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Soviet Nuclear Submarines

October 17, 2011

Soviet nuclear submarines (1958 – 2011)

Submarine powered by a nuclear reactor are called ‘nuclear submarines’. They offer advantages in performance, i.e. speed, and endurance, and are able to remain submerged almost indefinitely.

They are self-sufficient in water production and breathable air. Their only main limiting parameter is carrying enough food.

Once fuelled the current generations of nuclear submarines never need to be refueled for 25-year, which is usually their useful lifespan. The American short hand for nuclear powered submarines is ‘SSN’ where ‘SS’ stands for submarines and ‘N’ for nuclear.

Nuclear submarines stand at the pinnacle of ‘air-independent’ propulsion systems which has been the Holy Grail since submersibles were invented. Yet for all that, in common with their hydrogen peroxide predecessors, they have severe weaknesses. The most serious drawback of which is radiation, leaks which occur from time to time, are invisible to the human senses and are often fatal.

The Cold War superpowers, Russian and the US, suffered radiation leaks, fires and contamination among their nuclear submarines. Some boats actually sank. Of the two powers,Russia appears to have had the most hazardous boats or the worse streak of bad luck.

Nuclear powered Soviet submarines had a variety of roles. Firstly they were a deterrent to the threatof American ICBM. A sub set of this role was the launching of nuclear tipped cruise type missies. Secondly they were capable of sinking enemy (America/ the West) warships in the conventional way with torpedoes or with short range missiles. Thirdly, some had an ASW role, i.e. attacking enemy submarines.

The following table shows the chronological order in which nuclear powered Soviet submarines (SSN) became operational.

The radiation accidents and fires on board nuclear powered Soviet submarines (mentioned above) may have lead to the retention and expansion of conventionally powered boats, i.e. diesel electric. For instance, missing from the table is the Juliett class submarines which were commissioned from 1963 to 1994, or the advanced Kilo class first commissioned in 1980. [1]

While some of the boats in the table above had to surface to fire their missiles, the diesel electric Golf class of submarines could fire while still submerged (see

The Atomic Age

In the post-war years, i.e. 1945 onwards, the capabilities and huge amounts of power that could be unleashed indefinitely by harnessing atomic power for, say, electrify generation, became commonplace in the public’s mind.

It was in this era that serious consideration was given to how anatomic reactor could be ‘miniaturised’ to fit inside a submarine or a surface warship.

The United States launched the world’s first military nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus, in 1954.  With atomic power the USS Nautilus could remain underwater for up to four months without resurfacing (displacement 3,520 tons; length 320 ft; speed 23 kts).

Right: USS Nautilus she was decommissioned in 1980

Soviet Russia’s first military nuclear submarine was Project 627, known in the West by the NATO code of November class submarine. All Soviet heavy submarines are built with a double hull structure, or “casing”, but American submarines usually are single-hulled.

Double hull boats have an external hull which forms the actually areodynamic shape of submarine, sometimes called a casing or ‘light hull.’ The outer hull can be made of made of steel thatis only 2 to 4 millimeters thick steel since the pressure on both sides of the casing is the same. The light hull can be used to mount equipment, which if attached directly to the pressure hull could cause unnecessary stress, i.e. water leakages, especialy at depth of when being depth charged.

The double hull approach also saves space inside the pressure hull, as the ring stiffeners and longitudinals can be located between the hulls. These measures help minimise the size of the pressure hull, which is much heavier than the light hull. Another advantage is when the submarine is damaged, the light hull can take some of the impact damage and does not compromise the boat’s integrity, as long as the pressure hull is intact.

The boat’s strength – required for deep diving – is provide not by the hydrodynamic outer shell  but by the internal prssurised hull which is cylindrical.

1. November class submarine

Launched in 1957 and commissioned in 1959, in it is thought that14 boats of this class were built and 7 are known to have “retired”  (displacement submerged 4,750 tons; length 354 ft; speed 30 kts).

The design was aerodynamically very good – essentially a tube, or torpedo shape, tapering towards the propellers. Yet despite this it was comparatively noisy when compared to the US’s Thresher class boats.

Surprisingly, some rate Soviet reactors in the November class as superior to American ones in their compactness and power-to-weight ratio. However, despite special low-noise variable-pitch propellers, vibration dampening of main equipment, and anti-sonar coating of the hull the vibrations of Soviet reactors were much more pronounced than from US reactors.

Left: Model displaying the chin sonar dome on November class boats

The first submarine of this class was first underway using nuclear power on 4 July 1958. This generation of Soviet submarines did not enjoy adequate sonar equipment, the hydro-acoustic equipment on the November class was not intended for submarine hunting, and had relatively limited capabilities.

Poor reliability of the first Soviet nuclear-powered submarines coupled to general machinery of the steam generators malfunctions led to their short service life.

2. Hotel class submarine

Project 658 was the designation to a new submarine which would become known in the West as the Hotel class. Originally put into service in around 1959, it was operational by April 1961. It was an evolution of Project 627 which later produced the November class. The Hotel class can be said to have been a November class modified by the addition of the missile compartments from a Golf class submarines (see

Hotel class boats had more reliable electro-hydraulic command control surfaces for high-speed underwater operations. With small horizontal hydroplanes for better maneuverability this combined to reduce ‘noise’.

From any standpoint the Hotel class was, in profile, a very conventional submarine (see below).

Once again the infancy of the ‘atomic age’ led to a large number of accidents during its construction and its service life (earning it the nickname “Hiroshima” by sailors).

Submerged it displaced 5,080 tons, was 374 ft long and had a speed of 26 kts.  Hotel class were decommissioned in April 1990.

3. Echo class submarine

These submarines were armed with nuclear cruise missile and served with the Soviet Navy  during the 1960s and 1970s.

Their Soviet designation was Project 659 for the first five vessels, Echo I, and Project 675 for a further 29 known as Echo II by NATO.

Echo I displacement 4,999 tons submerged and Echo II 5,852 tons submerged. Echo I was 364 ft 10” long and Echo II  was 378 ft 7” long.

Of the 5 Echo I which were completed, 4 were commissioned between 1961 and 1963 and 4. had been decommissioned by 1989. In the 1960s Echo I were fitted with 6 x “Shaddock-A” anti-ship cruise missiles which could be conventional HE or nuclear tipped. Between 1969 and 1974 and as the Soviet SSN grew the cruise missiles were removed (in effect they were re-engineered to November class submarine specifications).

The Echo II class (Project 675) saw 29 boats built (18 at Severodvinsk and 11 at Komsomolsk) between 1962 and 1967.

Right: Echo II

The Echo II class was an anti-ship missile carrying submarines armed with eight “Shaddock-A” anti-ship cruise missiles mounted in pairs above the pressure hull.

Although all eight missiles could be fired in 30 minutes, the ship had to surface and the missile was elevated to about 25 to 30 degrees. Stallion SS-N-16 missiles were also thought to be fitted to this class.

The Echo II class also had fire control and guidance radar but would have to wait on the surface for 30 minutes until the missile mid-course correction and final target selection had been sent unless guidance had been handed over to a third party.

Most of the 29 Echo II class had been scrapped by the 1980s with the last one in 1994.

Left: Firing a cruise type missile (Shaddock ) from an Echo II class.

It may seem odd by today’s expectations but the nuclear powered Echo II class was superseded by the diesel-electric Juliett class.


4. Yankee class submarine

This class of boats was designated both as an attack submarines and configured to fire  ballistic missile. It was the first Soviet boat to have the type of lines we have today come to expect of modern submarines. The divorce from the Walter designed U-boats had clearly begun. Surface wave handling had given way to other priorities.

At 9,300 tons submerged, Yankee class boats were 433 ft in length and plentiful (34 were  launched). The Yankees were the first class of Soviet subs to have comparable ballistic missile firepower to their American counterparts.

There were eight different versions of the Yankee class, all of which are no longer in service. The ships were armed with 16 ballistic missiles during the Cold War, and served in the Soviet front lines: in the 1970s up to three Yankees were continually stationed in a “patrol box” east of Bermuda and off the US Pacific coast.

Right: Yankee class profile

Most Yankee class boats were commissioned between 1967 and 1971 with a few more additions until 1974; decommissioning began in 1985 and continued through to 2010. Only one (K- 219) is known to have sunk in Oct 1986 (pictured below). The 20 year old craft had a history of minor clitches and already had one flooded silo bay welded shut.

Yankee I (Project 667A), ballistic missile submarines in service in 1968 – carried 16 x SS-N-6 missiles and 18 x Type 53 torpedoes (34 craft were built). They were the first Soviet SSBNs to carry their ballistic missiles within the hull (as opposed to the sail).

Yankee II was a single-ship class, this was a Yankee I submarine (K-140) converted to carry 12 x SS-N-17 missiles, which was the Soviet Navy’s first solid-fuelled SLBM (submarine-launched ballistic missile). The existence of this individual prototype led

Yankee Notch (Project 667AT / Grusha-class): This variant was an attack submarines which first appeared in 1983. Four Yankee I boats were rebuilt to this configuration. They incorporated a “notch waisted” center section, which replaced the old ballistic missile compartment,

Left: Yankee Notch at sea

Yankee Sidecar (Project 667M/Andromeda-class) was yet another single-ship variant. Also known as Yankee SSGN, this was (in this case K-420) class, converted into an SSGN. It appeared in 1983, carrying 12 x SS-NX-24 nuclear-tipped cruise missiles

There were one or two more Yankee class that were prototypes or used as test beds.

5. Victor class

Strictly speaking Charlie class submarines came after Victor class (Charlie class in 1973, Victor class 1967), however, the first variant, Victor I, was operational before and the last variant, Victor II,  and the Victor III  were in production and operational (1995) long after the Charlie class had been decommissioned.

The rationale of the Victor class design was for a vessel primarily to protect Soviet surface fleets and to attack American ballistic missile carrying submarines.

Designed as the successor to the November class, the Victor class which came into service in around 1967 and displaced 6,085 tons submerged. For the first time this class featured a tear drop shaped hull we have come to expect in the most modern of submarines.

Left: Victor I

The Victor I class had the Soviet designation Project 671. It had two small, two-blade (not multi-blade) propellers fitted on the stern planes for slow-speed operation. Project 671 (Victor I) boats were retrofitted to handle the TEST- 68 wire-guided torpedo weapons

The initial type had a “crush depth” of 1,700 feet and capable of 32 kts this made it an ideal hunter-killer. Contemporaneous of the American Sturgeon class, Victor Is were significantly faster but had much higher noise levels, despite having a noise absorbing coating.

Victor IIs, of which only 7 were built, were a little longer (20 ft) and should have been heavier but counter-intuitively they are listed as having a displacement of 5, 800 tons (Victor Is 6, 085 tons). They entered service in 1972 and were equipped with the new “Kolos” non-acoustic detection system. However, production stopped when the Soviets, via their spy network, learnt that Victor IIs were being easily tracked by the West.

Victor II class were enlarged from the Victor I  to provide additional weapons capabilities and improved fire-control system. The new generation of 65 cm (Type 65) heavy torpedoes were longer than earlier models, and required power assistance to handle them in the torpedo room. The Type 65 had a range of 50,000 yards and were designed to be used against large enemy vessels, e.g. aircraft cariers, that would not be expected to sink if hit by one normal sized (53 cm / 21”) torpedo.

All Victor Is and Victor IIs  had been decommissioned by 1996. Some Victor IIIs had also been decommissioned by this date but several (about eight) are believed to be still active.


5.a. Victor III class

Victor IIIs entered service in 1979, were capable of 30 kts and displaced 7,000 tons. They are shown as a sub-set (5 a) due to the activities of John Walker and the Soviet espionage service (see below). The Victor III class, are immediately identifiable by their distinctive, almost iconic, rear sonar “pod.”  Design improvements using ‘clusterguard anechoic’ coatings [2] helped to decrease radiated noise levels for the Victor IIIs. Anechoic tiles or coating not only reduce internal noises conducted into the sea which can then be heard from afar but blurs sonar detection apparatus (for other references to ‘anechoic’ tiles see also ). Twenty five were produced with the last one being completed in 1991.

The Victor III was much quieter than the earlier versions – unusually so – and the reason soon became apparent. Among the US Naval fraternity the Victor III class, is sometimes called the Walker class since many of the improvements in quieting the boat design and in providing them with more effective sensors were the product of the activities of the John Walker (USN) spy ring in the 1970s and 1980s. [3] This same spy ring also passed on thousands of de-encrypted naval messages. [4] 

Left: Victor III at sea

Victor IIIs were 325 ft long and displaced 7,000 – 7,250 tons but in all other respects were very similar to all other Marks. However, it was the Victor III class’s ‘pod’ that caused consternation for a long time among analysts in the fevered atmosphere that was the Cold War. The pod was later identified as a hydrodynamic housing for a passive sonar array that could be unreeled and towed to gather data and then reeled back in. NB. The system was subsequently incorporated into the Sierra class and Typhoon class of SSNs.

6. Charlie class submarine 

Soviet SSN designers seem to alternate between having missiles housed forward of the conning tower or astern and inevitably, e.g. the Victor class, there were again derivatives of this submarine class too.

Charlie Is (Project 670) had two banks of four missile tubes angled upwards on each side of the bow and outside the pressurised hull. The tubes were covered by large outer doors and the design was to incorporate the P-120 Malakhit (NATO code Siren) medium range anti- ship missile (two of which carried nuclear warheads). Siren allowed the submarine, to launch a missile up to a maximum depth of 150 feet. The illustration shown here displays the missile doors in the bow.

However, due to problems in development the twelve Charlie I submarines had to fitted with the shorter-ranged P-70 Ametist (NATO ‘Starbright’) and it was only Charlie Iis that were armed with the Siren missile.

NB. Both the Ametist and Siren missiles could be fitted with nuclear warheads and are therefore designated SS-N. Stallion SS-N-16 missiles were also fitted.

The first Charlie I was launched in 1967 with another 10 followed over a period of five years. The displaced 4,900 tons submerged. In 1972 to 1979, six improved units called the Project 670M SKAT-M (NATO Charlie II class) were built.

The Charlie I class was de-commissioned from 1990 to 1992 and Charlie II were de-commissioned between 1991 and 1998 (Victor I and II classes were de-commissioned in 1996 but Victor IIIs are still operational today).

Charlie IIs had a displacement of 5,100 tons when submerged, and were 340 ft long with a speed of 24 kts. They were first commissioned from 1973 to 1980 and all 6 were de-commissioned from 1991 onwards.

The Indian Navy leased K-43, a Charlie I (renamed as the ISN Chakra) from 1988 to 1992 which was manned by Indian sailors. After the 3 year lease ended, K-43 was returned to the Russian Pacific fleet.[5]  This arrangement provided India with valuable experience of a nuclear powered submarine and guided missiles – ISN Chakra was armed with eight SS-N-7 known as Ametist (NATO code Starbright), anti-shipping missile.

Charlie class submarines are unique among Soviet combat nuclear submarines in having only a single reactor and a single propeller shaft – all other Soviet submarine classes feature two reactors and two propellers. American combat nuclear submarines tend to have only 1 reactor but their speed significantly exceeds the Charlie class’s 24 kts. [6] The very last Charlie class was retired in 1998. Charlie class submarines were superseded by the Papa class, circa 1969.

7. Delta class submarine 

What must surely be the most visually distinctive Soviet submarine ever produced is the Delta class – but it also had a worrisome arsenal.

Right: Delta class submarine 

In the 1960s the Soviet Navy wanted a new submarine-launched nuclear missiles thatcould threaten targets in North America – preferably one without the launch platforms The submarine) needing to pass over the US’s deep sea sensors (SOSUS is a chain of underwater surveillance / listening posts across the northern Atlantic Ocean). [7]

Delta class submarines were armed with the R-29 Vysota nuclear ballistic missile (NATO code ‘Sawfly’) which had a range of 4,780 miles (twice that of the preceding missile type). The need for constant patrolling off the American coast (see Yankee class) became redundant – Delta’s could sit under theArctic or far out in the Pacific and still reach their targets.

The class evolved over time into the Delta II which was a “stretched” Delta I that could carry 16 rather than 12 ICBN  missiles – all with multiple warheads.

The family of Delta class (from Delta I to Delta IV) is primarily a nuclear deterrent and it has evolved with time to meet changing requirements.

  • Delta I – submerged: 10,000 tons, length 456 ft, speed 25 kts. First introduced in 1973 all 18 built have been retired.
  • Delta II – submerged: 10,500 tons, length 508 ft, speed 24 kts. All 4 built have been retired.
  • Delta III – submerged 18,200 tons, length 544 ft, speed 24 kts. Of the 14 built commissioned between 1976 and 1982, five are still active.
  • Delta IV – little data is available. Of the 7 begun from 1984 to 1990, all are still active.

Since its introduction in 1973 the Delta class was the mainstay of the Soviet strategic submarine fleet and remains today a key part of Russian defence.

The much larger Typhoon class submarines had been earmarked to replace Delta class. However, the high running costs Typhoons and the enforced retirement of the Typhoons′ R-39 ICBM missiles under the START I Treaty, meant that some Delta III’s were reactivated in the early 2000s as replacements. By 2004 all R-39 missiles had been withdrawn and destroyed.

Each succeeding Delta class had better noise reduction. The Delta III, at 544 ft and 18,200 tons, was a leap up in firepower. It was the first Soviet boat that could launch any number of missiles in a single salvo, also the first submarine capable of carrying ballistic missiles with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRV). The Delta III was also equipped with a new ‘battle management system’ (the Almaz-BDR) for the fire control of torpedoes in deep-water, a new sonar system, and also had a new ‘inertial navigation system.’

The submarine design of Delta IVs is similar to that of Delta II and Delta III. It is probably bigger again than Delta III but the operational diving depth of the submarine is said to be 320 metres (approx 1.050 feet) and unlike all other Delta class boats it surface speed is as fast as its submerged speed, i.e. 24 knots.

8. Papa class submarine

Soviet submarine K-162 was at 44 kts the world’s fastest submarine – and remains faster than many others today. Her estimated test depth was 1,312 ft. and endurance 70 days. 

Papa class submarine were designed as nuclear-powered attack submarine and the first to be constructed with a titanium hull.  She would prove to be a single-boatsubmarine type which the Soviet named Project 661. The boat is best known in the West by its NATO reporting name Papa class. K-162 was renamed K-222 in 1978.

Commissioned in Dec 1969 she was de-commissioned in 1984 and placed in reserve. She was deleted from the Navy list in 1989 and her Russian Navy flag was lowered only in 1999. She was finally scrapped in 2010.

She is regarded as a predecessor to the Alfa and Sierra classes, and may have tested technologies which were later used in those classes.

As an extremely fast attack submarine K-222 was armed with 10 x SS-N-7 Starbright (П-70  ‘Amethyst’) missiles in individual tubes forward of the sail, between the inner and outer hulls, which were both of titanium alloy. Similar in design to the Charlie class submarine, K-222 was designed to intercept and attack aircraft carrier groups. In common with the Charlie class and the later Oscar class submarines, her cruise missiles could only be reloaded in port, making her one of the Soviet Navy’s “one shot” boats.

The single Papa class submarine displaced 7,100 tons when submerged, was 350 ft 9” long and had two water-water reactors, designed to be as compact as possible. Unusually, there were no diesel generators – the ‘emergency power’ source was the boat’s powerful batteries.

Her sensors and processing systems included the MGK-300 “Rubin” sonar system, the “Ladoga-P-661” torpedo fire control system and the “Sygma-661” navigation system. Her radar systems were RLK-101 and MTP-10, a Nichrom “Friend or Foe” detection system and there is mention of a “radio intelligence station”.

Offensively she was armed with ten SS-N-7 nuclear tipped cruise missiles in individual tubes, and carried 12 torpedoes to be fired through four 533-mm (21”) torpedo-tubes.

9. Alfa class submarines

Alfa class submarines replaced the Victor class and at 41 kts were the fastest class of military submarines built. They were the result of the Soviet Navy’s Project 705 where a uniquely powerful lead cooled fast reactor was the power source, this greatly reducing the size of the reactor compared to conventional designs.

The trade-off was that the reactor had a shorter lifetime and had to be kept warm when not being used. As a result, the Alfas were used as interceptors, mostly kept in port ready for a high-speed dash into the North Atlantic. Only the prototype, K-222, known to NATO as the “Papa’ class, exceeded Alfa class submarines speed when submerged.

Right: Alfa class submarine

Of all Soviet designs the Alfa is perhaps the most brooding, the most menacing looking. Alfa class boats displaced 3,200 tons submerged and were 265 ft long. Visually, Alfa class and Victor class can be distinguished in the area where the latter has amore blended-in junction between conning tower and hull. All Victor class craft have a pronounced 90 degree junction.

The hulls were made of titanium and at a time when acoustic detection was being complemented by MAD (magnetic anomaly detector) in both sea and air borne mode, a very low magnetic reading was invaluable.

Such was the insanity of the era thatbarely 3 years after being commisioned, in 1971, the first of the Alfa class submarine were being decommisioned. Seven were built (between 1969 and 1981) and there appears to be no subsequent variant or derivation for this class.  Most Alfa class were decommissioned in 1990 with only 1 being scraped later in 1996. According to U.S. Naval Intelligence, the tactical speed was similar to Sturgeon class submarines, i.e. 26 kts submerged.

In terms of straight line-speed the Alfa was therefore a slippery customer. This was only bolstered by its extremely good manoeuvrability which not only exceeded all other submarines in service at the time but also most of the torpedoes that were available. Acceleration to top speed took one minute and reversing 180 degrees at full speed took just 40 seconds. The ability to thus successfully evade torpedoes launched by other submarines required the introduction of faster torpedoes such as the American ADCAP and the British Spearfish.

According to U.S. Naval Intelligence, Alfa class submarines were designed for burst of speed up to about  tests 43 – 45 kts (approx 52 mph) and was capable of a sustained speeds of 41 – 42 kts (still faster than any Western boat.

Project 705 boats (Alfa class) were intended to be experimental platforms, a demonstration of prowess to the West and to test all innovations and rectify their faults. These would later be found in new generations of larger, quieter boats that eventually became the Typhoon class submarines.

Alfa class derivatives, such as Project 705D, were armed with long-range 650 mm torpedoes and Project 705A carried ballistic missile variant which was designed be able to defend itself successfully against ‘attack’ submarines.

Although Soviet titanium technology was superior to the West’s, the cost of each hull meant fewer could be built. One suspects that the brittle nature of titanium lead to the rapid withdrawal of the early versions.


10. Typhoon class submarines

The full enormity of the Typhoon class submarines is hard to grasp – it was, and remains today, the largest submarine ever built. The photo below of a Typhoon class (NATO code) tied up along side another large Soviet submarine and the personnel on the jetty give some idea of its bulk. [8]

Every Soviet submarine type has a ‘project’ number, however, there is some confusion in some citations regarding the Typhoon – some ascribe Project 941  to this massive submarine and others Project 971. The displaced tonnage difference is so great between 941 and 971 that it cannot be the same boat. This commentary, after checking with the available  NATO list (see Appendix A) ascribes the Typhoon as Soviet Project 941.

First commissioned in 1981, just 6 of the Typhoon class submarines were built and were being deployed shortly thereafter. Typhoon class submarines displaced 47,000 tons when submerged, were 574 ft long and had a submerged speed of 27 kts. The photo below shows the human scale of the missile silo hatches.

The last Typhoon class commissioned was in 1998. Only one has been scrapped (2003) but 4 have been ‘laid up’ or are inactive (2004 – 2006).

Soviet military planning for these vessels was to allow them to waits for weeks or months at a time under the Arctic  ice and to launch their nuclear armed ballistic missiles undetected by deep sea sensors of SOSUS.

Ice and icebergs also provided perfect cover from prying sensors of ‘attack’ submarines which would not be able to get a clear or identifiable signal.

Armed with the three stage intercontinental ballistic missile, the R-3, Typhoon class submarine was able to fire from within the Arctic Circle and hit any target within the continental US. Theoretically, Typhoons were also able to fire their long-range nuclear missiles while moored in harbour.

Unlike most Soviet submarines types there appears to be no variants or derivatives of the Typhoon class but it is thought that the remaining Typhoons  has been used for proving prototypes etc.

The death knell for these leviathans was the ‘arms reduction talks’; the impact of the START I Treaty on ICBM missiles and particularly the Typhoon’s R-39 missiles and the huge running costs of the craftat a time of the economic disintegration of the USSR.

Two vessels were decommissioned in 1997, and in 2002 only two remained in service although it has been reported thatthree of the class will remain active in order to test the R-39M or the new Bulava SLBM, contravening the “Co-operative Threat Reduction Program.” The Typhoon class will be eventually replaced with the Borei class submarines

11. Akula class submarine

By 1986 the Soviet Navy was deploying the NATO code Akula class boat which the Soviets dented as Project 971. The Russian name  “Щука-Б” (i.e. Shchuka-B) translates as “pike” (the fish). To clear any lingering confusion with the Typhoon class (Project 941), its Russian name was Акула” (meaning “Shark”).

Visually as this photo shows the NATO code Akula class boat has a faired-in or blended junction where the hull meets the conning tower. By contracts the Typhoon class has a “spare tyre“waistline around its conning tower.

Right: Akula class (not Typhoon)

The hull is more circular in cross-section as befits an attack submarine and is more similar to the Alfa class than the Typhoon class,  which has, of necessity, a wider and flatter hull for missile storage.

Akula’s are nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN), of which there are four sub-classes. The original seven “Akula I” submarines which were commissioned between 1984 and 1990 and displaced 12,770 tons when submerged.  Six “Improved Akula” submarines (the second sub-class) were commissioned between 1991 and 2009 and one type “Akula II” (of 13,400 ton) was commissioned in 1995. Only 2 Akula II” have been completed (1995 and 2001) with production on 3 more suspended. A further possible derivative, at 13,800 tons is an Akula III, allegedly commissioned in 2001, in all eight Akula class were operated byRussia and one by the Indian navy. Five more have been retired.

Akula class are 335 ft long, feature a seven-bladed propeller and use a steel hull. Initiated in 1976 it became evident that the existing industrial infrastructure was inadequate to mass produce expensive titanium hulls (see above). The steel-hulled submarines of Akula class (NATO code) were easier and cheaper to built than the Sierras, and are essentially successors to the prolific Victor class. Today, they make up about half of Russia’s dwindling fleet of nuclear-powered attack submarines. [9]

The Akula class of boat is fitted with two OK-300 retractable electric propulsors (pump jets) for low-speed and quiet maneuvering at 5 knots. On the surface this class can achieve 10 knots but submerged 28 knots.

Improved Akulas, and Akula IIs have an additional six 533 mm (21 inch) torpedo tubes mounted externally, capable of launching possibly up to 6 ‘noise’ simulation decoys each. The external tubes are mounted outside the pressure hull in one row, above the torpedo tubes, and can only be reloaded in port or with the assistance of a submarine tender. (With submarines capable of ever greater depths – the “crush depth” of Akula class is 1,970 – 2,160 feet – is this one way to avoid complications when firing a torpedo in the future ?)

Another slight oddity is the use of 650 mm torpedo bays when the world navies have long standardised on 533 mm (21 inch). Type 65s are heavyweight torpedoes are designed to deliver a decisive blow against very large shipping targets, e.g. American carriers of 100,000 tons. Their range is 50,000 yards (28 miles)at 50 kts (or 100,000 yards (56 miles),at the slower speed of 56 km/h, approx 28 kts).

The Type 65 torpedoes uses contra-rotating propellers and is powered by HTP (high test Peroxide), mixed with kerosene and compressed air fuel. (Ref. diesel electric subs ;  torpedoes ;  WWII subs ).

It was HTP in torpedoes aboard the Kursk – an Oscar class SSN, K 141 – that Russian officials believe was responsible for the explosion Aug 2000 which sank the Kursk, K 141, in theBarents Sea and killing all hands (118 men).

Anti-aircraft defence on the Akula class is provided by between 1 and 3,  SA-N-10 Igla-M surface-to-air missiles. These are for surface use only as they are stored and fired from the conning tower (US, sail). They are are said to be as light and portable as the shoulder mounted US Stinger missile, if not slightly more advanced.

Six Akula and Akula IIs are all thought to be in service. They are quieter than the original batch and the improvements included not only better silencing but improved automation (crew numbers). The improved quietness may be partly due to sophisticated propeller technology they were able to secure from the West. [10]  Akula class submarines have an upgraded passive sonar and detection system, the MGK-501 Skat-MS. The Akula have the SOCKS hydrodynamic sensors, which detect changes in temperature and salinity.

Akula is the quietest Russian nuclear submarine ever designed, and the low noise levels came as a surprise to Western intelligence. Noise reduction efforts include rafting the propulsion plant, anechoic tiles on the outside and inside of the hulls and possibly other measures such as active noise cancellation. Nonetheless, the American Improved Los Angeles class retained a decisive edge in silencing compared to the Akuka I.

Akula II s incorporated an improved double layer silencing system for the power train. Noise emissions are comparable to the (US)  Los Angeles class at low speeds but the ‘Improved Los Angeles’ design retains an acoustic advantage according to Russian sources at medium or high speeds. [11]

The Russian Akula class probably has a speed advantage (28 – 35 knots submerged), but  Russian sources say they are at a distinct disadvantage in sensors, with a sonar suite which are roughly one-third as sensitive as the Los Angeles class.  Russian sensors and fire control can track only two targets simultaneously as opposed to the multiple target tracking capabilities of the American system. According to some reports, the Akula-II class has a 3.7 metre (11 ft) longer hull to accommodate a quieter propulsion system.

All Akula or an Improved Akula etc boats were all commissioned between 1985 and 1992. The prototype, K-284, was launched in Dec 1984 and commissioned in 1985. She was decommissioned in 1995 to avoid the expense of a reactor refueling.

Double Bluff ?

All of the Improved Akula class of boats were commissioned after the arrest and conviction of theWalker spy ring in theUS. It seems possible that a nation capable of blending unique metal alloys to withstand the high temperatures of IBM rocket jets – temperatures unknown to theUS – could build and improve sound deadening techniques acquired from theUS. There is, in some quarters, a notion that Russian submarines are deliberately ‘noisier’ than their counterparts in the West for precisely the reason that in a time of war they would suddenly become so quiet that tracking hunter killer submarines from the West would acoustically lose them.

This bluff could be applied to all or many other Russian submarines, particularly when the diesel electric powered Kilo class is a class leader is quietness (see

Whereas it is common in the West to highlight Russian malpractices, shortcomings and incompetence, “Running Critical: the silent war” by Patrick Tyler points to alarming short cuts in the American programme. When the “much vaunted” Los Angeles class was launched a series of design and construction problems were hidden.

The US Navy’s overriding concern in 1969 was to have a submarine thatcould keep up with its Carrier Task Force. Thresher class boats (28 kts) could achieve this but their replacement the Sturgeon class could not (25 kts). When a Soviet November class sub kept pace with an American nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise in 1968, the pressure mounted exponentially.

It proved impossible to achieve 30 knots unless the hull of Los Angeles class was lightened. The resulting effect was that Los Angeles class of which 64 were built, had an operational depth of only 950 feet – 350 ft less than the Sturgeon class and no where near the 3,000 ft of some Soviet submarines. Jane’s Fighting Ships, 2004-2005 Edition puts the maximum diving depth at 1,475 feet – but this is still short of several Soviet types. [12]

The official speed of the Los Angeles class is only 20 knots submerged. The Elektroboots of WWII had a submerged speed of 17 knots (Type XXI, see U-2540) and other U-boats could achieve 25 kts by 1944 (e.g. Type XXIIIA).

Construction problems began with General Dynamics Electric Boat Co which won the contract to build the first 7 of the panned 12 Los Angeles class boats. Doubling the workforce led to skills shortages among welders. A welding inspection found that welds had been claimed / certified that did not exist (Electric Boat Co). Supposed to be welded. This forced General Dynamics to open up the hulls of 6 nearly completed boats to verify all welds.

Shoddy workmanship (or lust for profits) aboard the USS New York City lead to such a great misalignment on the forward loading hatch that Mark 48 torpedoes could not be loaded.

USS La Jolla built by Electric Boat Co in 1981, had an engine room foundation that was put in backwards and which had to be removed later. She is still in service.

The USS Philadelphia (1977 – 2919) was so badly put together she was literally manufactured twice over with huge quantities of parts ripped out and replaced.

With this in mind one wonders how much “spin” has been fabricated by the American military to cover substandard submarines of limited capability. And one has to question whether Soviet submarines are really as antiquated, lacking in sophistication, noisy and as ill-thought out as we have always been lead to believe ?

“Survivability” of a submarine in a conflict situation is critical and the adoption by the Americans of a single skin hull design has to be questioned. Double hulls allow for a degree of damage before a catastrophic flood of water and loss of all hands.

12. Sierra class submarine

Project 945 known in the West as Sierra class (NATO code) was the Soviet Union’s successor class to the ill-fated Alfa class submarine The Sierra class entered service in 1987 just two-years after the all steel Akula class (see Alfa class titanium hulled submarine circa 1970s above).

The hull is made from the light but strong metal titanium which allows it to withstand the hull pressures of diving to “unprecedented depths“, i.e. greater depths than normal. [13] Their submerged speed was 34 kts. Greater depths had the advantage of reducing the level of noise radiated and increases ‘resistance’ to torpedo attacks. The first Sierra class was launched in 1983 but laid up in 1987. They were 335 ft. long (Sierra II 364 ft) and displaced 8,100 tons. The last to be commissioned was in 1993. Three remain active and 1 has been retired.

Two Sierra I class were built before 2 Sierra II class were launched. Sierra II had a 16 ft longer conning tower. Sierra I class boats had a crew escape pod that can be seen protruding slightly on the port side of the conning tower. Sierra II class boats had 2 escape pods either side of the conning tower necessitating the masts to be offset to the starboard to make room. Sierra IIs were 364 ft. long and displaced 9,100 tons.

Were these pods for sailor safety, or likely to be used because of the boats unsafe characteristics, or were they an  experiment for adoption in later classes ?

Designed as an attack submarine the Sierra class was to engage surface task forces and launch cruise missilesat coastal facilities. With a ‘crush depth’ of 3,000 feet it could out-perform boats from the West and speed awayat between 34 and 38 knots.

The Sierra class (Project 945) was generally comparable in performance to early American Los Angeles class boats, though with an arguably superior non-acoustic detection system and integrated acoustic countermeasures system.

Left: Sierra class

The shortcomings and pitfalls gained from the Alfa class (Project 685) resulted in a much larger torpedo room with capacity of up to 40 torpedoes and noise levels were reduced by “Cluster Guard” anechoic tiles on the outer hull. One source states that the  Sierra class is “. . . so quiet that they cannot be detected by NATO’s tracking system SOSUS” (

Although the actual number of boats launched is thought to be only about 4 many more were planned. The mounting military costs of the late 1970s and cash shortages in the 1980s curtailed the project.

13. Mike class submarine

In the 1980s Project 685 was a response to a challenge to develop an advanced submarine thatcould carry a mix of torpedoes and cruise missiles with conventional or nuclear warheads. The Mike class turned out to be another single example class of submarine, the K-278. [14]

Project 685 was developed to test out technologies for the Soviet 4th generation of nuclear powered attack submarines. Unusually for Soviet submarines, only one pressurised water reactor was fitted (intelligence analysts had expected the adoption of the high performance liquid-metal lead-bismuth reactors.

She was in fact fitted with an OK-650 reactor which is also installed on Project 971 (Akula class), Project 945 (Sierra class), and in pairs on the Project 941 (Typhoon) SSBN.

Commissioned in Dec 1984, K-278’s displacement was 6,400 – 8,000 tons when submerged. Her length was 385 ft.   Although primarily intended as a developmental model, she was fully combatcapable. In trials she reached a depth of 3,345 feet and reached 30 kts.

The Mike class K-278 had a double hull, the inner one being composed of titanium, which gave her an operating depth far greater than thatof the best American submarines. The pressure hull was composed of seven compartments with the second and third protected by stronger forward and after bulkheads creating a “safety zone” in case of an emergency.

The short life of K-278 (1984 to 1989) was due to a fire which broke out in the aft engineering compartment on its first operational patrol (April 1989). K-278, named Komsomolets, was able to surface after the fire started and remained afloat for approximately 5 hours before sinking. Of the 42 crewmembers that died, only 4 were killed by the fire and smoke, while 34 died of hypothermia, drowning in the frigid waters waiting for rescue that did not arrive for 18 minutes.

Right: Mike class

An escape capsule was fitted in the sail above these compartments to enable the crew to abandon ship in the event of an underwater emergency (see Sierra class).

See Appendix B for a list of US and Soviet submarine sinkings. Unfortunately, very few photos of the Mike class submarine are available.  

One lesson learnt was that although the escape capsule was used by the last five crew members still on board as she went down, the capsule did not survive the rough seas before it too sank – four of  the five died.

It would appear that for all the precautions every Navy takes they are forever neutralised and confounded by events leading to lives being lost in catastrophes that should that had been planned for and then ruled   out of the equation.

14. Oscar class submarines

The 1970s saw a veritable explosion in Soviet submarine designs but the 1980s saw them all curtailed or cancelled. The first Project 949 submarine known as Oscar class in the West was commissioned in 1980. A second was commissioned in 1983.

They were reportedly between 19,400 and 22,500 tons (submerged), 508 ft long and had a submerged speed of 32 kts. It is the world’s 4th largest submarine ever built and in the Russian Navy second only to the Typhoon class (for a visual comparison see photo of Typhoon above).

A total of thirteen Oscar class submarines were constructed, 11 of them were the slightly larger Oscar II or Project 949A Antey. Oscar II are about 30 feet longer. Oscar II when submerged displaced up to 24,000 tons.

Over 20 Oscar class had been planned but the financial problems that followed the fall of the Soviet Union forced the Russian navy to “retire” many older submarines classes. Although the Oscar class survived and received the priority to proceed, the programme did not escape cutbacks.

Oscar class boats evolved from having two 4-bladed propellers to the Oscar II which had twin 7-bladed propellers which would probably make them acoustically quieter.

The role of the Oscar class was to deliver multiple missile blows on groups of ships and coastal installations, including the use of nuclear warheads on both shipping and land based targets. The conning tower is reinforced to enable it to break through the ice in theArctic to fire its missiles.

The gap between the inner and outer hulls is said to be 3.7 metres (approx. 10 feet). This is thought to give the Oscar significant reserves of buoyancy and improved survivability against conventional torpedoes (

It is fitted with the normal 21” torpedo tubes but also 650 m/m (25½“) tubes through which weapons such as the cruise missile, the SS-N-15 Starfish, can be fired. The Starfish has a solid fuel rocket motor and can deliver its payload to a target 28 miles away.

The payload carried by Starfish ranges from a simple depth charge to a 200 kiloton nuclear warhead.  It is the same missile system carried by the Akula class, the Typhoon, Delta, Kilo, and Borei classes.

The Oscar class submarine is also equipped with two dozen Stallion SS-N-16 missiles (with a range of 550 kilometres) three times as many anti-ship cruise missiles as earlier Charlie and Echo II class submarines.

Twenty four P-700 Granit (SS-N-19, NATO Shipwreck) cruise missiles can be carried by the Oscar class. The P-700 was designed in the 1970s to replace the P-70 Ametist and P-120 Malakhit, both effective missiles but with too short a range in the face of improving weapons of US Navy carrier battle groups.

Shipwreck missiles can be termed a “smart” cruise missiles. When fired in a ‘swarm’ (group of 4 – 8 ) it has a unique guidance mode. One of the weapons climbs to a higher altitude and designates targets for the others to attack. The missile responsible for target designation climbs in short pop-ups, so as to be harder to intercept. Networked in flight, should the designating missile be destroyed one of the other missiles in the swarm alters mode and assumes its role (

The missiles are also able to differentiate targets, detect groups and prioritise targets automatically using information gathered during flight and types of ships and battle formations pre-programmed in an on-board computer.

They will attack targets in order of priority, highest to lowest: after destroying the first target, any remaining missiles will attack the next prioritised target.

The dimensions of the P-700 Granit (NATO, Shipwreck) is; length: 32.8 ft; diameter: 33.5 inches; weight over 6 tons, speed Mach 1.6; and a range of 342 – 388 miles. With a diameter of 33.5 inches the 650 mm (25”) tubes cannot be use to launch this missile so another mechanism must be fitted (unless the submarine version is slimmer ?). One source answers the question:

The [Shipwreck] missiles, which are launched while the submarine is submerged, are fired from tubes fixedat an angle of approximately 40 degrees. The tubes, arranged in two rows of twelve each, are covered by six hatches on each side of the sail, with each hatch covering a pair of tubes. The launchers are placed between the inner pressure hull and the outer hydrodynamic hull.

This leaves the torpedo tubes to fire both torpedoes and shorter range anti-ship missiles – a combination of some two dozen weapons are carried. [15]

The SOSUS array of seabed detectors, mentioned earlier, was extended between the 1960s and 1980s to provide a more comprehensive cover especially for the Pacific Ocean. However, one suspects that the Arctic would not be so well covered and therefore it was used by Soviet boats to enter the Pacific Oceanand observe American and NATO exercises.

For example, the Tomsk travelled into the Pacific under the Arctic ice after being commissioned in Feb 1997, and joined the Pacific Fleet in 24 Sept 1998. The Pacific Fleet totalled seven Oscar II, with four others in the Northern Fleet.

Another Oscar II, class submarine, K-442, shadowed several US aircraft carriers off Washington state in July 1997.

Project 949A, i.e. Oscar II class submarines, have a total of at least ten separate compartments, which can be sealed off from each other in the event of accidents.  In common with the larger Typhoon class ballistic missile submarine, the Oscar class boats are reported to have an emergency crew escape capsule located in the sail.

The tragic sinking with all hands of the Kursk on Aug 12th 2000, an Oscar II class submarine was therefore all the more shocking than one would have expected. Sailors had always been told that the Kursk (like the Titanic ?) was unsinkable. [16]

A Russian Navy spokesman said the video taken of the hull some days after the sinking showed extensive damage from the top to the back fin. It showed the periscope was also still up, indicating the ship sank so fast the crew did not have time to react.

The Kursk, K-141, sank about 100 miles from the Russian port of Murmansk during naval exercises and amid a flotilla of about 30 Russian ships. She sank so quickly and catastrophically that distress buoys were not able to be launched “the majority of the crew died during the first seconds of the disaster.” [17]

This pictorial representation (left)shows the damage initially done by the explosions thought to be caused by Mark 65 HTP torpedoes and the equipment needed in the early stages of recovery. The greaterst danger posed to divers were the unexploded HTP torpedos still in the torpedo room. Fortunately, the submarine was not carrying any nuclear weapons at the time, and there is apparently no immediate danger of radiation leaks.

The submarine was said to be lying at45 or 60 degrees but the final angle at which she lay was no more than 20 degrees from vertical and ata depth of a little more than 100 metres (305 feet). This depth and the angle were said to be well within the operating limits of the British LR5 submarine crew rescue craft.

Left: K141 recovered and in dry dock

One year after the sinking, July 2001, divers began the dismantling of the bow compartment prior to the hull being raised.

The picture of the Kursk in dry dock is after she has had the torpedo compartment cut off with underwater torches and the bodies recovered (for more details see Recovery workers found notes on a crewman’s body; they showed that 23 sailors (out of 118 aboard) had waited in the dark with him.

The devastation wrought on a warship by a torpedo explosion underlines the lethality of weapon systems today. War Games played by general and admirals may keep them busy but the price paid by ordinary soldier and sailors is so great that it intimidates a “first strike” mentality if ones own losses are not to be horrendous.

15. Graney class submarine

No definitive or comprehensive range of pictures exist of Project 885, a hunter killer submarine otherwise known as Yasen class – and designated by NATO as Graney class. For all the column inches this boat has generated specific hard facts are hard to find. However, if the model and press launch pictures are to be believed than the Yasen class represents a departure from normal Russian practice. Firstly, it appears to have only one propeller which remained coveredat the boats launch and secondly it would appear that its ballistic missiles are stored aft of the conning tower.

A photo of the single propeller is shown below. The third photo in this section is of an American Polaris ballistic missile submarine of the Lafayette class (USS Sam Rayburn), and show how the silo hatches might be arranged now that that it appears missiles are to be stored aft of  the conning tower.

The Yasen class is thought to be based on the Akula class and Alfa class submarines and is projected to replace Russia’s Soviet-era attack submarines. Ten Yasen class are planned by 2020 with one already undergoing sea trials (2011) and a second is to be commissioned in 2015.

Yasen class submarines are listed as having a submerged displacement of 11,800 tons, is 390 ft in length and a submerged speed of 28 (or 35) kts.

It is known that construction programme, started in Dec 1993, has suffered as series of stoppages due to finance and ‘technical problems’. The first of the Yasen class, K-329, was scheduled for launch in 1998 but by 2004 work was only ‘resuming’ and ‘moving forward.’

In part this was due to the priority given to the new SSBN Borei class which will carry ballistic nuclear missiles. Nevertheless, work on a second Yasen class submarine (the Kazan) began in July 2009.

Left: USS Sam Rayburn

Graney class submarines are made of low magnetic steel, with a spherical bow sonar. Precise details are not available as the first voyage of K-329 took place in Sept 2011 but educated guesses have been made about its improved quietness, new generation of reactor and its range or armaments. Some consider by that the Graney class will be only slightly quieter than the improved Akula class. [18]

These are likely to include the  Shipwreck missile (see P-700 Granit above), and the supersonic anti-ship cruise missile, the P-800  which has a range of about 200 miles. There is a likelihood that a long-range cruise missile will be developed with a range of up to 3,100 miles, thus out-distancing the 1,000 mile range of the current P-700 Granit .[19]  One source estimates that 24 cruise missiles will be carried together with munitions for its eight 650 m/m torpedo tubes.

Yasen class submarines will operate a VLS, or vertical launch systems, which allows surface and submarines to launch a variety of pre-loaded missiles. These can be “hot” launch using the missile’s own exhaust, or ‘cold’ launches – each have their own advantages.

The schematic  illustration (above) is of a Russian hot launch system depicting the use of exhaust gases and the relief valve into the sea.

16. Borei class submarine

Russia’s new inter-continental ballistic missile firing submarine is the 557 ft long Borei class. The class is intended to replace the Delta III, Delta IV and Typhoon classes now in Russian Navy service.  Of the 8 planned 2 have been completed and are undergoing sea trials.

Advances include a compact and integrated hydro-dynamically efficient hull for reduced broadband noise and allegedly, the first ever use of pump-jet propulsion on a Russian nuclear submarine. Visually, it is closer to the profile of an American boatthan any previous Russian hull design. The cost is thought to be around  US $ 890 million.

The length of the submarine is 557 ft 9 ins. (170 m), and reputedly has a submerged displacement: 24,000 tons) and has a sped of 30 kts. It has not two (as is normal) but only one reactor feeding into a single shaft and propeller – though this is said to be a pump jet than a conventional multi-bladed propeller.

Work on Project 935 began in 1996 but delayed because of missile design changes. In fact, work on the original missile was abandoned, and a new missile called the Bulava was designed.

As a result the submarine needed to be redesigned to accommodate the new missile, and so the project name was changed to Project 955. Those photos that are available (see below) appear to show missile silos aft of the conning tower (US: fin or sail) a change also seen in the Graney class (above).

Bulava missile replaces the R39 solid fuel SLBM which first came into service in 1983. Weighing 84 tons it was 52 ft (16m) long and had a range of 5,120 miles (8,250 km). [20] The new 3 stage Bulava has a range of 6,120 miles (10,000 kms), weighs 36 tons and is about 11 m long without the warhead – this might add another 5 metres to its length. Bulava missiles do not fall within the scope of the new START treaty leaving the Russian Navy free to deploy them.

The first batch of Borei class is expected to carry 16 missile silos and a later generation is planned to be armed with 20 silos. Layout of silos hatches will therefore be similar to those shown on this American Lafayette class submarioens (left).

It is a ‘smart’ weapon which will be the future cornerstone of future Russian military thinking. For example, the missile possesses defence capabilities which include an ability to undertake evasive manoeuvring, mid-course countermeasures and emitting decoys. The Bulava’s technology allows it to carry up to 10 hypersonic, individually guided warheads each with a yield of 100 – 150 kilo tons.

Intriguingly it is said to be fully shielded against both physical and ‘electromagnetic pulse’ damage – something I heard first suggested as theoretically possible some decades by Ivor Catt, a leading authority in electromagnetism. Some believe that‘electromagnetic pulse’ warfare and counter-measures will overtake lasers and electronics on the battlefield – pulse technology rendering the other two inoperable.

Appendix A

List of ‘NATO’ reporting names for submarines


A. Hunter/Killer Submarines  – Nuclear Powered

“November” (Project 627)

“Echo” (Project 629T) (refitted from Project 629 boats)


“Victor-I” (Project 671)

“Victor-II” (Project 671RT)

“Victor-III” (Project 671RTM)

“Alfa” (Project 705)

“Mike” (Project 685)


“Sierra-I” (Project 945)

“Sierra-II” (Project 945A)


“Akula-I” (Project 971)


“Yasen” (Project 885)


B. Ballistic missile submarines – Nuclear Powered

“Hotel I” (Project 658) 8 boats

“Hotel II” (Project 658M) 7 boats (refitted from Project 658 boats)

“Yankee I” (Project 667A) 34 boats

“Yankee II” (Project 667AM) 1 boats (refitted from Project 667A)

“Delta I” (Project 667B) 18 boats

“Delta II” (Project 667BD) 4 boats

“Delta III” (Project 667BDR) 14 boats

“Delta IV” (Project 667BDRM) 7 boats

“Typhoon” (Project 941) 6 boats

“Borei” (Project 955, Borey) 1 in trials, 2 boats under construction, 8 planned


C. Guided missile submarines – Nuclear Powered

“Oscar-I” (Project 949)

“Oscar-II” (Project 949A)

“Yankee-Sidecar”(Project 667M)

“Yankee-Notch”(Project 667AT)

“Charlie-I” (Project 670)

“Charlie-II” (Project 670M)

“Echo I” (Project 629)

“Echo II” (Project 675)

“Papa” (Project 661)


D. Diesel/Electric powered – Hunter/Killer Submarines

“Zulu” (Project 611)

“Whiskey” (Project 613)

“Quebec” (Project A615)

“Romeo” (Project 633)

“Foxtrot” (Project 641)

“Tango” (Project 641B)

“Kilo” (Project 877)

“Export Kilo”

“Improved Kilo” (Project 636)

“Petersburg” (Project 877)

E. Diesel/Electric powered – Ballistic Missile Submarines

“Zulu V” (Project AV-611) 5 boats

“Golf I” (Project 629) 22 boats

“Golf II” (Project 629A) 14 boats (refitted from Project 629 boats)


F. Diesel/Electric Propelled – Guided Missile Submarines

“Whiskey Long Bin” (Project 665)

“Juliett” (Project 651)

“Whiskey Twin Cylinder” (Project 644)

Appendix B

 List of sunken nuclear submarines

United States

1/. Thresher (SSN-593), the first submarine in its class, sank April 10, 1963. Lost with all hands

2/. Scorpion (SSN-589), a Skipjack-class submarine, sank May 22, 1968. Lost with all hands

USSR and Russian Federation

1/. K-27: The only Project 645 submarine, a November class but equipped with a liquid metal cooled reactor, was irreparably damaged by a reactor accident (control rod failure) May 24, 1968.

2/. K-8: A Project 627 November class submarine was lost April 11, 1970 (52 crewmen died).

3/. K-219: A Project 667A Yankee I class sub was damaged in a missile explosion then sank suddenly while under tow October 3, 1986 (6 crew members killed).

4/. K-278 Komsomolets: the only Mike class sub built sank due to a raging fire April 7, 1989.

5/. K-141 Kursk;  Oscar II class sub sank in theBarents Sea on August 12, 2000

6/. K-159: The hulk of the decommissioned Soviet-era November class submarine sank August 28, 2003





[1] Kilo class submarines have been successfully exported to many countries.

[5] India paid Russia to complete two Akula-II class (NATO code Typhoon) submarines, – one is known to be K-152 – which were supposed to be handed over in August 2010, but this has been delayed for unknown reasons until end of 2011. Meanwhile India has designed and built her own nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (with help from who ?), i.e. the Arihant class. INS Arihant, the lead boat, was launched for sea-trials on 26 July 2009 and the Indian Navy plans to have six SSBN’s in service.

[7] This was a surveillance programme that was begun in 1949.

[10] “Quieter Soviet subs least $30 billion”, Navy News & Undersea Technology (14 March 1988).

[12] Commodore Stephen Saunders, Royal Navy

[14] Designed, as had many Soviet boats, by the Rubin Design Bureau.

[17]  See  The Kursk was commissioned in 1994.

[20] Under the terms of the Start I and Start II treaties, from 1996 a number of R-39 missiles were destroyed. All R-39 missiles were decommissioned by 2004.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 23, 2013 11:26 am

    Reblogged this on Random Logic….

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