Soviet production of new submarines began in 1927. Clandestine cooperation with Germany gave Soviet engineers access to design data for German types from late World War I: minelayers, Type UBIII, and Mittel-U. The Soviets salved and recommissioned the sunken British submarine L-55, which gave them access to late-war British design information. Soviet designers also gained considerable data from rehabilitating the later czarist-era Bubnov-designed boats and the final examples of the ubiquitous Holland H-type submarines. Synthesizing this information permitted the Soviets to produce a wide variety of submarines on a large scale. There were two basic series of “M”-type coastal submarines, two basic medium submarine series—the “Shch” or Pike type of indigenous origin (though strongly influenced by British practice), and the later “S”-type derived from the same basic design as the German Type VII, minelayers of the “L”-type developed from the L-55, and long-range boats of the “K”-type. At the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, the Soviet Union deployed the world’s largest submarine force, with 168 boats in service.
The final “M”-type displaced 283 tons surfaced, had a range of 4,500 miles at 8 knots on the surface or 36 hours at 3 knots submerged, could dive to 295 feet, and had a battery of 2 torpedo tubes with 4 torpedoes and a 45mm antiaircraft gun. The developed “S”-type displaced 856 tons surfaced, had a range of 9,500 miles at 9 knots on the surface or 45 hours at 3 knots submerged, could dive to 330 feet, and had a battery of 6 torpedo tubes with 12 torpedoes and a 4-inch deck gun. Their indigenous rivals displaced 587 tons, had a range of 3,650 miles at 7 knots or 50 hours at 2.5 knots submerged, could dive to 295 feet, and carried 6 torpedo tubes with 10 torpedoes. The minelayers displaced 1,108 tons, had a range of 10,000 miles at 8.6 knots or 60 hours at 2.5 knots submerged, could dive to 330 feet, and carried 8 torpedo tubes with 14 torpedoes and 20 mines. The “K”-type were very popular with their crews and were regarded as the best Soviet submarines of World War II. They displaced 1,480 tons, had a range of 15,000 miles at 9 knots or 50 hours at 2.5 knots submerged, could dive to 330 feet, and carried 10 torpedo tubes with 24 torpedoes. Despite this variety, the Soviet Union’s yards produced large numbers of submarines during World War II, completing some 200 boats during the course of the conflict.
SERIES XIV (1938) “K” class
Builder: Admiralty K-22 (4 November 1938), K-23 (28 April 1939), K-52 (5 July 1939), K-51 (30 July 1939), K-21 (14 August 1939), K-53 ( 2 September 1939), K-24 (1940)
Builder: Baltic K-58, K-60, K-77, K-78 (1946)
Displacement : 1490 tons (surfaced), 2140 tons (submerged)
Dimensions: 320940 x 24930 x 149100
Machinery: 4 diesel engines, 2 electric motors, 2 shafts. 8400 bhp/2400 shp = 21/10 knots
Range: 14,000 nm at 9 knots surfaced, 160 nm at 3 knots submerged
Armament: 10 x 533mm torpedo tubes (6 bow, 2 stern, 2 trainable external mounts), total 24 torpedoes, 20 mines, 2 x 100mm guns, 2 x 45mm AA guns Complement: 60
Mikhail Alekseevich Rudnitskiy designed these large double-hull cruiser submarines. In addition to mines laid through two vertical tubes amidships, these boats originally were to carry a seaplane in a hangar abaft the conning tower, but the aviation proposal was abandoned. These submarines performed well and were the best Soviet-designed boats in service during World War II. All the class operated with the Northern Fleet. One additional boat building at Leningrad was not completed because of the German siege.
The K- 22 was mined off Cape Harbaken on 6 February 1942; the K-23 was lost off Okse Fjord on 12 May; the K- 2 failed to return from a patrol off the Norwegian coast in September. The K-3 was lost off Batsfjord on 21 March 1943, and the K-1 probably was mined in the Kara Sea in October. The surviving boats were stricken in the late 1950s, and the K-21 became a memorial at Severomorsk.