Soviet 'Scorpion' Submarine Joins RMS Queen Mary

By Bonner, Kit | Sea Classics, November 1998 | Go to article overview

Soviet 'Scorpion' Submarine Joins RMS Queen Mary


Bonner, Kit, Sea Classics


For over 40 years the United States Navy and its most serious adversary, the Soviet Navy played a game of cat and mouse in all of the world's oceans. The Soviet Navy relied principally on its large number of conventional and nuclear submarines and the United States countered this threat with a well developed, but never used anti-submarine capability. In the final years leading up to the demise of the Soviet Union, its navy was also developing a respectable blue water surface fleet including fixed wing capable aircraft carriers. Had social and financial pressures not caused the collapse of Soviet Communism, then the dawn of the 21st Century may have witnessed two equal rivals at sea. This might well have spawned the nuclear war feared by two generations. As it is, the specter of nuclear war looms again with India and Pakistan now rattling atomic sabers.

THE "COLD WAR" SOVIET SUBMARINE FORCE

During much of the "Cold War," it was the Soviet submarine that caused headaches for the American Navy, and not just the nuclear powered variety. At its peak, the Soviet Navy employed at least 393 fleet submarines including 217 conventionally powered boats. One of the most popular and successful was and is the "Foxtrot" diesel electric class. Among the last of a series of conventional boats built by the Soviet Union, the Foxtrot-- has been compared to the British Oberon-class and is considered one of the finest diesel propelled submarines ever built.

Soviet naval strategy immediately following World War II called for a force of 1200 patrol submarines by 1965 roughly deployed into three defensive zones in the waters adjacent to the fatherland. The coastal zone was to have employed 100 short-range boats (Quebecclass); the intermediate area some 900 boats of the "Romeo" and "Whiskey" classes; and the outer defense would consist of 200 boats of the "Zulu" and "Foxtrot" classes. The long-range boats were to have sufficient fuel and stores for a 20,000-mile cruise. However, with the inception of nuclear power, this plan was altered dramatically. The Soviet submarine could now go wherever it chose, and remain on station for indefinite periods. The role of the submarine was further changed with the introduction of the ballistic missile. However, the conventionally powered submarine was not abandoned, and even up until the breakup of the Soviet Union, its navy was building the highly successful Kilo-- class, and many boats of the Foxtrot-- class were still operational.

One of the major advantages of the diesel electric powered submarine is a relatively quiet operation. The Kilo-class is especially silent running because its hull is coated with Cluster Guard Anechoic tiles which absorb sound waves. The conventionally powered boats also possess excellent listening capabilities comparative to nuclear-powered variants. It is reported that the Foxtrot submarine, SCORPION was periodically stationed off San Diego harbor gathering US warship sound signatures as they entered and left port during the 1980s. Today, the once formidable Soviet Navy submarine force is no more, yet former Soviet bloc nations still count diesel electric submarines in their inventories as do nations like Libya, Cuba and India. Properly handled, the conventional submarine is as potent an enemy as its nuclear counterpart.

THE FOXTROT-CLASS SUBMARINE

The Soviet Navy built 62 out of a planned 160 Foxtrot-class submarines. The name "Foxtrot" was coined by NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) when the first of this new class of submarine was introduced in 1958. Construction of repeat boats continued for the Soviet Navy until 1971, yet a further 17 boats were built for friendly nations. The last of this highly successful class was built in 1983. The Foxtrot was one of the largest conventional boats built for the Soviet Navy and was used for patrol purposes all over the world. This type was particularly suited for detecting shipping and Western naval vessels. …

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