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Soviet Naval Battles - Cold War incidents

Soviet cogitations: 265
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Feb 2010, 11:57
Resident Admiral
Post 16 Aug 2018, 10:46
While Soviet Navy and other Warsaw Pact never engaged NATO Navies in open naval warfare, the Cold War was rich of a number of encounters. It was common for warships and submarines of both sides to observe naval exercises and maneuvers in attempts to gather intelligence. Collisions and ramming, both deliberated and accidental, often caused damages on both sides and while this is not much known, in few instances units were lost. With sailors and admirals waiting day after day the war that was never meant to be, every confrontation was often reason of pride, worry or mourn.

The following page do not list some instances of accidental unintentional collision between warship and civilian ships or trawlers of the opposite side, except specific cases for relevant details. The page do not list a number of episodes when submarines of both sides got accidentally tangled in fishing nets of trawlers, usually resulting in the cutting of the nets and damages to the trawlers.

Sources include open-sources from western media and sites.


Unclear date 1961
American nuclear attack submarine USS Swordfish collided with unknown Soviet submarine in Pacific near the Soviet coast. No damage reported on both sides.

Unclear date Early 60s
Unidentified American nuclear attack submarine, possibly USS Skipjack collided with a Soviet destroyer in Barents Sea, suffering damage on conning tower.

4 June 1966
American surveillance ship USS Banner collides with Soviet surveillance ship Anemometer in the Sea of Japan and both ships suffer minor damage.

Unknown day of December 1967
American nuclear ballistic missile submarine USS George C. Marshall grazed on the starboard ballast tank after collision with an unidentified Soviet submarine in Mediterranean Sea.

10 May 1967
Soviet destroyer Besslednyi while following an American task force in Pacific, intentionally collided with American destroyer USS Walker: both suffered minor damage

Photo of Besslednyi (a project 56) seen from deck of USS Walker during the incident.

9 October 1968
Unidentified Soviet submarine collided with an unidentified submarine, suffering damage (a hole on hull). According Soviet sources could have been either an American vessel, or a British conventional submarine later reportedly sighted in Norway with damages on sail.

19 November 1969
The very famous Soviet nuclear ballistic missile submarine K-19 “Hiroshima” collided with the American nuclear attack submarine USS Gato in Barents Sea. K-19 suffered damages (bow sonar and covers of the torpedo tubes), while the American vessel suffered none.

Photo of K-19 took during the famous nuclear incident when the crew prevented a nuclear explosion.

14 March 1970
American nuclear attack submarine USS Sturgeon scraped after a collision against an unidentified Soviet submarine.

20 June 1970
In the Sea of Okhotsk, Soviet nuclear cruise missile submarine K-108 collided with the American nuclear attack submarine USS Tautog: the soviet vessel suffered heavy damage to the outer hull, while the American one suffered heavy damages on the conning tower with a flooding. By damages suffered on both sides, it is considered probably the heaviest submarine collision on the cold war.
Photo of a Soviet submarine project675 class

Photo of USS Tautog: she was part of Sturgeon-class, the most commonly used American nuclear attack submarines during the whole Cold War.

9 November 1970
Soviet destroyer Bravyy while observing a NATO exercise, collided with the British aircraft-carrier HMS Ark Royal, that suffered slight damage, however Bravyy suffered minor damage but 7 crewmember fell overboard and 2 of them perished

Photo of the British aircraft-carrier.

Unclear day of March 1971
Unidentified American submarine operating close Soviet coast collided with unidentified Soviet submarine.

6 May 1971
Soviet fleet tug Diomid intentionally collided with USS Hanson in Korean Straits, causing minor damage.

Unclear date of 1971
American nuclear attack submarine USS Dace collided in Mediterranean Sea with an unidentified Soviet submarine, the latter reportedly suffered damage.

Early 1972
American nuclear attack submarine USS Puffer collided with a conventional submarine near Petropavlovsk.

1 May 1974
American nuclear attack submarine USS Pintado collided with a unidentified Soviet nuclear ballistic missile submarine of project 667 class, close Kamchatka peninsula. The American vessel suffered multiple damages (bow sonar, torpedo hatch, diving plane), while the damage to the soviet vessel is unknown.

First incident involving a late-cold war Soviet nuclear ballistic missile submarine, the American vessel was a standard Sturgeon-class.

3 November 1974
American nuclear ballistic missile submarine USS James Madison collided with Soviet nuclear attack submarine K-306 (project 671) just outside the Scottish harbor Holy Loch. According a source, both vessels reported damages.

Photo of the American submarine, lead-ship of her class.

Photo of a Soviet project671 vessel: first class to show an advanced teardrop design.

28 August 1976
In the Mediterranean Sea (Ionian Sea) Soviet nuclear cruise missile submarine K-22 collided with the American frigate USS Voge. The Soviet submarine was being followed by the frigate and did not noticed her until the collision: the American frigate suffered hull damage. K-22 was on return following the USS Moinester.

18 April 1980
Danish minelayer KDM Fyen was observing Warsaw Pact naval maneuvers in Baltic Sea when she collided with an unidentified Soviet project-35 class light frigate, suffering heavy damages.

Photo of the Danish minelayer KDM Møen (sister-ship of KDM Fyen): a stubby class of four minelayers, designed and built in Denmark under a NATO design for nordic countries.

Photo of a Soviet Project35 vessel. Classified in West as "light frigates" or "corvettes", in Soviet Union they were at first classified as "Anti-submarine ships" and then as Guard ships.

Unclear day of March 1981
Soviet nuclear attack submarine K-324 collided in the Sea of Japan with American nuclear attack submarine USS Drum and both suffered damages (American vessel had damages at sail, lost antenna, periscopes and a flooding).

1 May 1981
In Barents Sea, Soviet cruiser Admiral Isakov intentionally collided with the British destroyer HMS Glasgow while the ship was attempting to observe Soviet maneuvers. The British ship received damage to the forecastle fittings.

Photo of the cruiser Admiral Isakov (project1134A), the ship on the left.

23 May 1981
Collision between Soviet nuclear ballistic missile submarine K-211 with the British nuclear attack submarine HMS Sceptre, the latter suffering multiple damages (forward outer casing torn away, damage to the fin and to pressure hull).

Photo of a sister-ship of Project667BDR: the class is still in service in the post-Soviet Russian Navy

31 October 1983
Soviet nuclear attack submarine K-324 snagged the towed sonar array cable from the American frigate USS McCloy, west of Bermuda. Soviet vessel suffered damages to the propeller and was repaired in Cuba, while technicians recovered parts of the American ship array.

Photo of the submarine (project671RTM) with close a Soviet survey ship and the American destroyer USS Peterson observing their movments.

17 November 1983
In North Arabian Sea, American destroyer USS Fife collided with Soviet frigate Raziashchiy causing minor damages to the American ship. The Soviet vessel was observing American maneuvers and previously attempted to approach the carrier USS Ranger.

Photo of the American destroyer in 2002: she was the first of the late Cold War/modern class Spruance to engage in such incidents.

21 March 1984
Soviet nuclear cruise missile submarine K-134 collided with the American aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk in the Sea of Japan and suffered heavy damages (had to be towed away). While also the carrier too suffered minor damage, the American rightfully claimed a “victory mark” painting (it was however ordered to be removed).

Photo of the Kitty Hawk: a supercarrier with a long service record from Cold War to modern times.

2 April 1984
In the South China Sea, the Soviet aircraft carrier Minsk had a close encounter with American destroyer USS Harold E. Holt, the latter sailing extremely close the carrier starboard side: the Soviet launched eight signal flares and three of them hit the American ship without casualties and apparently no damage. Still this encounter was the only known instance of a Soviet warship firing something toward an American vessel.

Photo of the Minsk: she was the only Soviet carrier that was engaged in a direct cold war incident (even if no damage occurred on both sides).

25 September 1985
In Black Sea, the Soviet training ship Khasan rammed and cut in half the Turkish missile boat Meltem while navigating in Bosporus Strait with fog. 5 sailors died. The sinking was an accident and the later inquiry blamed the captain of the missile boat. While unintended, it is the only instance of a Soviet warship (the class of training ship was armed) sinking a NATO warship during the Cold War.
Soviet projet887, while intended for training purpose, retained weapons for self-defense and patrol duties. Still it is clear that no Soviet cadet on the ship possibly imagined their training vessel would be the one and only to sink a NATO warship!

Sister-ship Şimşek: originally built in West-Germany as Cold War motor torpedo boats, the class was later upgraded as missile boats with Norwegian-designed "Penguin" anti-ship missiles.

31 October 1985
A Soviet project-1265 minesweeper intentionally collided with the Swedish surveillance ship HSwMS Orion during a Soviet naval exercise.

20 October 1986
Soviet nuclear ballistic missile submarine K-457 collided with American nuclear attack submarine USS Augusta in eastern Atlantic that suffered damages. Americans believed they collided with K-279 (of same class).

24 December 1986
In Barents Sea, a Soviet nuclear ballistic missile submarine of the massive project 941 class collided with the British nuclear attack submarine HMS Splendid, cutting away her towed sonar array.

The huge project 941 "Akula" (known in the west as "Typhoon") was the largest-ever submarine class ever built and a feared component of the Soviet Navy in late cold war. This incident could be probably the only one involving the class.

12 February 1988
Soviet frigate Bezzavetnyy, in Black Sea, intentionally rammed the American nuclear cruiser USS Yorktown, inflicting damages (two missile-canisters damaged) and suffering the same (port anchor lost). At the same time, Soviet light frigate, SKR-6 intentionally rammed the American destroyer USS Caron, inflicting only a superficial scraping.
Close to the end of Cold War, the Soviet Navy and the American Navy engaged in one of the most violent ramming incidents of the Cold War with a deliberate attempt of the Soviet ships to push away Americans who were intentionally "testing" the Soviets navigating in Soviet territorial waters while claiming "innocent passage". The photo show frigate Bezzavetnyy in collision with the cruiser, seen from the USS Yorktown.

Photo of SKR-6 in collision with the USS Caron: both Soviet vessels acted boldly because they were considerably smaller than their opponents (this was true especially for SKR-6).
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