The November class SSN was the Soviet Union’s first nuclear powered attack submarine. Although designed with a less reliable nuclear power plant and machinery than her American counterparts, the Soviet reactors were more compact and had a better power-to-weight ratio than American designs. She was also the first nuclear attack submarine to be given a round, streamlined hull shape. Until this time, American nuclear boats had hulls similar to their WWII counterparts. See, for example, USS Nautilus or USS Halibut.
In the Soviet union, the design was known as Project 627, the “Whale” to those working on it. The Class comprised 14 boats, and all are retired from active service and stricken from the Russian Navy’s lists. By the standards of the day, the November class was a rather noisy boat, with little in the way of interior silencing. However, she was fitted with an anecoic coating to reduce active sonar detection. This coating was developed from a similar product developed by the German Navy in WWII, and applied late in the war to the new Type-XXI U-Boats.
The initial mission of the November class was to maneuver outside of American ports and attack them with large, thermonuclear tipped torpedoes. These monsters were designated T-15, and had immense dimensions, being 1555mm in diameter, and 23 meters in length! T-15 torpedoes used a gas-steam power plant, and had a range of 45-50 KM. The November was to have a single tube for firing these, and two standard 533mm tubes for regular torpedoes mounted abreast in the bow. Tactical doctrine was to quietly approach the designated harbor, then launch the thermonuclear torpedo and make it’s escape. Soviet strategic analysts felt that the destruction of harbors and facilities would impede American support of a war in Europe, since the majority of supplies and troops would have to come by sea.
After much debate, it was determined to scrap this idea, and change the mission for the November to that of interdiction of US supply ships at sea. As a result, the T-15 Torpedo was stricken from the design and a battery of 8 533mm torpedo tubes were installed. The November still carried a mix of 20 conventional & nuclear-tipped torpedoes, but the harbor-destroying thermonuclear T-15 was, thankfully, not used.
For more on how the November would look if designed for the T-15, see here. The site is in Russian, but the plans speak for themselves.
November class boats developed ~22,000 horsepower, used a single-shaft and screw, driving her at up to 30kts submerged. She displaced ~4300 tons submerged, and was ~108m long, and ~8 m in width., depending upon the specific boat in question.
Construction of the November class began in 1957 and ended with the 14th boat in 1963. The last operational November was retired in 1990. During it’s service life, 2 were lost. One was lost in the Bay of Biscay, and it’s position is referred to by the US Navy as the “Lost November Datum”. The other was intentionally sunk in a training area of the Kara sea after a serious reactor incident. One other November was lost in 2003 in the Barents sea while being towed to the breaker’s yard. 9 sailors lost their lives in this incident, with one saved. More on this event may be found here.