Russian submarine

In the middle of the idyllic yacht-basin of Zeebrugge you will find a very unusual vessel: a 100 metres long authentic Russian submarine!

Descend into the hold of this steel monster and discover the hard life on board during the dark days of the Cold War. Test your suppleness and crawl through the manholes like a real mariner. Look through the periscope and search the horizon for imminent danger. See the numerous taps, tubes, radars and buttons and be amazed how the crew members managed to distinguish between them. Peep through one of the 10 torpedo tubes and discover the enormous size of a real torpedo (don’t panic, he is no longer loaded!). Finally you will experience an attack simulation and learn how it was in times of danger... A unique experience!

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A short history

The design of the Foxtrot-type submarines was based on the experiences and data of the German submarine construction which had fallen into Russian hands after the capitulation of the German empire. The submarines were developed between 1954 and 1981, the first prototype with project number 641 was launched on 28th December 1957 on the Sudomekh shipyard in St Petersburg, then Leningrad.
In total, 62 units were constructed with this project number, of which 12 were exported to Cuba, India, Libya, and Poland. The 641 type submarines were used by the Russian navy for various missions until 1994.
Foxtrot submarines were mainly used during the Cold War. They played a prominent role in the arms race in the sixties. After 1994 the submarines were taken out of service and replaced by modern models. Three Foxtrot-type models could be saved and are now used as a museum piece: one in Sydney, one in London and one in Zeebrugge!
Our submarine has been practically preserved in its original state and gives you an idea of life and work on board of a submarine.

Foxtrot Duikboot

Description of the compartments

Weapons - Tubes room in the bow

In the tubes room in the stem, i.e. the torpedo room at the back of the boat, there are 4 torpedo tubes which, after being emptied, could only be reloaded in a harbour or alongside a supplier ship.
In the tubes room in the bow of this type of submarine, i.e. the torpedo room in the front of the boat (here your visit ends), 18 torpedoes could be stored. Visitors can also experience an attack simulation here.

Propulsion (diesel engines and electric motors)

The propulsion installation consists of three diesel engines. A submarine is navigated under water by means of electric motors. The diesel engines are turned off, because these need oxygen to function. The diesel engines are only used while navigating at the surface or at periscope depth. During navigation at the surface, the diesel engines were used to drive the propeller shafts. At the same time, the electric motors turned on each shaft, and could be used in this way as generators to recharge the batteries.

The submarines of the Foxtrot-type could operate at great depth for four consecutive days, after which they had to climb up to 7 metres (snorkel depth) to take fresh air and recharge the compressors and batteries. At those moments, they were mostly vulnerable to detection. 90 days at sea was the normal operational period, after which the submarines had to moor for maintenance.

Did you know that the diesel engines were never used on a hostile mission? The noise of the engines could betray the position of the submarine. For the same reason the periscope never went up.

Crew division of tasks on board

The crew consisted of 12 officers, 12 petty officers, a political commissioner and 50 sailors, among whom many conscripts who served on board of the same unit for up to three years. On board, the crew was divided into 5 divisions: Navigation, Torpedoes, Propulsion, Energy, Connections, and Helmsmen. Under normal navigational circumstances, a four-guard-system was applied, during which every crew member was on duty, per 24 hours, for two guarding periods of 6 hours.

Life of the crew on board

The food on board of the submarine was, according to Russian norms, excellent! There were 4 meals a day, prepared in a caboose comparable to a large wardrobe. Once a day, bread was baked for the whole crew consisting of 75 people.
There were two lavatories on board, which also had shower facilities that could be used once every ten days, if enough water was gathered by means of evaporation.

bezoek russische onderzeeër - foxtrot

Extra privileges for (petty) officers and captain

There were three private cabins on board, one for the political commissioner, one for the commander and one for the chief officer. The petty officers and officers had small rooms to eat and relax. The captain had a private toilet.

The radio room

Contact with the headquarters in Moscow was maintained by means of radio equipment in the radio room. Intercepted messages could be deciphered in the crypto room, where also the encoded messages from the headquarters were received.

The operations room

The operations room is the heart of the submarine. In the operations room, navigation takes place, the depth is changed, attacks are led, torpedoes are adjusted and the command to launch is given to the torpedo maker, who launches the torpedo by means of the firing handle in the bow or stem tubes room.
The radar cabin is also situated in the operations room. The radar is not used very often as this would reveal one’s position in times of war. The sonar systems are in the front battery and living rooms. These cabins were separate, since it had to be absolutely quiet for the sonar operators in order to listen properly to the signals and the noises of ships and other submarines.
When navigating on periscope depth, the sonar operator was positioned in the tower, where he could use the periscopes to determine target distance, safe navigation course, and position. There were two types of periscopes on board, more particularly the navigational periscope with a large optical head, and the offensive periscope, with a small spherical object which could barely be detected with the techniques of those days.

Did you know that radar is short for Radio Detection And Ranging, a technique for locating a moving object with airwaves. Sonar stands for Sound Navigation And Ranging, a technique using underwater sound to navigate and to detect other objects.

The human psyche

The test for submarine crew is one of the most difficult tests in the world. The psychological test can take up to three days and examines whether one is crazy enough to follow a normal work scheme without stress in the seclusion of a space comparable to a drain pipe. A training to learn how to escape from submarines usually follows these tests. Special towers in Portsmouth (England), Neustad (Germany), and Bergen (Norway) are filled with water, in which one can exercise at depths of 30 and 60 metres. The physical examination usually takes 1 day, after which one can be declared “submarine fit”.

The submarine of today

Contemporary submarines have an air-independent propulsion by means of closed diesel systems, fuel cells and electric motors, Stirling motors or nuclear propulsion. Recently, more and more experiments with propulsion mechanisms without propeller have been carried out, since propellers are still a considerable source of noise in the game of tracing, detecting, identifying and destroying.

duikboot foxtrot

The weapons used today have also changed considerably. The large nuclear boats carry missiles with multiple nuclear warheads, while they have an extensive arsenal of self-thinking torpedoes at their disposal for their self-defence.

There are even submarines which can attack airplanes with launching systems for anti-aircraft missiles, installed in the tower.

The navigation under water has also been modernised and can be carried out nowadays with great precision, thanks to inertia-navigation, GPS and computer-controlled laser systems enabling bottom-contour navigation.

The submarine of the future will, next to being used for warfare missions, become a platform for scientific research, since people are aware that they already know much more about the space around the earth than about the deep-sea environment.


Year of construction

1960 - Sudomekh, Leningrad


91,3 m


7,5 m




3 diesel engines: up to 6000 hp
3 electric motors: up to 5400 hp
3 electric motors: up to 5400 hp

Speed on the surface

16.4 knots*

Speed under water

16 knots*

Speed with snorkel

9 knots*

Maximum diving depth



10 launching tubes (21 inch, 6 in the front, 4 at the back)
22 torpedoes or 44 mines on board


Radio receivers and transmitters, jammers, radar, sonar

Body number & type

B-143, Foxtrot type 641
The official body number was never put on the body.
U-480 was a numer given for tactical deception.

*1 knot = 1,852 km/h