Whiskey-Class submarine: exploring the general characteristics of a Cold War naval powerhouse

German U-boats served as inspiration for the Soviet Union’s Whiskey-class submarine, which was created in the 1940s. They began as coastal patrol boats and developed into guided missile submarines that could fire SS-N-3 Shaddock cruise missiles.

A seafaring development of the S-class submarine, the Whiskey-class submarine was created in the early 1940s and was referred to as Projects 613, 640, 644, and 665 in the Soviet Union. A new design requirement provided by the Soviet Union in 1946, following World War II and the acquisition of German technology, resulted in a reworked design produced by the Gorkiy-based Lazurit Design Bureau.

These diesel-electric assault submarines bore similarities to the conventional submarines constructed between 1946 and 1960, with their design being influenced by the German Type XXI U-boat.

The Soviet Navy put 236 of these submarines into service between 1949 and 1958; they were originally intended to be coastal patrol vessels. These patrol variants had different armaments; they were referred to as Whiskey I, II, III, IV, and V in the West and Project 613 in the Soviet Union. Whiskey I had two guns measuring 25 mm each, Whiskey II had two guns measuring 57 mm each and two guns measuring 25 mm each, Whiskey III had no guns, Whiskey IV had two guns measuring 25 mm each and Whiskey V had no guns but a streamlined conning tower and snorkel.

Some Whiskey submarines were modified to become guided missile submarines in the 1950s and 1960s, enabling them to fire SS-N-3 Shaddock cruise missiles. The initial prototype, designated Whiskey Single Cylinder, had a single SS-N-3c inside a launch tube located aft of the sail. Six further Whiskey-class submarines, called Whiskey Twin Cylinder and Project 644 boats, were upgraded between 1958 and 1960 into guided missile submarines featuring two missile tubes. Six more vessels designated Project 665 in the Soviet Union and Whiskey Long Bin in the West, were fitted with a longer sail between 1960 and 1963 that could carry four Shaddock missiles.

Equipped with P-5/NATO SS-N-3c Shaddock land-attack missiles, all guided missile variations of the Whiskey class were required to surface to fire their missiles. The Long Bin boats eventually had to be retired due to a variety of problems, such as unstable launch tubes and noisy water flow around the missile fittings. In the Soviet Navy, the Romeo class took the place of the patrol variants while the Juliett class succeeded the guided missile variants. Four were converted into Project 640 radar picket boats (Whiskey Canvas Bag), and two were repurposed for fishery and oceanographic research.

General Characteristics:

With a displacement of 1,050 tonnes on the surface and 1,340 tonnes underwater, the diesel-electric attack submarine known as the Whiskey class was rather impressive. This submarine was built for stealth and agility, measuring 76 metres in length, 6.3 to 6.5 metres in beam, and 4.55 metres in draft.

The submarine was propelled by a two-shaft diesel-electric propulsion system with two 4,000 bhp diesel engines, two 2,700 hp primary electric motors, and two 100 hp electric creep motors for quiet operation. It could move at a speed of 18.25 knots above the surface and 13.1 knots below the surface.

In terms of range, the Whiskey-class submarine could traverse 8,580 nautical miles at 10 mph while surfaced, and 335 nautical miles at 3 knots when submerged. Boasting a remarkable submerged endurance of 166 hours, the vessel could carry 52 crew members.

Six 533 mm torpedo tubes—two in the stern and four in the bow—that could hold 22 mines or 12 torpedoes were part of the Whisky class’s arsenal. The submarine also had two single-mounted 57 mm anti-aircraft guns and a single-mounted 25 mm anti-aircraft gun, giving it powerful and adaptable offensive capabilities. Throughout its use, the Whiskey-class submarine proved to be a powerful combination of weaponry, endurance, and stealth.