Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Soviet submarine K-19

insert picture here
Laid down:17 October 1958
Launched:8 April 1959
Commissioned:30 April 1961
Fate:laid up at Polyarny since 1994
General Characteristics
Displacement:4030 tons surfaced,
5000 tons submerged
Length:114 meters (374 feet)
Beam:9.2 meters (30 feet)
Draft:7.1 meters (23 feet)
Depth:250 meters (820 feet) test,
300 meters (984 feet) design
Speed:15 knots surfaced,
26 knots submerged
Range:35,700 miles at 26 knots,
32,200 miles at 24 knots (80 percent power)
Endurance:50 days (limited by food)
Populsion:two 70-megawatt VM-A reactors powering two geared turbines connected to two shafts (39,200 shaft horsepower)
Armament:three ballistic nuclear missiles (650 km range, 1.4 megatons), four 533mm (21-inch) torpedo tubes forward, two 406mm (16-inch) tubes forward, two 406mm (16-inch) tubes aft
Complement:125 officers and men

K-19 was a Hotel class submarine which suffered several severe accidents. It was the first Soviet nuclear submarine equipped with ballistic nuclear missiles.

Construction of K-19 began 17 October 1958. The boat was christened 8 April 1959. Traditionally Russian vessels are christened by women but K-19 was christened by a man. The bottle of champagne bounced off the boat without breaking, which the crew took as a bad omen. The boat was completed 12 November 1960, and commissioned 30 April 1961.

On 4 July 1961, K-19 was conducting exercises in the North Atlantic close to Southern Greenland when she developed a major leak in her reactor coolant system. The engineering officers and crew worked for extended periods in high-radiation areas to jury-rig a new coolant system. All of the crew received substantial doses of radiation, and eight men died of radiation exposure. The crew was evacuated to a diesel submarine, and K-19 was towed to the home base. The damaged reactors were removed and replaced, a process that took two years. K-19 returned to the fleet, having acquired the nickname "Hiroshima."

On 15 November 1969 K-19 collided with USS Gato (SSN-615) in the Barents Sea at a depth of 60 meters (200 feet). She was able to surface by means of an emergency ballast tank blow. The impact completely destroyed the bow sonar systems and mangled the covers of the forward torpedo tubes. K-19 was repaired and returned to the fleet.

On 24 February 1972 a fire broke out onboard K-19 while the submarine was at a depth of 120 meters (380 feet) some 1300 kilometers (800 miles) from Newfoundland. A total of 28 sailors died in the fire. The boat surfaced, and surface warships evacuated the crew except for twelve men trapped in the after torpedo room. Towing was delayed by a gale, and the after torpedo room could not be reached because of conditions in the engineroom. After the gale abated, the boat was towed to Severomorsk on 4 April, and the men were rescued after surviving 24 days in the lightless, heatless, torpedo room. The rescue operation lasted more than 40 days and involved over 30 ships. K-19 was repaired and returned to the fleet.

In 1994, K-19 was transferred to the naval repair yard at Polyarny.

The movie K-19 Widowmaker, starring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, tells a controversially fictionalized story of the 1961 events.