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Meet the Papa-Class Submarine: World’s fastest submarine


If we consider the main characteristics of a submarine, then speed is usually not in the first place. While the ability to remain submerged for extended periods of time is well known, its endurance and especially the stealthiness of a submarine are usually key characteristics. However, sixty years ago, Soviet engineers developed an innovative submarine that set a still unbeaten underwater speed record.

K-222 in the dock (photo from open sources)
K-222 in the dock

K-162 – later renamed K-222 – was the first submarine with a titanium hull. It arose as a result of Project 661 and was manufactured by direct order of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Council of Ministers of the country in the summer of 1958. The submarine proved to be so expensive and complex that only one was produced.

The directive provided for the creation of a “high-speed submarine”, which eventually received the nickname “Goldfish” due to the high cost of development and construction.

K-222 on tests (photo from open sources)
K-222 on tests 

The uniqueness of the submarine was that the 661 project was built on the basis of complex innovations so much that the design engineers were strictly forbidden to borrow the previous design principles. As noted, this was the first submarine built from titanium, which was a massive undertaking in itself, requiring new supply chains and a lot of trial and error.

First, titanium, which was only “discovered” in 1791 and later named after the titans of Greek mythology, is mined differently from iron and is also much less common in the earth. It is also usually found only associated with other elements, making it more costly to process. But it has numerous advantages, including the strength of steel, being much lighter, and also corrosion resistant.

Construction and armament

The Goldfish was laid down in December 1963 and launched five years later before entering service in December 1969. The nuclear submarine was powered by two VM-5 light water reactors, which generated up to 177 megawatts of power to rotate two side propeller shafts. However, there were no diesel generators on board, so the only source of emergency power was the batteries.

Project 661 was a large, but ordinary-looking two-hull structure, with a submerged displacement of 7,000 tons. Its length was 107 meters, and the crew consisted of eighty-two officers and sailors.

Armed with ten P-70 “Amethyst” missiles in separate tubes in front of the sail, the K-222 more than coped with its task of intercepting and attacking carrier groups. These were the first submarine-launched cruise missiles ever deployed.

P-70 "Amethyst" (photo from open sources)
P-70 “Amethyst” 

However, like other Soviet submarines of the era, including Project 670 Skat, cruise missiles could only be reloaded in port. For self-defense, the K-222 had only four torpedo tubes and only twelve torpedoes.

All its service K-222 was assigned to the Soviet Red Banner Northern Fleet.

Speed ​​record

The powerful energy of the reactors, combined with a light titanium hull, allowed the submarine to reach truly impressive speeds under water. During her sea trials, she reportedly even reached speeds in excess of 82 km / h (44 knots) – significantly impressive compared to the US Navy’s Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarines, which have a top speed of only 37 km / h. in a submerged position.

K-222 (photo from open sources)
K-222 (photo from open sources)

However, the speed created excessive noise, and also led to significant wear and tear on the submarine. In September 1980, one of the boat’s nuclear reactors was damaged during maintenance and four years later was transferred to the fleet reserve. The submarine was officially scrapped in 2010.


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