Through the millennia, warships, squadrons and fleets have operated in a vacuum. Once free from the land and political authorities, a naval commander relied upon his existing orders or according to his own dictates. Once unleashed from port, a naval force was an unguided missile. The government or admiralty in the homeland could do little to change the orders or direction of the naval force. Sure a frigate or sloop could be dispatched with new orders but it was very problematic if the dispatch vessel could even find the force, or if it could, could find the force in time. The start of the 20th Century saw a revolution in naval communications with the advent of the wireless radio.
With the advent of radio naval orders could be altered or revoked through use of the wireless. However, radio transmissions were still at the mercy of climatic conditions or through dead zones in which the force was outside the range of the radio. Navies tried variations of remedies to correct this problem. Most typically retransmitters were stationed on islands or other land holding in order to allow a message to be rebroadcast in order to fill the gaps. However, there was another remedy. Ships could be specifically outfitted as communications vessels, whose sole purpose was to extend the radio range of the national command authority to the combatant force.
In 1952 Josef Stalin had already started an enormous naval construction program in order to provide the Soviet Union with a blue ocean fleet. One link in the total force was a design for communication vessels in order to extend the communications range of the Soviet high command to their new fleet. The answer was Project 357 Communication Cutter (Kater Svyazi). The design was developed in 1952 in Zelenodolsk. Although the death of Stalin in 1953 brought about a retrenchment in the Soviet naval building program, the vessels of Project 357 were continued. Between 1954 and 1956 eighteen of the communication vessels were built and served in the Baltic Sea. Their sole mission was to provide a reliable control of the orders for the Soviet naval forces, amphibious forces, transports, retranslation and messenger service. With the emergence of satellite communications, the need for dedicated communication ships evaporated and the Project 357 vessels were retired by 1970. Several of these vessels served as Young Seamanís Clubs, which provided entertainment for Soviet ratings.
Project 357vessels displaced 292-tons. They were 51.75m in length with a 6.2m beam and 2.07m draught. Powered by two diesel engines, which generated 2,200ihp, the vessels were capable of 17.9-knots. Since their mission contemplated that they remain to the rear of the combatant force, they were not heavily armed. Their armament was an unusual mixture. Two power turrets, each with two 25mm AA guns was the primary armament. This was entirely logical, as aircraft would provide the greatest threat to these vessels. What was unusual for many was the capability to lay 12 mines. That would be unusual for most navies but really not for the Soviet Navy. Russian naval forces, whether Imperial or Soviet, have always laid great emphasis on mine warfare. Indeed the naval mine was the primary Russian naval weapon system in the Baltic in World War One. This tradition was continued with the Soviet Union. It is clear that the Project 357 vessels had a secondary capability and mission to engage in mine warfare.
Combrig is always bringing new and exotic topics to the 1:700 scale modeler and the Project 357 communication vessel surely ranks as an exotic topic. The model is very simple with only 13 resin parts. The Combrig hull is small and yet has great detail. Numerous access hatches, bollards, skylights, as well as a very unusual bow plan and breakwater add a lot of detail to the hull. The forward superstructure has a very pleasing design with solid splinter shielding for the rather streamlined superstructure profile. You will have to do some minor cleanup at the waterline, as the hull was cast on a resin wafer and the wafer remnants, as seen in the photographs, should be sanded.
The two open-toped turrets are also of an unusual design. The twin 25mm guns in each turret are not mounted side by side but in an over and under arrangement, with one gun on top of the other. Other resin parts consist of two fine cable reels, two anchors, two boats, two rafts, three davits and a mast. No photo-etch is provided but it should be a minor matter to add some generic photo-etch to complete the vessels. It certainly will not take much photo-etch, basically some railing and about four life rings. Of course you will need some stretched sprue to add the numerous radio antennae. One area in which significant additional detail could be added would be at the masthead. There was a small lattice structure at the top of the mast, which would take some effort to scratch-built and a small radar added.