The company has cherished the memory of selfless and undoubtedly creative work of the shipwrights, who pioneered the operation of such unprecedentedly complex equipment. Over a short period, they managed to build the country’s first nuclear submarine fleet.
The history of the K-3 started long before its construction. In the early 1950s, the Soviet Navy faced a challenge, namely, to be at par with the USA in terms of submarine arms and to provide an adequate response to the construction of the first US nuclear submarine, Nautilus. Over the next two years, the scientists and designers managed to come up with a great number of game-changing solutions.
Keel-laying ceremony of the nuclear submarine, held at workshop 42, Sevmash on September 24, 1955, was shrouded in secrecy. Today many people refer to the development of the first Russian nuclear submarine as the “saga” – nationally significant undertaking requiring a great deal of skills and effort, a milestone in the development of this country and its fleet.
Special Design Bureau 143, currently St. Petersburg-based Malachite Marine Engineering Bureau, led by the-then Eng Capt Vladimir Peregudov, designed the Project 627 nuclear submarine. Plant 402, currently Sevmash, received the first design documents in early summer 1954. The newly-built plant engaged in the adoption of cutting-edge processing facilities and practices was destined to spearhead the concerted efforts of shipwrights, designers and navy sailors.
The process entailed the need for significant refitting of the plant. Workshop 42, previously used for the production of gun turrets mounted on warships and heavy cruisers, was allocated for the construction of the first nuclear submarine. Transformation of the workshop into a covered berth also required an enormous amount of construction and assembly works. All the activities were conducted by stages. The covered berth’s floor and a facility for service, design and customer’s personnel were built first. The next stage involved the construction of the pass to the slipway, a device used for launching and landing ships, and the slipway itself. The third stage included outfitting works and setting of a protective fence around the workshop. All the works, correspondence and documents related to the first nuclear submarine were of confidential nature. To ensure strictest confidentiality, the plant had to adopt a new operational procedure, which implied that all parts of the pressure hull should be built by the sketches providing a minimum of extra information, rather than secret drawings.
Improvement of the workshop’s facilities, thorough revision of the plant’s operational procedure aimed to ensure that the focus is placed on the main mission, of course, made the work of the shipwrights more laborious; however, the people involved in the construction of the nuclear submarine fleet’s first-born grasped the need for secrecy and valued the trust placed on them. The activities ran 24/7: people worked in two shifts, 12 hours each, and when required up to three to four hours overtime, as they sought to achieve they daily goals. That also included holidays and weekends.
Technical supervision of the construction was vested in Section 12, which included about ten people. Responsibility for the commissioning of the submarine was shouldered by Nikolay Dovgan.
The works on the submarine were successful despite various challenges – for instance, the plant had to learn how to weld the AK-25 steel. The steel, designed by the Prometei research and development institute specifically for the construction of the K-3 nuclear submarine, boasted high durability, great weldability and outstanding reliability. Fast-paced construction of the hull allowed for hydraulic trials to be conducted as early as late 1955. With the pressure applied being unprecedentedly high, the trials reaffirmed the durability and high quality of the work of Sevmash’s shipwrights.
The first Russian nuclear submarine moved from the covered berth to the slipway in early August, 1957. The submarine, stripped of the scaffolding, demonstrated its fantastic tear-drop hull featuring torpedo-shaped bow and flat-shaped stern. The submarine attracted many onlookers; people were crowding behind the fence as they tried to make out at least certain parts of the submarine. Vigilant guards were dispersing the crowd of onlookers: “Comrades, go away! There is nothing interesting here, it’s just the first nuclear submarine being launched!” Satisfied with this competent explanation, people were leaving their “spectator” seats.
The submarine was comfortable: its walls were painted with flat paints to make sure the exhausted submarines are not irritated with the glints; the furniture was arranged with attention to the smallest detail. For instance, the dining table in the mess could turn into surgical table.
The Leninsky Komsomol submarine was launched on August 9, 1957. September saw the commencement of mooring trials, while the reactors were started on September 14. The nuclear heart of the submarine sprang to life. Academician Anatoly Alexandrov commented on the event by saying the following: «It’s a historical moment – for the first time in the history of the Soviet Union a warship’s turbine are propelled by vapor obtained without any coal or oil fuel being burnt down.
July 1, 1958 saw the firstborn of the Russia’s nuclear submarine fleet hoisting the Russian naval ensign, when the submarine commander Capt Leonid Osipenko took the ship to the sea trials. The submarine was for the first time powered by the nuclear power plant on July 4. During the trial period the submarine made five voyages totaling up to 25 days and 3,801 miles, as well as 29 dives, including a 310 m-deep one. The Leninsky Komsomol entered trial service with the Russian Navy on December 17, 1958. «The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in war», recollected Vladimir Ryzhov, Sevmash’s veteran, who was directly involved in the construction. «It wasn’t easy for the plant’s shipwrights to master the construction of nuclear submarines. However, we managed to win the battle that dates back to more than 50 years ago».