Fierce Face - a term used to describe a design practice of the French Navy at the end of the 19th century. Warship designs were specifically designed to have an aggressive appearance, regardless of the actual fighting value of the unit. In the Cold War Soviet warship designers seemed to employ the same practice, especially in their Rocket Cruiser (RKR) designs. They bristle with weapons and sensors. Next to them, many western designs look like merchant ships or floating factories. The RKRs look lean and mean. The biggest beasts of them all, are the four units of Kirov Class.
At the close of World War Two, Soviet naval experience had been limited to fire support, small-scale landings and ASW operations near Soviet ports. Lacking any carrier experience, and with limited naval experience in general, the post war Soviet naval program was extremely conservative, patterned after the German navy and technology. The resulting program relied, not surprisingly, on submarines, with surface force construction being in the form of destroyers and light cruisers. The strategy was to set up sea buffer zones around the Soviet Union, based on a close- in defense.
When Nikita Khrushchev came to power in 1956, the emphasis in the naval construction program changed dramatically. Khrushchev saw the old strategy of reliance on guns and torpedoes as outmoded and insisted on construction that relied on missiles. The Soviets recognized the threat posed by US and British carriers and their response was the Raketny Kreyser, Rocket Cruiser. The Rocket Cruiser was designed to be a carrier killer, using long range guided missiles to neutralize the NATO carrier threat. The first purpose built Rocket Cruiser, the Grozny, was laid down in June 1959 and was one of four ships that were given the NATO code name of Kynda Class. Through the 60s and 70s, class followed class of Rocket Cruisers. Each class was given it’s own code name by NATO. Kresta I class, went into service 1967-1969, Kresta II class, followed them into service from 1969-1977 and was overlapped by the Kara class, which entered service 1973-1980.
The culmination of the Raketny Kreyser designs was the Kirov. Nuclear powered and displacing 25,860-26,296 tons, they were designed from the start for the anti-surface mission. Known as Project Orlan (Bald Eagle) the soviets sometimes called them Atomnaya Raketny Kreyser, atomic rocket cruiser, but as Combat Fleets (1998-1999) stated at page 665; "The Kirov class are the world’s largest "cruisers" and might best be termed "battle cruisers." Likewise, they are listed as battle cruisers in Jane's Fighting Ships 1996-97. The earlier guided missile cruisers were designed to contest NATO forces operating near the coasts of the Soviet Union. The Kirov and her three sisters, Frunze, Kalinin, and Yuri Andropov were designed to contest sea and air space far from the Russian coast. They were designed to take the contest to NATO controlled waters. There are design variations in all four ships. Kirov is the only one to have two single 100 mm mounts aft. The other three have a single twin 130 mm mount. The aft four CIWS gatlings are mounted on the rear superstructure of the other three ships as opposed to Kirov where they are mounted just forward of the flight deck.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, on May 27, 1992 President Yeltsin changed the names of the four warships. Kirov became Admiral Ushakov. Frunze became Admiral Lazerev. Kalinin became Admiral Nakhimov. Yuri Andropov became Petr Velikiy. The old names commemorated historical Soviet figures. However, new names are traditional names of Russian warships carried by ships in the Imperial Russian Navy. A fifth ship (Dzerzhinskiy, then Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya, then Admiral Kuznetsov) was laid down but shortly after cancelled and broken up.
Although still part of the Russian fleet, the lack of financial resources curtailed their service in the 1990s. Admiral Ushakov had a minor nuclear power related accident and has not been deployed since January 1990. Admiral Lazarev has not gone to sea since 1990 and in 1997 it was stated that she would be decommissioned. Petr Velikiy was laid up November 24, 1996, after trials and before commissioning, due to lack of funds but subsequently was placed back into commission, as she was the centerpiece of the exercise off of the North Cape in which the Oscar Class submarine Kursk was lost. Admiral Nakhimov has had the only significant service of the class during the decade and underwent a refit in 1996 at Rosta. (Combat Fleets of the World 1998-1999)
Dragon 1:700 Scale Admiral Ushakov
Dragon has released two different kits of the "Kirovs". Naturally enough, one is of the Admiral Ushakov (Ex-Kirov). As the first ship of the four completed in the class, Admiral Ushakov had significant differences from the following three units. The most noticeable difference is in the gunnery fit. Admiral Ushakov has two, single gun 100mm (3.9-Inch) gun mounts on the after end of the superstructure and the other three had a single twin gun 130mm (5-Inch) gun mount with a differently arranged aft superstructure. Another item that distinguishes Admiral Ushakov is the forecastle. She has a well in front of the tubes of the Raduga twin SS-N-14 Silex (Rastrub) missile system. The other three have VLS SA-N-9 Gauntlet (Kynshal) at this location. Additionally the CIWS arrangement is different.
The photographs in this article show all of the components of the Dragon Admiral Ushakov. A future article will review the second kit from Dragon of this class, the Petr Velikiy (Ex-Yuri Andropov). The Dragon Admiral Ushakov should be available in hobby stores and through mail order services.