RUSSIa'S COLD WaR WaRRIORS

By Bonner, Kit | Sea Classics, October 2005 | Go to article overview

RUSSIa'S COLD WaR WaRRIORS


Bonner, Kit, Sea Classics


To SUPPoRT ITS bATTLe oF IDEoLogIeS WITH THe WeST, THe SoVIeT NAVY bUILT AN AWeSoMe PoSTWAR FLeeT oF SUbMARINeS oF eVeRY DeSCRIPTIoN

A BLOODLESS NAVAL WAR WITHOUT TRADITIONAL SEA BATTLES

The end of World War Two signaled the beginning of the Cold War. However, the opponents had been identified long before the December 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The Allies which had fought so well during the fiercest war in human history split up and the Soviet Union became an arch enemy of the western powers. The roots of the breakup were over two decades old and had much to do with the western alliance being violently opposed to Soviet Communism and foundational Marxism. Led by the United States, the western governments were perceived as being a very real threat to Soviet Communism and the motherland itself. The only reason for wartime tolerance was the job at hand - defeating the Axis. Once this task was completed, the gloves came off.

The Soviet system emerged from a violent and bloody series of coups, which escalated over several years to a complete national collapse. It formally destroyed Czarist Russia beginning in 1917 and caused the death of untold millions of innocent men, women and children. The new leadership of what was now the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics based its control on fear and instantaneous death or imprisonment for failure to exhibit absolute allegiance to the state. Ultimately, as in Nazi Germany, the most savvy and ruthless of leaders (Joseph Stalin) rose to the top. Stalin has been credited with a greater death toll than Adolph Hitler during his rule. For the Soviets, the new enemy was the decadent west and, in particular, the United States of America and its democratic ideals.

Fortunately, the Soviet military was firmly grounded in land warfare and had little use for Naval arms. This changed with the appointment of far-thinking navalists such as Adm. Sergey Gorschkov; however, it would take years for the Soviet Navy to venture outside of its home waters. This was due to a number of reasons:

* Lack of competent Naval leadership; inept and inexperienced warship designers and narrow minded strategic thinkers.

* Inadequate shipbuilding facilities due to the country being ravaged by war.

* Small number of ice-free ports, and land-locked bottlenecks that hampered a surface fleet attempting to sortie to the open sea (e.g., the narrow strait from the Black Sea controlled by Turkey).

* Mind-set that all military arms were for one purpose - protect the motherland, and, in the case of the Soviet Navy, this meant an inordinate number of coastal submarines and small craft.

Despite these handicaps, the Soviet military decided that a "blue water" Navy might be valuable to the nation's defenses. As a consequence, in the early 1950s, the Soviet Navy began a widely-publicized program to design and build light cruisers, destroyers and 1200 submarines to guard the nation's shores.

The submarine force was to be deployed in three concentric rings around the nation's geography, and be fully operational by 1965. The outer ring would be for those longrange attack and guided missile boats (later ballistic missile craft) that would roam the world's oceans at will. This outer ring would employ 200 Foxtrot and Zulu class (NATO designations) as well as nuclear boats as they became available. The Foxtrot or Project 641 Pacific model had a range of up to 20,000-mi. The intermediate ring would utilize 900 Romeo I Project 633- and Whiskey/Project 613-class boats. These boats were only suitable for short duration patrols as the habitability was marginal even for the Soviet submarine service. Actually, there were 236 Whiskey-class boats built, of which many went to client states, and this class represented the largest number of submarines ever built by any Navy in a singular design. The inner defensive ring consisted of 100 Quebec/Project 615-class boats which were small and cramped versions of the Whiskey-class and a throwback to pre-World War Two. …

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