Reporting Names are in speech marks. In a mistake repeated in more than one pre-1989 techno-thriller, the Soviet Navy did not name its submarines, instead relying on an acronym for the size type (TK = "heavy cruiser", B = "Large" for example) followed by its service number.The Soviet Union were really into their ballistic missile carrying submarines. Their "second strike" doctrine required launch platforms that could stay undetected for long periods of time until they could launch their missiles at the USA, just as it was starting to get back on its feet after an initial exchange. Early Soviet missile subs were limited in missile range, forcing their deployment close to the US coast, which was potentially very dangerous in a war- for the crews, as the subs were also considerably noisier than Western ones. The basic thinking behind all this seems to have been that having an actually deployed system was better for scaring the West than one that was military effective- or even safe (the "Hotel" class is a particular case in point). The Soviets developed longer range missiles for the "Delta"-class and then changed to a "bastion" strategy, keeping their subs close to the Soviet Union, supported by surface ships, aircraft and other subs. As of January 2009, Russia had in service 5 "Delta III" subs, 6 "Delta IV", 1 "Typhoon" (being used for missile trials) and 1 Borey undergoing sea trials. "Boomer" is a US slang term for a ballistic missile submarine, which we will use here.
"We all live on a Workers' Submarine"- Soviet Conventionally-Powered BoomersAs with the US, the Soviet Union started off with conventionally powered missile submarines. They could manage an uncontrolled nuclear reaction, but not a controlled one- yet.
Project 611AV/"Zulu V"The first Soviet submarines to carry ballistic missiles (in fact the first such subs in the world), being converted from attack submarines. The Project 611 design was based on the German Type XXI U-boat. The design was revolutionary, allowing subs high speed underwater and would have influenced the outcome of the Second World War had it entered service earlier. "Carried" (it was rarely if ever deployed with them on board) two R-11FM missiles, which it had to launch from the surface.
Project 629/"Golf"The first dedicated Soviet boomers, although still conventionally-powered. Fitted with a system that updated current position and launch settings automatically, reducing launch time to 72 minutes, needing to surface for only 12. 23 were built in all, with six variants. The first three carried the R-11FM, but the later ones had R-13/SS-N-4 missiles. 14 were later refitted for the R-21/SS-N-5, which could be launched underwater. Three were converted, each to different variants, for testing of later missiles. Noisier than was practical for a nuclear deterrent force, many of these ended up in the Baltic Fleet, where they could be better protected. All were out of service by 1990 and some were sold for scrap purposes to North Korea. The plans were sold to China in 1959 and one may still be in PRC service.
K-129Sunk in mysterious circumstances off Hawaii in 1968, with the loss of all on board. It appears to have imploded after going below crush depth. Was then, with help from Howard Hughes partially or fully raised by the Glomar Explorer, the deepest salvage operation of all time. The CIA "refuse to confirm or deny" whether they have any documents on this raising, the location remains classified, as does what they recovered. A Conspiracy Theory claims that K-129 exploded while trying to nuke Hawaii.
"Big, Radioactive, Nasty and that's just the submarines"
Project 658/"Hotel"The first SSBN class in Soviet service, i.e. nuclear-powered. The missiles were initially the R-13/SS-N-4 "Sark", but were later replaced with R-21/SS-N-5 "Serb". They had to surface to fire the first type of missiles. The most notorious is K19 The Widowmaker", which had two reactor accidents, both causing fatalities. It was the focus of a Hollywood film, which was full of Lzherusskie.
Project 667A Navaga/"Yankee"The first modern SSBN in Soviet service, apparently based on plans for American subs covertly obtained by the GRU. Carried either for R-27/SS-N-6 "Serb" ("Yankee I") or the R-31/SS-N-17 "Snipe" ("Yankee II"- just one converted from a "Yankee I"). There was never a Snipe Hunt. Role appears to have been destruction of time-sensitive targets, such as Strategic Air Command bomber bases. The "Yankees" had to get rather close to the American coast (Bermuda area specifically) and probably would have been taken out by American subs before they could launch. Because of this, a number might have been switched in mission for European targets, allowing them to stay in "sanctuary areas" nearer the USSR. All now removed from service. The class also had some other conversions, which are described elsewhere.
Project 667B or 667BD Murena or Murena-M/"Delta I" or "Delta II"A major problem of the Red Fleet's earlier boomers is that they had to get close to the American coast to actually hit anything far inland. That meant getting through the American Navy, which was not easy since the subs weren't all that quiet. This changed with the "Delta I". Its R-29/SS-N-8 "Sawfly" missiles had a range of 4,846 miles (7,800 km), which meant that the boomers could stay in friendly waters, protected by other subs. In fact, it could even launch its missiles while tied up at a dock in Severomorsk and still hit Washington, DC. "Delta II" subs have a less pronounced "hump".
Type 667 BDR Kalmar/"Delta III"Carrying 16 R-29R/SS-N-18 missiles, this was the first seriously quiet Soviet boomer.
Project 941 Akula (shark)/"Typhoon"One of the world's most famous submarines and the biggest type ever built (it has a small swimming pool on board, since it's rather roomy), being twice the width of the US equivalent, the Ohio class. The R-39/SS-N-20 "Sturgeon" missiles could hit anywhere in the continental US from inside the Arctic Circle. Now more or less retired. Six were built, while the seventh was scrapped while incomplete.
Type 667 BRDM Delfin ("Dolphin")/"Delta IV")In case the "Typhoon" didn't work, this was built as well. Seven entered service between 1985-91, one now converted to a special forces boat. Sixteen missiles on board. Still in service and recently overhauled.
Project 935 Borey/Borei [The Russian spelling of Boreas]The most recent class of missile submarines, the first vessel of the class (Yury Dolgoruky) was launched in April 2007. They are intended to replace the "Delta III" and "Typhoon" classes, and will carry 16 R-30 Bulava ("Mace")/SS-NX-30 ballistic missilesnote and 6 RPK-2 Viuga (Blizzard)/SS-N-15 "Starfish" anti-sub cruise missiles launched from torpedo tubes.
Long Legs, Little Accuracy- Missiles
R-11FM/SS-N-A "Scud-A"Naval version of the "Scud" (see Mnogo Nukes Short Range Missiles). The range of these missiles was very low (about 350 miles) requiring them to get very close to the American coastline and would have been very awkward to use, requiring about two to four hours to launch. Live missiles were seldom carried operationally, as the propellants were corrosive. Deployed on the "Zulu V" and the "Golf". It wasn't very good (being more a case of only-thing-available, as everything else was too large) but it was a first step and Makeev, the design bureau, designed other Soviet missiles.
R-13/SS-N-4 "Sark"Range of only 600 km (pretty short by any standards) and had to be launched from the surface. Accuracy varies depending on which source you're looking at. Peak deployment around 1962, but gradually phased out after 1964. First Soviet SLBM to use vernier engines- which seems to be some form of chamber system allowing for course alterations.
R-27 Zyb/SS-N-6 "Serb"A two-stage, liquid-fuelled missile, capable of carrying a 1 megaton warhead about 2,500 km. Carried on the "Yankees" and could be launched submerged, being held ready for about an hour and under peak conditions launching in a minute (according to Western estimates). Could be described as the Soviet equivalent to Polaris, in a way, except NATO subs were far quieter. It's been argued by a number of defence commentators that the North Koreans and Iranians have reverse-engineered these missiles for their own use.
R-29RM/SS-N-23 "Skiff"Carried by the "Delta IV", it has four warheads and a range of 8300km (5157 miles). Has recently undergone an upgrade to the Sineva model.
R-39M or R-39UTTH/SS-NX-28Intended for the Borey class and as a retrofit on the "Typhoons", this would have been an improved version of the R-39- had it worked. After three embarrassing launch failures in its first three tests, including one in front of Putin himself, the program was axed.
R-30 Bulava ("Mace")/SS-NX-30Still in development and might be for a while yet- as eight of the fourteen flight tests haven't worked. The most recent one in December spiralled out of control on its third stage, giving Norway a spectacular light show that got covered in a lot of world press.