Red October (fictional submarine)

Red October (Russian: Красный Oктябрь, Russian pronunciation: [ˈkrasnɨj ɐkˈtʲabrʲ], "Krasniy Oktyabr") is a modified Typhoon class submarine in Tom Clancy's novel The Hunt for Red October and the film of the same name. She was built with a revolutionary stealth propulsion system called a "caterpillar drive", which is described as a pump-jet system in the book. In the film however, it is shown as being a magnetohydrodynamic drive.

The fictional Red October, while modified, would look quite similar to this real life Typhoon-class ballistic missile submarine.
Soviet Union
Name: Red October
Namesake: October revolution, October-November 1917, ("Red October")
Route: From Polyarny to the United States
Ordered: 1980 (novel)
Launched: [Unknown month] 23, 1984 (one year after Ramius's wife's death; film)
Commissioned: December 3, 1984 (after retrofitting of the drive)
Decommissioned: Unknown
Maiden voyage: November 23, 1984
Homeport: Nerpichya, Zapadnaya Litsa
Identification: "Typhoon 7" (USS Dallas registry)
Status: Hidden in a river in Maine (officially sunk)
General characteristics
Class and type: Heavily modified Typhoon-class submarine
Type: Submarine
Displacement: 48,000 tonnes submerged
Length: 198 m
Beam: 28 m
Draft: 12 m*
  • Surfaced: 12 knots*
  • Submerged: 27 knots (about 50 km/h) (About half this using the new drive system)
Range: Effectively unlimited as long as the reactor core holds out.
Endurance: Many months.
Test depth: 400 m*
Complement: 163 men/officers*
Aircraft carried: None

The story

The drama of the story partially centers around the dual capabilities of the submarine. As a submarine of the Typhoon class, she carries many ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads. With a stealthy propulsion unit, she can no longer be detected by NATO naval vessels. As described in both the book and the film, these capabilities combine to create a horrific weapon, whereby the submarine could easily reach the coastal waters of a city, like New York, or Washington D.C., fire its missiles, and destroy key targets before any government or military leaders could launch a retaliatory counterattack on the U.S.S.R.

One interpretation, as offered in the film and book, is that this submarine's existence is for one purpose: not as a deterrent to an American attack on the Soviet Union, but solely as a weapon of first strike. It thus becomes critical for the U.S. government to see this submarine either destroyed or captured.

Captain First Rank Marko Aleksandrovich Ramius was the first and last commanding officer of Red October. According to the book, in late 1984 (according to the dates mentioned in the book, the year could not have been 1984, but is consistent with the year 1982) Ramius and his command crew take Red October out on exercises. Once at sea Ramius murders Ivan Putin, the political officer, and then turns the boat towards the United States. Despite efforts by the Soviet Navy, Red October manages to rendezvous with USS Dallas and the United States is able to engage in a complicated rescue plan.

Along for the ride on Dallas, and later on Red October, is a part-time CIA analyst named Jack Ryan, who reads Ramius' intent and suggests setting up the rendezvous. The rescue plan results in the Soviet Navy's belief that the submarine has been destroyed. The Soviet Alfa-class attack submarine Konovalov discovers Red October's survival, but is destroyed before it can report back that Red October's sinking had been staged.

Most of the officers defect with Ramius but the commander of Dallas conceals the defection from the rest of the Soviet crew, who are repatriated in due course. The submarine is reverse engineered by the United States Navy to discern its secrets. Sometime between a year and eighteen months later the hull of the sub is sunk in a deep ocean trench, although previously the submarine USS Ethan Allen had been scuttled in order to deceive Soviet officials that Red October had been sunk. The technology then seems to disappear, although there are later references in other books, including The Sum of All Fears. In The Cardinal of the Kremlin Ramius says the U.S. Navy is building an advanced version of the pump-jet system for American submarines.

In reality, a variant of the magnetohydrodynamic drive stated in the film has been tested, but proved too inefficient and cumbersome to be used as an effective means of a propulsion system on a submarine. This type of propulsion system would not be enclosed in a duct/pipe (as depicted in the film). A pump jet would be more efficient, but not for a submarine of that size.

In Clancy's books, the Red October adventure proved useful to Ryan's career. In later books, Ryan is able to use his heroism in obtaining the submarine as a lever with which to force a threatening KGB Secretary to defect to the U.S. against his will (in the novel The Cardinal of the Kremlin), ending the possibility of a Kremlin coup against a politically centrist Soviet government.

Years later the truth of these events come to light when political opponents of then-President Ryan reveal his part in the affair. By this time in the early 1990s, the Soviet Union has collapsed and the prevailing opinion in Moscow seems to be "well done", although they put the Russian hierarchy in a political bind vis-a-vis cooperation with the United States at a critical point.

In the story, Red October is the seventh Typhoon class hull built for the Soviet Navy.


In the film, Red October appears much like a standard Typhoon-class submarine though she has a number of significant differences. The aft section of the submarine contains two ducts for the caterpillar drive. The upper rudder carries a towed sonar array which typical Typhoon-class submarines do not feature. Also the bridge tower of the submarine is taller and more simplified, with no large bulging lower section of a standard Typhoon bridge tower, but instead a much smaller bulge. The difference in appearance of the bridge tower may have been an error in the design of the model of Red October as earlier on in the film, schematics of a Typhoon-class submarine are shown which display a standard Typhoon bridge tower but also carry the sonar array attached to the rudder as on Red October. Red October is also longer due to additional ballistic missile launch tubes.

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