In the former Soviet Union, nuclear submarines were built at four different shipyards. One of these, Sevmash (formerly shipyard No. 402) in Severodvinsk, has been operative since 1955. The Amursky Yard (formerly shipyard No. 199) at Komosomolsk-na-Amur was operative from 1957, and has a subdivision in Bolshaya Kamen near Vladivostok. Nuclear submarines have also been built at Krasnoye Soromovo (formerly shipyard No. 112) in Nizhny Novgorod and at the Admiralty Yard (formerly shipyards No. 194 and 196) in St. Petersburg since 1960.
At each of these four shipyards, approximately five to ten nuclear submarines were built a year until 1992. Today, only the Severodvinsk yard is in operation with a maximum production of one or two submarines a year. Of the four yards, Severodvinsk turned out the largest number of nuclear submarines with a total of 127 vessels. Komosomolsk-na-Amur produced a total of 56 submarines, 39 were produced in St. Petersburg and 25 in Nizhny Novgorod. Some of the submarines built in Nizhny Novgorod and St. Petersburg were transported by the Volga and Karel canals to Severodvinsk for completion, ostensibly weapons fitting and reactor equipment.
The first generation Soviet naval submarines included: Project 627 A - November class, 658 - Hotel class, 659 - Echo-I class and 675 - Echo-II class. In total, from 1955 to 1964, a total of 55 first generation nuclear submarines were built. There were 13 November class, 8 Hotel class, 5 Echo-I class and 29 Echo-II class vessels. With its three ballistic nuclear missiles, the Project 658 - Hotel class submarine, K-19, was the first strategic submarine of the Soviet Union. K-145, a submarine of the same class, was refitted a few years later to carry six ballistic nuclear missiles. The Echo-I/Echo-II class submarines each carried eight cruise missiles. Some of the Echo-II submarines were rebuilt to be able to carry mini submarines. By 1992, all first generation nuclear submarines had been decommissioned.
From 1964 to 1974, the Soviet Union built 34 Project 667 A - Yankee class nuclear submarines. These submarines each carried 16 ballistic nuclear missiles with a range of 3000 kilometres. Having been constructed under the same fundamental principles as the American submarine class George Washington, they consequently received the NATO classification "Yankee". Of these 34 submarines, 10 were assigned to the Pacific Fleet and 24 to the Northern Fleet. The Yankee-class submarines are no longer operative and are presently being dismantled. The Project 667 B - Delta-I class submarines are a modified version of the Yankee class submarines. These submarines have been modified to carry 12 intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles with a range of 9000 kilometres. Considerable improvements were made to the navigation systems. With the possession of intercontinental missiles, it was no longer necessary to patrol the American coasts. Missiles directed at the American continent could be launched from submarines stationed just off the Kola coast or from patrolling areas beneath the polar ice cap. The successors to the Delta-I class submarines, Project 667 BD - Delta-II, Project 667 BDR - Delta-III and Project 667 BDRM Delta-IV were fitted with 16 intercontinental missiles with a range which enabled them to be launched directly from the submarine's base. These later models of the Delta class were also developed to be considerably quieter than their Yankee and Delta-I class predecessors. This was in direct response to the American construction of the SOSUS listening network, which is a network of submerged cables for the purpose of detecting Russian submarines. The network was laid along the east and west coasts of the United States as well as along the coasts of northern Norway, Greenland, Iceland, the Faeroe Islands and Great Britain. A total of 43 submarines of Delta I-IV classes were constructed from 1971 to 1992. Other second generation nuclear submarines include the Project 670 - Charlie class and Project 671 - Victor class. These submarines were developed simultaneously with the Yankee class. There were 17 submarines in the Charlie-I-II classes, while a total of 48 Victor I-III class submarines were built. A number of these are still in service. The Charlie class submarines are fitted with cruise missiles, and their main purpose is to counter hostile aircraft carriers and surface ships. Submarines of the Victor classes are attack submarines whose objective is to counter enemy submarines. These vessels are also the first Soviet submarines to be equipped with only one pressurised water reactor. Today, almost all of the Yankee class submarines have been decommissioned. The other second generation nuclear submarines are gradually being replaced by third and fourth generation submarines.
Construction of the first class of third generation nuclear submarines, the Project 941 - Typhoon class, began in 1977, and the first of these vessels was taken into service in 1981. By 1989, six Typhoon class submarines had been built, and the vessels in this class are definitively the world's largest submarines, carrying 200 nuclear warheads each. The Typhoon class submarine was developed to ensure the Soviet capability of massive retaliation in the event of a nuclear attack. A seventh Typhoon class submarine was under construction at the Severodvinsk shipyard, but the work was halted, ostensibly due to the political changes in the Soviet Union towards the end of the 1980s. The third generation of submarines is substantially improved, both in reactor technology, additional and improved electronic equipment, and quieter machinery compared to previous generations of submarines. In 1980, the Northern Fleet's first submarine in the new Project 949 - Oscar I class, went into service. The Oscar class of submarines carry cruise missiles and were designed to hunt down and sink hostile aircraft carriers. The first Project 949 A - Oscar-II class submarine came on stream a few years later. Four attack submarines of the Project 945 - Sierra class, were taken into use between 1984 to 1993. These vessels have a titanium hull. In 1990, an improved version of the Sierra class, the Project 971 - Akula class came into operation. This is the quietest and most modern submarine in the Russian Navy. Some of the earliest of the Akula class submarines have been modernised to further reduce the noise level, and the most recently built vessels have been improved to such an extent that they are even quieter than those that were commissioned in 1990. These submarines are classified Akula II and are 4 metres longer than the earlier vessels of the Akula I class.
In late December 1993, construction began on a fourth generation of nuclear powered submarines, the Project 885 - Severodvinsk class. The prototype was launched in 1995. This submarine is even more silent running than those of the Project 971 - Akula class; American experts consider it to be the most advanced nuclear-powered submarine in the world. There are two Severodvinsk class submarines under construction, and four more are planned. The latter four have the classification Severodvinsk-I. It is not known how the two submarine projects differ from one another. Construction of this class of vessels will probably begin in 2002-2004 at the Severodvinsk shipbuilding yard, and they will then enter service from 2006-2008. These submarines will probably be fitted with both strategic and cruise missiles with multiple nuclear warheads. Work is also underway on the development of a new type of strategic nuclear-powered submarine, and these submarines will join the strategic forces represented today by submarines in the Project 667 BDRM - Delta-IV and Project 941 - Typhoon classes, perhaps one day replacing them. The class is known as Project 955. The Project 955 vessels may well be the fifth generation of Russian nuclear-powered submarines, and they will enter service in 2015 at the earliest.
Right after the Soviet Union's first nuclear-powered submarine was put in operation in the summer 1958, preparations were made for the construction of Project 645 class K-27, a submarine powered by two liquid metal cooled reactors (lead bismuth). This vessel was designed by SKB-143 in St. Petersburg and was built at the Severodvinsk shipyard. Due to demands from the Supreme Soviet for rapid construction, the submarine was built using the already developed hull of the Project 627A-November class submarines. According to the Soviet designers, the advantages of the liquid metal cooled reactors is that less electrical power is needed for start up and shut down. Subsequently, the capacity of the batteries in K-27 was only a fourth of that in the submarines with pressurised water reactors. The submarine was also equipped with automatic turbo generators. The K-27 suffered a series of accidents with its nuclear reactors, but remained in operation until the occurrence of a major accident with the reactors in 1968. In 1981, the entire vessel was dumped in the Kara Sea, near Novaya Zemlya. The experiences from the Project 645 submarine class formed the basis for a series of seven Project 705 and 705 K-Alfa class submarines. All were equipped with liquid metal cooled reactors, and they were smaller and faster than all of the preceding submarine types. The Alfa class submarines were noisy and easy to detect, but superior in speed so that in battle, they would probably be able to outrun the torpedoes aimed at them. The principal task of the Alfa class submarines was to destroy the enemy's strategic submarines. Today, only one of these vessels, K-123, remains in operation .
The Soviet Union has built five prototype submarines. The Project 645 class submarine (K-27) was the first and is described above. The next one was Project 661 - Papa class (K-162), a submarine developed in answer to a resolution of the Ministry of Defence and the Supreme Soviet to construct a fast nuclear submarine for the purposes of research. This submarine was powered by a new type of reactor, and had a hull built of titanium. Project planning for the new submarine began in 1960 under the direction of chief designer N. N. Isain. It became operative in December 1969, and has the highest registered underwater speed for submarines at 44.7 knots. The advantage of a titanium hull is that it becomes stronger, and can better endure the increased pressure at great depths while at the same time increasing its speed. Later, two series of nuclear submarines were constructed with titanium hulls: the Project 705 - Alfa class and the Project 945 - Sierra class. Today there are no submarines being built with titanium hulls, presumably because these hulls are very expensive. The next prototype was the ill-fated Project 685 - Mike class submarine K-278 Komsomolets.This vessel was also built with a titanium hull, and was the world's deepest diving nuclear submarine, with a registered diving depth of 1 022 metres. Komsomoletssank in the Norwegian Sea in April 1989. In addition to the prototype nuclear submarines, the Soviet Union also developed a nuclear reactor which by simple means could be installed into a diesel-driven submarine. The reactor carries the classification Nurka class, and today is located at Olenya naval base in Ara Bay. The diesel submarines in the Northern Fleet are the Project 940 - India class, Project 641-B - Tango class and Project 887 - Kilo class, but it is not known into which of the diesel-powered submarine classes the Nurka reactors can be installed.
The Soviet Union has also developed three classes of mini submarines, all of which belong to the Northern Fleet. The mini submarines are as follows: one submarine of Project 10831 class, one of Project 1851 - X-ray class and three submarines of Project 1910 - Uniform class. Mini submarines are equipped with one pressurised water reactor each, and are probably used for special missions. They do not carry nuclear weapons.