Submarines for Sale

BULLETIN 41

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Bulletin 24 described the newest and most modern of submarine designs, the German-built model 212. These are automated and carry the best in fire-control, weapons and propulsion. They are priced at between 1.5 and 2 billion dollars a copy. This puts them beyond the pockets of most Americans. But if you really want to buy a submarine where the price is right look to Russia. You need not deal with old Whiskey class boats that are antiquated. Modern Tango class boats are for sale for as little as five million dollars. True, this exceeds most submariners' financial assets, but entrepreneurs looking for an investment may be attracted. You would have to get them while they're hot, since only four are left.

The Tangos were built during the 1970s and were the last of the diesel-electric powered boats. Each boat class is designated with a project number so that one can know in which shipyard the submarine was constructed. For example the four that are still for sale are from the 641B project. This means that they were built in Gdansk, Poland under Russian license and that they are of the second modified series. Each boat comes with three original, 1,350 shp engines which drive a single middle shaft for a surface speed of 13 knots. With four batteries and improved cells the boat can reach speeds of 15 knots submerged using two low speed, 1,800 shp motors on dedicated outboard shafts. The boat has a pressure hull to take her to a test depth of 732 feet.

These are not large boats by American standards; being only 275 feet with a beam of 27 feet. It normally takes a crew of 78 for operations but can get by with only 21. Its bow has been modified to accommodate a passive sonar array equivalent to the BQR-2B. You get everything for your purchase price, however, the Russian government doesn't guarantee that anything will work. As a matter of fact, the four remaining boats can best be described as marginally sea worthy.

The last Tango to be sold went to Yuri Luzhkov who has made the boat ready for the public by refurbishing the interior. He then towed the boat from its dock in Severodvinsk up several rivers to Moscow where it had access ports cut into its hull at the bow and stern for public entry. It was docked at the Moscow River Quay adjacent to the Moscow Central Park of Culture and Rest where for a nominal fee one can visit this rather modern museum piece. Luzhkov expects the display to pay his money back in about two years.

This is not the first Tango class boat to be used as a tourist attraction. In Hamburg, Germany a Tango 641B has been named the U-434 and is a big hit with visitors to the gray city. Although the actual U-434 was sunk on its first patrol in the North Sea in 1941 and the Russian boat has no resemblance to the real U-434 the public doesn't seem to mind. To most folks all submarines are pretty much alike. The boat has long since paid for itself and is making its investors a tidy profit.

The Chinese, always out to out-do its neighbors sold an old aircraft carrier to some local Shanghai investors. It had been built in Russia and the Chinese had paid big bucks for it. The investors bought it for scrap and docked it in a fashionable Shanghai district. They then went to work on it, putting in dance halls, gambling casinos, sports halls, restaurants and hotel. By all accounts the investment is paying off handsomely.

In America we have two Foxtrot submarines- one in Los Angeles, one in Seattle and at least one on the east coast. The conventional Soviet submarine classes had American identifications starting with the Whiskey class boats. These were replaced by Romeo class boats and the Foxtrots followed, being at their best in the 1950s and 60s. The Tangos were a later, and entirely new class in the 1970s. Only forty were built and nearly all of these are rusting hulks stranded at low tide along a few Russian rivers. The four remaining salvageable boats should be regarded from the financial point of view as "high risk ventures". Still, you have to admit, the price is right.

See the attached pictures for inside detail.

Photo of a Russian Tango

A Tango class boat at sea during the cold war.

Photo of a U-434

The U-434 alongside and rigged for visitors.

U-434 engine room showing two of its three engines.
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U-434 maneuvering room showing three annunciators on right bulkhead.
(Click on the photo for a larger, high-resolution (904 KB) photo!)