be able todestroy all heavy bombers (B-36) and 76 percent of

    the medium bombers (B-47); with warningdefined as about one hourthe submarine-launched strike would still destroy 100 percent ofthe heavy bombers as well as 73 percent of themedium bombers.12 Soviet submarine strikes wereestimated to be less effective against overseas SACbases because their larger size would make aircrafton them less vulnerable to 40-kiloton bombs.

    But Soviet submarine-launched strike aircraftexisted only in the deliberations of Rand studygroup.

    Immediately after the war the U.S. Navy gave littlethought to aircraft-carrying submarines (at thetime designated SSV). A Submarine Officers Con-ference in 1946 noted,No design studies should bemade on this type of submarine at this time unlessthe Chief of Naval Operations believes that theneed for such a type submarine may be required inthe near future.13

    The development of nuclear propulsion led tosome interest in aircraft-carrying submarines bythe Office of Naval Research (ONR). In responseto an ONR solicitation, aircraft designer EdHeinemannhe preferred to be called an innova-tordeveloped a series of design sketches for afighter aircraft that could be accommodated inthe massive bow hangar of the Regulus missilesubmarine Halibut (SSGN 587), completed in1960.14 Heinemanns sketches for ONR indicatedhow a new-design aircraft or his versatile A4DSkyhawk could fit into the submarines hangarwith minimum modification. The basic Halibuthangar was 80 feet (24.4 m) long. The new-designaircraft was Douglas model 640, a turbo-jet attackaircraft that would be catapult launched from thesurfaced submarine, would come down at sea onits flying boat hull, and would be recoveredaboard the submarine by a telescoping crane.Depending on modifications to the hangar, theaircrafts wings, tail fin, or nose would fold forshipboard stowage.

    The Navy did not pursue Heinemanns pro-posals.

    Project Flying CarpetDuring this period there were several proposals fornuclear-propelled, aircraft-carrying submarines.


    This Fa 330 has been fitted with wheels, the configuration

    used to train U-boat sailors how to fly these aircraft.

    They normally flew at about 330 feet. The steel cable

    (right) contained a telephone line for the flier to report ship

    sightings to the U-boat. (U.S. Army)

  • The most ambitious proposal was sponsored by theNavys Bureau of Aeronautics, responsible for air-craft development. The extensive feasibility study ofaircraft-carrying submarinescalled Project FlyingCarpetwas demonstrated by the Boeing AircraftCompany. The secret study employed the Thresher(SSN 593)-type S5W propulsion plant and, initial-ly, hangar configuration and hull lines based on theHalibut design.15

    The near-term submarine carrier configura-tiondesignated AN-1would carry eight high-performance aircraft in two large hangars built intothe forward hull. The submarine would be some500 feet (152.4 m) long and displace 9,260 tons onthe surface, larger than any U.S. submarine thenplanned, including the Polaris missile submarines.

    The starting point for AN-1 aircraft would be amodified Grumman F11F Tiger turbojet fighter.16

    The aircrafts standard folding wings (for carrieruse) would be supplemented by a folding tail fin,and a large rocket booster would be used forlaunching from a zero-length catapult. Thelaunchers would be elevated to the vertical (90o) tolaunch aircraft. The pilots would climb into the air-craft while they still were in the hangar, beforebeing moved onto the launcher by an automatedsystem.

    The feasibility of stowing conventional aircraft inRegulus II missile hangars as well as submarineweight, stability, and equilibrium was conductedusing the Grayback (SSG 574) with an F11F aircraft.17

    An improved, Mach 3 aircraft eventually was toreplace the F11F, a Mach 1+ fighter. The later air-craft would be recovered through the use of aninnovative hook-and-cable arresting system. In anemergency, an aircraft set down at sea could bebrought back aboard the submarine by crane.

    Stowage would be provided for aircraft fuel,weapons, and other stores for ten missions per air-craft, that is, a total of 80 missions per submarine.During the preliminary design process, it appearedfeasible to increase the number of missions to atleast 160 with only minor changes in the subma-rine design. The pressure hull would have threesectionshangar I, hangar II, and the after sec-tion, which contained control, crew, reactor,machinery, and related spaces. The after sectionwould have six compartments.

    The AN-2 variant aircraft-carrying submarinehad similar hull lines to the AN-1. However, thisvariant would operate Vertical Takeoff and Landing(VTOL) aircraft, carried in eight vertical hangarsbuilt into the hull forward of the sail structure.Thus the below-deck configuration of the forwardhull (hangars I and II in the AN-1) would differconsiderably from the AN-1.

    Noting that Flight deck operations in the con-ventional meaning of the word do not exist, thestudy indicated that four VTOL aircraft could belaunched within 512 minutes of surfacing and eightaircraft in just over nine minutes.18 These timescould be reduced substantially if the engine startand run-up time was accomplished by self-contained starters rather than using shipboardpower. Under the most adverse operational launchsequence, the time to launch all eight aircraft wasestimated to be 18 minutes. (Adverse sea conditionswould be compensated for by moving the aircraft,via deck tracks, to the amidship launchers closest tothe ships center of buoyancy.)

    The Boeing study calculated that the AN-1 submarine would cost about half again as much asa Polaris missile submarine (based on 1958 estimates):19

    Nautilus (SSN 571) $ 75 millionHalibut (SSGN 597) $ 85 millionPolaris SSBN $100 millionAN-1 carrier $140150 million

    The aircraft-carrying submarine was not pursued.A number of reasons have been put forward:A questionable operational requirement for submarine-based aircraft, bureaucratic oppositionfrom the Bureau of Ships to a ship concept developedby the Bureau of Aeronautics, and the shortage ofsubmarine construction capability because the Navywas accelerating the construction of both torpedo-attack submarines and Polaris missile submarines.

    Although the U.S. Navy did not pursue the designof an aircraft-carrying submarine, proposals contin-ued to come forth from a variety of sources. The U.S.Patent Office has received numerous submarine air-craft carrier proposals: One dated 1930 shows a sub-marine with a hangar built into the superstructure,carrying two floatplanes that were to be launched on


  • 252C









    U.S. submarine aircraft carrier AN-1 design. LOA 498 ft 6 in (152.0 m). (A.D. Baker, III)

  • AIR












    U.S. submarine aircraft carrier AN-2 design for VTOL aircraft. (A.D. Baker, III

  • rollers.20 A postWorld War IIpatent shows a conventional sub-marine with a large hangar withinthe pressure hull and an elevator tolift the floatplanes to the maindeck, where they would take off.After alighting at sea, the float-planes would come aboard thestern of the submarine.21

    While few of these proposalswere feasible from an engineeringor operational viewpoint, theywere interesting and help demon-strate the continued interest inthis type of craft, combining therevolutionary weapons of the 20thCentury.

    The only nation to make exten-sive use of aircraft-carrying sub-marines was Japan, during WorldWar II. These submarineslaunched their aircraft onnumerous reconnaissance mis-sions during the war and, in1942, on the only aircraft attacksagainst the United States.

    With the advent of nuclearpropulsion, the U.S. Navy spon-sored the preliminary design oflarge, aircraft-carrying sub-marines. These designs, under-taken primarily by aircraft com-panies under the aegis of Navy agencies outside ofthe Bureau of Ships/Naval Sea Systems Com-mand, were not fully developed, but they were aninteresting conceptual excursion.

    Rather, missiles, satellites, and other advanced-technology systems had overtaken the potentialmissions of the aircraft-carrying submarine.


    TABLE 15-1Aircraft-Carrying Submarines

    Japanese Japanese U.S.I-13 class I-400 class Boeing AN-1

    Operational 1944 1944


    surface 3,603 tons 5,223 tons 9,260 tons

    submerged 4,762 tons 6,400 tons 14,700 tons

    Length 372 ft 9 in 400 ft 3 in 498 ft 6 in

    (113.7 m) (122.0 m) (152.0 m)

    Beam 38 ft 6 in 39 ft 4 in 44 ft 3 in

    (11.7 m) (12.0 m) (13.49 m)

    Draft 19 ft 4 in 23 ft 23 ft 7 in

    (5.9 m) (7.0 m) (7.19 m)

    Reactors 1 S5W

    Turbines 2

    horsepower 15,000

    Diesel engines 2 4

    horsepower 4,400 7,700

    Electric motors 2 4

    horsepower 600 2,400

    Shafts 2 2 2


    surface 16.75 knots 19.7 knots

    submerged 5.5 knots 7 knots 16 knots

    Range (n.miles/kts)

    surface 21,000/16 34,000/16

    submerged 60/3 90/3

    Test depth 330 feet 330 feet

    (100 m) (100 m)

    Torpedo tubes* 6 533-mm B 8 533-mm B 4 533-mm B

    2 533-mm S

    Torpedoes 12 20

    Guns 1 140-mm 1 140-mm

    7 25-mm 10 25-mm

    Aircraft 2 3 8

    Complement 108 144 163**

    Notes: * Bow + Stern.** Includes 12 officer pilots and 2 flight officers.

  • Several navies developed and operatedmidget submarines during World War II.The most notableand successfulefforts in

    this field were the Japanese midget submarines andBritish X-craft.1 On the basis of their exploits, sev-eral nations expressed interest in this category ofundersea craft during the Cold War.

    The Japanese employed midget submarinesspecial attack unitsat the outset of the war: FiveType A craft, each armed with two torpedoes, werereleased from five mother submarines to penetratethe U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor (Hawaii) imme-diately before the surprise air attack on 7 December1941. All five of the midgets were lost without scor-ing any torpedo hits, although one and possibly twodid penetrate the harbor.2 Interestingly, Vice Admi-ral Chuichi Nagumo, commander of the Pearl Har-bor attack force, reported after the attack that it iscertain that extraordinary results were obtained bythe most valiant attacks by the special attack units of

    the submarine force.3 Subsequently, Japanesemidgets were in action at Diego-Suarez, Madagas-car, on 31 May 1942, when two midgets sank aBritish tanker and damaged the battleship Ramil-lies. Neither midget returned. At the same time,three midgets were launched into Sydney Harbor,Australia. Although several U.S. and Australianwarships were in the harbor, the midgets inflictedno damage and none survived the attack.

    Japanese midgets also operated off Guadalcanal,the Aleutians, and Philippines, but without signifi-cant success. When the war ended in August 1945,the Japanese had several hundred midget sub-marines being prepared to attack the U.S. assaultforces in the invasion of the Japanese home islands,which was planned to begin in November 1945.About 440 midget submarines were completed inJapan from 1934 to 1945. All had two 18-inch (457-mm) torpedo tubes and were operated by crews oftwo to five men.


    Midget, Small, and Flying Submarines

    The Project 865/Losos submarinesgenerally known by their Russian name Piranyawere the most advanced midgets

    developed during the Cold War. Although there was considerable interest in midget submarines at various times in the

    Soviet and U.S. Navies, few were produced. (Malachite SPMBM)


  • Britains Royal Navy operated X-craft from 1942.These 50-foot (15.2-m), 27-ton submarines weretowed to their operational areas by larger sub-marines.4 The X-craft had a small, floodable cham-ber to lock out swimmers to place explosivesunder an enemy ship or to cut through barrier nets.The submarines armament consisted of two curved,two-ton charges that were carried against the hullcontaining the explosive amatol. In combat, a four-man crew would pilot the craft beneath an anchoredenemy warship, release the amatol charges under thehull, and slip away before they were detonated by atiming device. Fitted with a lockout chamber, the X-craft could also send out a swimmer to attach smalllimpet mines to an enemy ship.

    The most famous X-craft operation of thewarcode name Sourceoccurred in September1943. Six large submarines each towed a midgetunderwater to a position off the Norwegian coast toattack the German battleship Tirpitz and other war-ships at anchor in Norwegian fjords. One midgetwas lost en route and another was scuttled after herexplosive charges had to be jettisoned. Three of thesix X-craft reached Altenfjord and two were able tolay their charges under the battleship Tirpitz. Ger-man sailors sighted the midgets, which were firedon, and both were scuttled, with six of the Britishsubmariners being captured. When the charges det-onated, they lifted the 52,700-ton battleship aboutfive feet (1.5 m), inflicting major damage on herpropulsion machinery, guns, and rangefinders. Thedreadnought was immobile for almost six monthswhile repairs were made. The sixth X-craft, likemost of the others, suffered mechanical problems,could not locate the nearby battleship Scharnhorst,and, after a rendezvous with her mother subma-rine, was scuttled. The raid had cost nine Britishsubmariners killed and six captured.5

    The larger, 30-ton British XE-craft arrived inEast Asia in mid-1945. Late on 30 July the two XEboats slipped into Singapore harbor, having beentowed to the area by large submarines. Using limpetmines, swimmers from midgets attached six limpetmines to sink the Japanese heavy cruiser Takao.Both midgets successfully rendezvoused with theirlarger brethren waiting offshore.

    In all, Britain constructed two prototype X-craftfollowed by five operational X-craft in 19421943,

    25 larger XE-craft in 19441945 for use in the Pacif-ic. Six similar XT-craft for training were deliveredin 1944, for a total of 36 midgets produced for theRoyal Navy during the war.

    Germany and Italy also developed midget sub-marines during World War II, but those craftaccomplished little. The Type XXVII Seehund (seadog) was the definitive variant of the Germanmidgets, a 15-ton craft that could carry two 533-mm torpedoes. Their successes were few. By the endof the war in May 1945, 285 had been delivered of aplanned 1,000 units. Under development was theType 227 variant fitted with a Kreislauf closed-cyclediesel propulsion plant using liquid oxygen forunderwater propulsion.6

    In contrast to the limited operations of Germanand Italian midgets, the Italian human torpedoes,or pigs, were highly successful. These craft werepiloted by two swimmers after being carried by amother submarine. They would detach the warheadbeneath an enemy ship and ride the vehicle back tothe mother submarine. Several other nations alsohad such craft. Neither the Soviet nor U.S. Naviesdeveloped midget submarines during the war.

    After the war Britain was the first country toresume the development of midgets. Initially two


    A British X-craft, showing the midgets air induction mast

    and day and night periscopes. The later XE-craft had a

    flush deck. The U.S. Navy had great interest in these craft

    after World War II, with two being borrowed for demon-

    stration purposes. (Imperial War Museum)

  • XE-type were kept in operation, and in 1951 theRoyal Navy ordered four new boats, the 36-ton X51through X54; a fifth unit was planned but notbuilt.7 But after their delivery in 1954 only two werekept in operation at any given time.

    Their normal armament was a pair of three-ton charges of high explosives. Nuclear mines wereproposed for these craft. In 1954 the Naval Staffproposed development of a nuclear minecodenamed Cudgelto be used by these craft to attackSoviet harbors, especially Kronshtadt in the Gulf ofFinland, a major base of the Soviet Baltic Fleet. Thenuclear mine was to be adopted from the RedBeard, an aerial bomb weighing 1,750 pounds (795kg) with a 15-kiloton yield.8

    Like their predecessors, these Cudgel-armed X-craft were to be towed to the proximity of theirobjective and then cast off to clandestinely plant thenuclear charge, which could be laid to depths of 300feet (90 m). The time delay to detonate the nuclearweapon was up to seven days after being laid.Development of the nuclear charge was not pur-sued, and in 1958 the new X-craft were discarded.9

    The Royal Navy also consideredvery brieflythe possibility of a small nuclear-propelled subma-rine. In the late 1940s and 1950s, the U.S. Navy andU.S. Air Force both studied Aircraft NuclearPropulsion (ANP) projects, with the Air Forceactually flying a test reactor in a B-36 bomber.10

    The Navy looked into the feasibility of nuclear-propelled flying boats for cargo, ASW, and radarsurveillance functions.11 Among the candidatesexamined was the prototype Saunders-Roe S.R.45Princess flying boat. The aircraft first flew in 1952but never entered commercial service and, with twounfinished sisters, was soon mothballed. The Navycancelled its ANP program in 1960, but interest wascontinued by some of the participating firms andthe Royal Navy, the latter dubbing the effort theEmpire Project.

    The latters interest ended when, in 1960, a for-mal briefing was made by one of the firms to agroup of British officers. This was for a submarineof a few hundred tons to be manned by a crew of12. But we saw that the scheme was impractical.The provision of a large passive sonar, sufficientfacilities, and weapons would have resulted in afull-size nuclear submarine.12

    The U.S. Navys Midget SubThe firstand onlymidget submarine devel-oped by the U.S. Navy during the Cold War wasthe X-1 (SSX 1).13 After World War II several U.S.naval officers proposed roles for midget sub-marines, especially attacking Soviet submarines attheir home bases. More immediate, however, wasinterest in developing anti-midget tactics. Areport to a Submarine Officers Conference in 1949observed:

    The midget submarine promises to be asoperationally desirable to the U.S. Navy as itwould be to a probable enemy. . . . Inas-much as the Russians have evinced definiteinterest in midget submarines it is particu-larly important that our defensive forceshave the opportunity to develop the mosteffective defenses against such craft. Thiscan only be done if we ourselves possessmidget submarines with which to train ourdefense forces.14

    By the late 1940s the leading advocate of midgetsubmarines for the U.S. Navy was Commander Ray-mond H. Bass on the staff of Commander Subma-rine Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet. Bass envisioned sever-al variants of midget submarines for a variety ofroles and soon interested the Bureau of Ships in hisquest. In 1950 the Navy considered the constructionof two midget submarines, one of 25 tons with a300-foot (91-m) operating depth and another of 70tons that could operate to 250 feet (76 m). The larg-er craft would carry two short torpedoes with acrew of four to six men.

    The fiscal year 1952 shipbuilding program,which was developed in 1950, provided for thesmaller prototype craft, given the designation X-1.British X-craft were a major factor in the develop-ment of the X-1: In the summer of 1950 the BritishXE7 was sent to the United States for three monthsto help the U.S. Navy evaluate the efficiency of suchcraft in penetrating harbor defenses; she was fol-lowed in 1952 by the XE9, and in 1958 by the Sprat(ex-X54).15 Describing the XE7 tests in penetratinganti-submarine nets in the Norfolk area duringAugust 1950, Captain Lawrence R. (Dan) Daspitrecounted:


  • In those tests the X craft succeeded in goingup to the net that had been laid, puttingmen [swimmers] outside the craft, cuttingthe net and getting through within 28 min-utes under adverse tide conditions. Therewas no disturbance of the net to amount toanything at all.16

    In discussing the requirement for the X-1,Daspit explained:

    This country has never operated any sub-marines of this size. . . . We feel that weneed a small submarine to evaluate our har-bor defenses. The Navy is responsible for thedefense of harbors in this country and inadvanced bases. A ship of this type, we feel,

    may succeed in going through the defenseswe have today and in mining large units suchas carriers or any other valuable ships.17

    In the same meeting of the Navys General Board,Commander Bass predicted, After the Navy seeswhat these little craft can do, the demand will be cre-ated for their use in many places.18

    The X-1 was built by the Fairchild Engine andAirplane Corporation at Deer Park, Long Island,New York; she was launched at the nearby JakobsonsShipyard in Oyster Bay, Long Island, on 7 September1955, and was placed in service as the X-1 on 7 Octo-ber 1955 under Lieutenant Kevin Hanlon.19

    The submarine was 4912 feet (15.1 m) long, witha surface displacement of 31.5 tons, making her

    slightly smaller than the X51series, which were 36 tons and5334 feet (16.39 m) long.

    Manned by a crew of four,the X-1 was developed ostensi-bly to test U.S. harbor defenses.But the craft was intended tohave the capabilityafter beingtowed into a forward area by alarger submarineof lockingout swimmers for sabotage mis-sions against enemy ships inport and of other combat tasks.Two divers could be carried forshort durations, for a total of sixmen. Also, a 4-foot (1.2-m) sec-tion could be installed forward(between the crafts bow andmain hull sections) to carry asingle, 1,700-pound (771-kg)XT-20A mine. A JP-2 passivesonar was provided. However,on a realistic basis, the craft hadno combat capability.

    The most unusual aspect ofthe X-1 was her propulsion plant.The BuShips design provided fora diesel-electric plant. Fair-child proposedand the Navyapproveda diesel-hydrogenperoxide arrangement: While onthe surface, the 34-horsepower


    The X-1 airborne at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in 1960. At the time she

    was being taken out of mothballs and prepared for service as a research craft in

    the Severn River, near Annapolis, Maryland. (U.S. Navy)

    The X-1, the U.S. Navys only midget submarine built during the Cold War era,

    on trials in Long Island Sound on 6 October 1955. The submarine was built by an

    aircraft manufacturer and was the U.S. Navys only submarine with closed-cycle

    propulsion. (U.S. Navy)

  • diesel engine operated on air as did a conventionalsubmarine; when submerged, the diesel engine ranon oxygen provided by the decomposition of hydro-gen peroxide. A 60-cell electric battery and a smallelectric motor/generator were fitted for emergencysubmerged propulsion and electric power. Thediesel-peroxide plant was intended to provide anunderwater speed of eight knots, but six knots wasthe maximum achieved.20

    Numerous difficulties were encountered withthe propulsion plant. After initial trials in New Lon-don, yard work was planned at the PortsmouthNaval Shipyard. Three test stand runs on peroxidewere undertaken in OctoberDecember 1956. Onthe initial peroxide test run, conducted on 26 Octo-ber 1956, The engine was very unstable and estab-lishment of the fuel-to-peroxide ratio was almostimpossible. During this test the engine stalled onthe peroxide cycle at least once, according to anofficial record.21 The damage with each test runwas progressively more devastating to the pistonand engine block. There also were problems withwater contaminating the lubrication oil.

    The problems continued into 1957. Even whenthere werent problems, the maintenance require-ments on the propulsion plant were horrendous.As one of her officers-in-charge, Richard Boyle,later recalled, The power plant was such a night-mare that it is very difficult to visualize capa-bility. Can you imagine going up a fjord [on amission] and being faced with changing the lubeoil every 24 hours?22

    The X-1 suffered a peroxide explosion at thePortsmouth Naval Shipyard on 20 May 1957 thatblew off her bow section, which sank; the remainderof the craft remained intact and afloat. Rebuilt with astraight diesel-electric plant, she was taken out ofservice in December 1957 and laid up in reserve. But

    three years later, in December1960, she was towed to Annapolis,Maryland, and rehabilitated foruse as a research craft in the upperChesapeake Bay, where she wasused for ASW-related studies ofthe chemical and physical proper-ties of water. These activities con-tinued through January 1973,with the craft again taken out of

    service and stricken the following month, on 16 Feb-ruary.23 The U.S. Navy did not pursue other midgetsubmarinesexcept for a flying submarine.

    A Submersible SeaplaneThe U.S. Navy began contemplating the merger ofaviation and submarine technologies into a singlevehicle as early as 1946.24 By that time several Navylaboratories were looking into the required tech-nologies. When asked by the press whether such avehicle could be produced, Vice Admiral Arthur W.Radford, the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations forAir, replied: Nothing is impossible.25 It is signifi-cant that, despite various nomenclature, from theoutset the concept provided for a submersible sea-plane and not a flying submarine because of thediffering structural approaches to a seaplane vis--vis a submarine.

    A decade later, in 1955, studies were being con-ducted under contract from the Department ofDefense by the All American Engineering Compa-ny while aviation pioneer John K. (Jack) Northropwas designing such craft. The All American vehi-cle was to alight on and take off from the water onhydro-skis; once on the water the craft could besealed and could submerge.26

    Although nothing resulted from these studies,by the early 1960s the U.S. Navy was ready toinvest in such a vehicle. A Navy engineer workingon the project, Eugene H. Handler, explained,

    There is . . . a tremendous amount of[Soviet] shipping in the Soviet-dominatedBaltic Sea, the essentially land-locked BlackSea, the Sea of Azov, and the truly inlandCaspian Sea. These waters are safe from thedepredations of conventional surface shipsand submarines.27


    X-1 (SSX 1). LOA 49 ft 7 in (15.1 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • While noting that there were proposals to carrymidget submarines in seaplanes as well as by a larg-er submarine for such operations, he explained,The most needed improvements for the midgetsubmarine appear to be increases in cruise speedand radius so that the submarine is able to returnfrom missions without immediate assistance fromother craft.28

    In the early 1960s the Convair aircraft firm proposed a small submarine that could travel athigh speeds on the ocean surface using hydro-skis or hydrofoils.29 The firm had earlier devel-oped the F2Y Sea Dart, a supersonic floatplanethat employed water skis. This led to the NavysBureau of Naval Weaponsat the time responsi-ble for aircraft developmentawarding a contractto Convair in 1964 to examine the feasibility of asubmersible flying boat, which was being calledthe sub-plane by those involved with the project.The Convair study determined that such a craftwas feasible, practical and well within the state ofthe art.

    The Bureau of Naval Weapons specified a set ofdesign goals:30

    air cruise speed 150225 mph

    (280420 km/h)

    air cruise altitude 1,5002,500 feet(460760 m)

    air cruise radius 300500 n.miles(555925 km)

    maximum gross takeoff

  • in towing tanks and wind tunnels. But in 1966 Sen-ator Allen Ellender, of the Senates Committee onArmed Services, savagely attacked the project. Hisridicule and sarcasm forced the Navy to cancel aproject that held promise for a highly interestingsubmarine. Although the utility of the craft wasquestioned, from a design viewpoint it was bothchallenging and highly innovative.

    Soviet Small SubmarinesAn unusual Soviet attempt at a small submarineoccurred during the Khrushchev era. This conceptwas proposed by Nikita Khrushchev after visiting anaval base in Balaklava (Crimea), where heobserved both high-speed surface craft and sub-

    marines. The Soviet leaderexpressed the opinion that in thenuclear era most warshipsshould be submersibles andthat a missile craft would be agood starting point.

    At Khrushchevs direction, asubmersible missile ship wasdesigned between 1958 and1964. The initial design effortwas assigned to TsKB-19; in1963 the bureau was joinedwith TsKB-5 to form the Almazmarine design bureau. Thecraftdesignated Project 1231was to have high speed (40 to60 knots), carry four P-25 anti-ship missiles, and be capable ofsubmerging to shallow depths.To achieve high surface speed,engineers experimented withvarious combinations of hullforms and hydrofoils, withmodels tested in towing tanks,on lakes, and in wind tunnels.After considering propulsionalternatives, the M507 dieselplant was selected, with asnorkel installation and elec-tric motors for submergedoperation.31

    The effort proved technicallydifficult, in part because TsKB-

    19 engineers had no submarine experience, andalso because of the problems of combining a high-speed craft and a submarine in a single platform.Project 1231 was terminated when Khrushchev wasremoved from office. The design torment wasended, according to a later evaluation by subma-rine designer.32

    Despite periodic reports of Soviet midget subma-rine operations, the Soviets did not develop suchcraft until well into the Cold War. In particular,there were continuous reports in the 1980s thatSoviet midget submarines were invading Swedishterritorial waters. According to a Swedish govern-ment statement,


    An artists concept of the planned U.S. Navy submersible seaplane. The craft

    was to have three aircraft engines, two turbojet engines for takeoff and one tur-

    bofan for cruise flight. The concept appeared practical but was killed for mainly

    political reasons. (General Dynamics Corp.)

    U.S. Navy submersible seaplane. (A.D. Baker, III)

  • Thorough and expert analysis of the infor-mation that it has been possible to extractfrom the imprints documented on the seafloor has thus indicated, among otherthings, that we are dealing here withmanned minisubmarines which are capableof proceeding both suspended in the water,driven by propeller machinery, and on thesea bottom, by caterpillar tracks, amongother things. They can thus use channelsand areas where the water is shallow andnavigation conditions difficult, and they canbe regarded as extremely difficult to locateand combat.33

    However, as the Cold War came to an end, theSwedish government was forced to admit that theevidence was wrong: the caterpillar tracks were leftby the trawling equipment of local fishermen, whilesubmarine sounds detected by Swedish acousticsensors were those of minks and other mammalssearching for food in coastal waters.34

    (Although Soviet midget submarines did notoperate in Swedish coastal waters, larger underseacraft did so on a regular basis. The Project613/Whiskey submarine S-363 ran aground inOctober 1981 while far into Swedish territorialwaters.)

    The concept of a smallnot midgetsubma-rine was developed in Soviet research institutes foruse in waters with broad, shallow shelf areas downto 650 feet (200 m), where operations of normalsubmarines either were limited because of the nav-igational conditions or were excluded altogether. Inthose areas small submarines were to counterenemy forces and conduct reconnaissance missions.These craft would differ from midgets in that theycould travel to their operational area under theirown power and not be carried by or towed behinda larger submarine.

    Based on these concepts, in 1973 the Malachitedesign bureau began work on a small intelligence-collection submarineProject 865.35 Given theRussian name Piranya (NATO Losos), the designteam initially was under chief designer L. V.Chernopiatov and, from 1984, Yu. K. Mineev. TheSoviet shipbuilding industry lacked experience inthe design and construction of such small sub-

    marines, and it was not possible to use the equip-ment developed for larger submarines, henceextensive research and development efforts wererequired.

    The decision was made to construct the craft oftitanium to save weight and provide strength. Also,the non-magnetic properties of titanium wouldhelp the craft evade magnetic mines. A convention-al diesel-electric propulsion system was selected forthe Piranya with heavy emphasis on machineryquieting. The craft would have a single propellershaft and there would be conventional control sur-faces, including bow diving planes.

    The submarine would be manned by a crew ofthree (officers) and could carry up to six divers forten-day missions. The small crewone watch-stander normally on dutywas possible because ofa very high degree of automation. The conditionsof living and working in a small submarine for thatperiod led to the fabrication of a full-scale simula-tor in a research center of the Ministry of Health.

    The Piranya crews were to undergo trainingand psychological testing for ten-day periods inthe simulator, which had inputs from navigation,sonar, and radar systems. The galley, sanitary, andberthing spaces as well as air-conditioning andair-cleaning systems were similar to standard sub-marine equipment, albeit on a smaller scale.Indeed, these features, coupled with the size of thecraft218 tons surface and 390 tons submergeddisplacementcould categorize them as coastalsubmarines. (The volume of the Piranya was sixtimes that of the American X-1.)

    A lockout chamber in the Piranya enabledaccess for divers. Their equipmentor mines orsmall torpedoeswere carried in two large con-tainers mounted external to the pressure hull in thesubmarines humpback. The containers are 3913feet (12 m) long and two feet (620 mm) in diame-ter and could be used down to the crafts operatingdepth (650 feet). They accommodate two PMTmines, or two 400-mm torpedoes, or two swimmer-delivery devices.

    Construction of the lead submarinethe MS-520was begun at Leningrads Admiralty shipyardin 1981, with her keel being formally laid down inJuly 1984. The MS-520 was completed in 1988, andthe second unit, the MS-521, in 1990. Several sea


  • areas were considered for trials of the crafttheBaltic, Azov, Caspian, and Black Seas. Preferencewas given to the Baltic Fleet, specifically to the baseat Paldiski (formerly Baltiski), which had enclosedwaters and was located close to submarine testranges. The last factor was significant because of theextensive trials and evaluations planned for thecraft. At times the number of crewmen and techni-cians on board during this period reached 14.

    Several variants of Project 865 were consideredat the Malachite bureau, with surface displacementsvarying from 250 to 750 tons. In 1991 the SpecialBoiler Design Bureau in St. Petersburg completeddevelopment of the Kristall-20 Air-IndependentPropulsion (AIP) system that would be applicableto the Piranya design. The system underwent exten-sive testing and was accepted by the Ministry ofDefense for installation in future units. The demiseof the Soviet Union and the severe cutbacks innaval construction halted these efforts. The twoRussian craft were laid up in reserve in July 1992and were stricken in 1997.

    Although Piranya-type submarines had beenoffered for sale to other nations by the Russian gov-ernment, none has been sold. There was one poten-tial buyer, however: in the 1990s three men wereindicted in a Florida court forconspiring to purchase largequantities of cocaine and herointo be transported from SouthAmerica for distribution in theUnited States.36 As part of theconspiracy, the defendants werealleged to have planned to use airplanes, helicopters, andsubmarines to transport thedrugs. They had planned to pro-cure the vehiclesincluding Pir-anya submarinesfrom Russia;

    reportedly, they already hadacquired a half-dozen helicopters.But neither submarines nor evendocumentation were sold.

    Whereas the Piranya-classsmall submarines were capableof operating independently inrestricted areas, such as the BalticSea, a nuclear-propelled subma-

    rine was considered to provide long-range transportfor the craft. Work on that project also halted withthe end of the Cold War.

    Separate from midget and small submarines, boththe U.S. and Soviet Navies developed a variety ofsmall submersibles to carry or propel swimmers forreconnaissance and to attack enemy shipping inport. These craftsome carried on the decks ofsubmarinesexposed the pilots and swimmers tothe sea, as in World War II craft. The U.S. Navy inthe early 1990s began the construction of the so-called Advanced SEAL Delivery Systems (ASDS) inwhich the divers could travel in a dry environmentand lock out upon reaching their objective, was inreality a midget submarine.37 These craft are to becarried on the decks of several modified attack sub-marines of the Los Angeles (SSN 688) class as well asthe Seawolf (SSN 21) class that have been providedwith special fittings.

    The ASDS, with a dry weight of 55 tons, carriesa crew of two plus eight swimmers on missions last-ing almost a day (i.e., 100 n.miles [185 km]). Propul-sion and control is provided by a large ductedthruster plus four smaller, rotating thrusters. Amongthe submersibles other unusual features are a fixed-


    Project 865/Piranya. LOA 92 ft 6 in (28.2 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

    U.S. Navy Advanced SEAL Delivery System. (Chris Nazelrod/U.S. Naval Institute Pro-


  • length periscope and electron-ics masts, which fold downwhen not in use. This arrange-ment reduces hull penetra-tions and saves weight.

    Six vehicles were plannedwhen this volume went topress. The Northrop Grum-man Corporations ocean sys-tems facility near Annapolis,Maryland, delivered the firstcraft for tests and training in2000. This craft became opera-tional in 2003 with a total of six planned for completionby about 2012a remarkablylong gestation period for a craftof great potential value for spe-cial operations (SEALs) andother clandestine activities.

    Midget submarines wereused extensively by severalnations in World War II;however, they were notemployed by the U.S. orSoviet Navies. In the ColdWar era, both navies con-sidered such craft, and pro-totypes were constructed,the United States doing soearly in the period and the Soviet Unionproducingmuch larger craftlate in theCold War. Neither nationundertook large-scale pro-duction, nor did they providetheir respective craft to for-eign navies, although manynations operate such craft.The U.S. Navys X-1 was not successful; the Sovietera Piranyas were, but were not affordable when theCold War ended.

    The U.S. Navy also initiated a remarkablesmall submarine project in the submersible sea-plane effort. That effort did not come to fruitionbecause of political machinations.

    While limited interest in such underwatercraft continues, the only Soviet-U.S. effort to sur-vive the Cold War has been the U.S. Navysadvanced swimmer delivery vehicle. This givespromise of providing considerable capabilities tothe United States.


    The first ASDS vehicle running trials off Honolulu, Hawaii. Submarines must have

    special modifications to carry the vehicle. The periscope (left) and electronics mast fold

    down and do not retract, saving internal space and providing more flexibility in inter-

    nal arrangement. She has an eight-inch (203-mm) freeboard. (U.S. Navy)

    A drawing of a U.S. Navy Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS) in action. The

    craft is moored above the sea bed with twin anchors as swimmers emerge through the

    lower hatch to the crafts lockout chamber. The patches on the side of the hull indi-

    cated the retracted thrusters. The ASDS, long in development, is being procured at a

    very slow production rate. (U.S. Navy)

  • TABLE 16-1Midget and Small Submarines

    German British U.S. Soviet U.S. AdvancedType 127 X51 X-1 Project 685 SEAL DeliverySeehund Stickleback SSX 1 Piranya Vehicle (ASDS)

    (NATO Lasos)

    Operational 1944 1954 1955 1988 2001


    surface 15.3 tons 36 tons 31.5 tons 218 tons 55 tons#

    submerged 17.4 tons 41 tons 36.3 tons 390 tons

    Length 39 ft 53 ft 10 in 49 ft 7 in 92 ft 6 in 65 ft

    (11.9 m) (16.4 m) (15.1 m) (28.2 m) (19.8 m)

    Beam 5 ft 7 in 6 ft 3 in 7 ft 15 ft 5 in 6 ft 9 in

    (1.7 m) (1.9 m) (2.1 m) (4.7 m) (2.06 m)

    Draft 7 ft 6 in 6 ft 9 in 12 ft 912 in 8 ft 3 in

    (2.29 m) (2.05 m) (3.9 m) (2.5 m)

    Diesel generators 1 1 1 1 nil

    horsepower 60 50 220

    Electric motors 1 1 1 1 1

    horsepower 25 44 80

    Shafts 1 1 1 1 1 propulsor##


    surface 7.7 knots 6.5 knots 5 knots 6.4 knots

    submerged 6 knots 6 knots 6 knots 6.65 knots 8 knots

    Range (n.miles/kts)

    surface 300/7 185/5 1,450/6.4* nil

    submerged 63/3 185/6 260/4 125/8

    Test depth 100 ft 300 ft 150 ft 650 ft 200 ft

    (30 m) (90 m) (45 m) (200 m) (60 m)

    Torpedo tubes nil** nil nil 2 nil

    Torpedoes 2 533-mm nil nil 2 400-mm nil

    Complement*** 2 4 + 1 4 + 2 3 + 6 2 + 8

    Notes: * Maximum range with snorkel.** Carried on brackets external to the pressure hull.

    *** Crew + divers/swimmers.# Dry weight in air.

    ## Electric motors power the main propulsor, a shrouded propeller; four small, trainable ducted thrusters provide precise maneuveringand hover capabilities.


  • This page intentionally left blank

  • In 19671968 the U.S. Navy began planning forthe follow-on to the Permit (SSN 594) and Stur-geon (SSN 637) classes, the Sturgeon herself

    having been completed in 1967. As the Office of theChief of Naval Operations laid out requirementsfor the next-generation SSN, the Naval Sea SystemsCommand (NavSea) initiated a submarine designeffort to respond to those requirements.1 Thiseffort came to be known as CONFORM, short forConcept Formulation.

    Captain Myron Eckhart Jr., at the time head of preliminary ship design in NavSea, recalled that the Office of the Secretary of Defense fundedthe initial design work at a level much higher than

    normalallowing the Navy to perform exception-ally thorough research, design, and engineeringright from the projects beginning.2 And TheCONFORM project involved more of the nationsbest design talents than had ever before beenfocused on the first stage of a submarines design.CONFORM began with a clean sheet of paper,according to Eckhart.

    The CONFORM submarine was to use a deriv-ative of the S5G Natural Circulation Reactor(NCR) plant that Vice Admiral H. G. Rickover wasdeveloping for the one-of-a-kind submarine Nar-whal (SSN 671). A senior submarine designercalled the S5G plantwith direct drivethe best


    Third-GenerationNuclear Submarines

    The Project 971/Akula I shows an advanced hydrodynamic hull form, with the sail structure faired into the hull. The

    towed-array pod is prominent, mounted atop the upper rudder. Production of the Akula SSNs as well as other Soviet sub-

    marines was drastically cut back with the end of the Cold War.


  • reactor ever built.3 The NCRplant uses the natural convec-tion of the heat exchange fluids(coolants) at low speeds ratherthan circulating pumps, a maj-or noise source of propulsionmachinery in nuclear sub-marines.

    The S5G plant was estimatedto be capable of providing asubmerged speed of more than30 knots with a CONFORMsubmarine hull approximatelythe same size as the Sturgeon,that is, about 4,800 tons sub-merged. Innovative featuresbeing considered for the CON-FORM submarine to enhancecombat capabilities included hull shape, weapons,sensors, and even the periscopes. The last includeda proposal for periscopes and masts that foldeddown onto the hull rather than retracting vertical-ly into the hull. This feature would have reducedpressure hull penetrations, provided more flexibil-ity in internal arrangement, and possibly alleviatedthe need for a sail.4

    But Admiral Rickover scuttled the CONFORMproject. Separate from the CONFORM effort, Rick-over was working on what he foresaw as the next-generation submarine reactor plant that wouldhave the primary objective of high speed.5 TheRickover plan adapted the D2G pressurized-waterreactor plant used in surface warships, which devel-oped about 30,000 horsepower per propeller shaft,to a submarine configuration. This evolved into theS6G reactor plant, which was to be evaluated in asingle submarine, the SSN 688. Other one-of-a-kind submarine platforms for new propulsionplants had been the Nautilus (SSN 571), Seawolf(SSN 575), Triton (SSRN 586), Tullibee (SSN 597),Narwhal, and Glenard P. Lipscomb (SSN 685).6

    This quest for a high-speed submarine wasstimulated by two factors: First, the higher-than-expected speeds revealed by Soviet undersea craftthe Project 627A/November SSNs high-speedshadowing of the carrier Enterprise in January 1968,which had been a surprise to the U.S. Navy, and the33-knot Project 671/Victor SSN.

    Second, the Thresher (SSN 593) and Sturgeonclasses employed the same 15,000-horsepower S5Wreactor introduced in 1959 in the Skipjack (SSN585); the later submarine designs were much larger,with more wetted surface, and hence were slowerthan the 33-knot Skipjack. The SSN 688 was intend-ed to demonstrate higher speeds than any U.S.submarine developed to date.7

    The SSN 688 hull diameter was increased slight-ly, to 33 feet (10.1 m) compared to 3123 feet (9.65 m)for the Thresher and Sturgeon, but the new subma-rine was significantly longer362 feet (110.3 m).The additional diameter was needed for the over-head cables and piping; the larger propulsion plant,with its quieting features, resulted in the longerand, hence, larger submarine, with essentially the


    Detail of a CONFORM concept for an advanced SSN,

    showing the masts, periscopes, and small bridge structure

    in the raised position.

    A model of one of the CONFORM concepts for an advanced SSN. In this view the

    submarines masts, periscopes, and small bridge structure are folded flush with the

    hull. This arrangement had several advantages over traditional telescoping masts

    and periscopes.

  • same weapons and sensors. The larger size wouldsacrifice some of the speed increase that wasexpected from the greater horsepower. From thestart, the Navys leadership viewed the SSN 688 as aone-of-a-kind submarine, with the CONFORMproject intended to produce the next SSN class.

    In 1967 Rickover; Captain Donald Kern, theprogram manager for submarines in the Naval SeaSystems Command; and his boss, Rear AdmiralJamie Adair, had signed an agreement in which

    It was agreed that the fast submarine [SSN688] would receive priority in new subma-rine design. It was further agreed that assoon as the fast submarine was authorized,Admiral Rickover would back to every pos-sible extent the new attack submarinedesign as advocated by PMS-81 [the subma-rine branch under Kern].8

    The agreement lasted one day, according toKern.9 The Department of Defense, embroiled inreducing new military programs to help pay for theexpanding war in Vietnam, sought to cut new shipprograms. Why, the Navy was asked, were three dif-ferent attack submarines being developed: theCONFORM, the SSN 688/S6G, and the Lipscomb.The Lipscombdesignated the Turbine Electric-Drive Submarine (TEDS)was another attempt toreduce noise levels with turbo-electric drive, allevi-ating the need for reduction gears between the tur-bines and the propeller shaft, a concept similar tothe electric-drive Tullibee, built a decade earlier.The Lipscomb was fitted with the S5Wa reactorplant which, because of the inefficiency of electricdrive, delivered less power than the 15,000 horse-power of an S5W plant. The submarine was large,with a submerged displacement of 6,480 tons, some35 percent greater than the Sturgeon, and a sub-merged speed of only 23 knots. Also, the Lipscombsuffered from heating problems, mostly because ithad direct-current electric drive.

    The CONFORM projectbegun in the mid-1960sexamined a multitude of alternativepotential designs. . . .10 By November 1968 the ini-tial CONFORM studies had produced 36 designconcepts, examining such alternative features astwin reactors, single turbines, contra-rotating pro-

    pellers, deep-depth capability, and larger-diametertorpedo tubes. According to Captain Eckhart, thecontra-rotating arrangement for the CONFORMdesign gave promise of at least two knots higherspeed than the SSN 688, while the design and theuse of HY-100 steel could provide a test depth asgreat as 2,000 feet (610 m).11

    Captain Kern recalled,

    The problem we had was [that] the CON-FORM design became very competitivewith [Rickovers] very conservative 30,000[horsepower] 688. In other words, we start-ed to show speeds that were competitivewith his 688. We could produce a submarinewith 20,000 shaft horsepower using counter-rotation [propellers] that could makeabout the same speed as his 688 with30,000 shaft horsepower in a smaller submarine. So this got to be really difficultfor him to handle. . . .12

    The front end of the CONFORM submarinewas to be greatly improved, with an increased num-ber of weapons, advanced sonar, and a high degreeof automation. And, with most CONFORMdesigns being smaller than the SSN 688 design, aCONFORM design probably would have been lessexpensive to build than the SSN 688.

    But Rickover made the decision to series pro-duce the SSN 688 regardless of the preferences ofthe Navys leadership or the Department of Defense(DoD). Dr. John S. Foster Jr., the Under Secretary ofDefense for Research and Engineering, was theDoD point man for the new SSN. He was the Pen-tagons top scientist, who had spent most of his sci-entific career developing nuclear weapons.

    Dr. Foster had several technical groups examin-ing options for the new SSN, especially what wasevolving from the CONFORM effort. As he reviewedRickovers high-speed SSN 688 design, Fosterexpressed concern that the S6G reactor plantnearly twice as large as the previous Sturgeon/S5Wplantwould result in a larger submarine thatwould be only a couple of knots faster but would costtwice as much.13 Also, not widely known at the time,the SSN 688 would not be able to dive as deep as pre-vious submarine classes. (See below.)


  • Rickover would neither wait nor tolerate alter-natives to the SSN 688. He used his now-familiartactics of telling his supporters in Congress thatFoster and other officials in DoD and the Navy wereinterfering with his efforts to provide an effectivesubmarine force to counter the growing Sovietundersea threat. Washington Post investigativereporter Patrick Tyler concisely described the deci-sion process that took place in March 1968:

    In the end, it was a political decision. Storieswere beginning to circulate in Washingtonabout the ominous nature of the Soviet sub-marine threat. Congress was intent on fund-ing the SSN 688 whether the DefenseDepartment put the submarine in the budgetor not. Why should Foster needlessly antag-onize men who had the power to act with-out him? Without any leadership in the Pen-tagon, the White House, or in the Navy toforce Rickover to consider alternatives, Fos-ter was powerless to stop the submarinesmomentum.14

    Although submarine force levels are beyond thescope of this book, Secretary of Defense Robert S.McNamara, in January 1968, announced that theattack submarine force requirement was for 60first-line SSNs; the pre-Thresher SSNs were classi-fied as second-line SSNs. Including all active shipsand those under construction, only four additionalSSNs would be required to attain 60 first-line sub-marines. The last two Sturgeon-class SSNs wereauthorized in fiscal year 1969. Two additional Stur-geon SSNs were scheduled for fiscal 1970, but thisplan became meaningless when McNamara left thegovernment in early 1968.

    Rickover pushed the SSN 688 on DoD and theNavy, claiming that no other design was ready forproduction. In 1969 Secretary of Defense ClarkClifford told Congress that the first three high-speed SSN 688s would be requested in fiscal year1970 and that four additional units would berequested in both the fiscal 1971 and 1972 pro-grams.15 By that time, the new design (CON-FORM) submarine should be ready for construc-tion, he navely explained. While optimistic thatCONFORM would go forward, Clifford was appre-

    hensive about the Lipscomb. He noted that, whilethe TEDS project had risen considerably in cost,we believe TEDS will be worth its cost since it willprovide us unique and valuable operational and testexperience with this new type of propulsion plantand other important quieting features. . . .16

    The first three Los Angeles (SSN 688) submarineswere estimated to cost an average of $178.7 millioneach; the Lipscomb was estimated to cost about$152 million but was expected by DoD officials togo as high as $200 million.

    The SSN 688 and near simultaneous Lipscombrepresented new propulsion plants, the sine quanon of Rickovers interests.17 Both of those sub-marines would have the same weapons (four 21-inch torpedo tubes with 25 torpedoes) and sonar(updated AN/BQQ-2) as in the earlier Thresher andSturgeon classes.

    The CONFORM submarine proposals stressedinnovation, with the reactor plant being a deriva-tive of the Narwhals S5G NCR plant. Captain Eck-hart would later write, Rickover effectively termi-nated this affair when he made it known that, underhis civilian authority [in the Department of En-ergy], he would not certify the reactor planned forthe CONFORM subat least, not for that designapplication. That made the CONFORM design, assuch, moot.18

    The Department of Defenseat Rickovers urg-ing and through his influence with Congresswasforced to accept the SSN 688 for series produc-tion.19 The CONFORM project was gone, andRickover ordered all copies of CONFORM docu-mentation to be purged from official files. Thefunding of the single Lipscomb/turbo-electric drivesubmarinelong questioned by DoD and Navyofficialswas forced by Congress on a reluctantadministration.20 The Lipscomb was built at ElectricBoat and commissioned on 21 December 1974.Comparatively slow and difficult to support with aone-of-a-kind propulsion plant, she was in servicefor 1512 years, one-half of the design service life foran SSN.

    The Los Angeles ClassThe Navy shifted to building the Los Angeles class,with its S6G pressurized-water plant (derived from


  • the D2G) producing 30,000 horsepower; this was toprovide a speed of 33 knots, some five knots fasterthan the previous Sturgeon class. Her 33-knot speedwas the same as the Skipjack of 1959 (with her orig-inal propeller configuration) and also was aboutthe original speed of the Soviet Project 671/VictorSSN, which had gone to sea in 1967.

    The Los Angeles displaced 6,927 tons sub-merged45 percent more than the Sturgeon whilecarrying essentially the same weapons and sensorsalbeit with quieter machinery. Comparative costsare difficult to determine; according to the NavyDepartment, in fiscal year 1978 dollars the last(37th) Sturgeon cost $186 million compared to the32d Los Angeles with an estimated cost of $343 mil-lion in same-year dollars. The $186 million includ-ed upgrading the Sturgeons to the Los Angeles sonarand fire control systems at about $22 million each.Thus, more than three Sturgeons could be built forthe cost of two Los Angeles SSNs.

    Originally the Los Angeles was intended to beconstructed of HY-100 steel, enabling the subma-rine to operate down to at least 1,275 feet (390meters), the same as the previous SSN classes. How-ever, difficulties were encountered with the HY-80steel, and weight had to be cut because of the heav-ier reactor plant. This limited her test depth to anestimated 950 feet (290 meters).21 Also, to savespace and weight, the Los Angeles was not providedwith under-ice and minelaying capabilities.

    In 1971 the Navy awarded contracts for the 12Los Angeles-class submarines authorized in fiscalyears 19701972. The first submarine was orderedfrom Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, withthat yard being awarded five hulls and Electric Boatthe other seven. This was the first time that New-port News was the lead yard for a class of nuclearsubmarines, the yard having delivered its first sub-marinefor the Russian Navyin 1905 and its

    first nuclear submarine, the USS Robert E. Lee(SSBN 601) in 1960.22

    From 1974 Newport News and Electric Boatwere the only U.S. shipyards constructing sub-marines. Both were building Sturgeon SSNs, whileEB was preparing to build Trident SSBNs. NewportNews laid the keel for the Los Angeles in 1972; thefirst of the class to be built at EB was the Philadel-phia (SSN 690), also laid down in 1972. By that timeboth yards were encountering problems with theirsubmarine programs and EB was facing a criticalsituation. The crisis was being caused by NewportNews whichas lead yard for the SSN 688waslate in providing drawings to EB; the high costs forenergy; design changes and interference by theNaval Sea Systems Command and Admiral Rick-over; and inefficiencies at the EB yard, with hun-dreds of hull welds being found defective and, insome instances, missing.23

    By the end of 1974 the EB yard had 18 SSN 688sunder contract, their cost totaling $1.2 billion.24 Alearning curve had been expected wherein latersubmarines would cost less than the earlier units,hence the low amount. This projection proved false,and EBs internal audit was indicating a potentialoverrun of $800 million67 percentwith mostof the yards submarines not yet started. Cost esti-mates for the Los Angeles class continued toincrease. The Los Angeles (SSN 688) was launchedon 6 April 1974 and commissioned on 13 Novem-ber 1976. She would be the progenitor of the largestnuclear submarine series to be built by any nation.

    In August 1977 the Navy announced a six-month delay in the completion of the first Tridentmissile submarine at Electric Boat, whose con-struction had begun at EB in mid-1974. InNovember 1977 a Navy spokesman announcedthat the first Trident SSBN was a year behindschedule and that her cost had increased by 50 per-


    Toledo (SSN 769) of Improved Los Angeles (SSN 688) class. LOA 362 ft (110.3 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • cent from an estimated $800million to about $1.2 billion.

    Charges, countercharges,cover-ups, lies, secretly tapedmeetings, and congressionalhearings followed. And the Tri-dents problems spilled over intothe attack submarine program,with the head of the Naval SeaSystems Command telling acongressional committee thatthere was more than a half-billion-dollar overrun for the 16attack submarines under con-struction at the EB yard. ViceAdmiral Charles Bryan blamedmanagement for the problems atElectric Boat.25 Only the high priority of the Tri-dent missile submarines stopped some Navy offi-cials from attempting to terminate submarine con-struction at the EB yard. John Lehman, uponbecoming Secretary of the Navy in February 1981,considered moving future Trident submarine con-struction to the Newport News shipyard.

    The entire U.S. nuclear submarine program wasat risk. The Carter administration (19771981) had

    negotiated a settlement with General Dynamics,parent corporation of the EB yard, but the yardsmyriad of problems still were not solved. When theReagan administration took office, Lehman puttogether what he labeled a draconian plan to cleanup this disaster once and for all.26 The final settle-ment between the Navy and General Dynamics wasannounced on 22 October 1981. The settlementcame three weeks before the commissioning of the


    The Los Angeles-class submarine Chicago (SSN 721). The open hatch aft of the

    sail shows the position that a Dry Deck Shelter (DDS) would be mounted on the

    submarine for the special operations role. Unseen are the forward and after escape

    trunks with their hatches closed. (U.S. Navy)

    The Los Angeles on her sea trials in September 1976. Most of the space aft of the sail is taken up with the reactor and

    machinery spaces. All of her masts and periscopes are fully retracted into the sail in this view. (Newport News Shipbuilding)

  • first Trident submarinewhich was 212 yearsbehind scheduleand the firing of Admiral Rick-over, which was a major factor in Lehmans plan.27

    During the late 1970s the construction of theLos Angeles SSNs fell increasingly behind scheduleand costs grew. Interestingly, there was a significantdifference in costs between the two building yards.According to Rickover, although EB and NewportNews were building identical submarines, the SSN688 units being built at EB were costing about $50million more per submarine than at NewportNews: The only possible explanation is that Elec-tric Boat is less efficient than Newport News.28

    At the request of the Senate Armed ServicesCommittee, the Department of Defense examinedthe potential for producing lower-cost SSNs andSSBNs.29 The growth in attack submarine size insuccessive classes had been accompanied by a close-ly related increase in costs. A major DoD Sub-

    marine Alternatives Study addressed the factorsaffecting submarine effectiveness:30

    Platform PayloadDepth CountermeasuresEndurance Information ProcessingRadiated/Self-Noise SensorsReliability WeaponsSpeedVulnerability

    Two approaches were proposed to lowering SSNcosts. First, the head of ship design in NavSea, Dr.Reuven Leopold, argued There is a much greaterpotential for increasing combat effectivenessthrough combat systems performance gains thanthrough platform performance gains.31 This viewcalled for giving up some platform features whileincreasing overall effectiveness through payloadimprovements. The second approach was to reducesubmarine size through improvements in technol-ogy, with the DoD study noting that power sys-tems must be considered the number one candidatefor investigation.32

    Additional studies indicated that a smaller SSN,referred to as a Fast Attack Submarine (FAS) of per-haps 5,000 tons submerged displacement usingadvanced propulsion concepts, could carry approx-imately the same payload as a Los Angeles-class sub-marine. The cost would be the loss of perhaps fiveknots of speed, that is, to about that of the 27-knotSturgeon class. Smaller than the Los Angeles, the newcraft would be cheaper to build (after developmentcosts). The head of research for the Secretary of theNavy, Dr. David E. Mann, estimated that billions ofdollars could be saved if the Navy turned away fromthe larger submarines advocated by Vice AdmiralRickover and built the Fast Attack Submarine.33

    Rickover savaged the FAS proposalsometimescalled Fat Albert because of its small length-to-beam ratio.34 In a 49-page rebuttal, he reiterated thehistory of nuclear submarine development, stressing,

    I recognized that the potential for sustainedhigh speed could be used to expand the roleof the attack submarine beyond the tradition-al anti-shipping and anti-submarinemissions. With virtually unlimited high speed


    The Annapolis (SSN 760) was an Improved Los Angeles-

    class SSN with the forward planes fitted in the bow for

    under-ice operations. The submarines AN/BPS-15 surface

    search radar is raised and her two periscopes are partially

    elevated. Just visible behind the scopes is the head of the

    snorkel intake mast. (Giorgio Arra)

  • endurance I felt they could provide a superiorform of protection for our high value surfacecombatants [e.g., aircraft carriers].35

    He continued with a discussion of the role ofspeed in naval warfare before returning to theimportance of speed for nuclear submarines. Rick-over concluded his paper urging that constructionof the Los Angeles class continue, declaring:

    Recall, it was Congress that forced the Navyto build the Los Angeles in the first place,because of our continuing loss of speed capa-bility in comparison to what was seen inSoviet nuclear submarines. The idea of inten-tionally building a slow submarine just tosave money strikes at the core of absurdity.36

    Yet, Rickover had previously advocated con-struction of the Lipscomb turbo-electric drivesubmarinea comparatively slow and expensivesubmarine. In a congressional hearing he said,and if the advantages over the other propulsiondesigns dictate, [electric drive] would then beincorporated into a later class design.37

    Fat Albert died and, again, Rickover demand-ed the destruction of all documents proposingmore innovative approaches to submarine propul-sion plants. Mark Henry, a later head of the NavSeasubmarine preliminary design branch, said that theFAS was not a good design. It was squeezed to thepoint that it would have grown significantly duringlater design stages to get it to work.38

    Rickover also defeated proposals to build a newSSBN that would be smaller and less costly than theTrident submarines of the Ohio (SSBN 726) class.There were several advocates for smaller SSBNs. Aslate as 1983after Rickovers removala presiden-tial panel observed, The commission notes thatalthough it believes that the ballistic missile subma-rine force will have a high degree of survivability fora long timea submarine force consisting solely of arelatively few large submarines at sea . . . presentsa small number of valuable targets to the Soviets.39

    Sending smaller Trident SSBNs to sea would, asmuch as possible, reduce the value of each platformand also present radically different problems to aSoviet attacker than does the Trident submarine

    force, said the report. At one point Dr. Mann alsosuggested that a new SSBNalso carrying 24 Tri-dent C-4 or D-5 missileswith a submerged dis-placement slightly smaller than the Ohio class(some 15,000 tons compared to 18,750 tons) wouldcost about 30 percent less than the $1.5 billion perTrident submarine through use of a smaller reactorplant. There would be a loss of speed comparedwith the Ohio SSBN.

    Mann suggested stopping the existing Tridentprogram at 12 submarines and starting productionof the new craft, referred to as SSBN-X. Most likely,the design costs of a new class of ships probablywould have nullified expected savings. As with theFast Attack Submarine, several proposals for small-er SSBNs sank without a trace. Rickovers succes-sors as the head of the nuclear propulsionallfour-star admiralsadamantly opposed such pro-posals.

    Despite his skill in stopping alternatives to his pro-grams, by the 1970s Rickovers congressional powerbase had eroded to the extent that he was unable toinitiate a new reactor programhis most ambi-tious to datein the face of opposition by the Chiefof Naval Operations. This nuclear plant was for acruise missile submarine (SSGN), given the desig-nation AHPNAS for Advanced High-PerformanceNuclear Attack Submarine, and later called CMSfor Cruise Missile Submarine.

    In the late 1960s there was interest in providingU.S. submarines with both anti-ship and land-attack (nuclear) cruise missiles. The former wasintended to counter the increasing number of largeSoviet surface ships that were going to sea; the lat-ter was seen as an additional weapon for attackingthe Soviet homeland as both super powers contin-ued to increase their nuclear arsenals. Precisionguidance was becoming available for cruise missilesthat would enable small nuclear warheads todestroy discrete targets.

    This attempt at an anti-ship weapon was calledthe Submarine Tactical Missile (STAM).40 Theweapon, with a 30-inch (760-mm) diameter, wouldrequire special launch tubes. Admiral Rickoverimmediately embraced the STAM submarine as aplatform for his proposed 60,000-horsepowerAHPNAS reactor plant. Carrying 20 STAM


  • weapons with a range of 30 n.miles (56 km), theproposed SSGN would have about twice the dis-placement of a Los Angeles SSN. (See table 17-2.)The AHPNAS reactor plant would drive the sub-marine at 30-plus knots. Design of the submarinebegan in 1970 and the preliminary design was com-pleted by 1972.

    Admiral Rickover told Congress that the AHP-NAS program was the single most important tac-tical development effort the Navy must under-take.41 He also explained:

    The cruise missile would provide a totallynew dimension in submarine offensivecapability. In essence, the U.S. submarinewould have the ability to react quickly, toengage the enemy on the submarines ownterms, and to press this initiative until eachunit had been successfully attacked, regard-less of the speed and tactics of the enemy.The very existence of this advanced high-performance nuclear attack submarinewould constitute a threat to both the navaland merchant arms of any maritime force.

    * * *The submarine could act as an escort operat-ing well ahead of a high-speed carrier taskforce, clearing an ocean area of enemy missileships. . . . Employed in the role of an escortfor combatants or merchant ships, theadvanced high-performance submarinecould operate independently or in conjunc-tion with other escort vessels.

    * * *In addition to having an antisurface shipcapability far superior to any the UnitedStates presently has at sea or plans to develop,the advanced high-performance submarinewould also possess as a minimum the samesubstantial antisubmarine capabilities of theSSN 688 class submarine; it would be capableof detecting and attacking submerged sub-marines. . . . This new submarine will befully capable of surviving at sea against themost sophisticated Soviet ASW forces.42

    Admiral Rickovers proposed AHPNAS would trulybe a submarine for all seasons.

    In July 1970 Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt becameChief of Naval Operations. Zumwalt and his staffopposed the AHPNAS concept. First, Zumwaltfeared that the large SSGN would be produced insignificant numbers, ravaging the shipbuildingbudget. Second, as a surface warfare specialist (thefirst to serve as CNO since Arleigh Burke in19551961), Zumwalt wanted to provide offensivestrike capability in cruisers and destroyers as well assubmarines. At that time, the Navys conventionalstrike force consisted of the aircraft on 15 large air-craft carriers.

    Admiral Zumwalt promoted placing the Har-poon anti-ship missile and the Tomahawk multi-purpose missile in surface ships. He wanted themissiles size constrained to permit launching fromstandard submarine torpedo tubes. (See Chapter18.) The decision to provide Harpoons to sub-marines was made in 1972, following a Zumwalt-convened panel that recommended the encapsulat-ed Harpoon as the fastest way to put cruise missileson board U.S. submarines. The first flights of theHarpoon occurred that December and the missilebecame operational in surface ships and sub-marines in 1977.

    The Los Angeles SSNs had four 21-inch torpedotubes plus space for 21 reloads. Carrying, for exam-ple, eight Tomahawk cruise missiles would leave 17spaces for torpedoes, SUBROC anti-submarine(nuclear) rockets, and Harpoon short-range mis-siles. Could the payload of the Los Angeles beincreased without a major redesign? Further, withonly four launch tubes, probably two tubes wouldbe kept loaded with torpedoes leaving at most twotubes for launching missiles. Could these limita-tions be overcome?

    In one of the most innovative submarine designschemes of the era, engineers at Electric Boat pro-posed fitting 12 vertical launch tubes for Toma-hawk missiles into the forward ballast tanks of theLos Angeles, providing an almost 50 percentincrease in weapons. Admiral Rickover rejected theproposal, preferring instead his AHPNAS/CMScruise missile submarine. But that cruise missilesubmarine program ended in 1974 and with it diedthe large reactor project.

    With Tomahawk planned for large-scale pro-duction and the cruise missile submarine program


  • dead, the decision was made inthe late 1970sshortly beforeRickovers removalto pursuethe vertical-launch configura-tion for submarines. Begin-ning with the USS Providence(SSN 719), commissioned in1985, 12 vertical-launch Tom-ahawk tubes were installed ineach submarine.43

    The first vertical-launch ofa Tomahawk was made fromthe USS Pittsburgh (SSN 720)on 26 November 1986 on theAtlantic test range. Thirty-onesubmarines of the 62 ships ofthe Los Angeles design hadvertical-launch tubes. Theearly submarines (SSN688718) could carry eight torpedo-tube-launched Toma-hawks; the later submarinescould carry up to 20 in additionto 12 vertical-launch missiles.

    Beginning with the SanJuan (SSN 751), the last 23SSN 688s were designated asthe improved or 688I class.In addition to vertical-launchTomahawks, these submarineshad minelaying and under-icecapabilities and improvedmachinery quieting.

    A U.S. nuclear research sub-marine was also built in the1960s, the NR-1, initiated as atest platform for a small subma-rine nuclear power plant. Inservice the craft has beenemployed as a deep-oceanresearch and engineering vehi-cle. In explaining the crafts sig-nificance, Admiral Rickover told a congressionalcommittee, You will be looking at a developmentthat I believe will be as significant for the UnitedStates as was the Nautilus.44 Rickover envisioned aseries of these craft, hence his designation NR-1.

    The veil of secrecy imposed on the NR-1 by

    Rickover was partially lifted on 18 April 1965,when President Lyndon Johnson publicly revealeddevelopment of the craft. A White House pressrelease, citing the severe endurance and space lim-itations of existing research submersibles, stated:The development of a nuclear propulsion plant for


    This view looking forward from the sail of the Oklahoma City (SSN 723) shows the

    12 open hatches for the submarines 12 vertical-launch Tomahawk missiles. (U.S.


    Bow section of VLS-configured Los Angeles-class submarine. (A.D. Baker, III)

    Sonar AccessTrunk

    Dome Accesstrunk

    Bow Dome


    RetractableBow Planes


  • a deep submergence research vehicle will givegreater freedom of movement and much greaterendurance of propulsion and auxiliary power.This capability will contribute greatly to acceleratemans exploration and exploitation of the vastresources of the ocean.45

    Beyond her nuclear plant,which gives her a theoreticalunlimited underwater endurance,the NR-1s most remarkable fea-ture is her operating depth of3,000 feet (915 m). While this wasnot as deep as the U.S. Navysother manned research sub-mersibles could dive, their under-water endurance was only a fewhours and their horizonal mobil-ity were severely limited.

    The NR-1 surface displace-ment is 365.5 tons, and she is393 tons submerged; lengthoverall is 14534 feet (44.44 m).The Knolls Atomic Power Labo-ratory in Schenectady, NewYork, designed the reactor, whilethe submersible was designedand subsequently built by theElectric Boat yard in Groton. Shewas launched on 25 January 1969,underwent initial sea trials thatsummer, and was placed in ser-vice on 27 October of that year.

    The craft is fabricated of HY-80 steel with the living/workingspaces forward and the afterportion of the craft containingthe sealed reactor and engineer-ing spaces. She is fitted with twolarge wheels that permit her toroll and rest on the ocean floor.The retractable tires are normaltruck tires, with inner tubesfilled with alcohol. In additionto her twin screws, which pro-vide a submerged speed of 3.5knots, the craft has paired duct-ed thrusters fitted in the hull,forward and aft, to provide a

    high degree of maneuverability. Extensive externallights, viewing ports, close-range sonars, a remote-controlled mechanical arm, and a recovery cageprovide considerable capabilities. Three bunksare provided for the crew of five Navy operatorsplus two scientists; crew endurance is limited to a


    The NR-1 at her launching. She has a short sail structure with sail-mounted div-

    ing planes and a fixed TV periscope (flying the General Dynamics banner in this

    photograph). Admiral Rickover envisioned the NR-1 as the first of a fleet of

    nuclear-propelled submersibles. (General Dynamics)

    The NR-1 underway. The gear mounted forward of the sail is for surface or sub-

    merged towing. She must be towed to her operating areas; submerged towing

    facilitates clandestine operations although she is very noisy. The NR-1s upper

    rudder and sail structure are painted international orange. (U.S. Navy)

  • maximum of 30-day missions, mainly because offood storage.

    The NR-1s principal operational limitation isher deployment mobility. Because of her slowspeeds, she must be towed to her operating area,either by a surface ship or (underwater) by anuclear submarine. Her surface towing speed isup to six knots; submerged it is just under fourknots. She has been engaged in numerousresearch, ocean-engineering, and deep recoverymissions, in addition to supporting the SOSUSprogram.

    About 1971 Admiral Rickover initiated an NR-2 program.46 This would be a deeper-diving craft,reportedly capable of reaching more than 3,000feet (915+ m). The craft was to have a reactorplant similar to that of the NR-1. However, neitherthe Navy nor Congress would support an NR-2 atthat time. About 1978 the Navys leadership decid-ed to proceed with the NR-2 as a Hull Test Vehicle(HTV) to test the suitability of HY-130 steel forsubmarines. In 1983 the Navy decided that sec-tions of HY-130 would be added to the conven-tional deep-diving research submarine Dolphin(AGSS 555) instead of constructing the nuclear-propelled HTV.

    Despite Rickovers prediction that the NR-1would be the first of a fleet of nuclear-propelled sub-mersibles for research, ocean engineering, and othertasks, no additional nuclear vehicles were built by theUnited States.

    Soviet Third-Generation SubmarinesThe Soviet Unions third-generation submarine pro-gram was far broader than that of the U.S. Navy. Inthe United States, extensive controversy, discussions,and debates led to the development and productionof two classes, the Los Angeles SSN (62 ships) andOhio Trident SSBN (18 ships) plus the one-of-a-kindLipscomb. By comparison, the Soviet second-plusand third-generation nuclear submarines consistedof five production designs plus a one-of-a-kind torpedo-attack submarine as well as several special-purpose nuclear designs. But the production of mostof these classes would be truncated by the end of theCold War.

    TABLE 17-1Soviet Third-Generation Nuclear Submarines*

    Number** Type Project NATO Comm.

    8 (4) SSGN 949 Oscar 1980

    6 SSBN 941 Typhoon 1981

    1 SSN 685 Mike 1983

    3 (1) SSN 945 Sierra 1984

    14 (6) SSN 971 Akula 1984

    7 SSBN 667BDRM Delta IV 1984

    Notes: * Technically the Project 667BDRM and Project 685 are anintermediate generation, sometimes referred to as the 2.5or 2+ generation.

    ** Numbers in parentheses are additional submarines complet-ed after 1991.

    The first third-generation nuclear attack sub-marine was Project 949 (NATO Oscar), the ultimatecruise missile submarine andafter Project 941/Typhoonthe worlds largest undersea craft.47

    Development of the P-700 Granit anti-ship missilesystem (NATO SS-N-19 Shipwreck) was begun in1967 to replace the P-6 missile (NATO SS-N-3 Shad-dock) as a long-range, anti-carrier weapon. TheGranit would be a much larger, faster, more-capableweapon, and it would have the invaluable character-istic of submerged launch. The missile would be tar-geted against Western aircraft carriers detected bysatellites.

    A short time later design was initiated of anassociated cruise missile submarine at the Rubinbureau under Pavel P. Pustintsev, who had designedearlier SSG/SSGNs.48 The possibility of placing theGranit on Project 675/Echo II SSGNs also was con-sidered, but the size and capabilities of the missilerequired a new submarine.

    The Granit would be underwater launched andhave a greater range than the previous P-6/SS-N-3Shaddock or P-70/SS-N-7Amethyst missiles. Beingsupersonic, the missile would not require mid-courseguidance upgrades, as did the earlier Shaddock. Thedecision to arm the Project 949/Oscar SSGN with 24 missilesthree times as many as the Echo II orCharliemeant that the new submarine would bevery large. The missiles were placed in angled launchcanisters between the pressure hull and outer hull, 12per side. As a consequence, the submarine would havea broad beamgiving rise to the nickname baton(loaf). The 5923-foot (18.2-m) beam would require a


  • TH















    Project 949A/Oscar II. LOA 508 ft 4 in (155.0 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • length of 47213 feet (144 m), providing for nine com-partments. Although the submarine was not as longas U.S. Trident SSBNs, the Oscars greater beammeant that the submarine would have a submergeddisplacement of 22,500 tons, some 20 percent largerthan the U.S. Trident SSBNs.

    Beyond 24 large anti-ship missiles, the OscarSSGN has four 533-mm and four 650-mm torpedotubes capable of launching a variety of torpedoesand tube-launched missiles.49 The submarine hasthe MGK-500 low-frequency sonar (NATO SharkGill), as fitted in the Typhoon SSBN, and the MG-519 (NATO Mouse Roar) sonar.

    The large size of the Oscar and the need for aspeed in excess of 30 knots to counter U.S. aircraftcarriers required a propulsion plant based on twoOK-650b reactors powering turbines and twinscrews. The twin-reactor plant produces 100,000horsepower, according to published reports. Thisplant and the similar Typhoon SSBN plant are themost powerful ever installed in submarines.

    The keel for the lead ship of this design was laiddown on 25 June 1978 at the Severodvinsk shipyard.

    The submarine was commissioned on 30 December1980 as the Minskiy Komsomolets (K-525).50 Seriesproduction followed. Beginning with the thirdunitProject 949A/Oscar IIthe design waslengthened to 50813 feet (155 m). The additionalspace was primarily for acoustic quieting and theimproved MGK-540 sonar, with a tenth compart-ment added to improve internal arrangements.These SSGNsas well as other Soviet third-generation submarinesare considered to beextremely quiet in comparison with previous Sovietundersea craft. The changes increased the surfacedisplacement by some 1,300 tons.

    The large size and cost of these submarines led tosome debate within the Soviet Navy over the meansof countering U.S. aircraft carriers. As many as 20submarines of Project 949 were considered, althoughaccording to some sources, the cost of each wasabout one-half that of an aircraft carrier of theAdmiral Kuznetsov class.51 Two naval officer-histo-rians wrote:It is obvious . . . the ideological devel-opment of the [SSGN], namely Project 949, over-stepped the limits of sensible thought and logic.52


    A Project 949A/Oscar II in choppy seas, revealing the massive bulk of the submarinecalled baton or loaf (of bread)

    in Russian. The six missile hatches on the starboard side, forward of the limber holes, each cover two tubes for large,

    Shipwreck anti-ship missiles. (U.S. Navy)

  • Project 949/Oscar SSGNsposed a major threat to U.S. air-craft carriers and other surfaceforces because of their missilearmament and stealth. The mas-sive investment in these sub-marines demonstrated the con-tinuing Soviet concern for U.S.aircraft carriers as well as thewillingness to make massiveinvestments in submarine con-struction.

    Through 1996 the Severod-vinsk yard completed 12 Oscar-class SSGNstwo Project 949and ten improved Project 949Asubmarines. The 11th Oscar IIwas launched in September1999, apparently to clear thebuilding hall, and is not expect-ed to be completed.

    These submarines periodi-cally undertook long-rangeoperations, a concern to the U.S.Navy because their quietingmade them difficult to detectand track. On 12 August 2000,as Soviet naval forces held exer-cises in the Barents Sea, report-edly in preparation for a deploy-ment to the Mediterranean, theKursk (K-141) of this class suf-fered two violent explosions.They tore open her bow andsent the submarine plunging tothe sea floor. All 118 men onboard died, with 23 in aftercompartments surviving for some hours and per-haps a day or two before they succumbed to cold,pressure, and rising water.53 The cause of the disas-ter was a Type 65-76 torpedo fuel (hydrogen-per-oxide) explosion within the forward torpedo room,followed 2 minutes, 15 seconds later by the massivedetonation of 2 torpedo warheads.

    The Kursk, ripped apart by the two explosions,sank quickly. The four previous Soviet nuclear-propelled submarines that had sunk at sea hadalso suffered casualties while submerged, but wereable to reach the surface, where many members of

    their crews had been able to survive. They wereable to do this, in part, because of their compart-mentation and high reserve buoyancy; the explo-sions within the Kursk were too sudden and toocatastrophic to enable the giant craft to reach thesurface.

    Design of the Soviet Navys third-generationnuclear torpedo-attack submarines (SSN) beganin 1971 at TsKB Lazurit. Titanium was specifiedfor the design, continuing the development of akey technology of Projects 661/Papa and 705/Alfa.


    An Oscar, showing the rounded bow and fully retracted bow diving planes (just

    forward of the missile hatches). The large sail structure has an escape chamber

    between the open bridge and the array of masts and scopes. One of the raised

    masts is the Quad Loop RDF antenna.

  • Beyond reducing submarine weight, titaniumwould provide a greater test depth in third-generation SSNs1,970 feet (600 m)whichwould be coupled with other SSN advances,including improved quieting, weapons, and sensors. Progress in working titaniumalloy 48-OT3Vallowed it to be welded in air, albeit inspecial, clean areas; smaller parts were welded inan argon atmosphere.54

    Developed under chief designer Nikolay Kvasha,the new attack submarineProject 945 (NATO Sierra)would be a single-screw design with a sin-gle nuclear reactor. This was the first Soviet combatsubmarine to have a single-reactor plant except forthe Project 670/Charlie SSGN, also designed byLazurit. The Sierras OK-650a reactor plant would

    generate 50,000 horsepower, considerably more thanthat of the Charlie. As part of the quieting effort, thereactor employed natural convection for slow speeds(up to five or six knots) to alleviate the use of pumps.A single reactor was accepted on the basis of highlyredundant components throughout the propulsionplant. The Sierras plant would produce a maximumsubmerged speed of 35 knots.

    The Sierras weapons system is impressive: TheProject 945/Sierra I has two 650-mm and four 533-mm torpedo tubes. The definitive Project 945A/Sierra II has four 650-mm and four 533-mm torpedotubes, that is, more and larger torpedo tubes than inthe contemporary U.S Los Angeles class. Further, theSierra has internal stowage for 40 torpedoes and mis-siles (including those in tubes) compared to 25

    weapons in the early L.A. classand 25 plus 12 vertical-launchmissiles in the later ships of theclass. The Sierra has a fully auto-mated reload system.

    The advanced MGK-500sonar and fire control systemsare provided; the large pod atopthe vertical tail surface is for thetowed passive sonar array. Builtwith a double-hull configura-tion, the Sierra had a large,broad sail structure, described asa compromise between thewing or fin sail of Rubindesigns and the low limou-sine sail of Malachite designs.Like all third-generation com-


    The Kursk resting in the Russian Navys largest floating dry dock at Roslyanko,

    near Murmansk, after her remarkable salvage in October 2001. The Oscar IIs

    massive bulk is evident from the size of the worker at far left. The Oscar was the

    worlds second largest submarine. (Russian Navy)

    The Project 945/Sierra SSN was intended for large-scale production. However, difficulties in meeting titanium production sched-

    ules led to the program being reduced and, with the end of the Cold War, cancelled entirely after four ships were completed.

  • bat submarines, the Sierra would have an escapechamber that could accommodate the entirecrew.

    Also, third-generation Soviet submarines wouldhave smaller crews than their predecessors. TheSierra SSN initially was manned by 31 officers andwarrant officers plus 28 enlisted men, compared tosome 75 men in the Project 671/Victor SSNs. (Sim-ilarly, the Oscar SSGNs 107 personnel compare tomore than 160 in the smaller U.S. Ohio SSBN, alsoa 24-missile undersea craft.)

    The overall size of the Sierra was constrained bythe requirement to produce the submarines at inlandshipyards, that is, Gorkiy and Leningrad and, to alesser degree, Komsomolsk-on-Amur. The Ship-building Ministry, responding topolitical influence, brought pres-sure to have the new class pro-duced at Gorkiy, reflecting theministrys role in naval shipbuild-ing programs.55 Krasnoye Sormo-vo thus became the third shipyardto produce titanium submarines,following Sudomekh/Admiraltyin Leningrad and the Severo-dvinsk yard.

    The lead Project 945/SierraSSN was laid down at the Kras-noye Sormovo yard, adjacentto the Lazurit design bureau inGorkiy. This was the K-239,whose keel was placed on thebuilding ways on 8 May 1982.

    Construction progressed at a rapid pace. Afterlaunching the following year, the submarine wasmoved by transporter dock through inlandwaterways to Severodvinsk for completion, tri-als, and commissioning on 21 September 1984.

    Subsequent construction at the Krasnoye Sormo-vo yard progressed far slower than planned. Follow-ing the first two Sierra SSNs a modified design wasinitiated (Project 945A/Sierra II), providing a slight-ly larger submarine, the additional space being forquieting features and habitability, with the numberof compartments being increased from six to seven.The self-noise levels were lower than the Sierra I.

    During the early planning stages, some Navyofficials envisioned a Sierra SSN program of some


    A Project 945A/Sierra II with her bow diving planes extended. The Sierra II has

    an enlarged, ungainly sail structure. Her masts and periscopes are offset to star-

    board. There are dual safety tracks running along her deck. (U.K. Ministry of Defence)

    Project 945/Sierra SSN (not to scale). LOA 351 ft (107.0 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

    1. Floodable portions of double hull. 2. Sonar. 3. Pressure chamber of antenna. 4. Ballast tank. 5. Torpedo room. 6. Sonar roomand crew berthing. 7. Control room. 8. Wardroom. 9. Pantry. 10. Officer cabins. 11. Crew berthing. 12. Medical room. 13.Heads. 14. Food storage. 15. Storage battery. 16. Electrical equipment room. 17. Propulsion plant control room. 18. Gyro room.19. Communications and radar room. 20. Electrical switchboards. 21. Reserve propulsion system. 22. Reactor. 23. Main tur-bine. 24. Main circulation pump. 25. Turbogenerator. 26. Reduction gear. 27. Thrust bearing. 28. Electrical switchboards. 29.Propeller shaft. 30. Diesel generator and evaporators. 31. Ballast tank. 32. Propeller. 33. Vertical stabilizer/rudder. 34. Towedsonar-array pod. 35. Escape chamber. 36. Bridge. 37. Masts and periscopes. 38. Sail.

  • 40 submarines to be constructed at both KrasnoyeSormovo and Severodvinsk.56 Difficulties in pro-ducing titanium plates and difficulties at the Kras-noye Sormovo yard led to delays in producing thesethird-generation SSNs. In the event, only two Sier-ra I and two Sierra II SSNs were completed, all atKrasnoye Sormovo, the last in 1993, that is, foursubmarines delivered over ten years.57

    When the program was halted, there were twoadditional, unfinished hulls at the Gorkiy yard. Otherthan two Project 865 midget submarines, there wouldbe no additional construction of titanium sub-marines by any nation. The Sierras were the lastnuclear submarines to be built at Krasnoye Sormovo;a diesel-electric Kilo/Project 636 submarine for Chinawas the last combat submarine built at the yard.

    Anticipated delays in building the titanium Sierraled to the decision to pursue a steel-hull Sierraessentially the same submarine built of steel,responding to the same TTE requirements. Thisapproach was proposed by the Malachite designbureau and, after consideration by the Navy leader-ship and Shipbuilding Ministry, contract designwas undertaken in 1976 at Malachite by a team ledby Georgi N. Chernishev. He had been the chiefdesigner of the Project 671/Victor SSN.

    Beyond using steel in place of titanium, the newdesign differed in having the displacement limitationremoved, which provided the possibility of employ-ing new weapons and electronics on a larger dis-placement.58 The new submarineProject 971(NATO Akula)would be larger than the Sierra,with the use of AK-32 steel adding more than 1,000tons to the surface displacement while retaining thesame test depth of 1,970 feet (600 m).59 The changesreduced the reserve buoyancy from the Sierras 29percent to 26 percent, still almost twice that of com-parable U.S. SSNs. The submarine has six compart-ments.60 Significantly, the later USS Seawolf (SSN 21)was highly criticized for being too large; the AkulaSSN was still larger.

    With the same OK-650 propulsion plant as theSierra, the larger size of the Akula reduced her max-imum submerged speed to about 33 knots. Majorinnovations appeared in the Akula, both to reducenoise and to save weight (e.g., ten tons were savedby using plastics in place of metal). The formerinclude modular isolated decks and active noise

    cancellation. The anechoic coating on the later sub-marines was reported to have a thickness of 212inches (64 mm).

    The Akula is fitted with the more advancedMGK-540 sonar and has four 533-mm and four650-mm torpedo tubes. In the later Akula SSNsthere are also six large tubes forward, flanking thetorpedo loading hatch, each for launching two MG-74 Impostor large acoustic decoys. These are inaddition to smaller decoys and noisemakerslaunched by Soviet (as well as U.S.) submarines tocounter enemy sonars and torpedoes.61

    The lead Project 971/Akulathe Karp (K-284)was laid down at Komsomolsk in 1980. Thiswas the first lead nuclear submarine to be built atthe Far Eastern yard since the Project 659/Echo Iwas laid down in 1958. After launching on 16 July1984, the Karp was moved in a transporter dock toBolshoi Kamen (near Vladivostok) for completionat the Vostok shipyard. Sea trials followed, and shewas commissioned on 30 December 1984. This wasonly three months after the first Project 945/SierraSSN was placed in service. The Karp spent severalyears engaged in submarine and weapon trials.

    Series production of the Akula continued atKomsomolsk and at Severodvinsk, with the latteryard completing its first submarine, the K-480,named Bars (panther), in 1989. The Akula becamethe standard third-generation SSN of the SovietNavy. Design improvements were initiated early inthe Akula program; the ninth Akula introduced stillmore improved quieting features, with four unitsbeing produced by the two shipyards to that config-uration. Subsequently, Severodvinsk began produc-ing an improved variant, called Akula II in theWest. This Project 971 variation featured a modi-fied pressure hull and was significantly quieter. TheVepr (wild boar), the first ship of this type, was laiddown at the Severodvinsk shipyard on 21 Decem-ber 1993, the yard having been renamed Sevmash.Despite the slowdown in naval shipbuilding afterthe demise of the USSR, the Vepr was placed incommission on 8 January 1996. However, the sec-ond Akula II, the Gepard (cheetah), was not com-missioned until 4 December 2001.62

    Quieting SubmarinesThe Akula II is almost 230 tons greater in surfaceand submerged displacement and eight feet (2.5 m)


  • longer than the earlier Akulas,the added space being foracoustic quieting with anactive noise-reduction system.The Vepr became the first Sovi-et submarine that was quieter atslower speeds than the latestU.S. attack submarines, theImproved Los Angeles class (SSN751 and later units).63

    This Soviet achievement wasof major concern to Westernnavies, for acoustics was longconsidered the most importantadvantage of U.S. undersea craftover Soviet submarines. Theissue of why the Sovietsbelat-edlyhad undertaken the effortand cost to quiet their sub-marines, and how they did itwere immediately discussed anddebated in Western admiralties.Soviet designers have stated thatthe decision to undertake amajor quieting effort came frommajor developments in acoustictechnologies during the 1980s.

    Western officials believeddifferently: U.S. Navy ChiefWarrant Officer John A. Walkersold secrets to the Soviets fromabout 1967 until arrested in1985.64 While he principallysold access to American encryp-tion machines, Walker undoubt-edly sold secret material relatedto U.S. submarineshe hadserved in two SSBNs and was insensitive submarine assignmentsduring the early period of hisespionage. His merchandiseincluded SOSUS and operationalsubmarine information, and thisintelligence may well have accel-erated Soviet interest in quietingthird-generation submarines.

    Also, in 19831984 theJapanese firm Toshiba soldsophisticated, nine-axis milling


    The Vepr, the first of two Project 971/Akula II SSNs, underway. The submarines

    masts are dominated by the two-antenna Snoop Pair radar fitted atop the Rim

    Hat electronic intercept antenna. Only SSNs mount the large towed-array sonar

    pod atop the vertical rudder. (Courtesy Greenpeace)

    A Project 971/Improved Akula. The hatches for her large, MG-74 Imposter

    decoys are visible in her bow, three to either side of the torpedo loading hatch.

    The sail structure is faired into her hull. (U.K. Ministry of Defence)

  • equipment to the USSR, while Kngsberg Vaapen-fabrikk, a state-owned Norwegian arms firm, soldadvanced computers to the USSR for the millingmachines. U.S. congressmen and Navy officialscharged that this technology made it possible forthe Soviets to manufacture quieter propellers.65

    This interpretation was oversimplified because theSierra and Akula designs and their propellers weredeveloped much earlier. At the most, the Japa-nese and Norwegian sales led to more efficient pro-duction of Soviet-designed submarine propellers.

    Improvements in automation also were made inthe successive Akula variants. Submarine command

    and control as well as weaponscontrol are concentrated into asingle center, as in the Project705/Alfa SSNthe ships maincommand post (GKP), whichpromoted the reduction in man-ning.66

    But Akula production slowedsoon after the breakup of theSoviet Union in 1991. Komso-molsk delivered its seventh andlast Akula SSN in 1995; Severod-vinsks last Akula SSN, also itsseventh, was the Gepard (K-335), completed late in 2001. Noadditional SSNs of this designare expected to be completed,although two more were on thebuilding ways at Sevmash/Severodvinsk and another atKomsomolsk. Those unfinishedAkula hulls periodically fueled

    speculation that one or two Akula SSNs would becompleted for China or India.67

    (India, which had earlier leased a Project670/Charlie SSGN, has had a nuclear submarineprogram under way since 1974. The first submarineproduced under this effort is scheduled for deliveryabout 2010.)

    An additionaland remarkableSSN was built inthis period of the 2.5 or 2+ generation, the Proj-ect 685 (NATO Mike). Although by the 1960s theLazurit and Malachite design bureaus were respon-sible for Soviet SSN design, the Rubin bureau was


    The sail of an Akula, with several of her periscopes and masts raised; doors cover

    them when they retract. The sensors on the pedestal between the masts, on the

    front of the sail, and in pods adjacent to the diving planes measure temperature,

    radioactivity, turbulence, and other phenomena. (U.K. Ministry of Defence)

    Project 971/Akula SSN (not to scale). LOA 361 ft 9 in (110.3 m) (A.D. Baker, III)

  • able to convince the Navy of the need for anadvanced combat submarine to evaluate a dozennew technologies.68

    Design of the Project 685/Mike SSN was led bya design team under N. A. Klimov and, after hisdeath in 1977, Yu. N. Kormilitsin.69 The designeffort went slowly. The large submarine would havetitanium hulls, the material being used to attainweight reduction and, especially, great test depth.The submarine would reach a depth of 3,280 feet(1,000 m)a greater depth than any other com-bat submarine in the world.70 A solid-fuel, gas-generation system was installed for emergency surfacing. Propulsion was provided by a singleOK-650b-3 reactor powering a steam turbine turn-ing a single shaft to provide a speed in excess of 30knots. The shaft was fitted with two, fixed four-blade propellers (an arrangement similar to thoseon some other Soviet SSNs). The double-hull MikeSSN had seven compartments.

    Although primarily a development ship, thiswould be a fully capable combat submarine, beingarmed with six 533-mm torpedo tubes. Advancedsonar was fitted, although details of her 12 spe-cial/experimental systems have not been published.Like contemporary Soviet submarines, Project 685

    was highly automated. The manning tableapproved by the Ministry of Defense in 1982 pro-vided for a crew of 57 men. The Navy laterincreased the crew to 6430 officers, 22 warrantofficers, and 12 petty officers and seamen. While asmall crew by Western standards, the changeinvolved a qualitative shift, according to the shipsdeputy chief designer, with enlisted conscripts fill-ing positions originally intended for warrant offi-cers, and more junior officers being assigned thanwere envisioned by the submarine designers.

    Construction at Severodvinsk was prolonged, inpart because of the experimental features of the sub-marine. The K-278 was laid down in 1978, but shewas not launched until 9 May 1983, and she enteredservice late in 1984. On 5 August 1985 she success-fully reached her test depth of 3,280 feet. Under herfirst commanding officer, Captain 1st Rank Yu. A.Zelenski, the K-278named Komsomolets in 1988carried out extensive trials and evaluations.71

    The U.S. intelligence community estimatedthat the Komsomoletsbecause of her large sizeand the impending availability of the RPK-55Granat (NATO SS-N-21 Sampson) cruise mis-silewas the lead ship in a new class of submarineintended to attack land targets in Eurasia and


    The ill-fated Komsomolets, the only Project 685/Mike SSN to be constructed. She was configured to evaluate new tech-

    nologies and systems for future attack submarines. There were proposals to construct additional submarines of this type,

    but all such efforts died with the submarine.

  • possibly the United States.72 The Central Intelli-gence Agency assessment also noted, The appar-ent absence, however, of some features which havebeen noted on other new Soviet SSN classes raisesthe alternative, but less likely, possibility that the[Mike]-class may serve as a research platform fordevelopmental testing of submarine-related tech-nology.73

    Several times the management of the Rubindesign bureau proposed building additional Project685 submarines. The proposals were not accepted[although] Northern Fleet command was in favorof additional units, said deputy chief designer D. A.Romanov.74

    Meanwhile, a second crew, under Captain 1stRank Ye. A. Vanin, had begun training to man thesubmarine. On 28 February 1989 the second crewtook the Komsomolets to sea on an operationalpatrol into the North Atlantic. This crew was poor-ly organized; for example, the crew lacked a dam-age control division as a full-fledged combatunit.75 And the crew lacked the experience of hav-ing been aboard the Komsomolets for four years ashad the first crew.

    The Komsomolets was at sea for 39 days. In herforward torpedo room were conventional weaponsand two nuclear torpedoes. On the morning of 7April 1989, while in the Norwegian Sea en route toher base on the Kola Peninsula, fire erupted in theseventh compartment. Flames burned out the valveof the high-pressure air supply in the compartmentand the additional airunder pressurefed theconflagration. Attempts to flood the compartmentwith chemicals identified as LOKh, which wereintended to act as a halon-like fire suppressant,failed, and temperatures soon reached between1,920 and 2,160oF (800900oC).

    The submarine, cruising at about 1,265 feet(385 m), was brought to the surface. The firespread. The crew fought to save the ship for sixhours. With the submarine beginning to flood aft,Captain Vanin ordered most crewmen onto the sea-swept deck casing and sail. On deck the men sawsections of the anechoic coatings sliding off of thehull because of the intense heat within the afterportion of the submarine.

    Vanin was forced to order the submarine aban-doned. One of two rafts housed in the sail casing

    was launched after some delays because of poorcrew training, into the frigid seathe water tem-perature being near freezing. After ordering hiscrew off, Vanin went back into the sinking Komso-molets. Apparently some men had not heard theorder and were still below. With four other officersand warrant officers, Vanin entered the escapechamber in the sail of the submarine as the Komso-molets slipped beneath the waves, stern first, at anangle of some 80 degrees.

    Water entered the escape chamber and the menhad difficulty securing the lower hatch and prepar-ing it for release. Toxic gases also entered the cham-ber (probably carbon monoxide). Efforts weremade to release the chamber, but failed. Then, asthe craft plunged toward the ocean floor 5,250 feet(1,600 m) below, the chamber broke free and shotto the surface. As the chamber was being opened bya survivor, the internal pressure blew off the upperhatch. The gases had caused three men, includingVanin, to lose consciousness. Two warrant officerswere thrown out of the chamber as it was batteredby rough seas, flooding it and sending it plunginginto the depths, carrying with it the unconsciousVanin and two others.

    Aircraft overflew the sinking submarine anddropped a life raft, and ships were en route to thescene, some 100 n.miles (185 km) south of BearIsland. An hour after the Komsomolets disappeareda fishing craft pulled 30 men from the sea. Of 69men on board the submarine that morning, 39already were lost, including her commanding offi-cer and one man killed in the fire. The effects offreezing water and smoke eventually would takethe lives of three more, to bring the death toll to 42.Thus perished one of the major test beds for theSoviet Navys next-generation submarines.

    In this period of third-generation nuclear sub-marines, both the United States and USSR pro-duced specialized nuclear undersea craft. Severaldeep-diving nuclear submarines were developedand built by the Malachite-Admiralty shipyardteam, all believed to have titanium hulls. Project1851 (NATO X-ray) was a relatively small subma-rine, somewhat analogous to the U.S. Navys small-er NR-1. The Soviet craft, completed in 1986, had asurface displacement of approximately 300 tons


  • and a length of some 9812 feet (30m). Her operating depth was inexcess of 3,800 feet (1,000 m).76

    Two modified follow-on craftwere completed through 1995.(The NATO code name Paltuswas sometimes applied to thetwo later craft.)

    Less is known about the suc-ceeding Soviet submarines ofthis type, the deep-diving Proj-ect 1910 Kashalot (NATO Uni-form) design. From 1986 theAdmiralty yard produced threesubmarines of the Uniformdesign, the last completed in1993, with a fourth hull reportedto be left unfinished when theCold War ended. These craft dis-placed 2,500 tons submerged andwere just over 239 feet (73 m)long. The specific role of thesesubmarines, other than deep-searesearch, has not been publiclyidentified. Their test depthachieved through the use of titanium hullsis esti-mated to be 3,000 to 4,000 feet (915 to 1,220 m).

    After extensive controversy, discussions, anddebates, U.S. third-generation nuclear submarinesconsisted of two designs, the Los Angeles SSN (62ships) and Ohio Trident SSBN (18 ships), plus theone-of-a-kind Glenard P. Lipscomb, anotherattempt to produce a very quiet nuclear submarine.Advocates within the Navy ship design communityand Navy headquarters had argued for the poten-tially more-capable CONFORM approach but wererouted by Admiral Rickover who, when the thirdgeneration was initiated, was at the apex of hiscareer.

    By comparison, the Soviet second-plus andthird-generation nuclear submarines consisted offive production designs, plus the one-of-a-kindadvanced-technology Komsomolets and severalspecial-purpose submarines. In addition there wereseveral special-mission nuclear as well as severaldiesel-electric designs. However, the production of

    most of these classes was truncated by the end of theCold War, with only 45 nuclear-propelled combatsubmarines being completed by the end of 1991(compared to the 81 U.S. units).

    Significantly, in the first two nuclear subma-rine generations, the USSR surpassed the UnitedStates in numbers of submarines produced as wellas in numbers of non-nuclear undersea craft. Inthe third generation, Soviet submarines displayedsignificant increases in quality and continued toexhibit extensive innovation in design, materials,weapons, and automation. Also significant werethe development of specialized submarines by theSoviet Navy in the form of new construction aswell as by conversion and the modernization ofthe Soviet diesel-electric submarine fleet. All ofthese efforts contributed to the increasing effec-tiveness of the Soviet undersea force.

    U.S. submarines, however, appear to haveretained an advantage in quality of personnel andtraining and, until late in the Cold War, inacoustic sensors and quieting. Although progresswas made in the selection and training of Soviet


    A Project 1910/Uniform deep-diving submarine. The crafts specific missions are

    not publicly known. There are several unusual features evident; the bridge wind-

    shield is raised as is the high-frequency radio mast, which folds down into a recess

    aft of the small sail.

  • submarine personnel, there still were severeshortcomings, as the loss of the Komsomolets andother accidents demonstrated.

    Most ominous had been the trend in Sovietacoustic quieting. Admiral James Watkinsobserved:

    When my first command, USS Snook [SSN592], was launched [1960], we wereinfinitely ahead of the Soviets in nuclearsubmarine technology. Later, about tenyears ago, we were about ten years ahead ofthem. Today [1983] we are only about five

    to eight years ahead of them and they arestill in relentless pursuit.77

    Three years laterin 1986senior U.S. subma-rine designer Captain Harry A. Jackson wrote,There will come a time in the not too distant futurewhen Soviet submarine silencing will have beenimproved to the extent that detection by passivesonar is possible only at short ranges, if at all.78

    By the late 1980swith the appearance of theimproved Project 971/Akula SSNSoviet quiet-ing technology caught up with U.S. technology. A1988 appraisal of ASW by Ronald ORourke, theperceptive naval analyst at the CongressionalResearch Service of the U.S. Library of Congress,concluded:

    The advent of the new generation of quieterSoviet submarines has compelled the USNavy to institute an expensive and high-priority program for maintaining its tradi-tional edge in ASW. By raising the possibili-ty, if not the probability, of an eventualreduction in passive-sonar detection ranges,these quieter Soviet submarines may changethe face of US ASW, and particularly the roleof US SSNs in ASW operations.79

    But within a few years the Soviet Unionimploded, and the remarkable momentum devel-oped in submarine design and constructionquickly stalled.

    While U.S. submarines apparently retainedthe lead in acoustic sensors and processing, bythe 1980s Soviet submarines were displaying anarray of non-acoustic sensors. These devices,coupled with Soviet efforts to develop an oceansurveillance satellite system that could detectsubmerged submarines, had ominous (albeitunproven) implications for the future effective-ness of Soviet ASW surveillance/targeting capa-bilities.


    A third-generation U.S. attack submarine, the Greeneville

    (SSN 772), maneuvers off of Guam in November 2001.

    Note the fittings on her after deck for the ASDS SEAL

    delivery vehicle. When embarked the vehicle will sit atop

    her after access hatch. The sheath for her towed-array

    sonar is fitted to starboard along most of her upper hull.

    (Marjorie McNamee/U.S. Navy)

  • TABLE 17-2Third-Generation Submarines

    U.S. Los Angeles AHPNAS Soviet Soviet Soviet SovietSSN 688 SSGN* Project 949 Project 945 Project 971 Project 685

    NATO Oscar I NATO Sierra I NATO Akula I NATO Mike

    Operational 1976 1980 1984 1985 1983


    surface 6,080 tons 12,075 tons 12,500 tons 6,300 tons 8,140 tons 5,680 tons

    submerged 6,927 tons 13,649 tons 22,500 tons 8,300 tons 10,700 tons 8,500 tons

    Length 362 ft 472 ft 472 ft 4 in 351 ft 361 ft 9 in 388 ft 6 in

    (110.3 m) (143.9 m) (144.0 m) (107.0 m) (110.3 m) (118.4 m)

    Beam 33 ft 40 ft 59 ft 8 in 40 ft 44 ft 7 in 35 ft 5 in

    (10.06 m) (12.2 m) (18.2 m) (12.2 m) (13.6 m) (11.1 m)

    Draft 32 ft 32 ft 10 in 30 ft 2 in 31 ft 2 in 31 ft 9 in 24 ft 3 in

    (9.75 m) (10.0 m) (9.2 m) (9.5 m) (9.68 m) (7.4 m)

    Reactors 1 1 2 OK-650b 1 OK-650a 1 OK-650b 1 OK-650b-3

    Turbines 2 2 2 1 1 2

    horsepower 30,000 60,000 100,000 50,000 50,000 50,000

    Shafts 1 1 2 1 1 1


    surface 15 knots 13 knots 14 knots

    submerged 33 knots 30+ knots 30+ knots 35 knots 33 knots 30+ knots

    Test depth 950 ft 1,300 ft 2,000 ft 1,970 ft 1,970 ft 3,280 ft

    (290 m) (395 m) (600 m) (600 m) (600 m) (1,000 m)

    Missiles 12 Tomahawk** 20 STAM*** 24 SS-N-19 SS-N-16 SS-N-16 nil


    Torpedo tubes# 4 533-mm A 4 533-mm A 4 533-mm B 4 533-mm B 4 533-mm B 6 533-mm B

    4 650-mm B 2 650-mm B## 4 650-mm B

    Torpedoes 25 28 28 533-mm 28 533-mm

    12 650-mm 12 650-mm

    Complement 141 111 107 59 73 64

    Notes: * AHPNAS = Advanced High-Performance Nuclear Attack Submarine; baseline design data.** 12 Tomahawk vertical-launch tubes in 31 submarines of class (beginning with the SSN 719).

    *** STAM = Submarine Tactical Missile (anti-ship).# Angled+ Bow.

    ## Increased to four 650-mm tubes in later units.
















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  • During the Cold War the traditional attacksubmarine weaponstorpedoes andmines laid from torpedo tubesbecame

    increasingly complex as navies sought more capa-bilities for their submarines. And cruise missilesbecame standard weapons for attack submarines(SS/SSN).1

    In the U.S. Navy the Mk 48 torpedo was intro-duced in 1972 as the universal submarine torpedo,replacing the Mk 37 torpedo and the Mk 45 ASTOR(Anti-Submarine Torpedo).2 The former, a 19-inch(482-mm) diameter acoustic homing torpedo, hadbeen in service since 1956.3 The ASTOR was theWests only nuclear torpedo, in service from 1958 to1977, carrying the W34 11-kiloton warhead. TheMk 48s range of some ten n.miles (18.5 km) and itsaccuracy were considered to make it more effectivethan a nuclear torpedo.

    The Mk 48 is 21 inches (533 mm) in diameter,has a length of just over 19 feet (5.8 m), and carries

    a warhead of approximately 650 pounds (295 kg) ofhigh explosives. The weapon is estimated to have aspeed of 55 knots and a range of 35,000 yards (32km). As with the Mk 37 torpedo, upon launchingthe Mk 48 is initially controlled from the subma-rine through a guidance wire that spins out simul-taneously from the submarine and the torpedo.This enables the submarine to control the fishusing the larger and more-capable passive sonar ofthe submarine. Subsequently the wire is cut and thetorpedos homing sonar seeks out the target.4

    The Mk 48 Mod 3 torpedo introduced severalimprovements, including TELECOM (Telecommu-nications) for two-way data transmissions betweensubmarine and torpedo, enabling the torpedo totransmit acoustic data back to the submarine. Laterupgrades have attempted to overcome the chal-lenges presented by high-performance Soviet sub-marines; mutual interference in firing two-torpedosalvos; launching the Mk 48 under ice, where there


    Submarine Weapons

    A Tomahawk Land-Attack Missile/Conventional (TLAM/C) in flight, with its wings, fins, and air scoop extended.

    Although initially developed for the strategic (nuclear) strike role, the Tomahawk has provided an important conven-

    tional, long-range strike capability to U.S. and British submarines as well as to U.S. surface warships. (U.S. Navy)


  • could be problems from acousticreverberations; and, especially,using the Mk 48 against quiet,diesel-electric submarines inshallow waters. The ultimateADCAP (Advanced Capability)series has been in service since1988. This is a considerablyupdated weapon, although prob-lems have persisted.5

    The effectiveness of U.S. tor-pedoes has been complicated bySoviet submarine evolution,such as increasing stand-off distances between their pressureand outer hulls, multiple com-partmentation, strong hull mate-rials, high speed, and other fea-tures, as well as the extensiveSoviet use of anechoic coatings,decoys, and jamming to detertorpedo effectiveness. A 1983review of U.S. torpedoes by theSecretary of the Navys Research Advisory Commit-tee (NRAC) saw a minority report that raised majorquestions about the Mk 48s efficacy and proposedconsideration of small nuclear torpedoes to comple-ment conventional torpedoes.6 The nukes couldovercome most, if not all, of the submarine counter-measures against conventional weapons. Further,insertable technology would permit specially builtconventional torpedoes to be converted to low-yieldnuclear weapons on board the submarine.

    There was immediate opposition to this propos-al by the U.S. submarine community. Charges werebrought that open discussion of the torpedo issuewould reveal classified information.7 In fact, thesubmarine community was reacting to U.S. subma-rine vulnerability to Soviet ASW weapons. Despitesupport from several quarters for a broad discus-sion of torpedo issues, senior U.S. submarine offi-cers eschewed all discussion of nuclear or conven-tional torpedoes to complement the Mk 48.

    As late as the 1980s, however, a nuclear torpedo-tube-launched weapon called Sea Lance was con-sidered as a successor to the nuclear SUBROC,which was in the fleet aboard the Permit (SSN 594)and later attack submarines from 1964 to 1989. (See

    Chapter 10.) The Sea Lance, initially called theASW Stand-Off Weapon (SOW), was conceived asa common ship/submarine-launched weapon andlater as a submarine-only weapon.8 Sea Lance wasintended for attacks out to the third sonar Conver-gence Zone (CZ), that is, approximately 90 to 100n.miles (167 to 185 km).

    The weapon was to mate a solid-propellant rock-et booster with a Mk 50 12.75-inch (324-mm) light-weight, anti-submarine torpedo. Although oftenlabeled a successor to SUBROC, the Sea Lance was tohave only a conventional (torpedo) warhead, where-as the SUBROC carried only a nuclear depth bomb.The Mk 50 payload would limit the Sea Lances effec-tive range to only the first CZ, that is, some 30 to 35n.miles (55.6 to 65 km). The Sea Lance was to havebeen stowed and launched from a standard 21-inchtorpedo tube in a canister, like the earlier Harpoonanti-ship missile. When the capsule reached the sur-face, the missile booster was to ignite, launching themissile on a ballistic trajectory toward the target area.At a designated point the torpedo would separatefrom the booster, slow to re-enter the water, and seekout the hostile submarine.

    The technical and program difficulties provedtoo great for a dual surface/submarine-launched


    An Mk 48 torpedo in flight during tests at the U.S. Navys torpedo station in

    Keyport, Washington. The later, ADCAP variant of the Mk 48 is the U.S. Navys

    only submarine-launched torpedo. There is a shroud around the torpedos twin

    propellers. (U.S. Navy)

  • weapon. The surface-launched weapon evolvedinto the Vertical-Launch ASROC (VLA). In 1991additional technical problems led to complete can-cellation of the Sea Lance project, leaving the Mk 48as the only U.S. submarine-launched ASW weapon.

    In U.S. submarines the 21-inch-diameter torpe-do tube has been standard since the S-11 (SS 116)of 1923.9 This size restricted the development ofsubmarine-launched missiles as well as large torpe-does. The three nuclear submarines of the Seawolf(SSN 21) class, the first completed in 1997, have26.5-inch (670-mm) torpedo tubes. However, nolarge-diameter torpedoes or missiles were proposedfor those launch tubes, although had all 29 plannedSeawolf submarines been built, such developmentmay have been justified.10

    Anti-Ship MissilesThe STAM anti-ship weapon proposed for AdmiralH. G. Rickovers APHNAS program also was shortlived. (See Chapter 17.) Instead, two more-capableand more-flexible missiles went aboard U.S.torpedo-attack submarines: Harpoon and Toma-hawk. The Harpoon was developed for use by ASW aircraft against surfaced cruise missile submarinesProject 651/Juliett SSGs and Project675/Echo II SSGNs. Surfaced submarines wereimmune to the U.S. Navys aircraft- and surfaceship-launched ASW torpedoes, which had a featureto prevent them from attacking surface ships, thatis, the launching ship.

    A subsonic missile, the Harpoon is 1716 feet (5.2m) long, initially had a range of some 60 n.miles(111 km) and delivered a 510-pound (230-kg) war-head.11 For submarine use the Harpoon wasencapsulated in a protective canister that wasejected from