Mr. Skinner has contributed to THE SUBMARINE RE-VIEW in the past with his excellent translations of Soviet tee/mica/ publications. He graduated from MIT in Naval Architecture and has worked at Electric Boat Co .. David Taylor Model Basin and of various Navy shipyards and bases. He was a consultant on submarine design to various intelligence agencies and was a student of the Russian language from 1946 to 1971. He makes his home in Marblehead, Mass.
In recent years there have been some remarkable statements in the Russian literature concerning naval matters. Amongst these are two that raise very interesting questions relative to past Russian and Soviet submarine operations.
For example, in the Journal “Tayfun” [“Typhoon”] of February 19991, it is stated
“In 1985, great success as achieved by Capt. 1st rank V.V. Protoplasm in the submarine K-524 of Project 671 RTM [Victor III Class] passing through the narrow straits separating Greenland from the Canadian archipelago, going from the Arctic Ocean to Baffin Bay, and even further into the Atlantic. For this accomplishment Capt. Protoplasm was made a Hero of the Soviet Union.”
Further, this article continues by describing the passage through Baffin Bay of a ballistic missile submarine as follows:
“In 1984, the K-279 of Project 667B [Delta I Class], Capt. V.V. Zhuravlev commanding, while carrying out a mission in the middle of Baffin Bay struck an iceberg at a depth of 197m. and a speed of 7 knots. With a trim by the bow of 45 degrees, the submarine continued down to a depth of 287m. But this was actually a useful experience, since no available navigational-hydrographic textbook gave the depth of the largest icebergs as more than 160m.”
Another journal describes the mission of the K-524 as follows:
“The general concept of this mission was to proceed from the Arctic Ocean to the Atlantic by passing to the northwest of Greenland. Entering the Lincoln Sea, the submarine passed through the narrow, shallow Robeson and Kennedy Straits separating Grant Land and Grinnell land from Greenland, thence into Baffin Bay, ultimately reaching the Atlantic Ocean.”
“This route is exceedingly complicated and dangerous. It is full of shoals and icebergs, which are abundantly tossed into water by the glaciers of Greenland. Under such conditions, the most reliable source of information on the operating environment was sonar.”
While in the Atlantic, K-524 met up with the American aircraft carrier AMERICA, and secretly “attacked” it, (doubtless in simulation) [sic]. The entire voyage took 80 days, 54 of which were under ice, at depths of more than 150m.”
This would seem to be a remarkable accomplishment if carried out without having the benefit of prior surveys, data acquisition programs, test runs, and other preparations for that area performed by the US Navy over many years.
Another description of the collision of the K-279 with the iceberg has come to light. In an unpublished manuscript3 by V.G. Redansky, Capt l” Rank, Reserve, who is clearly an authority on Arctic operation of both US and Soviet submarines, the encounter is described as follows:
“On thirteen September 1983 at 21 13 hours the missile submarine K-279 of Project 667B, Capt l 11 Rank N.A. Zhuravlev, while conducting operations at Latitude 67 degrees 45 min. N., Longitude 60 degrees 30 min W., struck an iceberg at a depth of l 97m and a speed only of 4 knots.
The ship took a trim of more than 15 degrees by the bow and began to descend rapidly. In the control room, the reaction was immediate. Ahead full was ordered and all planes put on rise. With this maneuver the boat leveled off at a depth of 240 m.
“At 0430 the submarine came to periscope depth. Within a range of 50 cables [5 n.m.] five icebergs were sighted. These bergs had a height of about 50 m. The ship continued its mission and the damage was repaired after returning to base.
“The area where the collision occurred was full of icebergs. But never before had icebergs been noted to have extended to such great depths. It had been believed that icebergs did not extend more than 160 m. below their waterline. Therefor the depth at which K-279 was proceeding was thought to ensure a safe passage.”
The source given by Redansky for this story is “Historical Journal of the Navigation Service of the Northern Fleet (on the occasion of the 300’h Anniversary of the Russian Navy 25 Jan 1701-25 Jan 200 I)” Severomorsk, 200 I, p60. According to other data, this event took place in September 1984.” [sic].
It will be noted that some confusion exists concerning the year in which the collision with the iceberg occurred. The Russian journals cited are considered, however, to be generally reliable. The second reference, for example, also gives seemingly official inboard profiles of several nuclear-powered Soviet-era submarines as well as numerous photographs of them at Northern Fleet bases.
The foregoing “sea stories,” if true, imply the existence of some pretty cool submarine skippers and crews in the Russian Navy. As a matter of historical interest, one might ask how many such operations were there and when did they commence?