Echo Class

Overview

Echo Class

Nationality: Soviet Union

The five Echo I Class vessels were completed in the 1960-1962 period. All were built at Komsomolsk and were armed with six launchers for the P-5 (SS-N-3c Shaddock) cruise missile. These submarines operated in a strategic rather than tactical anti-ship role as they lacked the fire control and guidance radars necessary. Between 1969 and 1974 they were all withdrawn for conversion to SSN boats with the removal of the SS-N-3c launchers and the plating-over of the hulls. This had the advantage of reducing the high noise levels that these boats generated when submerged.

All the Echo I Class boats operated with the Soviet Far East Fleet. Although they had lost their cruise missile launchers by the mid 1970s the last boat was not withdrawn from service until the early 1990s.

These earlier vessels were followed by the more capable Echo II Class. In total twenty-nine units were built at Severodvinsk and Komsomolsk. They were all built between 1962 and 1967. These submarines carried either eight SS-N-3a Shaddock or, later, eight SS-N-12 Sandbox cruise missiles. The mix remained the same whichever missile was carried; half had conventional high explosive warheads and the other half had 350kT nuclear warheads. This later class had the advantage of the fire control and guidance systems lacking in the earlier vessels. For a time they were the primary Soviet anti-carrier missile submarine.

The major disadvantage of the Echo Class submarines was their need to surface to fire their missiles. This vulnerability was compounded by the time it took to launch all SS-N-3 Shaddock missiles. The submarine took a full 30 minutes to fire all eight missiles and was required to remain on the surface to provide mid-course corrections and final target commands unless this function had been transferred to an aircraft such as a Bear.

In the 1970s fourteen of the Echo II boats were converted to take the more modern and capable SS-N-12 Sandbox anti ship missile. All Echo Class submarines were obsolete by the end of the Cold War and the Echo II Class boats were progressively withdrawn between 1989 and 1994. During their service life the Echo IIs operated with both the Soviet Northern and Pacific Fleets.

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