(This article is a continuation of the articles on the Delfin, Koni I frigate (Click for review of the Combrig Delfin), the Reis Korfo, Koni II (Click for a review of the Combrig Reis Korfo) and the Beograd, Koni III (Click for the review of the Combrig Beograd). The majority of the article is identical to the prior reviews. New information on the Al Hani Project 1159TR or Koni IV is in italics.)
In the late 1800s the Royal Navy reigned supreme. The naval construction infrastructure was far more advanced and far larger than every other country. In addition to building warships for the Royal Navy, British shipyards built ships for other countries throughout the world. Armstrong developed a protected cruiser design that was one of the leading export cruisers of the age. This was the famous Elswick cruiser, variations of which were purchased by many different countries, including the United States and Japan. With the dawn of the 20th century other countries had developed their naval construction industry to such a degree, that they too joined the warship export market peddling their designs that didnít have the capacity to build modern warships or to countries that had already utilized all of their native industry in warship construction but wanted to increase their fleet even further, such as Imperial Russia.
This arms emporium reached its zenith on the eve of World War One. The US built battleships for Argentina and sold two predreadnoughts to Greece, Britain built battleships for Brazil, and was building battleships for Chile and Turkey as well as a battlecruiser for Japan, and Germany was building a battlecruiser for Greece. All of this came to an end in August 1914 when the combatant countries needed all of the warships that they could get. There were a few export warships built between the two world wars but nothing near the tempo that existed prior to the First World War, primarily because of the terrible financial condition of most countries as a result of the world wide depression as well as effects of the Washington and London Treaties on naval arms control.
A nation could benefit by having their private naval yards build designs for other navies. Not only did it create jobs but also the jobs created were specialized ones that would increase the trained labor force that could be used for their own navies. The naval construction industry stayed large and viable without large subsidies from their home country. New ideas and experiments could be first tried out on designs for foreign buyers without the home navy rolling the dice on an experimental systems or theories. After World War Two and the start of the Cold War the Soviet Union and United States started furnishing their respective allies with warships but these generally can from transfers of old construction with the funds received allowing for the purchase of new construction. However by the 1970s both countries had started to build warships for export again. One example of a US design built for export was the Kidd Class destroyers, which were being built for Iran, before the fall of the Shah ended this contract and the USN bought the four destroyers of the contract. The Soviet Union also built warships specifically for export.
Project 1159 was one such export warship. In 1977 a new frigate was spotted in the Black Sea and at first was thought to be replacements for the Riga Class frigates built in the 1950s. The new design was given the NATO codename Koni Class. The educated guess was wrong, the design was for export to client states of the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union the frigate was called the Delfin and the design went into series production. The Soviet navy kept copies in the Black Sea for use in training crews of the foreign purchasers. The Delfin was laid down in April 1973 at the Krasney Metalist yard in Zelenodolsk on the Black Sea as hull #201. The ships were called Storojeve Korabli (SKR) or Escort or Guard Ships but were analogous to small frigates. Throughout the production cycle of the different series of Project 1159, the Delfin remained in the Black Sea training foreign crews. In total 14 of these ships were constructed in four variants. Six of this number were the basic model 1159, code name Koni I. Variants of the design were purchased by Algeria, Cuba, East Germany (DDR), Libya and Yugoslavia. The first four warships were of the same design. Delphin, Nerpa hull #202, laid down on October 2, 1974 and sold to East Germany (DDR). With East Germany she was renamed Rostock. The third ship was Kreshet hull #203, laid down on May 7, 1975 at likewise sold to East Germany, to be renamed Berlin. The fourth hull was named Sokol, hull #204, and was laid down July 14, 1976. This ships was sold to Yugoslavia and became the Split (VRB-31) after the port on the Adriatic. The Krasney Metalist Yard basically built one of the class per year and a foreign buyer was found, or more likely, the buyer was found first. The crew was brought to the Black Sea and trained on the Delfin.
With the fifth ship a variant appeared and the first ships were renamed with the Koni I NATO codename. The difference came with the buyer. The Koni I ships were designed for navies of Europe, Russia, East Germany and Yugoslavia, the Koni II was designed for warm water navies. Operations in a warm environment, changed the appearance of the ship to a certain extent. However, two more of the basic 1159 Koni I ships, were purchased after the advent of the Koni II. Yugoslavia purchased an additional Project 1159, which was commissioned in 1982 as the Kopar. No name was assigned to her by the Russians. Under construction she was known as hull #205 or SKR-481. The sixth basic 1159 model was a third copy purchased by East Germany. Built between 1984 to 1986, she was hull #206 and called SKR-149, until commissioned as the Halle. The initials SKR stood for the Russian ship type Storojevoi Korable. Production for the last of the ships ended in 1988 and the Delfin was kept for a while just in case there were more buyers for the design. None were forthcoming so in 1990 the Delfin was sold to Bulgaria and was renamed the Smelyy.
The Koni I had found buyers with East Germany and Yugoslavia but these ships would operate in the Baltic and Adriatic. Two new purchasers of the design came forward and each of them had the same problem. They needed a design that would be effective in a warm environment. Algeria was the first. Operating on the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, just north of the Sahara Desert, special fittings, specifically air conditioning was thought desirable. The other country was the Cuban navy, which operated in the hot and humid tropical environment of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. In so many words, Krasney Metalist said have it your way and designed a variant that would be fitted with air conditioning for operations in a warm environment. To house the required equipment a new deckhouse was fitted between the large forward superstructure and small aft superstructure of the original Project 1159 design. Actually rather than a deckhouse, it would probably be more accurate to say that the gap between the two superstructures was filled with new housing. Now the ship ha a new profile. Instead of having two separate superstructures separated by a noticeable gap, the new design, called Project 1159T, had one long continuous superstructure running 60% of the length of the ship. Another subsequent addition was two sets of twin 533mm torpedo tubes, one on either side of the new deckhouse. However, not all of the new type was fitted with the tubes. From the box photograph of Reis Korfo, it is clear that she had the tubes but photographs of other Project 1159T ships show that no tubes are present. The new variant was given the NATO codename Koni II.
The fifth hull was to this new 1159T design. The Krasney Metalist hull number jumped sequence to indicate the new design. The first four 1159 ships were hull numbers 201 (Delfin) to 204. The fifth hull was numbered 250. Built between 1979 to 1981 the ship was simply known as SKR-482 by the Soviets and was the first of the class to be not given a Russian name at the start. This ship was commissioned as the Mourad Rais in the Algerian Navy. The sixth hull was another 1159T tropical Koni and was built for Cuba. Hull 251, called SKR-28, was built between 1979 and 1982 and was commissioned into the Cuban navy as Mariel, Number 350. Almost immediately the yard picked up an order for a second Algerian 1159T. Hull number 252, SKR-35, was built between 1980 to 1982nand was commissioned as the Rais Kellich. Cuba added her second 1159T in 1981. Hull number 253, SKR-471, was constructed between 1981 to 1984 and was commissioned as Number 356. A third 1159T (Koni II) was added by Algeria. Built between 1982 and 1985 as hull 254, SKR-129, was commissioned as the Reis Korfo. In 1986 Cuba had operated her two 1159T frigates for four years and like Algeria, thought well enough of the class to add her third frigate in an order. This ship, hull 255, SKR-201, was built between 1986 to 1988 and was commissioned as the Monkada Number 353. This third Cuban frigate was the sixth and last of the Project 1159T, or Koni II, class frigate to be constructed by Krasney Metalist, and also happened to be the last of the total of 14 ships of the class to be order. The next variant of the Koni would come from another source.
The next variant the Project 1159R was not sponsored by Krasney Metalist but by the wishes of the Yugoslav Navy. They had purchased two of the original 1159 design and named them Split VPB 31 and Kopar VPB 32. The Yugoslavs wanted to beef up the anti-surface capability of the design by adopting the PKRK P-20 SSM, NATO Code Name Styx, missile. It was a fairly straightforward conversion. Four single styx missile canisters with support structures were added to the rear amidships, two per side. There was no provision for missile blast deflection so the effects of missile firing could not have been too good for the ship. Both of the Yugoslav Koni frigates were so modified and have been called Koni III, although this apparently was never officially adopted by NATO. Split was fitted with the styx in 1982 and Kopar in1984-1985. With the changing political situation in Yugoslavia both ships were renamed. Split was renamed after the capital Beograd (Belgrade) and Kopar became Podgorica.
The last variant to appear in the Koni series came in 1986. The new buyer was Colonel Khadafei, leader of Libya. Of course Libya needed the same machinery for hot weather operations that was fitted with the Koni II vessels built for Algeria and Cuba, so the same center deckhouse, joining the forward and aft superstructures in the Koni II, was incorporated in the Koni IV design. It is interesting to note that in Combat Fleets of the World 1990-1991, the Libyan vessels are identified as Koni III, so apparently the Yugoslav modifications to the Koni I did not warrant a separate designation in the NATO series. However, the Libyan navy liked the inclusion of the SSMs in the Yugoslav Beograd modification, because they ordered a missile set for their two frigates. Unlike the Yugoslavs, who slapped the SSMs on as an afterthought, the last in the Koni series had them planned into the design from the beginning. The result was the first reworking of the initial design. The entire forward part of the ship was completely reworked with a much different appearance than the earlier vessels. The high angular forward superstructure presents a more imposing appearance than the earlier design.
The SS-N-2C SSMs were placed up front in two twin canisters with blast deflection shields incorporated in the design. The sloping superstructure face behind each missile canister is designed to deflect the missile exhaust out, away from the ship. Additionally, the single RBU-6000 ASW rocket position, located on a raised superstructure between the missile positions, is also protected by blast deflection bulkheads, that angle up and outward from the RBU deck. They can be seen to good effect on the photograph of Al Hani found on the box top of the Combrig kit. The Libyan Koni design eliminated one of the two RBU-6000 mounts so that she could carry the SSMs as well as two twin 400mm ASW homing torpedo mounts amidships. The CIWS was two twin 30mm guns. The SS-N-2C missile has almost double the range of the SS-N-2B (Styx) missiles of the Beograd, 45nm versus 25nm. However, to use the extended over-the-horizon range of the SS-N-2C, a forward observer must be present to observe the target and guide the missiles. Al Hani (212) went in service in the Libyan Navy on June 28, 1986 and was followed by the Al Ghardabia (213) on October 23, 1987 to become the largest surface combatants in the Libyan Navy.
The warships had the following dimensions 311 feet (95m) by 42 feet (12.8m) by 13.7 feet (4.2m) and displaced 1,700 tons standard and 1,900 tons full load. Armament for the initial 1159 design was four 76mm (3-Inch) AK-726 guns mounted in fore and aft twin turrets, two SA-N-4 SAM (Zif-122) with a 20 missile storage capacity, two 30mm AK-230 30mm gun systems, and two 12-barreled RBU 6000 ASW rocket mounts forward and depth charge racks aft. The design was also equipped with mine racks with storage for 20 mines. The Project 1159T (Koni II) added two twin 533 torpedo mounts. The Project 1159R (Koni III) added four PKRK P-20 SSM, NATO Code Name Styx SS-N-2B, Missiles in single canisters, two per side. The two Libyan Project 1159TR (Koni IV) had the four 76.2mm guns AK-726 2x2, four SS-N-2C SSM 2x2, four 400mm ASW torpedo tubes 2x2, one 12-barreled RBU-6000 ASW rocket launcher, one SAM SA-N-4 system and four AK-230 CIWS 2x2. The design was equipped with three shafts. For economical cruising there were the two outer shafts turned by diesel engines of 12,000 shp combined and to put on speed for combat a centerline gas turbine at 18,000 shp. Top speed was 22 knots on diesel alone and 27 knots with the gas turbine running. The two Libyan Koni IV ships had a more powerful machinery plant, generating 19,000 shp for the centerline gas turbine and a combined 16,000 shp for the two outer diesel driven shafts. As a result the pair have a maximum speed of 30 knots.
The Combrig Delfin
The smaller fittings are standard for Combrig. All are well cast and range in quality from good to excellent. The stack, tower mast and gun mounts are well done but the 76.2mm gun barrels are somewhat thick. The bridge level is nice with deeply incised windows. They are of such depth that you can use Micro-Klear to provide glass for these windows. Some of the nicest parts are some of the smallest. The AK-230 30mm CIWS, capstans, RBU-6000 ASW rocket mounts, cable reels, capstans and the life canisters are very nice. Since they are resin parts, the sensor arrays are solid. Gold Medal Models is about to release their new Soviet/Russian moderns warships fret in 1:700 scale. Although I have not seen it yet, this fret will undoubtedly be an excellent addition for the Delphin as well as Combrigís entire lineup of modern Soviet/Russian warships.
The Combrig Reis Korfo
The Combrig Beograd
Oddly enough, placement of a few things seem obvious and simple but are more difficult because of the lack of locator pins. The Bass Tilt radar platform is obviously centered on the platform but it took more time than I anticipated. I would adjust it in one dimension only to see that it was now off in another. Again, use white glue to give you needed time for adjustments. The same applies to AK-230 which are on platforms amidships. Not only should be centered from top down but also centered on the pylon from the side. After it dried, I noticed that one of mine was not centered on the pylon, to my regret. The platform on the bridge roof can be a problem unless you use white glue. There is a shield on the platform that should be centered to the rear and youíll need time to make adjustments. I found the supports provided in the kit for the missile canisters to be too fragile because of their fineness and used stretched sprue for the supports of three of the four canisters. I tried two ways of mounting the canister. One was to affix the supports to the deck and then attach the canister to the supports, however, the second method was easier. Attach the supports to the canister, let dry and then the whole assembly to the deck. Iíll have to redo some of the supports on my model because they were not parallel to each other. As with the other items, there are no locator pins for the supports, so carefully follow the profile on the instructions. Notice that the pair of canisters forward are pitched at a slightly higher angle than those to their rear.
The Combrig Al Hani
As noted in the material on the assembly of the Beograd, there are some possible pitfalls because of lack of locator pins for some of the parts. However, if you know in advance the problems and what to look for, there should be no problem after using a little diligence. However, the omission of a plan to go with the profile is unfortunate because a top down view could be very beneficial.
Now with the Combrig Reis Korfo, Project 1159T, Code name Koni II, two new navies can make their appearance. You can have your own Algerian frigates patrolling the shores of the old Barbary pirates or have one of Fidelís finest patrolling against cigar smugglers. Either way, the Combrig Reis Korfu with her long superstructure does present a significantly different profile from the original Project 1159 Delfin.
When you take the next step with the Combrig Beograd, Project 1159R, Koni III, youíll be able to add the missile muscle to allow your Yugoslav Navy to cruise the Adriatic with pride. Also those Styx canisters give the Beograd a unique look, significantly different for the other variants.
With the Combrig Al Hani you can model the last variant in the Koni design evolution. The Reis Korfu, Koni II Project 1159T, and Beograd, Koni III Project 1159R just added additional structures and fittings to the original design. With the Al Hani, Koni IV Project 1159TR, you get the model of the ultimate variant in the series with and entirely reworked forward superstructure. The large angular bridge gives this variant a more massive appearance than the earlier variants. Plus, any modeler has to like the looks of the rounded, slab-sided SSM canisters in front of the bridge. There is no question that the redesigned bridge also makes the Al Hani the most visually distinctive variant in the Koni series. One last distinction for the Al Hani that should appeal to the modeler is the camouflage scheme as shown on the box top photograph of the kit. The Al Hani was painted in a light gray and dark gray camouflage scheme that is so different in the modern monotone paint schemes of modern warships.