Kirov class Battlecruisers (1977-90)

Kirov, Frunze, Kalinin, Yuri Andropov

Battlecruiser Frunze

The Kirovs are like Kiev another of the originalities of the Soviet navy. Unmatched anywhere in the world, these four units are currently the most powerful surface units ever built. We can obviously oppose the air strike force of aircraft carriers, but even in this case, a Kirov was designed for massive shooting, saturation. Unlike the battleships of Jadis, missile cruisers have no active protection, except for subdivision below the waterline. Worse still, their delicate electronic equipment would succumb to even small-caliber impact. But the protection of a Kirov is above all active: Spotting, missiles for vector carriers, with two circles of protection on long and medium range, then missiles, ECM and powerful instruments of short-range jamming, for launched vectors against him.

Note: This is an introduction on the matter, a starter article. It will be extensively rewritten soon, with the carrer of each ship detailed, and posted on Facebook.

The Kirov has all the current panoply of a missile cruiser, but on a gargantuan scale. NATO, on the fait accompli, had to note the existence of these ships for which the term “cruiser” seemed inappropriate: Immediately, most experts agreed on that of “battlecruiser”, “battle cruiser”, a category that was thought extinct since the Battle of Jutland in 1916 … Indeed, the commonalities are obvious: Endowed with a very great firepower,” ship of the line “, a missing category, they have no protection, no armor, and rely on the range and variety of their arsenal to deal with all threats. Many experts have emphasized the de facto “invulnerable” nature of this naval superiority vessel.


When the second building, the Frunze, was accepted into service in 1984, the US navy, under the Reagan administration, had given up building equivalent units: She found a rather surprising compromise solution: the return to service of the four veterans of the second world war, in reserve at that moment, the class battleships Iowa. These were completely rebuilt and modernized, armed with cruise missiles and state-of-the-art equipment. This choice may seem surprising, but was considered very rational: updated to date, the Iowa have almost the panoply of a modern missile cruiser. In addition, they are fast, with armor-specific armor that is invulnerable to missiles, and above all a 40-mm 406-mm 9-piece battery, which does not fear interferences, lures, missile missiles, or even fragmentation shots. In short, the Kirov, which will ultimately be four units (with Kalinin -1988, and Yuri Andropov -1990), found their most serious antagonists…

Kalinin 1991

The Kirovs, in addition to their impressive battery of missiles, most of them silos in the front, used a mixed propulsion NVC (Nuclear and steam combined), with two nuclear reactors, a solution that the US Navy had studied a time and rejected because of its complexity. On single reactors, the Kirovs run 24 knots, 30 by combining their energy with that of the high pressure turbines. The idea of ​​nuclear-powered cruisers dates back to 1968. The design of the Kirov was finally approved in 1971, and the first was started in 1974, followed by the other three, in the same form of the Baltic shipyards in Leningrad. The team led by Admiral Gorshkov sank on a ship design (Russian name Orlan) of 8000 tons at the most. These studies eventually led to new, more realistic standards of 20,000 tons. The Kirov and his ilk were conceived, thanks in particular to their non-standard dimensions like command buildings of the fleets, with the ad hoc equipments. One of them was to be assigned to the Baltic, another to the Northern Fleet, another to the Black Sea and the last to the Pacific Fleet.

Piotr Velikiy
Piotr Velikiy

Although not armored, these ships had a light shielding: 100 mm above the reactors, and 35 to 75 mm elsewhere. They differed between each other regarding their electronic equipment, and superstructure details. A fifth unit, the Dzerzhinsky was planned for 1995, and started in 1989, but the order was canceled and its structure started disassembled. Currently these four units are still on the lists of the Russian Navy. They are undeniably the flagship. With the fall of the USSR, these ships were renamed Admiral Ushakov, Lazarev, Nakhimov, and Petr Velikiy (Peter the Great). But their situation is hardly brilliant: The first two were temporarily removed from service for lack of fuel and maintenance. Nakhimov suffered from a reactor accident in the Mediterranean in 1990, its turbines filed, and repairs since drags.

Author’s Illustration of the Kirov class


Displacement: 24 000t, 28 000t
Dimensions: 248 x 28 x 7,5m
Propulsion: 2 propellers, 2 turbines NVC, 150 000 cv. et 32-34 Noeuds max.
Crew: 800
Electronics: Radars 2 Palm Front, Top Sail, Top steer, 2 Head Light, 2 Top Dome, 2 Pop group, 2 Eye bowl, 4 bass Tilt, 1 Punch bowl. 2 Sonars Horse Tail et Horse Jaw (SPV), 8 CME Side Globes, 10 Bell, 4 Rum Tub, 2×2 Lance leurres.
Armament: 20 miss. SSN19, 1×2 SSN14 (16), 12 miss. SAN6 (96), 2×2 miss. SAN4 (40), 4 canons de 100 mm (2×2), 8 canons AM 30 mm Gatling, 8 TLT 533 mm (2×4), 2×6 LR RBU1000, 3 hélicos ASM Kamov Ka-32 Helix.

Kotlin class destroyers (1958)
Kresta II class cruisers (1968-76)

2 Replies to “Kirov class Battlecruisers (1977-90)”

  1. Wait, so the Kirov didn’t have a whole lot of armor? Now that is something I didn’t know. Did they not put a whole lot on because they wanted to have more space for ammunition and to allow it to have it’s impressive speed. Apparently this thing can outrun destroyers from what i’ve heard

    1. Hello Aaron
      Armor is not that relevant if you can kill any surface ship with more precision with missiles, including some using small tactical nuclear warhreads. The main point about these ships was their “battlecruiser” nature. Fast, unprotected but armed for saturation fire against any opponent. There was a large debate in the US during the Reagan administration about the appropriate response to bring to the Kirovs. Eventually the Iowa were modernized and reactivated as a consequence as it was theorized that these ships had some chances of survival against missiles and their artillery was still able to destroy unprotected superstructure radars and FCS, making any modern vessel blind. There are still gaping holes in this strategy like fail-safe adn back-up systems, autonomous missiles and the fact the Iowa themselves depended on radars and FCS for their artillery to be efficient. There are still debates about some protection to be used around central ops rooms and AEGIS today. BTW Both the Iowa and Kirovs were capable of 32+ knots.

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