From Secondary Histories
A Submariner’s Tale
Launched in the early days of the Cold War on October 21 1950, the S-81 was a Project 613 series boat, referred to by NATO as a Whiskey Class Submarine. Far from being the pride of the Soviet fleet the S-81 was a workman like boat with an unassuming history. Built at the Krasnoye Sormovo Factory No. 112 in Nizhny Novgorod along the Volga, she was transferred by inland waterway to Baku along the Caspian Sea for sea trials, followed by delivery to the Northern Fleet when she was commissioned on December 2nd, 1952. Due to certain logistical issues having to do with estuarial water levels and unusual tidal flows owing to the blue moon of December of 1952, the S-81 was late coming on station. It only managed to join the fleet during the concluding days of exercises in the Sea of Okhotsk, where it participated in the Kurile Maneuvers, a show of force in response to the recent American Japanese aggression pact.
In July of 1957, the S-81 went in to dry dock at the ship works in Severodvinsk where it was overhauled and converted to a Project 644 boat. Shedding its torpedoes, the S-81 was fitted with two SS-N-3 anti-ship missiles. Recommissioned in April of 1959, she was one of the last diesel attack submarines of the Soviet Navy. As across the yard at Severodvinsk, they were rapidly nearing completion of the K-19 nuclear attack submarine, which itself would launch on October 11th 1959.
In the late summer of 1962, S-81 was deployed in support of the Freighter Omsk, the first of two freighters to unload cargo in Havana harbor during Operation Anadyr, but the boat never arrived at its rendezvous point just east of the Straight of Gibraltar. Having set sail out of Murmansk on August 17th, S-81 suffered a failure of its automatic snorkel valve forcing the boat to the surface in the Norwegian Sea. Concerned that the presence of an attack submarine would draw American scrutiny to the increasing sea traffic as Operation Anadyr got underway, the Captain of S-81 was ordered to broadcast his plight on open radio frequencies. With the sinking of its sister boat the previous year due to a similar snorkel valve problem, this was one of those rare moments where the truth was the best means of concealing the truth. Receiving escort from a nearby Soviet trawler, S-81 arrived back in port at the beginning of September and was still in dry dock while repairs were being completed on October 27th.
The end of its unassuming career came in March 1987 when S-81 was decommissioned, returned to Krasnoye Sormovo Factory and stripped for scrap. After the fall of the Soviet Union the Krasnoye Sormovo Factory, through a series of sales and receiverships ended up as a subsidiary of the United Machinebuilding Factories Corporation.