Talking Proud Archives --- Military

Soviet Foxtrot Submarines: The Cuban Missile Crisis

May 3, 2017

Soviet “Operation Anadyr” - The plan

The Roots of the Cuban Missile Crisis briefly described the buildup to Soviet Operation Anadyr, and some of the supporting rationale used by the Soviets. So let's get into the operation.

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev voiced increased support for Cuba following President Kennedy's failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba on April 12, 1961 and warned the US against doing such things in the future. Cuba's Fide Castro now wanted more arms and weapons from the USSR. Khrushchev agreed. By April 1962, Khrushchev became increasingly concerned with the steady flow of reports of subversive activities inside Cuba, worried they would bring down a Communist government. He was also concerned that Chinese influence in Cuba was rising.

On May 12, 1962, Khrushchev decided to deploy strategic weapons to Cuba. The cover would be a massive aid program. He knew the USSR was behind on ICBM development, and he knew the cost of catching up. Deploying Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBM) and Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBM) to Cuba offered a much more inexpensive solution and one that would cover much of the US with a nuclear threat. He briefed the Central Committee on his idea on May 20. On May 24 the Committee supported the idea unanimously. By June Khrushchev’s thinking had expanded from just missiles to building a powerful Soviet base in Cuba, including a submarine base.

I. Sidorov, writing, "Cuban missile crisis: missing details," wrote that an expanded meeting of the Presidium unanimously decided to deploy nuclear-tipped R-12 Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBM) and R-14 Intermediate Range Ballistics Missiles (IRBM) which would cover most of the US except the far northwest.

With that, the Soviets prepared a plan to install and operate MRBMs and IRBMs in Cuba. The plan was named “Operation Anadyr.” Khrushchev approved it on July 7, 1962. Work began under a cloak of secrecy and deception, top to bottom. Only a handful of officers on the Soviet General Staff were involved in the planning. That group would expand as planning firmed up, but it all remained highly secret. Extreme effort were made to conceal the plan from the the US, NATO, and the Soviet people.

Please recall the Soviets began shipping weapons to Cuba in August 1960.

Sidorov said Anadyr planning was ordered on June 13, 1962. He added:

"The original idea of placing a few missiles in Cuba soon expanded into a grandiose plan to deploy a 44,000-strong Soviet contingent capable of protecting the rocket units and the rest of the island from a full-scale US invasion. It would include the rocket personnel, guard units, anti-aircraft batteries, tactical navy bombers, fighter jets, high-speed missile-carrying boats and even tanks."

The Soviets approached Cuban leader Fidel Castro who embraced the idea. Raul Castro and others went to Moscow to plan the arrangements for the missile deployment. The missiles were to be under Soviet jurisdiction and military command.

Khrushchev thought he could get the MRBM and IRBM nuclear missile systems the Soviets had developed to Cuba secretly. To the Soviets’ credit, they did get enough systems there, installed and operational to where they could have launched a nuclear attack against the US and present a formidable defense against an invasion.

James Hansen, who had served with the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) wrote:

“Moscow has always had a flair for denial and deception (D&D), known in Russian as
maskirovka. Its central tenet is to prevent an adversary from discovering Russian intentions by deceiving him about the nature, scope, and timing of an operation. Maskirovka covers a broad range of concepts, from deception at the strategic planning level to camouflage at the troop level."

However, James Hansen, writing "
Soviet Deception in the Cuban Missile Crisis" published by CIA, noted this:

maskirovka measures were not air tight. In the initial stages of the operation, the United States received reports from friendly nations, newspaper correspondents, and other sources indicating that hundreds of Russian troops in fatigues had been seen in Havana and in seemingly endless convoys along Cuba's main highways. Many young Russian men also had been observed sightseeing in the Cuban capital in checked, cotton shirts and cheap trousers. Although the Soviets and Cubans took extra precautions to keep gawkers away from the wharves and moved the nuclear cargoes away under black canvas and escorted by heavy guard, the chatty Cubans gave a steady stream of clues to US SIGINT (signals intelligence) collection."

You will see how true this latter point was when you go through the
Detection sub-section.


One problem for the Soviets was that USN air and sea patrols across over the breadth of the Atlantic Ocean would see a large number of cargo ships capable of carrying the systems. The air patrols could launch from land bases in the US and Europe, and helicopters could operate off aircraft carriers. So getting the systems to Cuba secretly by sea had risks.

The second problem for the Soviets was the CIA began high flying high altitude U-2 photo reconnaissance missions over the Cuban landmass in 1960. They were certain to see the installation of these systems on the Cuban landmass.

The objectives of Anadyr were to deliver, deploy and support delivery of five MRBM/IRBM regiments, eight launchers with 12 missiles per regiment equipped with one megaton warheads and accompanying ground and air forces. Soviet General Issa PliyevAlexandrovich traveling under the name Pavlov, was in command of the Soviet Group of Forces Cuba.

Peter T. Haydon, writing "Canadian Involvement in the Cuban Missile Crisis Re-considered," said this about Anadyr:

"We now know from Russian accounts of the crisis that Moscow started planning for the build-up of military forces in Cuba in July 1962 and that those forces would include more than just defence forces to hold off the anticipated American invasion and
boost Cuba’s defences; they would also provide a strategic deterrent force in the region."

Anadyr was to be a combined-arms operation involving all components of the Soviet military integrated into a single command structure. Norman Polmar, writing “
The Soviet Navy’s Caribbean Outpost” published in the October 2012 edition of Naval History Magazine, described the breadth of this undertaking:

“Operation Anadyr—the Soviet codename for the movement of strategic missiles and protective air, ground, and naval forces almost 8,000 miles from the USSR to Cuba—was one of the most remarkable undertakings of the entire Cold War. Earlier, Great Britain, Japan, and the United States had on numerous occasions transported hundreds of thousands of troops and their weapons across oceans and seas, but they were traditional sea powers with large navies and merchant fleets.

“The Soviet Union had neither a major surface fleet nor a large merchant marine in 1962. Indeed, its navy did not possess a single oceangoing amphibious or landing ship. Further, beyond military advisers, the USSR had never sent troops great distances by sea. Under these severe limitations, the Soviet Union had begun the massive movement of troops and weapons from its home ports to Cuba. While the Soviet leadership realized that the shipments could not be hidden from the prying eyes of U.S. and other NATO nations’ intelligence services, Kremlin officials believed that their precise contents could be kept secret. Indeed, even after the weapons and troops arrived in Cuba special efforts would be made to keep their numbers and identification secret from Cubans as well as Americans.”

I think Sidorov agrees: "The scale, distance and secrecy of the Soviet missile deployment in Cuba had no precedents in the world's military history." He added that a Soviet delegation informed Fidel Castro of the plan in May 1962. Then Cuban and Soviet Defense Ministers worked out a secret agreement in Moscow in July. A survey team arrived on July 12, initially finding suggested sites as unsuitable.

Steven J. Zaloga, writing
The Kremlin's Nuclear Sword: The Rise and Fall of Russia's Strategic Nuclear Forces 1945-2000, said, "The Cuban crisis became the Cuban Missile Crisis largely due to Khrushchev's rash attempt to compensate for shortcomings of his much delayed and poorly planned Strategic Missile Force …The Cuban missile deployment was reckless, ill conceived, and poorly managed."

Elroy M. Nelson, writing “
Cuban Missile Crisis Comes to the Front, Soviet Union Top Secret Plans released,” wrote:


“On July 10, 1962, the Soviet commander of all military forces in Cuba, with his entire staff, left Moscow for Cuba. The senior officers were dressed in civilian clothing, all disguised as engineers, agricultural experts and drainage technicians en route to assist the Cubans in a massive humanitarian aid program.” General Issa Pliyev is dressed in civilian clothes shown in the photo on the right. Reports are he hated dressing like that.

Nelson went on to say:

“In mid-July the dry cargo ship Maria Ulyanova slipped her mooring quietly and sailed from Murmansk for the port of Cabanas, scheduled to arrive on July 26th (1962). She was to be the first ship of what would surge to a total of eighty-five cargo ships and transports to depart from ports all around the Soviet Union carrying medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles and other military equipment to Cuba. Operation Anadyr had begun.”


The Maria Ulyanova brought Soviet soldiers wearing civilian clothes, such as those shown here lined up in Cuba in 1962. She was a passenger ship. Keep that July 26, 1962 start date for Operation Anadyr shipments in mind. The Cuban Missile Crisis occurred in October 1962, a few months later.

As I said earlier shipments left the USSR via eight ports, three on the Baltic Sea, one on the Kola Peninsula in the USSR's far northwest, and four on the Black Sea. They were berthed at 11 Cuban ports.

The Soviet ports included Kronstadt, Liepaya, and Baltiysk on The Baltic Sea, Murmansk in the north, and four on the Black Sea, Sevastopol, Feodosiya, Mikolayev, and Poti. The Black Sea ports would be the most problematic for secrecy, given the ships would have to pass through The Dardanelles and through Turkish customs, and then along NATO's underbelly.

Soviet "Operation KAMA"

Returning to Polmar’s report, Vice Admiral Georgi S. Abashvili, deputy commander of the Soviet Baltic Fleet, would be in command of the KAMA naval component.

Vic Socotra, an American and military historian, reported:


“The Soviet Navy component of Operation Anadyr, the deployment of short-range nuclear missiles to Cuba, was code-named KAMA. It was to be initiated by a vanguard of four Project 641 Foxtrot (NATO designation) diesel attack submarines, sailing from the Kola Peninsula, and followed by {seven Project 629 Golf-class ballistic missile submarines (shown in graphic), each carrying three SS-N-4 SARK nuclear missiles. The Soviet plan was to base these submarines in Cuba where they could threaten the southern United States, deterring US missiles then based in Turkey.”

Operation KAMA was to consist of surface combatants, submarines and support ships, a mine-torpedo regiment, a coastal defense regiment, and about 6,000 personnel ashore in Cuba and Afloat.The Soviets also intended to send two Project 68 cruisers, the Mikhail Kutuzov of the Black Sea Fleet and Sverdlov of the Red Banner Baltic Sea Fleet, two Project 56 destroyers of the Northern Fleet, two submarine tenders and other auxiliary vessels.

The deployment of the Project 629 Golf-class ballistic missile submarines, the cruisers, destroyers, submarine tenders and auxiliary vessels did not happen for a variety of reasons. With regard to the Golfs, the senior Soviet naval leadership felt their nuclear submarines were not technically reliable, especially the nuclear plants. And this type submarine had never before gone such a great distance.


To my knowledge, only the four Project 641 Foxtrots made the voyage. As you will see in the Detection sub-section, no one except the Soviets know exactly how many submarines went and of what kind. Therefore I focus only on the Foxtrots.

Jonn Lilyea's web site "This ain't hell, but you can see it from here," published an article
"Saving the World. Quietly" in which the author wrote:

"The submarines in this Soviet flotilla deployed (on October 1, 1962) in support of a secondary operation that was simultaneously part of Operation Anadyr – Operation Kama. The submarines comprising the flotilla – B-4, B-36, B-59, and B-130, with B-59 serving as the flotilla’s flagship – were Foxtrot-class diesel-electric attack submarines. They were being deployed to clear the way for the planned deployment of ballistic missile subs."

Operation Anadyr Ground and Air Forces

Both Castro and Khrushchev were worried the US would invade Cuba and take it over. You will see in the
Mongoose Invasion sub-section they were right to worry. Given their concerns, they could couch installation of the MRBMs and IRBMs more as a defensive measure than offensive, and a deterrent. That is, if the US invaded, those missiles would be launched against the US. American officials saw the deployment as an offensive move, though as time progressed some of them backed away from that. I'll talk a bit about that in the Chronology sub-section.


Robert Norris summed up what he thought would arrive and what actually arrived in his paper,
"The Cuban Missile Crisis: A Nuclear Order of Battle." I've tried to meld the two, there could be differences among authors, but it the Anadyr plan looked something like this:

  • Forty-eight R-12 SS-4 “Sandal” MRBM missiles with twenty-four MRBM launchers, maximum range 1,300 miles. Only 36 missiles and 24 launchers arrived, as a ship carrying some went back or they were never shipped. Thirty-six one megaton nuclear warheads arrived.
  • Thirty-two R-14 SS-5 “Skean” missiles with 16 launchers, maximum range 2,800 miles. Neither the missiles nor the launchers arrived as their ships turned back, but their nuclear warheads did arrive.
  • Four elite combat regiments, some 42,000 soldiers
  • Twenty-four advanced SA-2 surface-to-air missile (SAM) batteries, I believe about 144 launchers with 576 missiles.
  • Forty-two MiG-21 interceptors
  • Forty-two IL-28 bombers. Six IL-28 bombers would each have one 12-kiloton nuclear warheads. Some 36 more IL-28s actually arrived and were to be used for attacks on US naval ships and invasion forces, but most were still crated.
  • Twelve Komar-class missile boats
  • Eighty FKR-1 coastal defense cruise missiles (50-60 mile range) with 16 launchers and eighty 14 kiloton nuclear warheads
  • Twelve Luna (FROG-3/5) land-attack cruise missiles (20-25 mile range) with six launchers, of which 12 were to have nuclear warheads and 24 were to have conventional warheads.

On the ground forces side, my information is that three Independent Motorized Rifle Regiments were deployed with motorized rifle battalions, tank battalions and howitzers.

I will show you photos of the weapons reported in the above list at the end of this section.

The missiles were placed on cargo ships, those with large cargo hatches. IL-28s capable of carrying nuclear warheads were disassembled, put in crates, and placed on the ships' decks so they would not be recognized. Furthermore, smaller but highly lethal tactical nuclear weapons were also shipped the same way.


We now know the nuclear warheads were stored at Bejucal and Managua, Cuba south of Havana. In his book One Minute to Midnight, Michael Dobbs "also tracks the dispersal of nuclear warheads from the Bejucal bunker to other sites in Cuba on the night of October 26-27, 1962, at the height of the crisis."

The Soviets, I believe, hoped they could get their weaponry to Cuba and avoid detection regarding the nature of that weaponry. They wanted to get it all delivered, deceive as much as they could, and get them in place faster than the US would figure out what was happening and figure out what to do. The Soviets knew they could label the SA-2 SAMs, MiG-21 interceptors, IL-28 bombers, missile boats and cruise missiles as defensive, and they had an argument for doing the same for the ballistic missiles.

With regard to Anadyr, CIA will tell you:

“From its inception, the Soviet missile operation entailed elaborate denial and deception (D&D) efforts. The craft of denying the United States information on the deployment of the missiles and deceiving US policymakers about the Soviet Union's intent was the foundation of Nikita Khrushchev's audacious Cuban venture.”

Photos of the weapons to be shipped to Cuba


The SS-4 was semi-mobile, meaning it could be transported nicely but would have to be set up for a vertical surface launch or put in a silo. Maximum range 1,300 miles, good enough to hit Washington, DC. Built to carry a single nuclear warhead, about 2.3 megatons. To be manned by the Soviet 79th, 181st, and 664th Missile Regiments, all commanded by Soviet colonels.

The SS-5 could operate the same way. Maximum range 2,800 miles, good to hit any target in the US other than in the northwest. Built to carry a single nuclear warhead, about 2.3 megatons. To be manned by the 665th and 668th Missile Regiments, all commanded by Soviet colonels.

NATO calls this the SA-2 SAM, while the Soviets called it the S-75 Divina. High altitude air defense missile, good enough to shoot down the U-2 flying over the USSR and a subsequent U-2 overflying Cuba. Maximum altitude about 10,000 - 82,000 ft. at a range of from about 4 - 14 miles. To be manned by the 12th and 27th PVO (Air Defense) Divisions.

MiG-21 with Cuban markings, at the time, the best second generation fighter the Soviets had, flown in Cuba by the 32nd Fighter Regiment, Colonel Shibanov in command. Supersonic interceptor and fighter, a Mach 2 aircraft.

IL-28 jet bomber with two forward-firing and two turret firing 23 mm cannons. Bomb load 6,600 lbs. and speed at about 500-550 mph. Can carry the RDS-4 Tatyana nuclear bomb, about 28 kilotons. Flown by the Soviet 759th Independent Red Banner Tallinn Air Torpedo-bomber Regiment.


Komar-class missile boat firing a SS-N-2 (surface-to-surface) Styx anti-ship missile. Speed to 44 knots, two 25 mm guns in twin gunpoint, two anti-ship missile launchers. Nuclear warheads for it arrived.


FKR-1 coastal defense cruise missile, designed for use against surface ships. Speed Mach 0.9, about a 50 mile range. Can carry nuclear warhead, 5-14 kiloton. The warheads deployed to Cuba were 14 kiloton. Operated by the Soviet 561st and 584th Frontal Cruise Missile Regiments. One of these missiles was positioned to target Guantanamo Naval Base. Nuclear warheads arrived.

Luna (FROG-3/5) short-range tactical land-attack cruise artillery rocket capable of carrying a 2 kiloton nuclear warhead. Range 18 miles. Nuclear warheads arrived.