In late 1980 NATO analysts identified two new large Soviet warship types running trials in the Baltic. Both were identified within months of each other. Both were very similar in size. However, after seeing how they were fitted out, it was clear that the two had very different missions. The first type was initially labeled BAL COM 2 (Baltic Combat (design) 2) and the other as BAL COM 3.
BAL COM 3 proved to be the Udaloy Class BPK Large Anti-Submarine Ship under the Soviet classification system. It was clear from her armament that her almost exclusive mission was to hunt and destroy submarines. BAL COM 2 was more difficult to pin down. For one reason, for the first time a major Soviet combatant ran trials without armament being fitted. Without the armament providing telltale clues to mission, the purpose of the new vessel was merely conjecture. What was clear was that it was a completely different design than the slightly larger Udaloy. BAL COM 2 proved to be the Sovremenny Project 956, Sarych, "Buzzard".
One characteristic of Soviet military procurement was the use of multiple design bureaus. Regardless of the service, equipment designs were assigned to specific design bureaus and it was theirs to design as they saw fit. The Red Army used different design bureaus for armored vehicles. The Soviet Air Force used design bureaus that became very specialized. Antonov with the AN designation specialized in large multi-engine bombers and transports. Illushin with the IL designation produced one of the finest ground attack aircraft of WW2 with their Sturmovick but gravitated to large transports and airliners later on. Mikoyan and Gurnevich was the classic fighter manufacturer and their MiG designation is instantly recognized as denoting a fighter design. The Soviet navy also used design bureaus. Some were large, multi-purpose, multi-design, organizations and others were smaller specialized firms.
In 1980 both of the new designs could be characterized as large destroyers in the west. However, western destroyer designs tended to be multi-purpose, while the Soviet designs were focused on one facet of naval warfare. Just as the weapons fit for Udaloy showed complete focus on the ASW mission, the weapons fit for Sovremenny clearly showed that surface warfare was her strong suit. Another clue was the yards building the lead ships. Udaloy was built at the comparatively small Baltic yard of Kaliningrad, which had designed the smaller Krivak ASW frigate. Sovremenny on the other hand, came from one of the big players, the Zhdanov yard in Leningrad. Zhdanov had a long history of designing large Soviet rocket cruisers BRK or RKR, as the Soviets called their missile cruiser designs. This had been true since the original Kynda Class missile cruiser design of the early 1960s. Zhdanov had built the last of the Kresta II BRK in 1976 and immediately initiated construction of their next design, Sovremenny. Based upon this pedigree, it was assumed that the new class would be a follow on rocket cruiser design. One characteristic of Soviet rocket cruiser designs was their double-ended armament layout. The gun and SAM armament forward was replicated at the stern and Sovremenny had this layout while Udaloy did not. Lastly the new design used basically the same hull form of the earlier Kresta II.
The class was eventually typed as Eskadrenny Minonosets (EM) (Squadron Torpedo boats) which had been the old traditional classification for Imperial Russian and Soviet destroyers. Although based on the same hull as a rocket cruiser, the radar fit of the Sovremenny clearly indicated that her class was designed to operate as one component of a larger task group. Rocket cruiser designs devoted considerable space to long range radar and acquisition fittings. As a type the rocket cruisers were designed to operate independently as carrier busters. In that role they needed long range acquisition assets. The Sovremenny was not fitted with the long-range gear, only medium and short range radars. For long-range acquisition, the class would have to rely on another unit so equipped.
The armament of Sovremenny clearly defined her mission. She had four AK-130 130mm/70 guns 2x2, compared to the two 100mm guns of the Udaloy. These guns were of a completely new design. Fully automated and water cooled, they are capable of surface and anti-air fire. Capable of 65 rounds per minute with a range of 28,000m, they are far more effective than the old 6-inch (152mm) guns of the large Sverdlov light cruisers, which only had a rate of fire of 4 or 5 rounds per minute with a range of 27,000m. The same AK-130 gun system was also fitted to the Slava Class and the last three units of the Kirov class. Also for the anti-surface mission Sovremenny was outfitted with eight (4x2) Moskit SS-N-22 Sunburn surface to surface missiles compared to the eight (4x2) SS-N-14 Silex SSM of the Udaloy. Sea-skimming with active radar homing, the Sunburn missiles have been described as having a range from 55 to 68 nm. They fly at 2.5 mach and have a 500kg warhead. Apparently there are no telemetry fittings for the Sovremenny, so to use the missiles for over the horizon targets, she must use her Ka-25 Hormone-B helicopter or another asset as a spotter/guidance.
For Anti-air defense the Sovremenny is equipped with two single armed 9M38 Shtil/Smerch SA-N-7 Gadfly missile mounts with 20 missiles per mount. In the classic RKR layout one mount is located at each end of the ship. The Gadfly has a range of 28,000m and can be used at targets from 100 to 46,000 feet. Minimum range is 3,000m. It is probably capable of being employed in a SSM role. For close in defense there are four AK-630 six-barreled 30mm/65 gattling mounts. Capable of 3,000 rounds per minute, they have a maximum range of 2,500m.
For ASW the Sovremenny is fitted for self-defense, rather than for hunter operations like the Udaloy. She is equipped with two RBU-1000 ASW six-barreled rocket mounts. The RBU-1000 has a short range of 1,000m. Ships with a strong ASW role, such as the Udaloy are fitted with the 12-barreled RBU-6000 rocket mount with a 6,000m range. Also for ASW the ship is fitted with two twin 533mm (21-inch) torpedo mounts. The ships were also fitted with mine rails, which is no surprise since mine warfare has always been stressed far more in the Imperial Russian and Soviet fleets than in the west.
The Sovremenny was fitted with a small hangar for the Ka-25 Hormone-B helicopter immediately aft of the stack. Former practice in Soviet design was to place the helicopter hangar on the quarterdeck. The placement of the hangar on Sovremenny was more in keeping with standard USN design philosophy than with the prior Soviet design philosophy. On the 02 deck, it is much higher than in other Soviet designs, which make helicopter operations safer. Since it is much closer to amidship with the range of ship movement being much reduced to that found at the extreme stern. Additionally, this placement frees arcs of fire for the aft 130mm and SA-N-7 mounts. The Ka-25 Hormone-B helicopter is a targeting variant as opposed to the ASW variant. However, photographs have been taken showing the Ka-27 Helix-A ASW helicopter on the flight deck of a Sovremenny, which would add significantly to her ASW capabilities.
Zhdanov started building the Sovremenny at the rate of one per year. Ship names were the traditional adjectives, given to Russian destroyers. Ships constructed were (name/translation/date in service): Sovremenny – Modern – 1980; Otchayannyy – Merciless – 1982; Otlichnyy – Perfect – 1983; Osmotritelnyy – Circumspect – 1984; Bezuprechnyy – Irreproachable – 1985; Boyevoy – Militant – 1986; Stoykiy – Steadfast – 1986; Okrylennyy – Inspiring – 1987; Burnyy – Fiery – 1988; Gremyashchiy, originally Vedushchiy – Thunderous – 1988; Bystryy – Speedy – 1989; Rastoropnyy – Prompt – 1989; Bezboyaznenny – Intrepid - 1990; Bezuderzhannyy – Tenacious –1991; Project 956A ships: Bespokoynyy – Restless –1992; Nastoychivyy – Reliable (Ex-Moskovskiy Komsomolets) – 1993; Besstrashnyy – Fearless – 1994; Vazhnyy – Eminent; Vdumchivyy – Thoughtful. These units were parceled out with the Northern Fleet receiving 60% and the Pacific Fleet receiving 40% of production.
The class was severely impacted with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. The true impact was not at first realized. In Combat Fleets of the World 1995 reported that in a article from April 16, 1993 Admiral Felix Gromov, CinC Russian Fleet, stated that production of the Sovremenny would continue with the introduction of a new variant, Project 956U. In December it was still reported that 28 of the class would be built. Two more of the class were to be built on the Black Sea at 61 Kommuna Zavod in Nikolayev. The first was Vnushitelnyy – Imposing. She was laid down in 1982, launched in 1987 but never completed, only turned into a floating storage bin. The second of the Black Sea ships wasn’t even started.
The Bespokoynyy laid down in 1987 was the first ship of the Project 956A variant. They were given longer cruise missile tubes for the extended range P-100 Moskit-M 3M82 SSM. They were also said to have been designed for a naval version of the 9M38E-1 Yozh SA-17 Grizzly SAM. The ship laid down after Vdumchivyy was the 20th hull of the class. She was to have been named Vechniy and was the first ship of the next variant, Project 956U. Vechniy was to have carried the Kortik point defense anti-air system, gun and missile combination. She was never completed. With the worsening budgetary situation she was broken up on the stocks. Worse was to come. In August 1995 it was announced that the production run would end with 19 in the class. All components already produced for future ships in the series would be discarded. A few months later, this number was further reduced. The 18th Yekaterinburg ex-Vazhnyy, and 19th Aleksandr Nevsky ex-Vdumchivyy were sold to the People’s Republic of China to come up with more funds.
Funds dried up and construction ceased. Additionally there was not enough money to maintain the units already in service and ships started to be laid up. In 1988 Sovremenny had gone in for a refit which was never done. In August 1998 it was decided that she would be cannibalized to produce replacement parts for newer units. Three months later she was stricken from the fleet. Otlichnyy which had been placed in reserve in November 1994 and partially stripped, had to be constantly pumped to prevent flooding. She was also stricken in 1998. Otchayannyy and Okrylennyy were stricken in 1997. Bezuprechnyy in the yard since 1992 had been moved to St. Petersburg for conversion to the Project 956A configuration. She became a derelict after being stripped of parts for completion of the two Chinese ships. Stoykiy placed in reserve, flooded and capsized in early 1999, because a sailor had stolen the flooding valve castings. Other units went to reserve with mechanical problems that could not be fixed without an expanded budget. As of 2002 only four of the class were still in commission in the Russian Navy.
The machinery plant of the Sovremenny class is in the form of steam turbines driving two shafts and producing a total of 110,000 shp. Maximum speed is listed as 32 knots but given the high shp, that is probably a low figure. (Bulk of History from Combat Fleets of the World 1990/1991 edited by A.D. Baker III; Jane’s Fighting Ships 1984-1985, 1995, 2000-2001 Edited by Captain John Moore; Jane’s Warships Recognition Guide, 2002, by Robert Hutchinson; Slava, Udaloy and Sovremenny, 1992, by Steven J. Zaloga; Soviet Warships 1945 to the Present, 1992, by John Jordan)
Trumpeter 1:350 Scale Sovremenny
Since this is a plastic kit, all of the decks are separate pieces. There are two main deck pieces, the raised forecastle and long main deck. The forecastle part also has the deck break bulkhead. The deck pieces fit well and rest slightly inside the hull forming a natural and prototypical scupper where they join the hull. Both decks come with an assortment of molded on detail, most of which is very good. There are a great number of bollards and cleats as well as equipment base plates and indentations. The mine rails running almost the length of the main deck are delicate and well done. The only items that I noticed that could use replacement are the anchor chains, which seem to be on the small side. So far the kit leaves a very agreeable impression for quality and accuracy but then you come to the superstructure pieces. These really are first class. All of the square windows of the large bridge/forward superstructure are completely open and come with "eyebrows". It would not be too difficult to fabricate an interior to the bridge and have it internally lighted by fiber optics. The numerous lower superstructure bulkheads also feature the same open windows, well detailed doors and molded ventilation louvers. Vertical ladders are molded on the superstructure parts, so some may want to sand these areas flat to add photo-etch ladders. The massive single stack pieces are covered in ventilation louvers and other detail. The forward tower mast pieces even have cabling in place.
When you get to the two D sprues you find the armament. The Moskit SSM canisters, AK-130 turrets & guns, twin 533mm torpedo tubes and RBU-1000 ASW rocket mounts are all very well detailed. Each of these parts has detail that rivals that of the best resin kit. As you go through the eight plastic sprues included in the kit, there seems to be an unending supply of smaller fittings and parts. Trumpeter provides two Ka-27 Helix-A helicopters. Normally Sovremenny operated one Ka-25 Hormone-B targeting helicopter but as mentioned earlier the ASW Helix-A has been photographed on deck. The helicopter parts are done in the traditional Trumpeter fashion with the fuselage done in clear plastic and rotors and wheels in black. Since the fuselage sides are hollow, White Ensign Models has already jumped in and provided brass interiors for these miniature choppers. More on that anon. With 380 parts the Trumpeter Sovremenny is not a quick build or a kid’s kit. It is however, a well-designed, well-executed reproduction of the destroyer.
Brass Photo-Etched Fret
The fret includes parts that can not be adequately represented in plastic. It includes the lattice mast and yard arms, helicopter safety netting, two main radar arrays, some smaller parts and inclined ladders. The brass fret is significantly thicker than that found in the products of the leading producers of photo-etch detail parts. None the less, it is still light years ahead of trying to produce the parts in plastic. The parts are good but are not as detailed or intricate as those of the established fret producers. The inclined ladders do not have railings and indeed there is no ship’s railing at all. Two of the Big Three photo-etch producers have already designed frets specifically tailored to fit this kit. White Ensign Models released on this spring and Gold Medal Models should release one shortly. Many modelers will want one or both of these two sets to make their Sovremenny competition worthy. However, many other models will be well pleased with what they are provided by Trumpeter in the kit. The Trumpeter brass may not be as fine, as intricate or as detailed as that provided by WEM or GMM but it is still far ahead in quality of the plastic parts found in other producers’ warship kits. Trumpeter deserves a round of applause for taking this step.
The Trumpeter Sovremenny, as well as the complete Trumpeter line up, can be obtained from Chris Decker at Trident Hobbies.