In the last half of the 19th Century Russia and France developed a close relationship as a counter-balance to the United Kingdom . The Russian tended to follow French naval strategic theory, as well as French warship design theory. France never could out-build the Royal Navy in battleships, so the Jeune Ecole (Young School) came up with the theory that rather then loose the battleship building race with the Royal Navy, it would be better to build masses of small, cheap, expendable craft that could sink an expensive battleship with a torpedo. France began to build a large volume of small, cheap torpedo boats that would use high speed to close with battleships. Imperial Russia also adopted the theory and began mass production of torpedo boats. As the 19th Century turned into the 20th Century a new form of torpedo boat emerged as a usable warship. This warship would not use high speed but instead would use stealth by hiding under the water and the submarine began to be built in large numbers. Russia adopted the new technology.

Not much of the Imperial Russian Navy survived the First World War and those ships that did survive were in poor repair with unhappy crews. In the 1920s was in a very precarious financial condition. With the catastrophic damage to the Russian infrastructure as the result of the First World War followed by the Russian Civil War, there was very little money to fund the military and what little money was around went to the Red Army. The navy certainly didnít have money for construction of large warships. Because of the financial shackles the Soviet Navy resorted to the poor manís weapon, the submarine. Soviet Russia and the German Weimar Republic were the outcasts of Europe and they gravitated towards each other. Germany certainly had designers with expertise at building submarines and they couldnít ply their trade in Germany , as submarines were forbidden to Germany under the Versailles Treaty. So they went to Russia to continue their trade. This helped both countries, Russia received technical expertise in submarine design and construction and Germany benefited in having their designers continue to evolve the submarine, through the Russian submarine design and construction. By 1939 the Soviet Navy had a great number of submarines. 

The Second World War wrecked the Soviet industrial infrastructure, just as the First World War and Russian Civil War had wrecked the Russian infrastructure. Again Russia benefited from German innovation in the form of capture U-Boats like the Type XXI and more importantly captured German designers. Joseph Stalin continued the development of the submarine but Stalin was a big navy proponent and wanted to restart a building program with cruisers and battleships. The first round was the large number of light cruisers of the Sverdlov class. When Stalin died in 1953 the big ship navy died with him. Khrushchev wanted to use high technology to counter the West, missiles and advanced submarines. Under the new administration the Soviet Navy began to build attack submarines in record numbers. They started out with improved diesel submarines patterned after the German Type XXI and given the NATO Code name Whiskey Class. The first unit appeared in 1950, while Stalin was still alive but production numbers soared under Krushchev. A total of 236 Whiskey class diesel submarines were produced with the series production ending in 1957. Near the end of production a new type of Soviet submarine was introduced. Concurrently, a larger, longer range attack submarine with the NATO Code name Zulu class were produced in much smaller numbers with 26 built. A third type of attack submarine went the opposite direction with than half the displacement of the Whiskey and only one fifth the displacement of the Zulu, the 30 Quebec class submarines were throw-backs to the WWI and WWII coastal submarines.

Twelve of the Whiskey class were converted to carry early cruise missiles. The first modified design was the Whiskey Single Cylinder with one SS N-3 missile cylinder aft of the sail in 1957. This was just a test vehicle because the Whiskey Twin Cylinder was produced from 1959-1961 and another version with a reworked sail carrying four missiles and called the Whiskey Long Bin was produced from 1959 to 1962.  In 1958 the first ballistic missile submarines appeared with the diesel powered Golf Class carrying three SS-N-4 ballistic missiles in the sail. From that time Soviet submarines have been in one of the three mission types, attack, cruise missile and ballistic missile. 

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In the attack type the Romeo Class built 1958-1961 was a slightly improved Whiskey. Only 20 were built, as the larger Zulu class made for a much better open ocean submarine. The Foxtrot class was an improved Zulu with total produced of 62 from 1958 to 1967. In 1972 Tango class appeared, still diesel powered and with a surface displacement of 3,000-tons, 50% greater size than the Foxtrot boats. However, it was not the diesel Romeo class of 1958 that was the greatest threat to NATO but the November class of 1958. Displacing 4,500-tons surfaced the fourteen November class were nuclear powered attack boats. In production from 1958 to 1965, the nuclear boats took longer to build and from the start proved somewhat unreliable with one lost to an internal fire in 1970. The successor to the November Class was the much improved Victor class of 1968. With a teardrop sail the Victor class was handsome as well as fast. They were produced in three succeeding variants. Fourteen Victor I boats were built from 1968 to 1975 and were followed by the slightly larger Victor II. Seven were built from 1972 to 1978 and were followed by the Victor III. The Victor III of 1978 again increased size added a knot to top speed and most importantly was much quieter than previous Soviet nuclear attack boats.

Although the Victor design was the attack boat slated for series production. Soviet designers also designed a second type of attack boat, the Project 705 Lira. The class was much more difficult and expensive to build than the Victor class as the hulls were made of titanium. This new type was given the NATO code name Alfa and the first one was constructed in 1967 at Leningrad . The boat was the most streamlined of Soviet submarines. Their prime mission was to destroy submarines, as they were the fastest and most deep diving design ever built. Reportedly capable of a 43 to 45 knot maximum speed and a depth of 3,000-feet, the alpha could close submerged opponent quickly and then dive well below the operational maximum depth of the opponent to avoid counter attack. The alpha was much smaller than the Victor with a 2,800-ton surface and 3,680-ton submerged displacement and armed with six 533mm torpedo tubes. It could carry a mix of weapons with 18 torpedoes, 26 mines, SS-N-15 and or SS- N -16 missiles. 

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To achieve the high operational metrics the boat was highly automated with a crew of 45, half that of a Victor but the biggest factor was the propulsion plant. The Alfa used a liquid metal cooled reactor. In the 1950s the USN had considered such a design but after an exhaustive study had rejected it as being too dangerous for the crew. The Soviet design for a liquid metal reactor had also started around the same time as the American design but the Soviets had approved the design, as they were more willing to risk the crew in order to develop a revolutionary weapon system. The plant developed 45,000shp to turn the single shaft and was cooled by a lead/bismuth liquid metal mixture. The first unit was more or less a test boat and was scrapped after only two years service, probably because of a reactor failure, as that is the only reason that comes to mind for such an expensive unit having only a two-year life span. A second Alfa didnít appear until more than a decade later in 1979, presumably the address the issues that caused the scrapping of the first unit. A total of six Alfas were built with the another five being completed between 1979 to 1983. The design clearly was a failure because four more were removed from service in 1990 and 1991. The last Alfa B-123 was given a new nuclear plant and retained for trials until July 31, 1996. The early departure of this class could have been due to the new Russian Navyís financial constraints but more likely because the plant design was very unreliable and indeed too dangerous.

OKB Grigorov Alfa
This is the answer for a high-tech Soviet advanced attack boat. Now your can build this fast but dangerous boat in 1:700 scale because the Bulgarian firm of OKB Grigorov has produced the Lira Project 705, NATO Codename Alfa. You certainly wonít spend days and days in assembling the kit, as it has only ten pieces, five resin and five brass and one of the resin parts is a stand. This is typical of 1:700 scale submarines, since they donít seem many things sticking out from the hull. It has something to do with water resistance and the desire to have a stream lined hull for high speeds. 

With any submarine model, everything revolves around the hull. Unlike the 1:700 scale OKB Delta IV, the OKB Alfa has a small hull. Also, unlike the Delta IV with its ungainly humpback the Alfa is very elegant in appearance with the ultra streamlining. OKB Grigorov has provided plenty of hull detail. Some may say that the incised lines are over scale and they would be correct. However, I am more than satisfied with this approach, since they purely to scale, most details wouldnít be seen in this scale, especially when the hull is painted black. Most of the detail is found on the deck and streamlined sail but this is further supplemented with hull side and hull bottom detail, mostly in the form of limber holes. Torpedo tube doors as well as access hatches are clearly defined. At the stern of the hull is a single propeller hull configuration with two vertical navigation planes/ rudders and two horizontal dive planes. The horizontal dive planes at the stern on either side of the propulsion propeller have mush smaller stabilization propellers. The model hull has a moderately thick casting sprue, which will need to be removed. There are four more resin parts. There are three stream lined propeller hubs, one is the propulsion propeller hub and the other two are for the stabilization propellers on the dive planes. The last resin part is a mounting stand for the completed model. The five brass parts include the five bladed propeller, two small two bladed stabilization propellers and the relief-etched bow dive planes. 

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With your 1:700 scale OKB Grigorov Alfa you can put the pedal to the metal, at least until the liquid metal lead/bismuth coolant causes you to glow in the dark. The whole line of modern submarines produced by OKB Grigorov is carried by Bill Gruner of Pacific Front.

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