Russian Submarines - The First Soviet GiantsSubmarine | Cold War | Russia/Soviet | Submarine and Undersea Postings
|By Norman Polmar|
Early in World War II the Soviet Navy occasionally employed submarines as transports for small numbers of people, usually saboteurs and "agents," and limited cargo. This situation changed when German forces began the siege of the Crimean port of Sevastopol. When Soviet defenses collapsed in the Crimea in the fall of 1941, about 110,000 soldiers, sailors, and marines remained in the beleaguered port. Soviet ships and submarines, running a gauntlet of bombs and shells, brought men, munitions, and supplies into the city.
Heavy losses in surface ships led the commander of the Black Sea Fleet in April 1942 to order submarines to deliver munitions and food to Sevastopol, and to evacuate wounded troops as well as the remaining women and children. The largest available Soviet submarines of the Series XIII (L class) could carry up to 95 tons of cargo, while the smaller units delivered far less. Not only was every available space within the submarines used for cargo (including containers of gasoline), but cargo was loaded into torpedo tubes and mine chutes. Some 80 runs were made into Sevastopol by 27 submarines. They delivered 4,000 tons of supplies and munitions to Sevastopol's defenders and evacuated more than 1,300 persons. (Sevastopol fell on 3 July 1942 after a siege of 250 days.)
Based on the Sevastopol experience, the Soviet Navy's high command initiated an urgent program to build transport submarines. First, an effort was undertaken to design submarine barges for transporting cargo - solid and liquid - that could be towed by standard submarines or a specialized submarine tug (Project 605). It was envisioned that these underwater barges could be built rapidly in large numbers. According to the official Soviet submarine design history, from the beginning of the project the major complexity was not with the underwater barge itself, but with towing it by a submarine. The Navy was forced to cancel the project because of this problem.
A Tactical-Technical Elements (TTE) requirement for a small cargo submarine was issued by the Navy's shipbuilding office in July 1942, eventually designated Project 607. This was to be a submarine with a capacity of 250 to 300 tons of solid cargo not larger than 21-inch torpedoes, and also 110 tons of gasoline in four ballast tanks. Two folding cargo cranes would be fitted. The engineering plant was diesel-electric, with a single propeller shaft. No torpedo tubes would be provided, although two small deck guns were to be mounted. These cargo submarines were to use the same equipment and fittings as the small submarines of the earlier VI and VI-bis series (202 tons submerged). This approach would simplify the design and construction of the submarines, which could be built at inland shipyards.
By April 1943, blueprints were being issued. But by that time the general military situation had changed in favor of the Soviets, and the need for underwater transports disappeared; Project 607 was canceled. However, no technical or operational problems had been envisioned in the design.