M-Class Submarines: general characteristics and the remarkable history of Soviet undersea warriors

The Soviet Union’s innovative modular design and ground-breaking welding processes were demonstrated by the M-class submarines, also known as the Malyutka class, which were instrumental in WWII.

A unique fleet of small, single- or one-and-a-half-hulled submarines, the M-class submarines, also called the Malyutka class, were instrumental in the Second World War. These Soviet-built submarines were built in a special way that made them easy to transport by train. The main production centre was the Volga River-based Gorky Shipyard. The clever strategy of breaking up the construction into portions not only made transportation logistics easier but also represented a major turning point in Soviet submarine engineering as it used welding for the first time.

The Gorky Shipyard was the site of the meticulously planned production process as the various parts were built. After these pieces were finished, they were railroaded to Leningrad for fitting out and final assembly. The methodical assignment of responsibilities demonstrated the effectiveness and cooperation in the building of these submarines. The M-class submarines stood out as a monument to Soviet innovation amid a critical juncture in naval history because of their innovative welding processes and modular design.

General Characteristics:

With a displacement of 1,200 tonnes when above and 1,870 tonnes while submerged, the Pravda-class submarine is a powerful undersea vehicle. This submarine, which is 90.0 metres (295.3 feet) long, has a powerful propulsion system that consists of a 2-shaft diesel-electric configuration with a 1,400 horsepower (1,044 kW) electric motor and a 5,400 horsepower (4,027 kW) diesel engine.

At 20.5 knots (38.0 km/h; 23.6 mph) on the surface and 11.8 knots (21.9 km/h; 13.6 mph) below, the Pravda-class submarine demonstrates remarkable speed capabilities. Reaching 5,700 nautical miles (10,600 km) at a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h) gives it considerable endurance for long missions. Impressively, the submarine can function at a variety of depths below the ocean’s surface, as demonstrated by its greatest test depth of 340 feet (100 metres).

The Pravda-class submarine can carry 54 people and is equipped with both offensive and defensive weapons. The vessel is equipped with ten torpedo tubes, comprising two stern and four bow torpedo tubes. The submarine’s versatility in targeting surface targets is further enhanced by its two 100 mm (3.9 in) and one 45 mm (1.8 in) weapons. The Pravda-class submarine is a valuable weapon in naval operations due to its extensive armament and sophisticated capabilities.


During the 1930s and 1940s, the Soviet M-class submarines were very important, especially in the 1941–1942 Black Sea wars. Four series included these submarines: VI, VI-bis, XII, and XV. There were almost equal numbers of the VI and VI-bis series, each with one diesel engine and one electric motor. While Series XV was created independently and had better features, such as two shafts and a primary ballast in the light hull, Series XII was a revised project with comparable tactical characteristics. 33 M-class submarines were sunk between 1941 and 1945, mostly as a result of difficulties facing the vessels, which were mostly used by the Baltic and Black Sea Fleets.

The Black Sea Fleet suffered significant casualties at this time, as four submarines were sunk by depth charges from Romanian warships, and three more were sunk by minefields set by Romanian minelayers. Thirty XV-series submarines were produced between 1945 and 1947, bringing the total number of completed M-class submarines to 111 by the end of 1945.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy Submarine Force was established in June 1954 when two early series M-class submarines, two Soviet S-class submarines, and two Shchuka-class submarines (leased) were sold to the People’s Republic of China. This marked the start of the Cold War era. In 1956, China purchased two further submarines from the M-XV series. While the leased Shchuka-class submarines kept their original names, the acquired submarines were designated National Defence # 21, 22, 23, (ex M-278), and 24 (formerly M-279).

The discovery of M-class submarine wreckage in recent times highlights the historical relevance of these vessels. An M-class submarine was discovered close to Tallinn in May 2012; it is thought to be M-216, which was purposefully sunk in 1962 for training purposes. Missing parts, such as the periscope, pointed to the aftermath of training exercises that may have been sparked by fatal submarine mishaps in the 1950s. July 2015 saw the discovery of another M-class submarine (Series XII) in the Black Sea off the coast of Romania at Costinești. The ship, which remains buried in sand, is thought to be either M-34 or M-58, destroyed by mines in Romania. The deck cannon and conning tower are still in place, but the top hull has suffered substantial damage.