In Long Beach, California right alongside the Queen Mary sits Podvodnaya Lodka B-427 Scorpion (“Podvodnaya Lodka” is Russian for Submarine). This is a former Cold War era Soviet Project 641 Foxtrot class diesel-electric attack submarine that was once the nemesis of the US Navy Pacific Fleet. B-427 once protected Soviet Fleet warships and nuclear missile submarines from enemy warships and submarines. It was not a missile equipped submarine though and only carried 533mm (21 inch) torpedoes which could be conventional or nuclear tipped anti-submarine/anti-ship models (10 launch tubes – 6 in the bow and 4 in the stern, with 22 torpedoes on board or 44 AMD-1000 mines).
Effective but noisier and more cramped than comparable western diesel-electric submarines (range was significantly less than nuclear submarines too), 74 of these Foxtrot class submarines were built between 1957 and 1983, with 58 serving first the Soviet Navy between 1958 and 1991, then the Russian Navy until 2000. During the tense times of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, 4 Soviet Foxtrot submarines were deployed around Cuban waters and actually had dummy practice depth charges dropped on them by US Navy ships to force them to surface (3 eventually did and one slipped away) and leave Cuban waters. The US Navy were unaware the Soviet subs had nuclear torpedoes onboard and it must have been tense onboard as the Soviet captains would not have necessarily known they were not truly under attack and the various captains are said to have discussed retaliation! Orders from higher up must have prevailed?
The Foxtrot class submarine was well and truly obsolete by the 1980’s but soldiered on until large-scale retirement commenced from 1995 onwards. They were also operated by Cuba, India, Libya, Poland and the Ukraine. Nearly all were well and truly retired years ago but interestingly the Ukraine Navy still had their only 1970 example Zaporizhzhia (U-01 and formerly B-435 in the Soviet Navy) operating until 2014! It was surrendered when Russia annexed Crimea but due to its condition they would not accept the old boat though.
Construction of the Long Beach Foxtrot dubbed Scorpion (B-427) commenced in 1971. In 1972 the submarine entered service in the Soviet/Russian Pacific Fleet out of Vladivostok, Russia where it operated from until decommissioned in 1994. In those 2 decades of service it no doubt shadowed and monitored the movement of US and regional navy ships in the Pacific Ocean (it was also deployed to a Soviet base in Vietnam during the Cold War). Following decommissioning the submarine was then leased to an Australian group, converted to a museum submarine (whilst remaining in near operational condition) and displayed at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney between 1995 and 1998. This is where I first toured the submarine. In 1998 it was sold to an American company and relocated to Long Beach. It was not until after my 2014 visit that I realised it was the same submarine, simply because in Australia it was called Foxtrot-540 (the last Russian Navy pennant number it carried).
You come aboard B-427 from the aft deck, walking along the top of the 91.25 metre / 299.4 feet long hull to the fore deck where you enter via the bow torpedo room. This is interesting as you get a good look at the torpedo launch tubes and an inert torpedo is also on display (crew beds are there too).
78 officers and crew were onboard during operational service (12 officers, 10 midshipmen and 56 sailors). Walking through the submarine crew quarters, galley, radio room, command room, engine room and aft torpedo room you soon realise how cramped the submarine is! The interior of the submarine remains much the way it did during its operational Soviet and Russian Navy days.
The majority of the original communications, sensor and engine equipment remains onboard along with informative signs, old photos and the like. You exit via the stern torpedo room back into bright sunshine and the glad feeling you were never in the Soviet diesel submarine fleet!