Copyright 2019 by Michael H. Maggelet
During the Cold War, the Carter administration made a big row over “nuclear capable” MiG-23’s and a "combat brigade" being stationed in Cuba. While some MiG-23’s in the People's Paradise were no doubt nuclear capable, the fact remains that the Soviet Navy regularly deployed nuclear armed warships to Cuba starting in 1969, in violation of the 1962 agreement between Kennedy and Krushchev not to deploy offensive weapons to the island. The US Navy withdrew its last open pit nuclear depth bombs in December 1963.
Soviet nuclear weapon systems in Cuba included ballistic missile submarines, nuclear attack submarines, and diesel-electric subs armed with nuclear torpedoes, and cruisers and frigates armed with nuclear tipped ASW weapons and surface to surface missiles. These warships were usually deployed from the Red Banner Northern Fleet, and bi-annual visits at times included a submarine and two warships and support ships for several weeks. Numerous task groups have visited the island during exercises and deployments.
A review of declassified CIA reports and U-2 “Old Head” imagery shows a wide range of nuclear capable vessels visiting Cuba, which included Golf II class subs, November class attack subs, Echo II cruise missile submarines, a Kotlin class cruiser, a Kara class cruiser in 1981, and the Moskva class ASW ship “Leningrad” in 1984.
These vessels carried a mix of conventional and nuclear weapons. The nuclear weapons sytems for each warship, gathered from Russian sources on the internet, are listed as follows-
Golf II class submarine (Project 629)
Two T5 533mm nuclear torpedoes (3-20 kilotons each), and 3 R-21 IRBM. Range of each R-21 (SS-N-5 "Serb") was 882 miles with an 800 kiloton to 1 megaton yield warhead.
Foxtrot class diesel submarine (Project 641)
Two 533mm nuclear torpedoes (see above).
Tango class diesel submarine (Project 641B)
Two 533mm nuclear torpedoes.
November class nuclear attack submarine (Project 627)
Two 533mm nuclear torpedoes.
Echo II nuclear cruise missile submarine (Project 675)
Two 533mm nuclear torpedoes; 8 SS-N-3 surface to surface anti-ship missiles (up to 350 kilotons each)
Kara class cruiser (Project 1134B)
Eight SS-N-14 SSM, 5 kiloton warhead; possibly nuclear depth bombs for Ka-25 ASW helicopter (up to 20 kilotons).
Kresta I class destroyer (Project 1134)
Four SS-N-3 SSM (P-35 "Progress"), 20 kilotons
Kresta II class destroyer (Project 1134A)
Eight SS-N-14 ASW missiles with 85R nuclear depth charges.
Udaloy class frigate (Project 1155)
Eight SS-N-14 ASW missiles with nuclear depth charge; nuclear depth bombs for two Ka-27 ASW helicopters. Possibly RPK-2 Viyuga ASW rockets with nuclear warheads.
Moskva class ASW helo carrier (Project 1123)
Eight RPK-1 (FRAS-1) ASW rockets with 10 kt warhead; at least 20 nuclear depth bombs for Ka-25 helicopters.
With continuing Russian deployments to "socialist" Nicaragua and Venezuela with warships and Tu-160 strategic bombers (which are obvious post attack recovery bases), Mr. Putin continues to ratchet up world tensions and places the western hemisphere in the cross hairs for another Cuban Missile style crisis.