Soviet M-class submarine

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Class overview
In service: 1933
In commission: 1933
Completed: 141
Lost: 33
General characteristics
  • VI: 158 tons surfaced; 198 tons submerged
  • VI-bis: 161 tons surfaced; 201 tons submerged
  • XII: 206 tons surfaced; 256 tons submerged
  • XV: 281 tons surfaced
  • 351 tons submerged
  • VI to XII: 37.50 m
  • XV: 50.0 m
  • VI and VI-bis: 3.1 m
  • XII: 3.3 m
  • XV: 4.9 m
  • VI and VI-bis: 2.6 m
  • XII: 2.9 m
  • XV: 3.6 m
  • VI and VI-bis: 13.1 knots (24 km/h) surfaced;
  • 7.4 knots (14 km/h) submerged
  • XII: 14.1 knots (26 km/h) surfaced;
  • 8.2 knots (15 km/h) submerged
  • XV: 15 knots (28 km/h) surfaced;
  • 10 knots (19 km/h) submerged
  • VI to XII: 16-19
  • XV: 32
  • VI to XII: 2 × 53.3 cm bow torpedo tubes
  • XV: 4 × 53.3 cm torpedo tubes (2 bow, 2 stern)
  • All series: 1 × 45 mm semi-automatic gun

The M-class submarines, also Malyutka-class (Russian: Малютка; baby or little one), were a class of small, single-, or 1½-hulled submarines built in the Soviet Union and used during World War II. The submarines were built in sections so they could easily be transported by rail. The production was centered in the Gorky Shipyard on the Volga River, after which the sections were transported by railway to Leningrad for assembly and fitting out. This was the first use of welding on Soviet submarines.


1930s to 40s

Submarines of this class were in four series: VI, VI-bis, XII, XV. The number of VI and VI-bis series boats were almost equal. Series XII was a re-developed project with equivalent tactical characteristics. The first series were powered by one diesel engine and one electric motor. Series XV had developed separately with improved characteristics, including the main ballast in light hull and two shafts. These vessels were mainly used by the Black Sea Fleet and the Baltic Fleet.

Although the design was satisfactory, only limited results were obtained and losses were heavy with 33 submarines sunk between 1941 and 1945. By 1945, some 111 M-class submarines had been completed, with another 30 XV-series completed between 1945 and 1947.

Cold war

Two submarines of the early series of this class, along with two Soviet S-class submarines, (S-52 and S-53) and two Shchuka-class submarines (under lease, S-121 and S-123) were handed to People's Liberation Army Navy in June, 1954, as the foundation of the submarine force of the People's Republic of China. Both the M- and S-class submarines were sold to China, and two more M-XV series of this class (M-278 and M-279) were sold to China a few years later. Those purchased by China were renamed, but the two leased Shchuka-class submarines were not. The four M-class submarines bought by China were renamed National Defense # 21, 22, 23 (ex M-278) and 24 (ex M-279) respectively.

Modern times

An M-class submarine was discovered near Tallinn in May 2012. The submarine is located in the Tallinn Bay between the islands of Aegna and Naissaar, at an approximate depth of 65 to 66 meters. It's believed to be the M-216, which was intentionally sunk in the area in 1962 for training purposes. Divers have confirmed that many components, including the periscope, are missing. It's also believed that the training exercise may have been ordered as a result of several deadly submarine accidents in the 1950s. One such accident happened near Paldiski, where the entire crew died during a failed rescue operation.[1]

Another M-class (series XII) submarine was found in July 2015 by divers from Aquarius Dive Center Constanta, in front of Costinesti, at an approximate depth of 40 meters. It is believed to be either M-34 or M-58, both being lost to Romanian mine fields. The submarine is buried in the sand up to the deck level, and also completely filled with sand, making any further identification almost impossible. The upper part of the hull shows a pretty high level of damage - many ribs are exposed. The aft hatch was partially opened (probably when it exploded). The hull is in one piece, conning tower and deck gun intact.


Series VI
30 submarines constructed between 1932 and 1934
Series VI-bis
19 submarines built in four sections between 1934 and 1936) were 37.5 m long and displaced 202 tons submerged (161 tons surfaced).
Series XII
45 submarines built in six sections between 1936 and 1941 were 44.5 m long, and displaced 258 tons submerged (206 tons surfaced).
Series XV
4 submarines built in seven sections from World War II until 53 were 53.0 m long, and displaced 420 tons submerged (350 tons surfaced).

Both series VI and VI-bis were constructed by A. N. Asafov. Series XII was made by P. I. Serdyuk and series XV was created by F. F. Polushkin.


  • Erminio Bagnasco, Submarines of World War II, Cassell & Co, London. 1977 ISBN 1-85409-532-3