In the early 2010s, the US Navy built a new class of warships, the Zumwalt-class destroyers; designed primarily to support land warfare, sea superiority and is expected to be the future of the US Navy
Meanwhile, Russia is still trying to squeeze out the capabilities of the Kirov-class cruisers. These are huge warships, over 30 years old, armed with weapons mostly from the Soviet era. In general, Kirov is still effective with the main task of attacking very large enemy warships, especially aircraft carriers.
Zumwalt is a class of guided missile destroyers, optimized for the US Navy’s fire support. These were the US Navy’s first stealth warships; with angled and flattened characteristics to reduce radar signatures. Zumwalts displace 14,000 tons, making them the largest destroyer of the US Navy ever. With such a large size, everything must be hidden inside the hull to ensure its stealth. The AN/SPY-3 multi-function radar provides medium to high-altitude search performance, outperforms previous radars, and can guide SM-2 Standard air defense missiles.
In terms of weapons, the Zumwalt class has 80 vertical launch cells, supporting RIM-66 Standard Missile, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles, BGM-109 Tomahawk missiles and ASROC anti-submarine missiles. Given the US Navy’s declining anti-surface warfare capabilities and the land wars of the early 21st century, it’s not surprising that Zumwalt lacks anti-ship capabilities. There are no Harpoon anti-ship missiles on these stealth destroyers.
Zumwalt’s two advanced 155 mm electromagnetic guns, are resistant to surface ships. However, now these guns have to be dismantled because they are too expensive and do not have ammunition. An alternative weapon could be the SM-6 multi-role missile.
Zumwalt’s rival, the Kirov cruiser. This is a completely previous generation warship, built in the late 1980s. Its mission is to quickly neutralize American aircraft carriers, and its air defense is very powerful. Kirov-class warships have a displacement second only to aircraft carriers. Each is 252m long, and 28,000 tons.
The Kirov uses nuclear power, instead of boilers and turbines, giving the class a top speed of 32 knots and unlimited range. In addition, the heavy gunboats were also replaced almost entirely by missiles. In terms of weapons, Kirov has 20 P-700 Granite anti-ship missiles. A P-700 missile is about 10m long and 6.8 tons, with a range of 300 nautical miles, a top speed of Mach 2.5 and a 740kg warhead.
Kirov’s air defense is extremely strong. It is equipped with a arsenal of 96 S-300F long-range surface-to-air missiles, 192 short-range 3K95 air defense missiles, and 40 4K33 missiles. CIWSs are 8 × AK-630 six-barreled Gatling 30 mm guns.
So, in a battle between Zumwalt and Kirov, who will win? Let’s say, the two ships confront each other at the maximum range of their anti-ship weapons of 300 nautical miles, which is the range of Kirov’s P-700 missile. First of all, stealth would be an advantage. Kirov has the Legenda satellite targeting system; but Legenda is a radar satellite and Zumwalt is a stealth destroyer, with a radar signature the size of a small fishing boat. Theoretically, Zumwalt could get close to Kirov’s range without fear of detection. On the other hand, the Russian cruiser will want to step back and attack Zumwalt from a distance.
Kirov is able to launch P-700 anti-ship missiles in the direction of the suspected Zumwalt. The radars of the P-700 Granite are still capable of guiding to the target. Even if the P-700 missiles can lock onto the target, Zumwalt still has enough air defense to deal with. But what if Kirov carried out a saturation attack with dozens of P-700 missiles?
Perhaps the end result of this scenario is a draw, because the two sides cannot aim accurately. In the future, new weapons such as long-range anti-ship missiles will give Zumwalt a significant advantage. For the time being, Zumwalt is clearly no match for the Kirov cruiser.