Like the United States Navy and other first-rate submarine powers of the Cold War period (1947-1991), the Soviet Navy ultimately transitioned its undersea force into the nuclear age with its first nuclear-powered attack submarine, the November-class (Project 627). The class was constructed from the period spanning 1957 to 1963 and encompassed thirteen total boats. The group was eventually succeeded by the improved nuclear-powered Victor-class of 1967 (48 boats completed) detailed elsewhere on this site.
As designed, the November boats held a displacement between 3,065 and 3,415 tons when surfaced and between 4,000 to 4,750 tons submerged. Overall length measured up to 109 meters and the beam was up to 8.3 meters with a draught down to 5.6-6.4 meters. The differences between the boats were largely due to slight revisions encountered between the Project 627 and Project 627A / Project 645 boats.
Power was from 2 x Water-cooled nuclear reactor units and also involved steam generators, turbogear assemblies (collectively outputting 35,000hp), turbine generators, a pair of diesel generators and 2 x Auxiliary electric motors (rated at 450hp each) . All this drove power to 2 x shafts mounted at the stern. Surfaced speeds reached between 14.5 and 15.5 knots and submerged speeds peaked at near 30 knots. The double-hulled design was tested to depths of 340 meters.
Aboard was a crew of about 105 and the boat's range was essentially unlimited due to its nuclear-powered reactor fit. Realistically, the boat could remain at sea for up to sixty days as crew fatigue and food supplies were a consideration and restricting factor. The boat carried the MG-200 Arktika-M series sonar to locate and track targets and armament centered on 8 x 533mm torpedo tubes, all fitted to the bow, with twenty torpedo reloads were carried.
Design work on the class began as soon as 1952 even as several major diesel-electric attack platforms were still entering service with the Soviet Navy. Work on the new group of fighting boats took most of the decade before the complexity of their design could be cleared for construction and eventual service. The boats were originally intended as infiltrating attacker meant to tackle American submarines while they were still berthed -destroying them before the enemy force could get underway. However, this soon changed to completing the class as a traditional ship-hunter going forward. The shift resulted in slight changes centered on capabilities (reduced) and armament (increased).
In profile, the November boats has a unique silhouette with their rounded bows (bulging at the keel), finned aft section and forward-set sail. The sail had a tapered appearance along its aft end and various comms, sensors and the like were seated atop it. The either torpedo vents were all in the extreme end of the bow, fitted in a paired group of four. The rudder took its usual place at the rear of the boat and the twin propeller units straddled the rear section of the vessel.
K-3 was the first boat of the class and was launched on July 4th, 1958. It suffered a fatal fire on a patrol in September of 1967 in which thirty-nine of its crew died before the boat could return home. Despite this, the boat managed a career into the late 1980s. From the base Project 627 design was formed the modified Project 627A which encompassed K-3, K-5, K-8, K-14, K-52, K21, K-11, K-133, K-181, K-115, K-159, K-42 and K-50. Changes included a hydrophone antenna added near the torpedo vents and a sonar dome fitted at the bow. K-27 was formed under Project 645 and this entry relied on a VT-1 series paired nuclear reactor (liquid-metal cooling). The design had a slightly revised hull, modified internal arrangement and quick-reloading mechanisms installed for the torpedo tubes.
All of the class, except K-8, survived to see retirement. K-8, launched in May of 1959 and commissioned in December of that year, sank on its return trip in the Bay of Biscay on December 4th, 1970. The cause was blamed on the boat's electricals which ended the voyage with an onboard fire. Seventy-three of the crew were rescued though fifty-two perished in the chaos and the nuclear-powered boat was a total loss - marking the first such catastrophe for the Soviet Navy.