Year 1834 - Russian Submarine Rocket Launch

I am not quite sure what to make of this interesting piece of information, but apparently Russians managed to launch some rockets from a submerged submarine as far back as 1834. Looks like they hit their targets as well. No clue why somebody would conceive such an idea in 1834. Granted, the sub was not the most complicated one, but launching rockets from a submerged sub in 1834 appears to be a little overboard... considering that we used muzzle-loading cannons as late as 1870s.

Karl Schilder

1786 - 1854
Here goes the story, "In Russia, after a number of unrealized projects of underwater vessels, Adjutant-General Karl Shilder offered a new one to the Government. In 1834 the underwater apparatus was made out of boiler iron. The crew of 8 men propelled the sub by swinging the paddles, to manoeuvre they used a vertical rudder. In 1840 the vessel has been finished with a water-jet motor. The sea trials the boat passed well – she reached the maximum depth of 12 metres and had hit all the targets. During one if the further submergences, one of the paddles broke and because of this misfortune further developments were stopped by the decision of the War Ministry. - Source

Google translated missile launch info, "The first successful launch of rockets from under the water was carried out in Russia on August 29, 1834 on the Neva, 40 versts above St. Petersburg. In the presence of Nicholas I from the experimental submarine of the design of K. Shilder, 4-inch incendiary rockets were launched, destroying several stationary ships anchored for training purposes. The missile launch system was developed by the sub-lieutenant of the St. Petersburg missile institute P. P. Kovalevsky, who also controlled the launch of the missiles during tests." - Source in Russian

There is no English Wiki page for his Karl Shilder guy, but here is translated one.

In general there are a few web sources on this topic out there, but none I really liked. They all have this weird language which appears to be an electronic translation from Russian. If you stumble into a good source, please post a link. I'm interested to read a bit more on this, for things like "one of the paddles broke and because of this misfortune further developments were stopped" ... appear to be a weird reason to stop such a project.

KD: Any opinions on this? Normal or not normal for 1834?


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Feb 25, 2021
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Well, KD I'm going to have to call BS on this one. Not so much the existence of the sub or even that they could have fired rockets from it but that they fired the rockets from underwater.

We don't have a lot of info.


And what we have is contradictory. For example we have a very capable looking hull made out of boiler iron, which is favorable, but then we have the flippy-paddle propulsion, which is plain ridiculous. They didn't have propellers is 1830? But yet they could make a watertight iron hull.
Its obvious that the flapping flippers were going to fail; anything that rotates at any speed but is out of balance is going to come apart eventually. The sailors were probably whipping those things around as fast as they could in order to get some kind of propulsion out of them. Would something like that even move a boat of that size made of iron? It says that the sub received a waterjet motor in 1840, but yet the project was cancelled due to the failure of the flippy paddles. If you've got the motor, why quit when the paddles fail?

The rudder is another thing, its ridiculously small. There is one image above that shows a larger one.


I think that just getting to the target would be a challenge. Best just attack ships that are at anchor.

So lets look at the tubes. Notice that they are always shown mounted on pylons or brackets away from the hull. There is no linkage to be able to fire the rockets and anyway rockets during this era had to be ignited as was mentioned here...
I probably didn't do that link right. But they would have had to invent waterproof primers sealed into the cases of the rockets and firing pins and triggers and such to be able to ignite the rockets underwater. Furthermore, the rockets would have had to be stored in the tubes, so the tubes would have to be sealed (nobody stores munitions in water, not even torpedoes or missiles). That means the rockets would have to blow off the cap in order to launch out.
Another point is that we can see by the angle of the tubes that this is a direct fire weapon, in that it doesn't arc down onto the target like howitzer rounds but rather fires straight to the target like your rifle. So aim is going to be a factor and I'm betting water and waves would have an effect. Note that the only way to aim the tubes is to tip or turn the sub, which takes us back to that propulsion system (if we can call it that) and that cute little rudder.

This is how I think they could have fired rockets from the sub after it surfaced, which would still be quite the accomplishment in 1830.


The sub would have surfaced and two crewmen would have jumped out. They would either uncap the tubes or be handed out the rockets from inside. Since they have two large hatches it would have been fairly quick to pass them up. Meanwhile the Captain would make sure he was aimed at the target. Its possible the men on the top could raise or depress the tubes if the front supports were adjustable but they don't really look adjustable in the images. Thus the Captain would have to make sure he was a specific distance from the target to make sure he doesn't shoot over it. Possibly he could tip the nose up or down using the ballast tanks, which are actually fairly well positioned.

The rocket-men (ha,ha) would slide the rockets into the tubes if they weren't already there and ignite them on the Captain's command.

Keeping in mind that things didn't happen so fast in those days and if they were out of musket range, it would take a target vessel some time to see the sub, scramble sailors and load its own cannons and respond.
I think if the sub had the waterjet motor they mention and maybe a bigger rudder, it might have been a threat when firing from the surface. Realistically, getting a hit on a target with only six rockets fired from underwater, if you could even ignite them and giving the lack of aiming devices, doesn't seem likely. Note that in the image above, they are launching rockets while tied to a dock and surfaced, but they show no one on the deck so they still have no way to ignite the rockets.
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