UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Project 671 Yersy / Victor class
Attack Submarine (Nuclear Powered)

The Victor class submarines [Podvodnaya Lodka Atomnaya (PLA) Nuclear Powered Submarine.] were designed to engage enemy ballistic missile submarines, antisubmarine taskforces, and to protect friendly vessels and convoys from enemy attacks. A contemporary of the American Sturgeon class, they were significantly faster but also had much higher noise levels -- indeed, in the first two variants designers made no significant effort to reduce noise emissions. The reactor plant of all Victor-class submarines is similar to that used with the Yankee and Delta-class Ballistic Missile Nuclear Submarines (SSBNs). The two reactors are mounted in a side-by-side configuration.

The Victor I featured an advanced tear-drop hull design for high underwater speeds. Two small, two-blade propellers are fitted on the stern planes for slow-speed operation. Two external torpedo tubes hold a single nuclear-tipped E53-65K torpedo. The hull of the Victor I class was divided into seven compartments: 1 accommodations; 2 control room ; 3 reactor compartment; 4 turbines; 5 auxiliary machinery; 6 accommodations; 7 electric-motor and steering. A total of 15 units were built. The Project 671 boats were retrofitted to handle the TEST-68 wire-guided torpedo weapons under the designation Project 671B (sometimes written Project 671V). A pair of Project 671 submarines were subsequently equipped with the new "Kolos" non-acoustic detection system, and redesignated as Project 671K.

The Victor II class was enlarged to provide additional weapons capabilities and improved fire-control system. The new generation of 65 cm heavy torpedoes were longer than earlier models, and required power assistance to handle them in the torpedo room. The hull of the Victor II class was divided into eight compartments: 1 Torpedo room and accumulators; 2 Accommodations and mess; 3 Control room; 4 Reactor; 5 Turbines; 6 Turbo generators; 7 Living accommodation and diesel generators; 8 Steering system and electric motor. A total of seven units were built. While the Project 671RT class was building, information from the Walker spy ring emphasized the acoustic vulnerability of the design, construction was curtailed pending an improved design.

An improved version of the Victor II, the Victor III was an interim effort to apply some level of silencing to their submarines. The hull was lengthened by nearly 20 feet to accommodate the rafting and sound insulation for the turbine machinery.

Owen R. Cote wrote "The Victor III was a harbinger of the Akula, the first Soviet submarine which approached or achieved acoustic parity with its American contemporaries. Though first deployed in 1978, it was in 1981 that the full significance of the Victor III's quieting sank in. From public testimony it is possible to describe broadly the quieting steps finally taken in this class."

In a 1984 reference to operations against Victor IIIs, CNO Admiral Watkins testified: "What we also learned was that where we had the towed array that covers the low frequency band it was effective every time. The lesson is?we need to get the low frequency end developed and accelerate its introduction into the fleet. Now we are working on that. We have put extra dollars into the low frequency end so that we can go after the propeller blade rates and the other things we have to get on a quiet submarine." Cotenoted that "The significance of this statement is in its reference to the importance of propeller blade rate tonals for detecting Victor IIIs, which indicates that other, higher frequency, narrowband tonals like those generated by a ship's service turbo-generators had been reduced.

"This in turn indicates that rafting and other, more advanced quieting techniques first adopted by Thresher in the United States were probably adopted by the Soviets only with Victor III. It also demonstrates the significance of the Toshiba, nine axis milling machinery obtained by the Soviet Union which gave them the ability to make the kind of skew back propellers that reduce blade rate tonals. This technology, combined on Akula with the quieting technologies already demonstrated on Victor III, gave the Soviets by the mid 1980s a nuclear submarine that could elude SOSUS and frustrate efforts by tactical ASW platforms using passive sonar to establish and maintain contact with it."

The design also features improvements in electronics, navigation systems, and radio and satellite communication systems, accomodated in the additional hull space forward of the sail. Victor II and Victor III submarines are equipped with radio buoys allowing the submarine to maintain communications while submerged. All Victors are double-hulled, though some sources reported that the Victor-III retains the eight-compartment layout of the Victor-II, while other sources suggest it has nine inner hull compartments. The outer hull is coated with anti-hydroacoustic materials to reduce the possibility of detection. The outer hull of the Victor III is made partly from light alloys, and is distinguishable by a high stern fin fitted with a towed array dispenser -- the first Soviet submarine fitted with a towed array. The large pod was needed so that the array could be reeled over a large radius, solve early problems with cracks in the rubber coating. A total of 26 units were constructed, in two groups. The first group of 21 Project 671RTM boats were built between 1977 and 1985.

The most important improvement implemented on the 671RTM nuclear submarine was a fundamentally new type of weapon - the strategic small-sized subsonic cruise missiles “Granat” with a maximum range of 3000 km. The equipment of the submarines with cruise missiles turned them fully into multipurpose ships capable of solving a wide range of tasks in both conventional and nuclear wars. In terms of its mass and dimensional characteristics, the Granat did not differ from standard torpedoes. This allowed them to be used from standard 533-mm torpedo tubes. The last five boats of Leningrad construction were commissioned under the project 671RTMK (with a weapon system, supplemented by the KR). Subsequently, the remaining ships of the Project 671RTM were also equipped with cruise missiles.

This additional group of five Project 671RTMK boats were built at the Admiralty shipyard in St Peterburg, equipped with the new "Kolos" non-acoustic sensor suite. Some Project 671RTMs were upgraded to the 671RTMK configuration, and all units of this variant were fitted for the new "Granat" strategic cruise missiles. The Project 671RTMK also incorporated for the first time a fully integrated submarine combat direction and fire control command system. The "Viking" system, said to be based on that developed for the Norwegian Ula class submarines, ran on computers allegedly obtained from the Toshiba Corporation of Japan [at the time the affair was publicly reported as relating to multi-axis milling machines for propellers].

Some reports suggest that some Victor-III boats were permamently assigned to ASW duties, loaded with the carried the RPK-6 torpedo-carrying missile, while others were dedicated to the anti-shipping mission and armed with the new P-100 anti-ship missile.

A single unit of this class, mounting 10-meter fairing on the deck forward of the sail for SS-N-21 tests, was unofficially known as a Victor IV.

On 10 August 1985 one of two reactors on the K.314 Victor-I class submarine was being refuelled at Chazhma Bay, near Vladivostock. A crane used to reposition the reactor lid failed, triggering a nuclear reaction that caused a thermal explosion which ruptured both the aft bulkhead and the pressure hull. The freshly loaded core was thrown out of the reactor. The official casualty figures were 10 killed, 10 cases of acute radiation sickness and 39 other cases of radiation sickness. The Russian Navy had four damaged submarines, of which four are in the Far East, in the Pavlovski Bay (project 675, serial No. 175 and 541 and project 671, serial No. 610) and one - in the North (project 675, serial No. 533).

All Victor Is and IIs had been decommissioned by 1996. Of the 26 units of the Victor III class, various sources suggest that somewhere bewteen 8 and 15 had been decommissioned due to lack of funds in the 1999-2000 timeframe. This would have left somewhere between 11 and 18 Victor-III units in service, though almost certainly at a low level of operability. The Tambov is a Victor III nuclear attack submarine that was commissioned in 1994 and as of 2004 was with the Northern Fleet.

The number and identity of the currently operational units is somewhat conjectural. Various sources provide divergent flag number listings for the hull construction sequence. Perversely, Haze Gray believed that eight units were active as of early 2002, and this source had evidently determined that the remaining units are the most recently constructed hulls, which implies that pennant numbers have been reassigned from older units. Janes thought there were only five in commission as of January 2003, while Periscope agreed on five as of August 2003. The more specialized Russian Submarine List of the Steel in the Deep Submarine Site retains an earlier boat list, though is of the view that six units were in service as of early 2004, with all at Zapadnaya Litsa in the Northern Fleet.

By 2006 there were about 30 decommissioned nuclear submarines of various classes moored at various ports in the Russian Far East.In September 2006 it was announced that by 2010 Russia will scrap five nuclear submarines decommissioned from the Pacific Fleet under a joint project with Japan. The Victor class vessels will be dismantled under the Star of Hope program for the dismantlement of decommissioned nuclear submarines in Russia's Far East, which was adopted in 2003 during a visit of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to Russia. Japan had allocated 20 billion yen (about $171 million) for the new project. The dismantling of the first decommissioned Victor I nuclear submarine under the project would start in late 2006 at the Zvezda Shipyard, in a suburb of Vladivostok, and would take about 10 months. During the dismantlement process spent nuclear fuel is removed from the submarine's reactors and sent to storage, the hull is cut into three sections, and the bow and stern sections are removed and destroyed. The reactor section is sealed and transferred to storage.

As of 2007 the International Institute of Strategic Studies reported that there were a total of five Victor III nuclear attack submarines in service, of which one unit was reported "in reserve". Probably K-412, which was commissioned in 1985, is "in reserve", as the other four remaining units were comissioned in the 1989-1993 timeframe. During the 1990s units of the Victor class were being retired at a rate of 2 or 3 every year, when their reactor core lives expired, which would suggest that the entire class might be retired in the 2010 timeframe. But the rapid decline in numbers had halted by 2005, by which time the number in service had seemingly stabilized at five. But with the 2006 retirement of K-292 and the 2013 retirement of K-388, the number had dropped to three.

These remaining active submarines may be in restricted service, to conserve their remaining reactor core lives. Assuming the nominal 30 year service life of their American counterparts, at least the three youngest remaining Victor III submarines might remain in service until around 2020. There are no open source discussions of upgrades to this residual force. It is an open question whether their service life might be prolonged to four decades, rather than the nominal three. If so, they would remain in service until the 2030 timeframe, by which time they might be replaced by the new Husky boats.

As it appears from the materials of the 19 April 2019 tender documentation of the Rosatom state corporation that got into the media, in 2021 the plan provides for the disposal in 2021 of a large nuclear submarine K-448 "Daniel of Moscow" (serial number 01695) of Project 671RTMK (the cost of disposal of 250 million rubles).

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 13-09-2021 17:22:04 ZULU