Soviet naval strategy in the late 1950ís and early 1960ís was to produce warships capable of successfully attacking the carrier tasks groups of the United States, Great Britain and France. Since Soviet declarations and writings had condemned the aircraft carrier as a weapon of aggression and because of the complete lack of any Soviet experience in designing, building and operating aircraft carriers, the Soviet Navy did not initially embark on the design and construction of their own carriers. Instead Premier Nikita Krushchev directed the navy to find inexpensive ways to neutralize the threat posed by the expensive NATO carrier groups. The Soviet Navyís solution to this problem came in the form of extensive submarine construction and the development of the Guided Missile Cruiser, known in the Soviet Navy as the Rocket Cruiser (RKR, Raketny Kreyser).
The Soviets converted several of the large class of Sverdlov post war light cruisers into hybrid gun-missile ships, paralleling a similar development in the USN. They were also very quick to design and lay down cruisers designed from the keel up for this role. The Grozny class (Project 58) known by the NATO designation, Kynda Class were laid down from 1959 to 1961 and went into service beginning in June 1962. This design proved to be unsatisfactory in that too much armament was crammed on to too small of hull, creating stability and habitability problems. None of the class was ever deployed to the Red Banner Northern Fleet, the primary arena for Soviet anti-carrier forces, where icing, frequently encountered in the Barents Sea, would only make the stability problem worse.
The following class was known as Project 1134, Berkut Class, known in the West by the designation Kresta I. The design of this class embodied the experience learned from the operation of the preceding Kynda Class. Forty-one feet longer and with 50% greater displacement the Kresta I design had only half the surface to surface missile battery of the Kynda and also, unlike Kynda, no reloads. Although the major weapons systems on Kresta I were identical to the Kynda, the Kresta I was a much more versatile and effective design. Kresta I, in addition to its anti-surface capability, carried substantial anti-aircraft and anti-submarine capabilities. Although certainly originally designed to fall under the classification of Rocket Cruiser, because of a shift in policy (from anti-surface to anti-submarine), the class was designated to be Large Anti-Submarine Ships (BPK, Bolshoi Protivlodoshny Korabl) upon completion. Ten years later, they were re-designated as Rocket Cruisers (RKR).
There were four ships in the class, Admiral Zozulya, Vladivostok, Vitse-Admiral Drozd, and Sevastopol. Their service life spanned a quarter of a century from the mid 1960ís to the early 1990ís, when all four were scrapped. Unlike the Kynda class, three of the four were deployed to the Northern Fleet, where their more than doubled AAW capabilities, ASW capabilities, improved habitability and longer range, allowed them to operate farther outside the Soviet land based maritime defense zone. They were designed to have a greater chance of survival in an area that could be dominated by NATO carriers.
They carried substantial ECM assets and for the first time with a Soviet cruiser design, a hanger for an organic helicopter. The helicopter was a Ka-25B (Hormone B). Unlike the Ka-25A, which was designed for an anti-submarine mission, the Ka-25B was designed to guide the Kresta I S-N-3 anti-ship missiles of the cruiser through telemetry. This design change from the Kynda, made the class far more effective in the anti-surface role from the earlier design, even though the ships of the class carried far fewer missiles.
Admiral Zozulya and Vladivostok were largely unmodified during their lives. Between 1973-1975 Vitse-Admiral Drozd received a major refit. Four AK-630 six barreled gatling CIWS guns were fitted to greatly enlarged positions on either side of the tower. The magazines for the systems were located underneath the weapons in the expansion. The bridge wings were deepened to allow the fitting of the Bass Tilt targeting radars, associated with the AK-630. A two-story deckhouse was also fitted in front of the tower. Sevastopol also received the deckhouse in a refit but not the AK-630 and Bass Tilt systems.
The KomBrig models of this class, show signs of having been rushed into the marketplace. The hull casting has locator holes in the deck for anchor capstans and chaff dispenser fittings. However, these are not included in the parts in the kit. It is unfortunate that at least the chaff dispensers were not included in this kit. They are fairly easy to scratch build with resin scrap. There are also two locator holes in the fore part of the quarter deck (flight deck). I have been unable to determine what fitting is supposed to be in that position.
On average, the resin parts in the KomBrig kit are very nicely done. The RBU-6000 and AK-630 parts are especially nice. Having just finished the HP Kirov, (click for review of the HP Kirov) it is easy for me to state that the KomBrig parts of the same systems and the casting in general are significantly superior to those found in the HP model. Although still not quite on a par with the resin parts of WSW, NNT, Regia Marina, WEM and other major European resin companies, KomBrig is not far behind. This distinction can be seen in the thicker boat chocks and casting film of the KomBrig product. KomBrig has made great strides in the quality of their releases in the relatively short time that they have been producing model kits and quality improves with each release.
I bought the kit for Vladivostok and the optional parts for all of the ships in the class were in the box. It is probable that no matter which kit you buy of ships of the class, the parts will be identical. I really liked the AK-630 parts, so I decided to build the kit as Vitse-Admiral Drozd with the CIWS, enlarged wing positions for the system and two-story deckhouse. The kit comes with pieces to enlarge the side positions where the AK-630 guns were located. You still have to add a rear bulkhead to these positions through plastic sheet or resin scrap. It was not until after I had committed myself to building Vitse-Admiral Drozd, that I realized that the kit did not have the deepened bridge wings or the Bass Tilt radars of this particular one-off ship. It is possible to remove the rear shielding of the bridge, deepen it and add shielding with plastic sheet to accurately reflect the deepened bridge. The Bass Tilt systems are a relatively simple shape and can easily be scratch-built. I had already attached the bridge to the superstructure when I noticed the discrepancy, so I did not do this. The additional deck house part is basically rectangular in shape and does not match the lines of the prototype. All in all, I believe this kit would better model the unmodified Vladivostok or Admiral Zozulya.
Even then, youíll still have to make one major addition. There is a low rectangular structure running athwart-ship on the deck in front of the tower that is not cast onto the deck and not among the parts. It can very easily be cut from plastic card stock. Additionally this would cover a (locator?) square in the deck at this position. Other minor additions included adding counterbalances for the Peel Group radars (made from resin scrap), a counter balance for the Big Net radar (from GMM 700-9), substitution of GMM Head Net C radars for the resin ones included in the kit (from GMM 700-9)(the aft Head Net C is set at an angle from the one in front with the starboard side raised), substitution of metal for resin Plinth Net datalinks (from GMM 700-9) and railing, four bar for superstructure and five bar for main deck (from GMM 700-9).
The instructions are poor. In keeping with the one size fits all concept with the ship models of this class, although the instructions state Vladivostok, they depict the construction of the Vitse-Admiral Drozd. The profile and plan depicts the Vitse-Admiral Drozd, with the CIWS and deckhouse, rather than any of the other three in the class. If you donít know the differences among the four ships of the class, youíll wind up with Vitse-Admiral Drozd. I strongly recommend getting one of John Jordanís book on the subject. There is nothing in the instructions to indicate which parts go with which ship. It would have been far better and easy to do, if KomBrig had at least included a separate drawing for the construction of the unmodified version of the class. This is just another sign that the kit had been rushed.
As with the HP Kirov, I have mixed feelings about this model. The resin parts are nicely crafted. The kit builds into a very attractive model. However, there are a great number of pitfalls induced by the poor instructions for those not familiar with the differences among the ships of this class. If KomBrig had just taken a little bit more time before marketing this kit, they could have easily corrected the omissions and ambiguities that detract from the enjoyment in building their model of Project 1134, Kresta I, Missile Cruiser. Because of the mentioned problems, this kit ranks as a good value for the money, rather than an outstanding value that it could have been.
I purchased this kit from Sergey Myagkov (www.kombrig.homestead.com). At the time of purchase, no other vendor listed the kit as being available. Sergey lives in Moscow and can get KomBrig kits before they are received by Western European and American vendors, although you do pay more to get it earlier. Since I purchased it, the Kresta I kits have become available from NNT. Pacific Front has also become a major distributor of the KomBrig line but I donít know if this kit is currently in stock.