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Project 670 Skat / Charlie I
Project 670M Chayka / Charlie II

The CHARLIE was originally planned as a small, "mass-production" submarine that would be the lower-cost complement to the more expensive PAPA design, which clearly could not be built in sufficient numbers [in fact, only a single PAPA was built]. The Charlie SSGN was the first Soviet submarine to deploy submerged launch antiship missiles. In common with American submarines, and unique among Soviet combat nuclear submarines, the Charlie class had a single reactor and a single propeller shaft -- all other Soviet submarine classes feature two reactors and two propellers. With only a single reactor (VM-4 type water-cooled), the Charlie-class was limited to a top speed of 24 knots, which was insufficient to keep pace with a 30-knot carrier battle group.

The Charlie seemed to eliminate many of the problems inherent in the Echo design and concept of operations. It used targeting data from the first Soviet ocean surveillance satellites, which were intended to substitute for the vulnerable and range-limited maritime surveillance aircraft. In practice, the space-based ocean surveillance system did not live up to initial expectations, and the Charlie remained dependent on surveillance for target acquisition support. Although the shorter range of the SS-N-7 compared to the SS-N-3 required a closer approach to the target, it also reduced the flight time of the missile and eliminated the need for mid-course guidance. This eliminated the need for a guidance radar on the submarine, which allowed a fire and forget submerged launch.

The Charlie-I was originally designed to carry the SS-N-9 anti-shipping cruise missile, which had been planned for the PAPA class. When the SS-N-9 missile was not ready in time for the Charlie-I class, the SS-N-7 [a modified version of the SS-N-2 Styx], was substituted. A total of 11 or 12 Charlie I submarines, carrying 8 SS-N-7s of approximately 30 mile range, were built between 1967 and 1972 at a rate of about two a year. The Charlie II provided the SS-N-9 armament originally planned for the Charlie I class, along with an improved fire control system. Six Charlie II submarines, each with 8 SS-N-9s of 60 mile range, followed between 1972 and 1980. The slower construction rate of the Charlie II suggested that the design was deemed less than satisfactory. Indeed, the Charlie SSGNs were by far the smallest class of the second generation of Soviet nuclear submarines which, also included 49 Victor SSNs and 76 Yankee/Delta SSBNs. All submarines of both classes had been discarded by 1994. Contrary to some expectations, there was no Charlie III class.

K429 (a Charlie I class submarine) sank on 23 June 1983 in the Savannaya Bay in the Bering Sea. The boat was raised and returned to service. Unluckily, she sank again alongside the jetty on 13 September 1985. The incident led to the loss 16 lives and the imprisonment of the submarine commander. In January 1988, the Soviets leased a Charlie I to India, where she served until January 1991 as the Chakra. Some reports suggesting a that a second Charlie-class unit would be leased to India [possibly to be named the Chitra] were erroneous.

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