Soviet Kamikazes
Skywave's 1/700 K-428 (Echo II) SSGN
by Vladimir Yakubov

 In the aftermath of WWII when the former allies became locked in the Cold War, one of the biggest threats to the Soviet Union was the ability of the US Navy's aircraft carriers to strike anywhere along the Soviet coasts with near impunity.  Soviet Navy realized that they will not be able to catch up to the Americans in the aircraft carriers any time soon but they also knew that they needed to be able to defend themselves.  They placed their bet on the development of the cruise missiles.  The development of the anti-ship cruise missiles started in the Soviet Union in 1948, but due to the complexity of the missiles and the guidance systems for them, took some time.  In 1956 Soviet navy adopted a P-5 land attack missile and ordered project 659 (Echo I in the NATO classification) submarines to carry them.  These were 112m long nuclear submarines that carried 6 missiles in the containers that folded into the hull.  The were intended to carry out the nuclear strikes against the US cities along the coast during the war, but had no anti-ship capability.

At the same time the work on the anti-ship version of the P-5 missile continued and by 1958 P-6 missile, as it was now called, was accepted into production.  At the same time the Navy ordered the construction of the project 675 (Echo II) submarines.  These were the first submarines that would be able to provide the stand off capability to attack USN CVBGs and they were solely needed by the Soviet Navy.  To save time the project 659 (Echo I) was used as a starting point.  The main difference between these subs was the addition of another pair of missile launchers in the bow, which changed the hull form of the forward half of the boat and lengthened it by 3 meters and the addition of the guidance systems in the enlarged sail.  A total of 29 submarines of the class were laid down between 1961 and 1966, commissioning between 1963 and 1968. 

The main armament of these submarines was a fairly unique for its time P-6 missile complex.  It consisted of the P-6 anti-ship missiles and the "Argument" guidance system.  The missiles were 10.8 meter long and weighted 5.3 tons.  They had a maximum range of 380km and maximum speed of 1.3 mach.  The procedure for launching them was as follows, the submarine would come up to periscope depth, receive targeting instructions (like range and bearing) from the patrol aircraft or other ships in the area, program the information into the missiles, surface, raise and open the missile tubes and fire salvoes for four missiles per salvo.  Each missile was individually guided by the operator by hand until they reached the general area where the enemy ships were detected at which time the missile's radar was turned on and guided it onto the target.  One salvo took 12-15 minutes and all eight missiles took 20-30 minutes to launch and guide.  During that entire time the submarine was surfaced which made it extremely vulnerable.  The Soviet navy estimated that even if 10% of these submarines came back to the base after an assignment it would be a success. 

These submarines for all of their vulnerabilities remained the main long range strike force of the Soviet navy throughout 1970s and as such were constantly modernized.  The first modernization was project 675K which installed the "Kasatka" targeting system which allowed the submarine to get the targeting information from satellites, one submarine was modernized this way in 1970-73.  The next modernization, called project 675MK, was a lot more widespread and has involved adding the "Kasatka-B" satellite targeting system and replacing the missiles with more modern P-500 "Bazalt" missiles.  This modernization involved 10 boats and was carried out from 1977 to 1983.  P-500 missiles were 11.7 meters long, weighted 4.8 tons, had top speed of mach 2.5 and range of 500km.  They were a lot more capable than their predecessors and allowed the salvo firing of all 8 missiles as opposed to only 4 in the previous versions.  The also added features like datalink and target sharing between the missiles.  The missiles had armored warheads to increase their survivability while in the anti-aitcr4aft envelope of the CVBG.  All of these features greatly increased the capabilities of the submarines.  The main identifying feature of modernized submarines were two large bulges on the sides of the sail.

Final modification of these boats was the project 675MKV.  This project was carried out on 5 submarines in the mid 80s once again replaced the missiles with even more capable P-1000 "Vulkan" missiles.  These missiles were similar to P-500 but had even longer range of 700km, which finally allowed the submarine to strike at the CVBGs from outside their strike range and gave a reasonable chance of the submarine actually surviving the attack.  In addition to the missiles they were also armed with "Strela-3M" anti-aircraft missiles for defense against enemy aircraft.   The main identifying feature of the subs modernized under this project were covered from the top exhaust cutouts.

The boats had a long career and were served in both Northern and Pacific fleets and were deployed in the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean.  Because of their numbers and long service histories these subs were involved in numerous incidents.  One of the most famous one was the collision in the Mediterranean between K-22 and USS Voge FF-1047 on August 28 1976.  Because of the unsafe maneuvers by the captain of the K-22 while trying to evade two US frigates, K-22 collided with one of them damaging the forward part of the hull and the sail, but leaving under its own power after surfacing while USS Voge lost power and had to be towed to base.  There were no casualties.  There were several other collisions that the submarines of the class were involved in.  In 1973 K-56 collided with a civilian research ship "Academic Berg" near Vladivostok and as a result 2nd compartment was flooded and 26 people inside it were killed.  The investigation ruled that both the submarine and the civilian ship were not following the rules of the road and not paying sufficient attention to their surroundings.  On June 20th, 1970 K-108 collided with USS Tautog SSN-639 underwater near Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii while performing anti-submarine evasion maneuver called by the Americans "crazy Ivan".   The collision  was very violent (USS Tautog returned to base with a piece of the K108 screw imbedded in its sail) and for a long time in the west it was thought that the Soviet submarine had sunk, but in reality it started sinking but was able to recover and returned to its base without casualties.  In 1968 K-189 and 1983 K-10 have both collided with unidentified submarines while underwater.  In both cases there were no casualties.  Submarines of this class  were involved in two nuclear reactor incidents in 1985 when K-116's reactor overheated near Kamchatka and in 1989 when K-172 had a bad reactor leak and was towed back to base.  In both cases following the leak subs were laid up and never repaired.  In both cases there were no casualties but crews received high doses of radiation while combating the accidents.

Project 675 subs belonged to the first generation of the Soviet submarines and as such shared all of their faults.  They were noisy, which in this case was made even worse by the exhaust deflecting cutouts in the submarine's hull and they had unreliable reactors, through they were safer than the other submarines of the same generation with only two serious accidents out of 29 ships in the class.  They were also very vulnerable due to the need to surface launch and hand guide their missiles.  However they were the first Soviet submarines that provided the Soviet Navy with the long range missile punch to be able to take on the US carriers and while the chances of their survival after launch were relatively low, the chances of a successful strike by coordinated group of several of these submarines were pretty high.

The retirement of these submarines started in 1988 and by 1992 most of these were retired.  Last two project 675MKV submarines K-22 and K-34 were retired in 1994.  Many of these subs are still rusting inside the Russian naval bases awaiting utilization.  You can see a photo tour of one of these subs in storage here and here.   These submarines were replaced in the Russian service by famous project 949A (Oscar II) class submarines.

The Kit

The kit contained two identical sprues each containing enough parts to build one submarine, one Tu-95 Bear, two F-4 Phantoms and two F-15 Eagles.  The submarine had only 9 parts - waterline hull, bottom plate for the hull, two bulges for the sides of the sail to make project 675MK, cover for the Kasatka satellite communication antenna and a radar, two periscopes and communication mast.  The parts quality was decent, but there were some sinkholes on the sail and scratches on the hull.  The periscopes and radars were chunky.

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The Hull

After checking the references I saw that the hull was 2mm too long and that the bow was shaped wrong.  The bow was supposed to be very blunt but on the model it was spherical.  Both problems turned out to be very easy to fix as the part of the hull that was too long was the hemispherical part of the bow that needed to be sanded off anyway.  So I filled the bow with milliput and sanded off the bulge to make to bow blunt.  The rest of the hull had the correct proportions as far as the placement of the sail and the exhaust cutouts.

Once I got the kit and realized that there were two hulls included in it, I got an idea to build the missile tubes in the raised position.  To do that I used one hull for the actual hull of the sub and cut out the holes for the missile launchers inside of it and from another hull I cut out the covers of the missile launchers.  The missile launchers shown on the hull of the sub as given by Skywave were too short, but since I was cutting them out I was easy to fix by simply making the holes bigger and cutting out the bigger covers from the second hull.  Once the holes were cutout I needed to drill out the holes on the forward wall of the exhaust cutouts since they were obviously opened on the real submarine.  I used the Dremel to do that.

The next problem that appeared was the fact that because of the huge holes in the hull, the inner pressure hull would be seen through them, so I needed to scratchbuild the top of the pressure hull and the missile raising mechanism on top of it.  To do that I used a piece of the brass pipe that I cut off lengthwise.  At first I tried gluing details straight to the brass but they were not sticking to it at all, so I laminated the brass with a thin layer of plastic and it worked fine.  The biggest problem with the construction of the inner hull was the lack of information.  I was unable to find any photos looking straight into the wells of the missile launchers, so I had to come up with my own ideas.  To do that I looked on the net for the photos of the Soviet submarines being scrapped, as well as the photos of the project 651 (Juliette) class submarines as they had the same missile launch systems and there are two of them being used as museums in US and Germany.  After research I came up with the idea of how the pressure hull would look like - it will have external stiffening ribs and various tubes running along it.  So that is what I built using 0.010 square rod for stiffening ribs and tin wire for the tubes.  Te system for raising missile tubes was a bit more complicated, but it seemed to have a large square hydraulic rams that raised up the containers in the front and some kind of the system in the back that held the hinge, which is not visible on the photos or the completed submarine, so I simply used the square cubes to hold the back of the missile containers in place.  Once that was built I've added various small details on the pressure hull for effect.  I also glued the pieces of the PE railings into the exhaust cutouts and faired them into the hull.

Once the fabrication was finished (I've also done modification to the sail which I'll describe below) I painted the hull black color slightly lightened with white and then once that was dry I masked off parts of the hull and painted it with slightly lighter version of the base color to reduce the uniformness of the hull and show various plates.  The inner hull and the insides of the outer hull were painted with brown color that seems to be the main primer color on the Soviet submarines.  Once that was done I covered everything with the Black-it-out wash and then once dry I used a Q-tip to wipe it off.  Drybrushing followed to bring out the fine details.  Once all of that was completed I glued the inner hull and then the outer hull to the base.


Sail Detailing

While doing research I found out an interesting detail about these subs, the forward part of the superstructure housed the large radar for the "Argument" fire control system and when in combat mode it rotated around its axis to allow the radar to operate.  Once I found out that detail I decided to show the radar in operation.  To accomplish that I cut off the forward part of the sail and filled the remainder with milliput.  Then from the second hull I've also cutout the forward part of the sail, drilled it out and detailed the sides and the interior in accordance with the reference photos that I had.

The radar presented its own challenges.  It was less than 5mm long and 2.5mm wide in the scale, but also had to look like a radar and not chunky.  In order to do that I looked into my PE scrap box to find the materials for the radar.  The main pieces for the dish came from the the 1250 scale US WWII radar set from Navalis, while the rest of the pieces came from the US WWII CV set from Tom's Modelworks.  There are 15 pieces in the radar.

The rest of the sail was also detailed.  I drilled out and boxed the crew compartment using Dremel and thin pieces of plastic.  The periscope arrangement shown in the kit is incorrect, so I filled in all of the holes and drilled out my own.  Since the submarine was shown in the ready to fire mode all of the periscopes were shown in the withdrawn mode so not to interfere with the missiles from the aft launchers.  The I've made the top parts of the periscopes and antennas from pieces of brass rod and PE and glued them into the holes.  At this time I've also used the only two pieces of the kit that were not modified - the large bulges on the sides of the sub.  After detailing the sides of the sail with doors, exhaust vents and handles the model was ready for paint.



The raised missile launchers were the whole point all of the above work so I paid special attention to them.  The first thing I did was cut out the covers for the missile tubes from the spare hull.  Since I didn't need to save it I simply cut it in pieces and trimmed the covers to the needed size.  The size of the covers shown on the hull with indentations is too small, so using my references I cut them out to the correct size.  As the covers were very thick I had to thin them down as much as possible using Dremel and a file. Each assembly contained two missile tubes, which I made from brass tubes.  I made the forward and aft covers for the tubes from pieces of plastic that I punched out with a punch and dye set glued them to the tubes and then put the tube into a Dremel tool and using sandpaper made them hemispherical.

Using my references I detailed the missile tubes with various bits and pieces of plastic round and square rod.  I've also made the brackets for the missile tube hatches from square rod.  I wanted to show the missile tubes 1 and 2 open to show the internal structure of the tube and the hatches, so I scratchbuilt the missiles by sanding the thick plastic rod on the rotating Dremel so that they looked like pointed noses of the missiles.  I've also built four guide rails inside the tubes.  Once all of that was done I painted the insides of the tubes aluminum color and the missile itself light grey color.  Fortunately I was able to find several good photos of the opened missile hatches so I was able to scratchbuild them by heatforming and sanding the outer and inner hatches to the correct shape.  Once they were built I added the pieces of the outer hull that covered the hatches from the top when closed and the brackets that held the hatches and glued them to the tubes.

After all four assemblies were complete I painted them the same brown color on the inner side as the inner hull and the black color for the outside and glued them to their mounting places on the submarine. 



The model was weathered with pastels and drybrushing.  I used rust colored pastels to simulate rust streaks on the sides of the submarine and on the inner hull.  I've also drybrushed the outer hill in several places with some rust streaks.  Black pastels were used on the inner hull to simulate wear, while on the outer hull they were used to tone down the uniform surface color with various shades of black.


It is an interesting model of the unusual submarine that would require a lot of work to make it look like a real sub and not a toy.  Even if you were to build it without raising the missile tubes the front walls of the exhaust cutouts would still need to be opened up in order to show the rear of the missile containers that were visible through the back.  The sail would also need to be worked on as well to give it the missing details.


The Ships of Vladimir Yakubov