The Russian Civil War had a disastrous effect on the Russian Fleet. The back and forth fighting of the Red and White Armies, warship seizures by the German Army and then Allied Interventionist forces had destroyed most of the warships that were building or that had belonged to the Russian Fleet. The fledgling Soviet regime did not have the financial resources to renew a significant naval building program. What could be provided were comparatively inexpensive vessels. Starting in the late 1920s the Soviet Navy was determined to possess a large submarine fleet aimed at providing a naval defense for the Soviet Union.
The new building program was headed by People’s Commissar Frunze and relied upon advancing Russian submarine theory and design, rather than purchasing technology from the outside, although the British submarine L 55, which had been sunk by a Bolshevik destroyer on June 4, 1919, was raised for technology comparison. Although the Soviets did built three big ocean going submarines of the Pravda, later P Class, they stayed with a defensive strategy of building medium and small submarines.
The Matyutka, later M Class coastal submarines, provided the small boats of the fleet. They could be manufactured inland and transported in sections for completion at port facilities. Most were produced at the Gorki shipyard on the Volga River and transported to Leningrad on the Baltic, Vladivostok on the Pacific or Nikolayev on the Black Sea for assembly. The M Class boats were small, fast diving and maneuverable. They were well suited for the shallow rocky coastlines of the Baltic. The M Class entered production in 1933 and remained in continuous production until after World War II. They were produced in groups or series. Each series increased the size and capabilities of the boats. The last series of 1944 was almost twice the displacement of the original 1933 M Class boats.
Depending upon the Russian reference consulted, the M Class had different series designations. Series VI (30 boats built 1932-1934) and Series VIbis (19 boats built 1934-1936) were 123 feet long and displaced 202 tons submerged (161 tons surfaced). They were built in four sections. Series XII (45 boats built 1936-1941) were 146 feet in length, displaced 258 tons submerged (206 tons surfaced) and were built in six sections. The final design, Series XV (4 boats built during WW2 and 50 after) were 174 feet in length, displaced 420 tons submerged (350 tons surfaced) and were built in seven sections. During the war losses were quite heavy with 35 of the 100 or so M Class boats being lost. (History from Submarines of World War Two, by Erminio Bagnasco.)(Thanks to Vladimir Yakubov on production numbers,)
One of the newest kits from Combrig is a 1:700 model is a M Class Series XII, which is another designation for the Series III and IV boats. Given the small size of the prototype, the model is small, measuring 2 1/2 Inches in length. Combrig provides a full hull as well as a waterline hull, giving the option of building either version. With the Combrig M Class Series XII kit, it is now possible to model the most numerous class of submarine of the Soviet Navy during World War II.