Kirov is the only nuclear-powered cruiser class of the former Soviet Navy and the Russian Navy today, and is also the largest and heaviest nuclear-powered cruiser in the world. Among modern warships, they are second in size only to large aircraft carriers, and of similar size to a World War II era battleship.
The fate of the Russian Navy’s Kirov class nuclear-powered cruisers is a hot topic on military forums around the world. In April 2019, the Russian Navy made a difficult decision to eliminate two heavy battlecruisers Admiral Ushakov and Admiral Lazarev along with four Delta III-class nuclear submarines, instead of upgrading them to save money. The ships were originally planned to be reserve in the 2000s and will be re-activated in the future, but Russia said the overhaul was no longer an effective option. The scrapping process is expected to be completed before 2022 and will cost around 11$ million.
Thus, in the near future, Russia will have only two Kirov-class ships, the Pyotr Veliky and Admiral Nakhimov, which are currently modernized. The Russian Navy currently wants to focus on building new-generation warships, equipped with precision strike weapons to serve combat operations across the oceans.
The Kirov class was designed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s. Four warships of this class were built between 1974 and 1986, the fifth ship was planned to be built, but financial difficulties and the collapse of the Soviet Union caused the plan to be abandoned. The Soviet Navy called the ships “Carrier Assassins”, with the expectation that it alone would be enough to take on the entire enemy fleet, but in reality this was very unlikely.
The appearance of the Kirov class played a key role in the recommissioning of the Iowa-class battleships by the United States Navy in the 1980s.
The length is 252m, the beam is 28.5m, the draft is 9.1m, the standard and full load displacement are 24,300 tons and 28,000 tons, respectively. Complement personnel up to 710 sailors, so far the Kirov class is still the largest surface warships in the world, they are only inferior to heavy aircraft carriers. The sheer size of the ships mean that they have plenty of space for a command, control and communications outfit, and could serve as effective fleet flagships.
Kirov’s superstructure is clearly divided with the main section in the mid-ship and the secondary structure at the rear. The main mast and the bridge is fitted the main sensors and various communication systems. The smoke funnel is located at the frontal superstructure and combined with the main mast assembly. The bow exhibited a noticeable upwards angle which gave the Kirov a distinct appearance along the horizon.
Most weapon systems are located in front of the massive superstructure. At the stern of the ship was a helipad and a helicopter hangar below deck, approaching the aircraft deck via an elevator. The hangar can accommodate up to five Ka-27 helicopters.
Kirov’s propulsion system is a Combined nuclear and steam propulsion driving 2 shaft. Powering the ship were two KN-3 nuclear marine propulsion with two GT3A-688 steam turbines, providing 140,000 shaft horsepower. Kirov can reach a maximum speed of up to 32 knots, the range is unlimited if using only nuclear power, and 1,000 nautical miles if using combined propulsion at 30 knots.
This generation of warships is considered to have the most formidable firepower in the world, capable of destroying an aircraft carrier fleet. The Kirov class’s main weapons are 20 P-700 Granit missiles mounted in deck, designed to engage large surface targets. Air defense is provided by twelve octuple S-300F launchers with 96 missiles and a pair of Osa-MA batteries with 20 missiles each. Pyotr Velikiy carries some S-300FM missiles and is the only ship in the Russian Navy capable of ballistic missile defence. The ships had some differences in sensor and weapons suites: Kirov came with SS-N-14 anti-submarine warfare missiles, while on subsequent ships these were replaced with 3K95 Kinzhal surface-to-air missile systems. The Kinzhal installation is in fact mounted further forward of the old SS-N-14 mounting, in the structure directly behind the blast shield for the bow mounted RBU Anti-Submarine Warfare rocket launcher. Kirov and Frunze had eight 30 mm AK-630 close-in weapon systems, which were supplanted with the Kortik air-defence system on later ships.
Other weapons are the automatic 130 mm AK-130 gun system, 10 533 mm torpedo tubes and Udav-1 with 40 anti-submarine rockets and two sextuple RBU-1000 launchers. Russia is developing a new anti-ship missile to equip Kirovs called the 3M22 Tsirkon, which is capable of traveling at hypersonic speeds out to at least 620 miles.
With such power, these cruisers are beasts on the ocean. Not satisfied, Russia is planning to upgrade these nuclear cruisers to be more and more terrifying in the context of Western weapons technology is developing strongly.
Despite being a mobile missile arsenal, if confronted with an American carrier fleet, it was a different story. Kirov is equipped with a number of sensors including Voskhod MR-800 search 3D radar mounted at the foremast, and the Fregat MR-710 series 3D search radar along the main mast. There are also two Palm Frond navigation radar. Kirov is also equipped with important sonar arrays including the Horse Jaw LF hull sonar and the variable depth sonar system through the Horse Tail VDS. Electronic warfare and decoys including 2 PK-2 Decoy dispensers.
However, these radar systems are limited by the reconnaissance range beyond the horizon to guide long-range anti-ship missiles. They are effective at moderate range, and cannot guide the Granit missile to its full range. The U.S. aircraft carriers, on the other hand, have the support of the E-2 Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft, which extends the horizon range to 600 km, creating excellent reconnaissance capabilities. In a hypothetical confrontation situation, it is certain that the E-2 will detect Kirov from afar to guide F/A-18 fighter jets to take off and intercept.With these conditions, the Kirov will have little chance of surviving a direct confrontation with the US aircraft carrier, it is difficult to become a “Carrier Assassin”.