Soviet submarine K-129 (1960)

Soviet ballistic missile submarine K-129.jpg
Golf II-class ballistic missile submarine K-129, hull number 722
Soviet Union
Ordered:26 January 1954
Builder:Nr. 402 Severodvinsk or Nr. 199 Komsomol Na Amur[1]
Fate:Sank on 8 March 1968 approximately 1,560 nautical miles (2,890 km) northwest of Oahu in the Pacific Ocean[3] with all hands. 98 crewmen died.
Status:Partially recovered in covert salvage operation by the CIA in 1974.
General characteristics
Class and type:Golf II-class ballistic missile submarine
Displacement:2,743 t (2,700 long tons) submerged
Length:100 m (330 ft)
Beam:8.5 m (28 ft)
Draft:8.5 m (28 ft)
  • 3 × diesel engines, each 1,500 kW (2,000 bhp)
  • 3 × electric motors, 3,880 kW (5,200 shp)
  • 3 shafts
  • 15–17 knots (28–31 km/h) surfaced
  • 12–14 knots (22–26 km/h) submerged
Endurance:70 days
Complement:83 men
Armament:D-4 launch system with 3 × R-21 missiles
Notes:Said to be armed with SS-N-5 Serb missile with 750–900 nmi (1,390–1,670 km) range and one megaton warhead
Several views of a Project 629A (Golf II) ballistic missile submarine

K-129 was a Project 629A (NATO reporting name Golf II) diesel-electric powered submarine of the Soviet Pacific Fleet, one of six Project 629 strategic ballistic missile submarines attached to the 15th Submarine Squadron based at Rybachiy Naval Base, Kamchatka, commanded by Rear Admiral Rudolf A. Golosov.

In January 1968, the 15th Submarine Squadron was part of the 29th Ballistic Missile Division at Rybachiy, commanded by Admiral Viktor A. Dygalo. K-129's commander was Captain First Rank V.I. Kobzar. K-129 carried hull number 722 on her final deployment during which she sank on 8 March 1968. It was one of four mysterious submarine disappearances in 1968; the others being the Israeli submarine INS Dakar, the French submarine Minerve and the US submarine USS Scorpion. The Soviet Navy deployed a huge flotilla of ships to search for her but never found her wreck.

The United States attempted to recover the boat in 1974 in a secret Cold War-era effort named Project Azorian. The vessel's position 4.9 kilometres (16,000 ft) below the surface was the greatest depth from which an attempt had been made to raise a ship. The cover story used was that the salvage vessel was engaged in commercial manganese nodule mining. Part of the submarine was recovered.

Sinking of K-129 detailed on a Map
Map of the sinking of K-129


K-129, having completed two 70-day ballistic-missile combat patrols in 1967, was tasked with her third patrol in February 1968, with an expected completion date of 5 May 1968. Upon departure on 24 February, K-129 reached deep water, conducted its test dive, returned to the surface to report by radio that all was well, and proceeded on patrol. No further communication was received from K-129, despite normal radio check-ins expected when the submarine crossed the 180th meridian, and when it arrived at its patrol area.

By mid-March, Soviet naval authorities in Kamchatka became concerned that K-129 had missed two consecutive radio check-ins. First, K-129 was instructed by normal fleet broadcast to break radio silence and contact headquarters; later and more urgent communications all went unanswered. Soviet naval headquarters declared K-129 "missing" by the third week of March and organized an air, surface, and sub-surface search-and-rescue effort in the North Pacific from Kamchatka and Vladivostok.

This Soviet deployment in the Pacific was analysed by U.S. intelligence as probably in reaction to a submarine loss. U.S. SOSUS Naval Facilities (NAVFACs) in the North Pacific were alerted and requested to review recent acoustic records to identify any possible associated signal. Several SOSUS arrays recorded a possibly related event on 8 March 1968, and upon examination produced sufficient triangulation by lines-of-bearing to provide the U.S. Navy with a locus for the probable wreck site. One source characterized the acoustic signal as "an isolated, single sound of an explosion or implosion, 'a good-sized bang'."[4]:205 The acoustic event was reported to have originated near 40 N, 180th longitude.[4]

Soviet search efforts, lacking the equivalent of the U.S. SOSUS system, were unable to locate K-129, and eventually Soviet naval activity in the North Pacific returned to normal. K-129 was subsequently declared lost with all hands.

American intelligence resources, with the aid of SOSUS triangulation, would later locate the K-129 wreck, photograph it in situ at its 4,900-metre (16,000 ft) depth, and partially salvage it several years later.

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