The Russian Navy’s special operations forces (SOF) will receive the newest P-650 special-purpose midget submarines. These ships display just 720 tons and will be able to covertly deliver special-purpose and SOF groups to the shore and retrieve them. The submarine was designed by the Malakhit Special Marine Engineering Design Bureau. According to experts, it will be a response to the introduction of submarines converted by the U.S. Navy into SOF platforms, the newspaper Izvestia reported.
As Izvestia was informed at the Navy’s Main Staff, the P-650 is seen as a dedicated platform and a SOF support boat. The decision on them will be made after the final boat configuration is defined.
"The P-650 is a multipurpose boat," Malakhit’s leading designer Viktor Karavaev told Izvestia. "It provides for the installation of torpedo tubes to enable the SOF personnel to leave the submarine and a special compartment with a lock-out chamber to retrieve them. The ship has a modular design, which makes it possible to additionally deploy different types of cruise missiles, torpedoes, and bottom mines. Therefore the submarine can not only carry out clandestine missions, but also act as a patrol ship, destroy single ships or shore targets with missiles and torpedoes, conduct covert electronic intelligence, provide target designation to other ships in a group. "
The P-650 has a length of 55 m and a width of 6.4 m. The maximum diving depth is 300 m. The boat is powered by two diesel generators generating electric power for a super-quiet propulsion motor. Its range is 2,000 nautical miles (over 3,000 km). The submarine can travel most of this distance submerged without disclosing its location. The submarine has a crew of nine people. There is a special room aboard the submarine to accommodate a group of six combat swimmers. The ship can carry four 533 mm torpedoes, eight 400 mm torpedoes. In addition to them, 12 bottom mines are placed in special bomb bays located between the pressure and outer hulls of the boat.
According to Karavaev, the P-650 traces its roots to the Soviet Navy’s Project 865 Piranha class midget submarines. These ships were specially designed for covert delivery of SOF personnel to the enemy's coast. For this reason they were one of most secret boats in the Navy. A total of two submarines, MS-520 and MS-521, were built. However, the program was closed in 1999 and it was decided to scrap the boats.
Expert Vladimir Shcherbakov told Izvestia that interest in midget submarines is primarily caused by the introduction of special attack ships in the US Navy. "Unlike the American one, the Russian concept presupposes the construction of ultra-small and low-noise ships operating in the coastal zone or inland seas," the expert said. "They will be in strong demand in the Baltic, Black, South China or Caspian Seas where there are no great depths and where a nuclear-powered boat will never enter stealthy."
The United States is now the main developer of special-purpose midget submarines. To improve the delivery of divers-SOF soldiers, the US United Special Operations Command ordered a "dry" midget submarine from Northrop Grumman Corporation under the Advanced Swimmer Delivery System (ASDS) special program. The ship has a length of 19.81 m, a diameter of 2.43 m, and a displacement of 55 tons. The diving depth of the boat exceeds 300 m. The boat is delivered to the objective area by specially equipped nuclear submarines and surface ships. ASDS boats do not have armament, recalls the newspaper Izvestia.