The presence of modern ultra-small submarines in the Russian Navy is not a secret. In the journals or directories available to each one, you can familiarize yourself with the detailed descriptions and tactical and technical characteristics of submarines, but in order to see the ultra-small submarine, it is not necessary to penetrate the super-secret base. Just look at the video of the Russian film hit "Peculiarities of National Fishing". But how far today's "Piranhas" began, not everyone knows.
In August 1942, an "excursion" of sailors from the 11th arrived in Feodosia, occupied by the Germans. flotilla Ultra-small submarines of the Royal Design Bureau of the Italian Navy. With the fall of Sevastopol, active operations in the Crimean waters practically ceased, and their recent participants - Germans and Italians - could take a break from the fighting. However, the Italian submariners arrived on the shores of the Feodosiya Gulf not at all for relaxation: the new owners of the Crimea, the Germans, invited them to familiarize themselves with the unusual trophy - the Soviet ultra-small submarine. According to the historiographer of the 11th flotilla, this submarine was a “sensation of sorts” for the submariners of Regia Marina Italyana, “who previously believed that Italian designs were unique throughout the world.” So the representatives of the two opposing fleets of the USSR got acquainted with what was a secret even for their own - with one of the first Soviet ultra-small submarines ...
The first Soviet project embodied in the metal of a super-small submarine was the development under the APSS code (autonomous underwater special vessel). In various documents and publications, one can also find other designations of this project: “telemechanical submarine”, “radio-controlled submarine with television” and even “remote-controlled self-propelled projectile”. The APSS project was created in 1934 - 1935 in the 1 department (the so-called submarine group) of the famous Leningrad Ostechburo (Special Technical Bureau for Special Purpose Invention) under the leadership of Chief Designer Fyodor Viktorovich Schukin, for whom the APSS was the first underwater design by boat. Work on the APSS project was carried out with the direct participation of the head of Ostechbureau, well-known defense engineer Vladimir Ivanovich Bekauri and under the supervision of the Maritime Research Institute of Communications (NIMIS).
The APSS was a super-low (surface displacement - 7,2 t, submarine - 8,5 t) submarine, armed with one nose fixed torpedo tube. It was controlled by the APSS in two options: normal (the only member of its crew) and remote. In the latter case, the possibility of controlling the APSS from the so-called “drivers” - from surface ships or airplanes - was worked out. "Wave control" was to be carried out using special equipment "Quartz" installed on these "drivers" (development No. 134), created by specialists of the same Ostechburo. In the "telemechanical" version of the APSS, instead of a torpedo, she carried an explosive charge of 500 kg mounted on its place.
In the same year, 1935, when the design of the APSS was completed, construction began. The construction was assigned to the Leningrad Shipbuilding and Mechanical Plant "Sudomeh". Two boats of this project were built at once, which were factory tested in 1936 year.
However, the technical ideas of Ostechburo failed to fully embody the very daring for that time in the metal. The official conclusions on the implementation of the APSS project states that "the problem of remote control of this boat was far from a positive decision." Although Ostebbyuro had its own “squadron” of experimental vessels, consisting of former Navy warships (Designer destroyer, Engineer and Mikula minesweepers, Quicky torpedo boat) and airplanes (MBR-2 seaplanes), but before testing APSS-type boats with the use of these “drivers” did not make it. It can be assumed that already in the same year 1936 both APS boats were dismantled. The second type of ultra-small submarine Ostechbyuro received the submarine code (autonomous submarine) and the symbol "Pygmy".
Initially, this "dwarf" submarine was developed as an "autonomous submarine operated from an aircraft." However, in the future, work on it continued as an ultra-small submarine, controlled by its own crew. As in the case of the APSS, they were led by the staff of the 1 department of the Ostechbureau, headed by F.V. Shchukin. 27 June 1936, the project was approved by the Deputy Chief of the Naval Forces of the Workers 'and Peasants' Red Army (Navy of the Red Army) flagship of the 1 rank I.M. Ludry After that, in Leningrad, under the leadership of A.N. Shcheglova created a prototype of the submarine "Pygmy".
Then the boat was transported by rail to the Black Sea, to the Sevastopol base Ostechburo. Here in October 1936, the Pygmey submarine passed the whole complex of tests. In order to increase secrecy during their conduct, the ship was officially named only as “Ostechburo submarine”. Konstantin Shchukin, Chief Designer of the 3 Division of the Ostechbureau, named after the project developer, was appointed as the responsible supplier of the Pygmy nuclear submarine to the fleet. Personnel sailors from the submarine forces of the Black Sea Fleet were assigned to the crew of an experimental boat. Thus, for the time of testing, the commander of the Pygmy nuclear submarine was the 29-year-old assistant to the commander of the A-3 submarine, senior lieutenant Boris Alexandrovich Uspensky.
Despite the fact that the tests of “Pygmy”, according to some data, “revealed shortcomings that prevented it from being admitted to the fleet,” according to their results, the leadership of the Red Army Navy decided to build a series of ultra-small submarines of this type with the delivery of the first six until the end of 10 of the year, and the entire series - in 1936-m. Several "Pygmies" began to be built on "Sudomekh" in Leningrad, but they were never "brought to a combat-ready state" and, obviously, were subsequently dismantled. As a result, the fleet did not receive a single serial ultra-small submarine of this type, and not only because the Pygmy submarine had “constructive flaws”, but because of the “objective difficulty of solving fundamentally new technical issues”, as stated in official documents . There was one more reason, which we will discuss below.
Thus, at the disposal of the Soviet Navy was only one prototype of the submarine - "Pygmy". It was a super-small (length - 16, width - 2,62 m) submarine with a standard surface displacement 18,6 t. She could reach a maximum speed in 6 nodes (5 - under water). Its cruising range at full speed was 290 miles, under water - from 18 (full) to 60 (economic) miles. The maximum immersion depth was determined in 30 meters, and the autonomy of navigation - in three days. The main armament of the Pygmy nuclear-powered submarine was to be two 450-mm torpedoes of the 45-15 type in the on-board torpedo tubes of the open type. In addition, the crew of the submarine, consisting of a 4 man, had a 7,62-mm machine gun.
By the beginning of World War II, the Pygmy nuclear submarine was officially listed as the Experimental Submarine of the Navy Commissariat of the People's Commissariat of the Navy. It was not officially commissioned, it was not included in any of the fleets, and was kept ashore. According to some data, the submarine "Pygmy" was left at the former Sevastopol base Ostechbyuro in Balaclava, according to others - transported to Feodosia, where they installed in the territory of the test base of the sea weapons NC Navy. In the summer of 1942, the boat was in the hands of the Germans, but its further fate has not yet been precisely determined.
We have already mentioned that in August 1942 of the Pygmy nuclear submarine was inspected by Italian submariners, which were interesting for the fleet historians. “It was the newest unit that was in the final stages of equipment,” we read in it. - Its size did not differ from the Italian type of design bureau, but the body was slimmer and longer. The boat had a rather large, but narrow cabin of a trapezoid shape. In the middle of the height of the hull were oblong grooves, which made it possible to place torpedoes in them. ”
What happened to the only submarine "Pygmy" further unknown. Since after the liberation of the Crimea and the entire Black Sea region, no one reported on the discovery of this boat either on the coast or submerged into the sea, it can be assumed that the occupants were trying to take it out of the Crimea to Germany. For the Germans, who at that time were actively working on numerous projects of their own ultra-small submarines, the Soviet project implemented in practice, without a doubt, should have been of interest. However, the absence of any mention of familiarizing German shipbuilding engineers with the captured Soviet ultra-small submarine makes you think that the Pygmy nuclear submarine never reached the territory of the Third Reich and was lost by new owners somewhere on the European railways. But this is only an assumption.
In addition to the APSS and the Pygmy nuclear submarine, the designers of the 1 department of Ostechbyuro under the guidance of the same F.V. Shchukin developed a project of another submarine - a small submarine with a standard surface displacement 60 t. However, by that time for several years small submarines of the 6th series (type “M”) were standardly built with 158-ton “submarines” vessels "Ostehbyuro, because of their size, were inferior both in seaworthiness and habitability (these characteristics and on the" Little ones "were far from perfect). Therefore, the third “underwater” project of Ostechbureau, unlike the first two, remained on paper.
Of course, Ostekhbyuro could continue to work for the benefit of the Soviet submarine fleet and all the armed forces. However, both the organization and many of its employees fell victim to the “big terror”. During 1937 - 1938, the NKVD bodies arrested, convicted “to the death penalty” and executed leading specialists of Ostechbureau, including its leader V.I. Bekauri. So, in the fabricated by the employee of the special department of the NKVD at Ostechbyuro A.P. The Grunsky indictment in the case of the chief designer of the APSS and the Pygmy nuclear submarine F.V. Shchukin said that the accused “conducted ... sabotage activities by deliberately mis-designing new types of submarines designed for weapons by the RKKF, resulting in the designed ... Submarines turned out to be unsuitable for arming the RKKF”. This "document" was approved on February 20 1938 of the year, and after three days the death sentence against F.V. Shchukin was executed. In the following year, the Ostechbureau itself was gone.
As a result, the Soviet Navy entered World War II, without having received ultra-small submarines. Stories it was pleased that the first German super submarines, which became part of the Soviet Navy, were captured by German Seehundi in 1945, the designers of which may have used in their more successful work than their Soviet colleagues, and one of the Ostechburo projects - "Pygmy".