SERIES XIV (1938) Soviet Submarine

The K-class ‘Series XIV ocean-going submarines of 1,487/2,102tons, 22/10 knots, armed with ten 533mm torpedo tubes, two single 100mm, two 45mm AA guns and 20 mines, were the largest and undoubtedly the best Russian wartime boats. The six boats completed before the war in Leningrad were transferred to the Northern Fleet. They proved to be wet forward in the open sea so the five completed from 1942 to 1944 had a bulbous bow fitted, as seen here.

The photo op aboard K21 of the Northern Fleet held in honour of Captain Lunin and his crew for damaging the German battleship Tirpitz during her action against Convoy PQ17. In fact, the five torpedoes fired by the Russian submarine were not even noticed by the Germans, and the hits were claimed by Lunin following two explosions reported by his hydroacoustic instrument operator. The Russian submarine service did not develop a reliable system to record hits; their captains claimed the sinking of some 87 warships and 322 merchantmen totalling 938,000GRT.

Soviet submarine class, built 1936-44, also known as the Katyusha Class. A class of large ocean-going submarines, known as project KE-9 or Series XIV bis, was designed in the mid-1930s. The K designation is an abbreviation of kreiser (cruiser), and it is believed that the original intention was to embark a small SPL floatplane in a hangar, as in contemporary Japanese submarines. Two prototypes of the aircraft were flown in 1933- 35, but the submarines were never fitted to operate them.

The final class of submarines initiated in this period was the large K-class Series XIV kreyser submarines. Their design began in 1934 under the guidance of M. A. Rudnitskiy. These were the largest and in most respects the best Soviet undersea craft of the prewar period. One Soviet submarine commander described them as “splendid underwater cruisers any country would be proud to have…. [They] were marvelously seaworthy and had considerable operational range.”

The katyushas, as the submariners affectionately called the K-class submarines, displaced 1,480/2,095 tons, were 320k feet (97.65 m) long, and had large diesel-electric propulsion plants that could drive them at 21/10 knots. These were also the most heavily armed Soviet submarines of the period, with six bow and two stem torpedo tubes plus two trainable tubes in the outer hull casing. Twenty Type EM mines could be carried in mine “shafts” in addition to 24 torpedoes. For surface action the katyushas had two 100-mm deck guns and two 45-mm guns. The class was also intended to carry a floatplane for scouting duties, but this aspect of the design was abandoned. These submarines had a double-hull configuration with seven compartments, and were of mixed riveted and welded construction. The first three submarines were built by the Mani (south) yard in Nikolayev and the next six at the Balticl Ordzhonikidze yard in Leningrad.

Mikhail Alekseevich Rudnitskiy designed these large double-hull cruiser submarines. Design work began in 1934. Originally known as Project KE-9, they were intended to carry a small, dismantled floatplane of the SPL series in a hangar aft of the conning tower; the project was not pursued. All the class operated with the Northern Fleet. One additional boat building at Leningrad was not completed because of the German siege.

The K-22 was mined off Cape Harbaken on 6 February 1942; the K-23 was lost off Okse Fjord on 12 May; the K-2 failed to return from a patrol off the Norwegian coast in September. The K-3 was lost off Batsfjord on 21 March 1943, and the K-1 probably was mined in the Kara Sea in October. The surviving boats were stricken in the late 1950s, and the K-21 became a memorial at Severomorsk.

Design: Double-hull type with seven main compartments. The later units had larger bow buoyancy tanks and other modifications.

Engineering : The designed surface speed of 22.5 knots was not achieved. At economical speed the two electric motors were driven by the 800-hp diesel generator. The class was equipped with four 60-cell type 2-S battery groups.

Fuel capacity was 255 tons.

Mines: Mines were stowed on a lower deck amidships, within the pressure hull, and released through two vertical chutes located under the control room.

Operational: Endurance for early units was 50 days; increased to 80 days in later units.

SERIES XIV (1938) “K” class

K-1 (29 April 1938), K-2 (29 April 1938), K- 3 (31 July 1938), K-56 (29 December 1940), K-55 (7 February 1941), K- 54 (March 1941), K-57 (1946) K-22 (4 November 1938), K-23 (28 April 1939), K-52 (5 July 1939), K-51 (30 July 1939), K-21 (14 August 1939), K-53 ( 2 September 1939), K-24 (1940) K-58, K-60, K-77, K-78 (1946)

Displacement: 1490 tons (surfaced), 2140 tons (submerged)

Dimensions: 320940 x 24930 x 149100

Machinery: 4 diesel engines, 2 electric motors, 2 shafts. 8400 bhp/2400 shp = 21/10 knots

Range: 14,000 nm at 9 knots surfaced, 160 nm at 3 knots submerged

Armament: 10 x 533mm torpedo tubes (6 bow, 2 stern, 2 trainable external mounts), total 24 torpedoes, 20 mines, 2 x 100mm guns, 2 x 45mm AA guns

Complement: 60

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