NMS Delfinul

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NMS Delfinul in June 1936
Name: NMS Delfinul
Builder: Italian naval base and shipyard, Fiume
Completed: 1931
Commissioned: 1936
Out of service: 1944
Refit: Galați shipyard, starting late 1942
Reinstated: 1951
Fate: Stricken 1957
Soviet Union
Name: TS-3
Commissioned: 1944
Decommissioned: 1945
Fate: Returned to Romania in 1951
General characteristics
  • Surfaced: 650t
  • Submerged: 900t
Length: 68 m (223 ft)
Beam: 5.9 m (19 ft)
Draught: 3.6 m (12 ft)
Propulsion: Krupp diesel engine
  • Surfaced: 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph)
  • Submerged: 9 knots (17 km/h; 10 mph)
Range: 2,000 nautical miles (3,704 km; 2,302 mi)
Complement: 40
  • 1 × 102 mm (4.01 inches) forward mounted Bofors naval gun
  • Four forward and two aft 533 mm torpedo tubes

NMS Delfinul (The Dolphin) was a Romanian submarine that served in the Black Sea during the Second World War. It was the first submarine of the Romanian Navy, built in Italy under Romanian supervision.[1]

Construction and early service[edit]

Delfinul was ordered in 1927 from the Italian naval base and shipyard at Fiume (today Rijeka, Croatia). It was completed in 1931, but was accepted by Romania as the country's first submarine only in 1936, after the many corrections required by the Romanians were completed.[2][3]

Role in World War II[edit]

Delfinul played an important role in the Black Sea war against the Soviet Union in World War II. Its home base was the Constanța Naval Base, from where the submarine completed nine war time patrols. When Romania entered the war (22 June 1941), the navy had only one submarine, but that presence meant that the Soviet Black Sea Fleet had to secure an anti-submarine service for its convoys and near its naval bases. As a fleet in being, the Delfinul had only to exist rather than taking part in the battles. It was kept under shelter in Constanța and rarely got out to do a reconnaissance mission. That changed when two modern submarines were built at the Galați shipyard in Eastern Romania (Rechinul-The Shark and Marsuinul-The Porpoise).

Patrol 1[edit]

Căpitan (USN rank - lieutenant) Constantin Costăchescu commanded Delfinul on its first war patrol which lasted 22–27 June 1941. A simple reconnaissance mission 60 nautical miles (111 km; 69 mi) from shore. On 26 June at 00:30, Costăchescu reported back to Constanța that a large Soviet war group was approaching Constanța. Because they lost their element of surprise, the Soviets lost a destroyer (Moskva) and the lead ship Kharkov and the cruiser Voroshilov were damaged in the following battle.

Patrol 2[edit]

The next patrol took place from 10–20 July, under the command of Căpitan (USN rank - Lieutenant) Corneliu Lungu. Delfinul patrolled the south of the Crimean peninsula and made a reconnaissance mission in Novorosiisk, trying to evaluate the anti-aircraft and anti-submarine capabilities of the enemy naval base. On 13 July it was south west of Cape Idokopas, and on 15 July it reached the south of Feodosiya. In that area, they spotted an enemy ship, but it vanished shortly after. During the night it was detected by an enemy patrol craft. It quickly submerged and it wasn't attacked. On 16 July, the gyro compass broke down and the submarine began its journey for home. 95 nautical miles (176 km; 109 mi) from Cape Sabla, they spotted a small Russian submarine on the surface, probably from the Malyutka class. They tried to attack it with the deck gun, but the rough seas and two unidentified hydroplanes determined the commanding officer to dive the boat and break contact.

On 30 July, Delfinul was scheduled to start another patrol, at 16:00 (4:00 pm). But an engine malfunction made it return to port at 19:00 (7:00 pm).

Patrol 3[edit]

On the third patrol (12–20 August 1941), Delfinul returned under the command of Căpitan Costăchescu. Its mission, to attack the convoys leaving or arriving at Odessa. They only had two poor chances to attack anything, on the night of 13–14 August and on 19 August, but they could not maintain contact. The sector was abundant in enemy patrol craft and hydroplanes. The submarine also made a reconnaissance mission of the coast of Crimea, and, on the way home, they were attacked by the M-33 submarine. The torpedo overshot, and when the M-33 surfaced, it was attacked with the machine gun.

Patrol 4[edit]

The 4th patrol (3–19 September), took Delfinul deeper in enemy-controlled waters. This time, the chance to attack surface vessels really presented itself. After spotting two convoys which Delfinul couldn't follow, on the 9 September, at 9:35, it was detected on the surface by a cruiser, which Căpitan (USN rank - Lieutenant) Corneliu Lungu identified as the Komintern. The submarine carefully maneuvered because of the underwater rocks. In the following days, the submarine had some chances of attack but the rough seas made it impossible. On the 10 September, the submarine got into firing range of a 2 ship convoy 20 NM west from Cape Otrishenok, but the charge of an escort vessel forced Căpitan Lungu to submerge and lose contact. Another chance presented itself on the 16 September at 5:05 west of Novorosiisk, in the form of a Russian tanker and its escort. But the escort spotted the periscope. When they raised the periscope again, the CO saw that the escort called for help so he submerged and left the area, following the directive to take no chances with the escorts. On the 17 September it took a course for Constanța, and, on the way back, it was spotted by a number of Russian hydroplanes and even depth charged by a patrol craft.

Patrol 5[edit]

The fifth patrol took place between the 2 and 7 November 1941 and it is the patrol when the only attack of Delfinul took place. Its mission, the attack of the convoys destined for Sevastopol. Its CO was Constantin Costăchescu. Near Constanţa they spotted an enemy submarine, but because of the darkness, they lost it. On the morning of the 5 September the submarine reached the neighboring waters of Ialta. At 6:36 they spotted a patrol vessel and kept watch. Around 8:05, sub-lieutenant Constantin Stegaru spotted a big transport vessel on a course of 290, steaming for Ialta. At 8:15, the ship turned to the left closing on the submarine. The CO decided to wait for the ship to pass behind him and shot from an aft tube. At 8:43, Delfinul launched a torpedo from tube 6, from 800 meters (2624 feet, 874 yards) away. The torpedo explosion, followed by a bigger one could be heard, moment after the launch. It is possible that the ship wasn't escorted because the first contact with a submarine hunter ship came in an hour after the attack. The depth charging lasted from 10:30 until 18:30 (6:30 pm). There were 23 passes and 80 to 90 explosions from depth charges. During the attack, Căpitan (USN rank - Lieutenant) Constantin Costăchescu dove the submarine deeper and deeper, and the enemy was listening, he would stop the submarine's machinery. Afterwards they went near the Turkish coast, but a dreadful storm made the trip home a difficult venture. Căpitan (USN rank - Lieutenant) Constantin Costăchescu was later awarded the Order of Mihai the Brave 3rd Class for the attack. Romanian historians identified the sunken ship as being the cargo boat Uralles (1975 tonnes), but the soviet archives state that the Uralles was sunk by Luftwaffe bombs in the port of Eupatoria on the 29 October. The identity of the ship is still debated.

Patrol 6[edit]

The mission of the sixth patrol was to cut the Russian communication routes between Batumi and Istanbul. Delfinul left port on the 30 November, but because of bad weather, it was forced to return to base on the 3 December 1941.

Patrol 7[edit]

The seventh patrol (6–13 December) took Delfinul back to the Batumi-Istanbul line. It didn't detect any enemy convoys. On its way back, it detected two Russian submarines near Constanța.

Patrol 8[edit]

The first patrol of 1942 (18–30 May) found Delfinul under the command of Locotenent Comandor (USN rank - Lieutenant Commander) Constantin Lungu, who had been promoted. It patrolled the north side of the Turkish coast without detecting anything. It was attacked by two Russian planes on the 27 May, without sustaining any damage.

Patrol 9[edit]

The last patrol of Delfinul (25 June – 3 July 1942) was carried out near Yalta. On the 27 June they arrived in the operation theatre but were forced to stay submerged because of enemy aircraft. Between 4:26 and 15:30 (3:30 pm) Delfinul was the target of 240 anti submarine bombs. A fuel tank cracked. After 16:00 (4:00 pm) enemy patrol crafts appeared, and Căpitan (USN rank - Lieutenant) Costăchescu ordered a full stop on the electric motors. The next day, the submarine was spotted on the surface by an enemy aircraft at 16:12 (4:12 pm). Some gun bullets damaged its conning tower. On the 1 July, the last day of the Sevastopol evacuation, the Russian flotilla was very active in the Crimean zone, so Delfinul was spotted and hunted for 13 hours. Between 7:35 and 10:30 there were counted 107 depth charges. Around 13:00 (1:00 pm) there was an attack with 20 bombs, and at 15:40 (3:40 pm) another 24. In the evening, between 19:30 (7:30 pm) and 20:00 (8:00 pm), 82 depth charges and bombs exploded near the submarine and 35 away from it. In total 268 explosions, mainly air dropped anti submarine bombs and few depth charges. After the patrol ended, the submarine was sent for a total refit at the Galați shipyard, arriving there on 24 November.[4]

The end[edit]

After the 23 August 1944 coup, it was confiscated by Soviet forces and commissioned as TS-3 on 20 October 1944. After a short career in the Soviet Navy, it was decommissioned on 12 October 1945.[5] The submarine was eventually returned to Romania in 1951 and stricken in 1957.[6]

The legacy[edit]

The name Delfinul was passed to the only Romanian Navy submarine still in service today. It was bought from the Russians in the 1980s and it's an improved diesel-electric attack Kilo class submarine. The new Delfinul is still waiting for its new battery packs since the early '90s.

Audaces Fortuna Juvat[edit]

Delfinul is the most successful Romanian submarine of all time. The Romanian Submarine Service had as motto the Latin expression: "Audaces Fortuna Juvat" which means "Fortune favors the bold" (rom.-"Norocul îi ajutǎ pe cei îndrǎzneți").

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robert Gardiner, Warship 1992, p. 151
  2. ^ Paul E. Fontenoy, Submarines: An Illustrated History of Their Impact, p. 230
  3. ^ W.M. Thornton, Submarine Insignia and Submarine Services of the World, p. 100
  4. ^ Robert Gardiner, Warship 1992, p. 150
  5. ^ Mikhail Monakov, Jurgen Rohwer, Stalin's Ocean-going Fleet: Soviet Naval Strategy and Shipbuilding Programs 1935-1953, p. 274
  6. ^ Paul E. Fontenoy, Submarines: An Illustrated History of Their Impact, p. 230
  • Koslinski N., Stanescu R. (1996). Marina Romana in al Doilea Razboi Mondial vol. I. Editura Fat-Frumos. 
  • Victor Nitu (2007). "NMS Delfinul".