One of the most successful – and controversial – modern submarines is the Russian KILO, a diesel-electric craft designated Project 877 by the Russians. The size of the KILO program has marked its success while the recent KILO transfer to Iran has sparked international controversy.
The KILO entered production in the early 1980s, being the long-awaited successor to the WHISKEY/ROMEO medium-range attack submarines. The craft was designed by Yu.N. Kormilitsyn of the Rubin submarine design bureau specifically for transfer to Warsaw Pact navies. Reflecting this purpose, the craft was given the Russian name Vanhavyanka, meaning “woman from Warsaw” and assigned the code name KILO by NATO. The KILO is highly touted by Academician Igor Spassky, head of the Rubin design bureau, [Ed Note: See Conversion of a Russian Delta ill Submarine in this issue.] who proudly presents gifts of a detailed scale model of the KILO to special visitors. The Rubin design bureau – previously designat-ed TsKB 18 – was the principal designer of Soviet SSBNs and SSGNs; it was also responsible for the WHISKEY, QUEBEC, WHALE, FOXTROT, and TANGO designs!
The KlLO is the first Soviet diesel-electric submarine to have modified tear-drop or ALBACORE (AGSS-569) hull form, although the craft’s underwater speed is only some 18 knots (compared to a maximum of 33 knots achieved by the ALBACORE in one of several configurations). The Russian design has a double-hull configuration with bow-mounted diving planes. Like most Russian submarines, the KILO has an anechoic hull coating to reduce hostile sonar effectiveness.
At about 2,500 tons surfaced and 3,000 tons submerged, the KILO is larger than the earlier FOXTROT although at 239 1/2 feet in length she is 60 feet shorter but with a beam of 32 1/2 feet the KILO is 8 feet broader than the FOXTROT, reflecting the tear-drop hull design. The KILO has six 21-inch bow torpedo tubes, two of which are fitted for launching wire-guided torpedoes. The tapered, single-shaft stem configuration prevents the fitting of stem tubes. A total of 18 torpedoes or an equivalent load out of mines can be carried. In addition, the KILO has eight SA-N-5 surface-to-air missiles fitted in a launch position at the after end of the sail.
There is a large bow sonar array, probably the medium-frequency sonar given the NATO code name Shark Teeth coupled with the high-frequency Mouse Roar attack sonar. The mast-mounted antennas include the Snoop Tray search radar, the Quad Loop direction finder, and Squid Head electronic surveillance measures.
The KILO’s propulsion plant consists of three diesel genera-tors producing an estimated of 5,475 brake horsepower with a single electric motor rated at 5,900 shaft horsepower. The diesel engines have a high degree of supercharging; other improvements include reducing the specific weight of the engines and notably reducing the specific fuel consumption in comparison with previous Soviet diesel-electric submarines. There also appears to be a creeping motor for low-speed, quiet operation. The single shaft has a six-bladed propeller. All previous Soviet diesel-electric attack submarines had two or three shafts. Only a lower rudder is fitted.
Operating depth is rated at 1,000 feet.
The first KILO was launched in September 1980 at the Lenkom shipyard at Komsomol’sk shipyard (No. 199) on the Amur River in the Far East; she was placed in service in April 1982 The continued Soviet design and construction efforts in the field of diesel-electric submarines led a senior U.S. naval inteUigence officer to write:
“‘The Soviets see a continuing utiHty of the diesel submarine. It is excellent for confined waters such as those in the Mediterranean, it makes a superb mobile mine-field in Soviet parlance; for purposes of forming [anti-]submarine barriers, it can be most effective; and it can serve quite successfully for delousing high-value units, reconnaissance, scaling off choke points and many traditional submarine missions where the speed and endurance of a nuclear submarine arc not required …. the soviets clearly have a commitment to diesel boats forever.”
More units for Soviet service followed, but by 1986 new construction KILOs were being transferred to several other countries. Series production was additionally undertaken at the Krasnaya Sormova yard (No. 1 12) in Gor’kiy (now Nizhniy Novgorod) and at the United Admirally-Sudomekh yard (No. 194 in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). This marked the first time since the massive WHISKEY production program of the 1950s that a single submarine design was produced at three yards (the WHISKEYs were buill at four Soviet shipyards).
KILO construction has averaged three submarines per year over the past decade.
However, in late 1992, Russian President Boris Yeltsen announced that submarine production — nuclear as well as diesel – would end at Komsomol’sk and at Gor’kiy; thus, only Sudomekh would continue diesel submarine construction. (The Severodvinsk yard currently constructs only nuclear submarines; see “Reducing the Russian Submarine Construction Base,” THE SUBMARINE REVIEW, January 1993.)
At Igor Spassky’s Rubin design bureau, however, an im-proved variant of the KILO has been developed and is now being offered for export and could ensure the viability of the Admiralty-Sudomekh yard during the current cutback in submarine construction for the Russian Navy. The new design-reportedly designated Project 636- is 50 percent more fuel efficient than the basic KILO, with redesigned control facilities, additional air conditioning, and increased fresh water and compressed air stowage.
These improvements – which are intended to make the KILO more attractive to potential Third World customers – bring the KILO’s overall length to 242 feet.
By the beginning of 1993 there were an estimated 20 KILOs in Russian service and another 13 flying foreign flags: 2 having been transferred to AJgeria, 8 to India, 1 to Iran, 1 to Poland, and 1 to Romania; at least two more are under construction for Iran. The Russians arc making a hard sell to several other countries in an effort to keep the KILO program alive and to help underwrite the costs of submarine construction for the Russian fleet. Probable KILO clients include Libya, Syria, and Vietnam as well as China, the last reflecting the increased Russia-China military trade in the wake of the demise of the Soviet union.
Thus the KILO aUack submarine — with more than 33 units constructed over the past 11 years – must be considered one of the world’s most successful contemporary submarine programs.