November Class


Nationality: Soviet Union

The November Class submarines were the first nuclear powered boats built by the Soviet Union. They were designed to carry nuclear torpedoes and in their original deployments they were intended to get as close as possible to American ports and launch their torpedoes into the harbours. Later they assumed their more conventional role of anti-shipping submarine. Their mission was to attack NATO carrier groups, primarily those of the US Navy, and attempt to sink the carrier itself.

All 14 vessels were constructed at Severodvinsk and were built for speed rather than stealth. By modern standards their hull shape with its many free flood holes, together with their old reactor design, made the class extremely noisy – a great advantage when NATO navies were tracking them with surface and submarine forces. Construction began in 1958 and proceeded into the 1960s.

One vessel at least was named Leninskiy Komsomol. This vessel was the first Soviet submarine to reach the North Pole in July 1962.

The class became known as the ‘widow makers’ as four of the boats were lost to reactor accidents. The reactor design was old and the shielding was poor and they were known to be a radiation hazard to their crews.

The November Class served with the Soviet Northern Fleet at first but four were transferred to the Far Eastern Fleet in the second half of the 1960s. The remaining boats were withdrawn from service during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The last example was decommissioned in 1992.

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