Soviet warship designs have often displayed an odd mixture of conservatism along with trend setting advances, all in the same design. At the start of the 1960s a new destroyer design appeared in the Black Sea. The initial ships were built at the 61 Kommuna Shipyard in Nikolayev and the class was called Project 61. NATO gave the design the code name Kashin.
The Soviets originally classified the design as an Eskadrenny Minonosets, which had been the Russian designation for destroyers since the 19th century. When the Royal Navy designed a ship to combat the threat of torpedo boats, it was called the Torpedo Boat Destroyer, which after awhile was shortened to destroyer. In Russia torpedo boats were called minonosets with the larger destroyer design called eskadrenny minonosets, literally squadron torpedo boats. The term had outlived its usefulness in describing 4,000 ton vessels armed to engage aerial, surface and submarine threats. Soviet nomenclature policy started listing the type of vessel by their functional mission. The Project 61 warships were given a new type designation, Bolshoi Protivolodochny Korabl (BPK), which meant large anti-submarine ship.
The Project 61 appeared at the same time as the Kynda rocket cruiser and it was assumed to be the designated escort for the new cruiser. The Project 61 BPK could be built at the rate of two per year, whereas the cruiser had a build rate of one per year. This suggested a conceptual surface strike package of one Kynda and two Kashins. Unlike the cruiser design, which was completely new, the Project 61 design had some developmental traits from the earlier Soviet destroyer designs, specifically the Kotlin design. Both designs were flush decked with a symmetrical fore and aft arrangement for the weapons systems. However, the Project 61 ships were far larger and more capable. With a full load displacement of 4,750 tons, these large vessels were really multipurpose in spite of the type name emphasizing their ASW role.
Soviet designers were never shy about loading on weapons systems and it showed to full advantage with this design. The four 76.2mm guns in twin mounts were dual purpose, AA and anti-surface, although their comparatively small size limited this function. The primary anti-surface weapon was the five tube 533mm torpedo mount amidships. In additional to the guns AA weapons included the SA-N-1 twin arm Goa missile system with 32 reloads. This system could also be pressed into an anti-surface role in a pinch. For ASW the design featured the RBU-6000 system of ASW rockets in mounts which covered the frontal arc of the ship and the RBU-1000 system of ASW rockets for engaging subsurface targets on the flanks of the ship. The RBU-6000 had 12 250mm rocket tubes and was mounted forward to engage submarines maneuvering to attack. The RBU-1000 was a self-loading mount derived from the hand loaded RBU-600 and had six 300mm rocket tubes with a shorter range (1,000m) but larger warhead than the RBU-6000 rockets. The heavier warhead was to destroy submarines that had revealed themselves and gone deep to avoid attack. The RBU-1000 system had replaced the BMB-2 depth charge throwers of the earlier Kotlin design. Additionally following the Imperial Russian and Soviet emphasis on mine warfare the Project 61 had mine rails and storage for 20 mines.
In one area the Project 61 was truly innovative. The propulsion system selected was the gas turbine that incorporated jet technology. At this time USN designs used high-pressure steam designs, which were the most advanced development of the steam turbine propulsion that first made its appearance in a major warship with HMS Dreadnought in 1907. Another ten years were to pass before the USN first adopted the gas turbine with the Spruance Class. Steam turbines were most efficient at lower speeds but the gas turbine reached its maximum efficiency at the higher power settings. The Royal Navy and West German Navy had developed destroyer and frigate designs at around this same time that used the gas turbine but they were tentative designs that used the gas turbine to supplement steam turbine (RN County Class destroyers and Tribal Class Frigates) or diesel (German Koln Class frigates) propulsion. Neither country took the plunge to an all gas turbine system. The Soviet Project 61 took the leap to all gas turbine and was rewarded with a power plant that was significantly more advanced than their western competitors. Not only was the design all gas turbine powered, the machinery used was at twice the power rating of the German gas turbine plant and three times that of the British design. Each of the four gas turbines generated 24,000hp for a total of 96,000hp and maximum speed of 36 knots. "Western Intelligence sources were so taken aback by this development that for many years the ‘Kashins’ were credited with eight, or even twelve turbines." (Soviet Warships 1945 to the Present, 1992, by John Jordan, at page 39)
The selection of the gas turbine gave insight into the intended use of the new design. Capable of fast start up, quick response and high sustained speeds, the design did have one disadvantage, a lower radius of action than steam powered equivalents. The design was clearly meant for sustained combat operations but those had to be fairly close to the Soviet Union or an allied port, rather than a global reach. Indeed, since the efficiency of the power plant rose with the operating speed of the ship, the system was inefficient in a cruising role and drank fuel in copious quantities while cruising. To economize on fuel consumption, the Project 61 ships would operate on one turbine and one shaft when cruising but even this was not economical. The class had fixed propeller blades, so the blades of the propeller of the shaft not being operated would cause drag.
Gas turbines operate at a higher heat range than their steam equivalents and this caused another design decision on the Project 61 that gave it its unique appearance. They featured four huge exhaust stacks, one per turbine. They were double walled with the exterior wall being pierced by numerous round cooling openings to reduce the heat generated. The four stacks were paired and canted outward in order to reduce the deleterious heat and corrosive effects of the exhaust gases to the electronic equipment amidships and aft. The first unit completed was the Komsomolets Ukrainy, which entered service in February 1962. Apparently tests on the lead ship showed that further steps had to be undertaken to reduce interference of the electronics from the exhaust. The fore funnels of all following ships were heightened by 1.5m.
Electronic Counter Measure (ECM) equipment for the early ships was similar to the Kynda cruisers. They had a single Bell Slam fitting on a platform on the front of the foremast and pairs of Top Hat fittings, two above the bridge wings and two on platforms on the sides of the mainmast. They were also fitted with additional platforms for future equipment.
The Obraztsovy was completed in July 1965 in the Baltic as one of the five Zhdanov built units. The names of the ships of the class were adjectives. Obraztsovy is Russian for Exemplary. The Obraztsovy was the first unit to appear with more substantial ECM equipment. She was equipped with six Guard Dog systems, four on the lower platforms and two on platforms high on the foremast. The two high systems were subsequently removed. In May 1976 she first Soviet warship to make a state visit to Great Britain since April 1956.
After production of Project 61 had started at 61 Kommuna on the Black Sea, the type also went into production in the Baltic at the Zhdanov Yards with the phase out of Kynda construction. When the Kresta cruiser design went into production at the Zhdanov yards, production of the Project 61 was discontinued in the Baltic but continued on the Black Sea. Even the uniform early Project 61 units had small fittings and appearance differences among the units of the class. Sometimes this was compelled by system shortages and what the yard had in stock and sometimes it was the result of experimentation to find a more efficient arrangement, or experimentation with a new system. In 1966 the Stroyny was the first of the units to be fitted with the new Head Net C air surveillance radar in place of the Head Net system of the earlier units and the addition of the Big Net system on the main mast. Generally the older units were not retro-fitted as new equipment came on line, except for Odarenny, which received the Head Net C in the 1980s. Ships completing in the period of 1968-1969 received new navigation radars. First the Don-2 and then the Don-Kay.
In the late 1960s the Soviet Navy was actively engaged in forward deployments and came in frequent contact with the navies of the NATO powers. They needed a high performance ship that could maintain close contact with the western forces. The prime anti-surface platforms of rocket cruisers or submarines were not designed for this ability. The Project 61 ships had the necessary performance but were weak on anti-surface capability. To fulfill this mission of close contact with western naval forces, the Project 61 received a major redesign to add significant SSM capability to the design. This new design was called the Project 61M or "Modified Kashin". That development will be covered in the next review of the five new kits of the Project 61 variants from Combrig. (History from Guide to the Soviet Navy, Fourth Edition, 1986, by Norman Polmar; Soviet Warships 1945 to the Present, 1992, by John Jordan)
The Combrig Project 61 "Kashin"
I chose the kit of Obraztsovy for this initial preview, as it models the original Project 61 design from the early and mid-1960s. Almost all of the class appeared in this guise when they originally entered service in the Soviet Navy and were subsequently modified to incorporate new features. As the initial Project 61 design the Obraztsovy represents the cleanest appearance of the class as future modifications created a more substantial superstructure along with the addition of new weapons and sensor systems, making the ships of the class even more "busier" than it was originally with the Obraztsovy. As such the kit for the Obraztsovy has a smaller forward super structure than appeared after later modifications to ships of the class.
The five kits of Project 61 Kashin destroyers cover the entire service life of the class.
Obraztsovy- Combrig model #70336 is of the initial Project 61 design as of 1965. Almost all of the ships appeared originally in this configuration. Obraztsovy had a different ECM arrangement than the earlier ships.
Slavny– Combrig model #70337 is of the Project 61M "Modified Kashin" after the design was reworked to add SSM missiles as of 1975. The major addition was the inclusion of Styx missile canisters with blast deflection shields on the aft portion of the ships. All except one were refitted Project 61 ships.
Provorny– Combrig model #70338 is a one-off variant Project 61E which represents the ship after it was modified as a weapons test platform for the Shtil SA-N-7 SAM system and substituted a tall solid pylon in place of the lattice main mast as of 1981.
Smetlivy–Combrig model #70339 is another one-off variant of the class. Reworked in 1991, the ship also received the designation Project 61E but in appearance was very different from the Provorny. Smetlivy lost her aft 76.2 gun mount to allow for more robust flight operations and sonar capability. Also she substituted a seven-tube 406mm torpedo mount for the standard five tube 533mm version.
Rajput– Combrig model #70397 is the model for Project 61ME, the variant built for the navy of India, which was built with SSM mounts forward and no aft 76.2 mount for a more robust air operation capability. They were completed from 1980 and throughout the 1980s.