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Alexander Antonov is an engineer and Deputy Head of the Design Department with the Malachite Design Bureau in St. Petersburg. He has participated in the design of several advanced nuclear-propelled attack submarines as well as studies for submarine tankers.

Every design organization has its history which includes projects that were realized and those that remained on the drawing boards. The Malachite Naval Engineering Bureau has produced several generations of submarines behind which stands an original school of design formed in the 40 years of the bureau’s existence.

The history of the Malachite Bureau began in March 1948 when Special Design Bureau No. 143 was set up. The bureau’s task was to design high speed submarines with new types of power plants as soon as possible. This step was due to the crisis submarines faced as a class of warships at the end of the Second World War. One of the main reasons for this situation was the development of radar equipped anti-submarine forces. As the chief designer of the first Soviet submarines B. M. Malinin put it, ” … radars were the broom that swept everything off the surface of the seas. If submarines had any claim to existence, they would have to become submerged boats in the full sense of the word.” These prophetic words were written in early 1947. They defined in a nutshell the priorities of submarine design for the 1950s: to tum diving submarines into ships capable of spending long periods of time submerged and traveling underwater at the same speed as surface vessels. Special Design Bureau 143 had to respond to this challenge of the times.

Immediately after it was set up, Special Design Bureau 143, headed by Chief Designer A.A. Antipin began work on a submarine with a steam gas turbine (Whale Project 617). The concept was based on a 7,500 hp Walther engine from a captured submarine. The design also made use of certain technical innovations from German submarine building. The Project 617 submarine was constructed at the Leningrad Navy Yard No. 196 and was tested in the summer of 1952. For the first time in Soviet practice, a submarine was developed capable of traveling underwater at a speed of 20 knots for six hours at a time. The State Commission noted in its report that the Project 617 submarine was unparalleled in the Soviet Navy in terms of speed.

Special Design Bureau 143 also worked our Project 618 of a 19 knot small submarine with a closed cycle diesel at the same time as the steam turbine submarine. However, the design was not put into construction.

The development of high submerged speed submarines opened the way for raising their combat effectiveness. These submarines could catch up with the enemy without surfacing, attack and avoid anti-submarine forces.

However, steam gas turbines and closed cycle diesels failed to meet the requirements. They proved to be unreliable, had a limited fuel supply and could catch fire and explode. The advance of science in the early 1950s made possible the development of a relatively small nuclear reactor for vessels. Not dependent on a supply of atmospheric air, nuclear power plants provided for high power, were relatively small size and lightweight and enabled the submarine to move underwater at any speed for a virtually unlimited time. No other source of power dovetailed so well with the demands of submarine building.

Work on the country’s first nuclear submarine began in September 1952 when groups of designers of submarines and nuclear power plants started to develop the future vessel virtually from scratch. The groups were headed by V .M. Peregudov and N.A. Dollezhal. The outstanding academician A.P. Alexandrov became the program’s scientific adviser.

As a result of research, in the spring of 1953, it was shown that a nuclear submarine could be created exclusively on the basis of domestic research and development. Special Design Bureau 143 headed by Peregudov was assigned the task of implementing the submarine’s design in practice. Project 627 provided for a set of trials and design work on nuclear power, the submarine’s hydrodynamics, development of new structural materials, living conditions on board the submarine and weaponry. The vessel’s design was completed less than a year and a half later, and the bureau began to issue the blueprints to build the submarine at North Dvina Navy yard No. 402 (currently known as North Engineering Plant). In the summer of 1958 the K-3 (November class) prototype nuclear submarine, subsequently called LENIN-SKY KOMSOMOL (Lenin’s Young Communist League), set out on its trial cruise. On July 4, 1958 at 1003 the nuclear power plant was put into operation for the first time in the history of the country’s navy. The Russian nuclear fleet came into being.

Thus, the first Soviet nuclear submarine was developed in just six years. The same project took the U.S. about nine years.

The government commission, in its report, indicated that the submarine’s development “is a major achievement of the country’s research and development in underwater vessel building”. Compared to the existing diesel submarines, the K-3 was twice as fast, could travel underwater up to 75 times further and could go 50 percent deeper. Thus, with the advent of nuclear power ¬∑submarines turned from diving to truly underwater vessels.

Subsequently, 12 submarine were built according to the improved 627 A Project, forming the basis of the Soviet nuclear submarine fleet. In addition Central Design Bureau 18 developed the nuclear submarines with missiles Project 658 (Hotel class) and Project 659 (Echo I class) on the basis of the power plant and using research and development materials from Project 627 A. Essentially these were missile versions of Project 627 A.

Some time after the first submarine with a water nuclear plant, Special Design Bureau 143 developed a project of a steam power plant with a liquid metal beat carrier. Before 1955 this project was supervised by Peregudov, and A.K. Nazarov became the Chief Designer in 1955. As opposed to the U.S. Navy, which encountered serious design problems with chemically active sodium in developing the SEA WOLF (SSN 575) submarine, Soviet experts resorted to lead bismuth. As a result, the Project 645 submarine was developed and commissioned in 1963; it was reliable in exploitation and highly maneuverable. As distinct from the water power plant submarines which had numerous bugs in the early period, the K-27 submarine of the 645 Project immediately carried out several autonomous cruises, exceeding planned selfT sufficiency. However, the nuclear power plants with liquid metal agents proved to be more difficult in exploitation and required special servicing at base.

Meanwhile, in the early 1960s, the problem of the reliability of water nuclear power plants was solved, and the submarines of the 627 and 627A Projects made a number of long cruises. In July 1962 the K-3 submarine (later named LENINSKY KOMSOMOL) carried out the first Arctic expedition and research the geographic-al point of the North Pole underwater. A year later, another submarine, the K-181, also visited the Arctic and surfaced in the area of the North Pole. In 1966 the K-133 submarine took part in a group round-the-world navigation and travelled underwater about 20,000 miles in 54 days.

These facts are widely known. It is less well known that Special Design Bureau 143 was a pioneer in introducing missiles on submarines.

In the mid-1950s Special Design Bureau 143 developed the design of the submarine carrier of the P-20 cruise missile.(Project P-627 A) on the basis of Project 627 A. The supersonic aircraft projectile, as the cruise missiles were known at the time, were developed under the direction of well known aircraft designer Sergei Illiushin and had a range of3,500 kilometers which was 5.4 times further than the range of ballistic missiles of first generation nuclear submarines. In a short period of time, Special Design Bureau 143 solved complicated engineering problems having to do with installing the new weapons on submarines. Project P-627 A was completed at the end of 1957, and Yard No. 402 began to build the vessel. Following the latter submarine, Special Design Bureau 143 developed series missile submarines of Project 653 (Chief Designer M.G. Rusanov) armed with two P-20 cruise missiles. Originally it was planned to build four of these submarines, but then the Navy proposed to increase the series to 18 vessels. The lead ship was to be turned over to the Navy in 1962.

However, in 1960 the country’s leadership revised priorities in developing missile weapons. Top priority went to the rapidly advancing ballistic missiles, while the P-20 Complex was judged to have no future. The building of nuclear submarines of the P-627 A and 653 Project was stopped.

The Malachite Bureau was directly involved in furnishing submarines with ballistic missiles as well. Since 1974 the bureau included the Volna (Wave) Design Bureau (earlier known as Central Design Bureau 16) which, under academician N.N. Isanin, developed the world’s first ballistic missile submarine. The effort dates back to 1954 when the bureau began work jointly with Sergei Korolyov’s bureau on this project. As a result, as early as 1955, a diesel submarine, the B-67, was reequipped to test R-11FM missile center Project B-611. It was from the latter vessel that the first naval ballistic missile was launched on September 16, 1955. And although the range was not long (250 kilometers), and the missile was launched from the surface, it was decided to arm five diesel submarines refurnished under the AB-611 Project (Zulu V class) with ballistic missiles.

Next, Central Design Bureau 16 developed Project 629 (Golf class) of an ocean submarine armed with new, longer range R-13 missiles. The 23 submarines of this type built in 1959-1962 formed the basis of the Navy’s strategic nuclear sea forces (only eight nuclear missile submarines of Project 658 were built). Subsequently, Central Design Bureau 16 did research and development on underwater launched missiles and tested new types of ballistic missiles on floating stands.

Virtually at the same time as Project 629, Central Design Bureau 143 worked on Project 639 (Chief Designer V.P. Funikov) with three R-15 ballistic missiles developed in M.K. Yangel’s Special Design Bureau 586 with a range of up to 1,000 kilometers. Special Design Bureau 143 introduced many innovations into the Project 639 submarine: an onboard system of storing missile fuel, missile launching from inside the hull instead of outside (as was the case with Projects B-611, 629 and 658), AC electrical system and others. However, Special Design Bureau 586 stopped working on sea based missiles, giving them up to V.P. Makeyev’s Special Design Bureau 385. As a result, work on Project 639 was stopped in December 1958.

At the beginning of the 1960s the Soviet Navy became ocean-going, nuclear and missile carrying. With the Navy’s advance into the world’s ocean began the confrontation with the navies of the NATO countries.

Giving proper credit to the other side, it is to be noted that the U.S. managed to create the Polaris strategic system. Between 1959 and 1967 the U.S. Navy received 41 nuclear submarines each of which carried 16 ballistic missiles. In view of the growing threat from the seas, Special Design Bureau 143 began work on nuclear submarines of a different type at the end of the 1950s–those designed to fight submarines. These vessels were a response to the new challenge of the times-the missile challenge.

The Project 671 (Victor class) submarine was worked out under Chief Designer G .N. Chernysbev and with the active participation of a group of younger designers. This anti-submarine vessel differed from its predecessors in a number of technical innovations. It was the first single shaft submarine with a X-shaped tail and original design of the forebody which included a large size acoustic antennae and torpedo tubes. The bureau’s designers projected a reliable combat vessel capable of operating in any part of the world ocean, including the Arctic. The submarine could travel faster and plunge deeper. Thanks to its moderate displacement, the Project 671 submarine series was built at the Admiralty Yard in Leningrad and brought through inland waterways to the north to be turned over to the Navy. The Project 671 lead ship was commissioned in 1967, and, on the whole, 15 submarines of this type were built up to 1974.

In addition, in 1969 the Navy received the Project 661 {Papa class) submarine developed by Central Design Bureau 16 (Chief Designer N.N. Isanin) with a set of Amethyst cruise missiles. This was an experimental submarine intended to perfect the technique of manufacturing a titanium alloy hull and a new missile complex.

Meanwhile, life had shown the need to find new ways to improving submarine combat efficiency. In the mid-l 960s, Soviet shipbuilders realized the need to radically improve the submarine’s capacity to avoid acoustic detection. Unfortunately, the scientific potential to solve this problem was absent at the time. Nevertheless, consistent implementing of measures to reduce noise and anti-acoustic means made it possible to reduce the Project 671 submarine’s acoustic field several times. Overall, this submarine proved to be well adapted for modernization and introduction of new weapons and technology.

Submarines of a new kind, the 671RT (Victor II class), began to be delivered to the Navy in 1972. They were distinguished by more powerful and larger caliber torpedoes and missiles, as well as a reduced acoustic field.

In 1977 the Navy began to receive a radically different modification of the submarine, Project 671 RTM (Victor ill class), equipped with the most modem electronics, automated combat management system and improved torpedoes and missiles. A set of cruise missiles similar to the American Tomahawk was tested on one of these submarines. These ships turned into truly multi-purpose submarines capable of tackling any combat mission. Thanks to consistent and careful work, the latest submarine modification had a noise level several times lower than the lead submarine of Project 671.

A total of 48 submarines in different modifications of this project were delivered to the Navy by 1992 when their construction was discontinned. The very fact that this submarine series was built for nearly 30 years shows the high potential of the designers’ ideas underlying the project.

Another epoch-making vessel for Special Design Bureau 143 Malachite and for the entire submarine building industry was the Project 705 nuclear submarine (Alfa class). The history of this ship also goes back to the tum of the 1960s when, on the initiative of Special Design Bureau 143, it was proposed to develop a highly maneuverable anti-submarine vessel with small displacement. As in the case with project 671, Special Design Bureau 143 advanced many new revolutionary ideas. The ideas were so radical in technical terms that it was necessary for the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and the bureau’s old comrade-in-arms, Academician A.P. Alexandrov, to take over scientific supervision of the project. A whole galaxy of academicians-A.I. Leipunskii (nuclear power), V.A. Trapeznikov (automation), A.G. losifin (electrical engineering), and N.N. Isanin who’became head of Malachite in 1974-took part in developing the ship. Extensive research and development work was carried out in a short time period, making it possible to create a fundamentally different vessel with unique tactical and technical features. An enormous amount of work was done by Chief Designer of the Project 705 submarine, M.G. Rusanov.

The nuclear power plant, using a liquid metal heat agent, provided for the submarine’s maximum speed of more than 40 knots. Comprehensive automation enabled the crew to be reduced by two-thirds compared with nuclear submarines of the first generation. The designers developed small size electrical equipment, torpedoes which could be fired at any depth and a non-magnetic titanium hull.

Such a revolutionary ship, however, turned out to be too complicated for industry. The difference in level between research and development and manufacturing had an adverse effect on the submarine’s fate. As a result of shortcomings in the nuclear power plant and technological defects, the first submarine was ruined and construction of serial vessels delayed. Extensive additional work had to be done by the new Chief Designer V. V. Romin. In 1976-1981 six submarines were delivered to the Navy. Notwithstanding all the troubles, the Project 705 submarines were technically more advanced than any existing ships. The designs developed for them were implemented on submarines of the next generation.

New multi-purpose submarines of the Bars (which the West called the Akula class) type began to be delivered to the Navy in 1986. These ships of the third generation encompassed the latest achievements of Soviet science and technology. They successfully combined the strong points of submarines of the 671 and 705 Projects.

These beautiful yet intimidating ships are the pride of the modem Russian Navy. They are capable of solving a broad range of combat tasks on the seas. Anti-acoustic means used on Bars submarines have made them the most noiseless and stealthy ships in the Navy. Having inherited the name of Russia’s first combat submarines, the modem Bars submarines fly the traditional Russian St. Andrew’s flag.

Russian submarine building is going through difficult times today. The deep-going economic crisis and rupture of ties with enterprises of the military-industrial complex in the former USSR, have created serious problems in preserving the existing scientific and technological potential. Even under the circumstances, the Malachite Naval Engineering Bureau remains the leader in Russian submarine building. The bureau is capable of providing the Navy with the means to defend Russia’s state interests on the high seas.

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