As the start of the 20th century approached, the submarine was just coming to be an effective weapon system. However, it was still plagued by failure to find the right mix of single or combination of propulsion units. It would be efficient if there was only one form of propulsion for the boat. Electric propulsion in the form of battery powered electric motors worked fine for propelling the boat submerged but it was slow with the small electric motors available and batteries were quickly exhausted and had to be recharged. The only practical solution required two forms of propulsion, electric for submerged use and another type for faster surface propulsion and to recharge the batteries for the electrical system. The only question remained as to the type of system for surface propulsion.
Early designs by John Holland and Simon Lake used gasoline-powered engines for surface use. However, leaky gasoline engines and gasoline fumes concentrated in the enclosed cylinder of the submarine’s hull created a very dangerous environment. The Royal Navy tried steam power with their infamous K class submarines and the result was a disaster. The diesel engine was the perfect choice for surface component of the submarine propulsion system. Through two world wars, even as the submarine transformed from a weapon of curiosity to an extraordinary deadly weapon of war, the combined diesel-electric power plant propelled the submarines of every navy. However, that situation was about to change. Two blinding flashes over Hiroshima and Nagasaki not only ended World War Two but also singled a revolution in not only submarine propulsion but also submarine weaponry. It did not happen immediately but from the moment that it was realized that nuclear power would be perfect for submarine propulsion, it was only a matter of time before a workable nuclear power plant was developed. The USN was blessed to have Captain Hyman Rickover involved in the nuclear program. Brusque, rude but brilliant Rickover was slated for retirement as a Captain and had already been passed over for promotion more than once. He was disliked by the higher brass of the navy because he didn't yearn to be admitted to their clubhouse. He had been assigned to work in Oak Ridge Tennessee after the war in the various nuclear programs that continued after the development of the atomic bomb, where he had universally impressed the military and civilian leadership of those programs. Congress held up the promotion of 39 admirals and threatened to put civilians on navy promotion boards if Rickover was not promoted to Rear Admiral. The navy decided to fold its tent and give in. In July 1953 President Eisenhower announced Rickover’s promotion to Rear Admiral.
The immediate result for the USN was the quick development of the USS Nautilus SS-571, the first nuclear powered submarine. Although the diesel-electric still had a future, it would be as an adjunct to nuclear powered boats. One of the very first decisions was that the nuclear plant for USN submarines would be a pressurized water-cooled plant. The second USN nuclear submarine, USS Seawolf SSN-575, used a liquid metal cooling system, based on sodium. Since sodium explodes upon contact with water, a coolant system based upon an element that explodes in contact with water, might not be the best selection for a submarine, or any other ship for that matter. That liquid metal reactor was tested but then replaced with the much safer water-cooled plant pioneered by the Nautilus. After the initial boats proved the safety of efficiency of nuclear power, plans were quickly put in hand to add nuclear weapons to a nuclear propelled boat. Initially an early form of cruise missile was tested with the Regulus II. These were air-breathing missiles and required the submarine to surface to prepare and fire the missile. During this launch time, the submarine would be very vulnerable to surface, sub-surface or aerial attack. It was decided to marry the nuclear powered submarine with nuclear tipped ballistic missiles that could be launched under water. This resulted in the Polaris missile, the George Washington class SSBM, and the birth of the "Boomer".
The USN was not alone in developing both concepts. Hyman Rickover was born in 1898 in Makow, fifty miles from Warsaw Poland. His mother took him to the US in 1904. If she had stayed in Poland, which was part of the Russian Empire at the time, her son might have gone into a different navy. The Soviet Union also wished to have nuclear powered submarines and submarine carried nuclear tipped ballistic missiles. With the USN, the nuclear power plant was developed before the submarine launched ballistic missile, with the Soviet Navy, the ballistic missiles was developed first. The Soviet Union converted one Project 611 Zulu class diesel-electric submarine to carry one Scud missile based on V-2 technology. Five more were converted to carry two missiles housed in the sail. The first submarine class to enter operations designed from the start to carry ballistic missiles was the Soviet Project 629 Golf class. The Golf class was powered by a conventional diesel-electric propulsion system but carried three ballistic missiles in an enlarged sail. Introduced in 1958, twenty-three were built. The submarine had to be surfaced to fire the missiles.
A nuclear power plant for Soviet submarines developed very quickly. Between 1958 and 1960 three classes of nuclear powered submarines entered Soviet service. These were the Project 627 November class, Project 658 Hotel class and Project 659/675 Echo I/Echo II classes. Since all three designs were powered by the same power plants, which used two VI-A water coolant reactors, they were known collectively within NATO as the HENs. All three classes had comparatively short production runs because their nuclear plants were very dangerous. The Project 658 Hotel class were the first nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines, with the first one completed slightly ahead of the USS George Washington. Only eight were built and the very first one to commission was the K-19. You may have seen the movie K-19 Widowmaker, starring Harrison Ford. That was based on events that actually occurred on the K-19, which also was nicknamed by Soviet sailors, Hiroshima. On July 4, 1961 the K-19 was operating north of Iceland when a coolant line for the reactor burst and reactor temperature climbed to 1470 degrees F before a new coolant line could be rigged from the drinking water tank. Nine extraordinarily brave Russian sailors volunteered to make those repairs, knowing that they would receive a lethal dose of radiation. The K-19 was not scrapped. Instead the old power plant section was cut out and a new power plant section was installed. K-19 went back to sea in 1964 but her ill luck followed her. In 1968 she collided with the USS Gato, Thresher class attack boat, and in November 1972 twenty-eight crewmen of K-19 died as a result of a fire. The Hiroshima was not scrapped until 1991. The Hotel class was similar to the conventionally powered Golf class, with three missiles housed in an enlarged sail that had to be launched from the surface. As a design, it was far inferior to the George Washington design.
The first Soviet ballistic submarine design that even approached the capabilities of USN designs was the 1967 Project 667 Yankee class. This class marked a quantum improvement over the rather sad-sack Hotel class. The boats were equipped with the D-5 missile system with sixteen R-27 missiles that could be launched while submerged up to a depth of 300-feet. The range of the missiles was 1,440 miles. Although the design made extensive use of rubber outside and inside, as well as isolating mechanical systems with rubber padding in an effort to reduce noise, the design was still noisy and easily tracked by the USN. Nonetheless, the Yankee was a very successful design and 34 of the class were built. Although 34 units is certainly a long production run, the numbers champion for Soviet ballistic missile submarines goes to the design that followed the Yankee and was introduced in 1972. This was the Project 667B Murena Delta class.
As can be seen from the project numbers, the Project 667B Delta class was derived from the Project 667 Yankee class. The Delta design used the same sections forward of the missile bay as found in the Yankee design but employed the D-9 missile system with twelve R-29 missiles. Although the number of missiles had decreased from the Yankee design, the R-29 missiles were a great improvement over the Yankee R-27 missiles. The R-29 had a range of 4,680-miles. This greatly increased range meant that the Deltas could cruise in Russian waters or far closer to Russia and still be within range of US targets, making it much more difficult for the USN to acquire and track Delta boats. The Delta class has been built in four successive variants, each increasing in size and capabilities. Eighteen boats were built to the original Project 667B Murena Delta I specifications. Delta I boats were 459-feet long and displaced 11,750 tons submerged. Propelled by two water-cooled reactors producing a total of 45,000shp, the boats were capable of 18-knots on the surface and 25.5-knots submerged. The Project 667BD Murena-M Delta II, introduced in 1974, expanded the size of the design to accommodate four additional missiles of the R-29D type with a range of 5,460 miles. The length jumped to 510 feet, displacement to 13,250 tons submerged. The propulsion stayed the same so the speed dropped to 24 knots submerged. Four Delta IIs were produced. The Delta III was introduced 1975. Known as Project 667BDR Kalmar, fourteen of the Delta III boats were built. This variant had the same dimensions but were equipped with new missiles, the type RSM-50/SS-N-18 Stingray missiles in the sixteen missile tubes.
The final design was Project 667BDRM Delfin or Delta IV class. The first of this variant, the K-51, was laid down February 23, 1981 and went into service December 29, 1985. The size jumped again to 538 feet with a displacement of 11,740 tons surfaced and 15,500 tons submerged. Seven Delta IV units were completed with two more cancelled on the slips by President Yeltsin. Besides the extra length, the Delta IV boats could be distinguished from the Delta III boats by fewer limber holes at the base of the missile deck and a dispenser tube for a passive towed sonar at the top of rudder. The Delta IV was equipped with a new missile, the RSM-54 Shtil, SS-N-23 Skiff, with MIRVed warheads. The K-407, later named the Novomoskovsk on September 17, 1997, was the last of the class to be built. Laid down in November 1989, she was launched in January 1991 and entered service on February 20, 1992. On July 8, 1998 the Novomoskovsk launched a RSM-54 missile, reconfigured for commercial purposes, to send a German Tubsat-M commercial satellite into orbit. That certainly has to rank as the first example of employing a nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine for peaceful commercial purposes. Currently the Novomoskovsk is assigned to the 31st Red Banner Division of the 12th Submarine Squadron of the Russian Northern Fleet.
Alanger Novomoskovsk K-407
The true character of the model is brought forward with the sail/missile deck part. Alanger has constructed the kit to give the modeler the option to have the sixteen missile doors in open or closed positions. The tops of the missile tubes are present, which when painted dark green will certainly give a nice contrast to the somber black hull. By having the sail integral to the missile deck, you have a smooth juncture of lines and angles with no need for filling seams that would be required if the sail was a separate part. However, there will be seams to be filled where the missile deck hump joins the upper hull piece. Since these seams are at the point of smooth planes, filling and sanding smooth should present no problem with minimal threat to removing other detail. Other missile deck detail includes a few limber holes forward and some recessed lines on the rear deck. The sail has two square cut-outs into which separate plastic parts fit. These two parts have raised fairings and locators for the sail diving planes but the rational of having these parts as separate pieces, rather than just have the fairings and locators on a smooth sail, eludes me. The top of the sail with observation cockpit and equipment recesses is also a separate piece.
Other parts found on the main sprue are the two seven-bladed propellers, which will be painted bronze on the finished model. Both vertical tail fins are separate pieces. It is easy to distinguish the upper and lower fins as the upper fin has the towed sensor array dispenser tube. The sail dive planes are separate and can be positioned level or angled. The sixteen missile hatches are separate, allowing for the option of having the doors open or closed. Other fittings are found on the small sprue. These include the periscope and equipment masts mounted to the top deck of the sail and lower hull fittings. However, the bulk of the small sprue is composed of the four parts for the cradle stand.
Decal Sheet and Instructions
The large decal sheet provides a great variety of decals. Most of these are white lines for the waterline, which of course will contrast strongly on a black hull. Other decals include square access outlines, two white access hatch outlines, two very colorful red and white emergency hatch decals, sail window markings, missile hatch markings and name in Russian. The kit is not complex and the instructions seem to do a good job in presenting the assembly sequences free of pitfalls. The instructions appear on one back printed sheet. On the front page is a short history of the submarine, statistical details, general assembly instructions and general decal instructions in Russian and English. Also in both languages is the painting guide, which also serves as a decal guide, and parts laydown/matrix. The reverse has the assembly presented in seven assembly modules. These modules present the assembly in a logical sequential manner. These modules are (1) stand; (2) aft lower hull fittings; (3) upper/lower hull attachment; (4) missile deck attachment; (5) sail details & propellers; (6) missile deck detail; and (7) sail equipment.
The Alanger 1:350 scale K-407 Novomoskovsk, Delta IV, ballistic missile submarine has detail but it is somewhat overdone. It has the subtlety of a T-34 tank, in that it has simple assembly but gets the job done in an efficient manner. This is a big model of a big Boomer and now you can add it to your fleet. Once completed and painted, the Alanger Novomoskovsk will present a very striking model of one of the best, if not the best, of the Soviet ballistic missile boat designs.
The Alanger 1:350 scale K-407 Novomoskovsk, as well as the other Alanger submarines, is available from Bill Gruner of Pacific Front Hobbies.