The battlecruiser warship rose to prominence in the early part of the 20th Century, modeled after "all-big-gun" battleships while carrying less armor for the purpose of attaining faster cruising speeds. The British led the way in their design and construction and were followed by other world powers of the day including the United States, Japan and Germany. Even into the 1980s, some world powers continued to support the concept of the battlecruiser (though no longer cannon-armed warships) including the Soviet Union which maintained a health stable of surface warships to work alongside their powerful undersea force.
The battlecruiser Pyotr Velikiy was one such addition, laid down in 1986 and launched a full decade later in 1996. Before her launching, she was named Yuri Andropov but, with the fall of the Soviet Empire, she was rechristened as Pyotr Velikiy to coincide with a new Russia. Internally, the Russian Navy categorizes her as a "guided missile cruiser" to go along with contemporary terminology. The West, rather unsurprisingly, considers her to be a missile-minded battlecruiser.
Despite its late-Cold War introduction, Pyotr Velikiy remains an active presence in the Russian fleet. She was formally commissioned on April 18th, 1998 and, as of this writing (2016), the vessel serves as the flagship of the North Fleet. She is the fourth of four Kirov-class battlecruisers completed (five were planned, the last being cancelled in October 1990).
As finalized, Pyotr Velikiy displaced 24,300 tons under standard load and 28,000 tons under full load. Measurements include a length of 827 feet, a beam of 94 feet and a draught down to 30 feet. Her crew complement numbers 727 personnel including 18 air crew. Onboard systems include the Voskhod MR-800 3D search radar, the Fregat MR-710 3D search radar and 2 x "Palm Frond" navigation fits. Fire control is handled by a "Top Dome" system for the SA-N-16 missile series and the AK-630 Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) is directed by 4 x "Bass Tilt" units. SA-N-4 fire control is managed through 2 x "Eye Bowl" systems. The vessel carries the "Tomb Stone" Passive Electronically-Scanned Array (PESA) radar system as well as the "Horse Jaw" LF sonar and the "Horse Tail" variable depth sonar array.
As a missile-minded cruiser, Pyotr Velikiy's armament suite is made up largely of missile-minded weaponry. 20 x P-700 "Granit" anti-ship missiles lead the way followed by 16 x 8 3K95 "Kinzhal" surface-to-air missiles. Beyond this 6 x 8 S-300FM and 6 x 8 S-300 surface-to-air missiles are carried to deal with aerial threats at range. This is further backed by 44 x OSA-MA PD surface-to-air missiles. Conventional weaponry includes the 130mm AK-130 double-gunned turreted deck gun. 2 x RBU-1000 (Smerch-3) Anti-Submarine ROCket (ASROC) and 2 x RBU-12000 (Udav-1) ASROC systems are carried to deal with submarine threats. In addition to this, the warship is outfitted with 10 x 533mm torpedo tubes cleared to fire both torpedoes and anti-ship missiles. 6 x Kashtan point defense systems are fitted for close-range work of in-bound threats.
Installed power is primarily from a nuclear-based propulsion system that supplies nearly infinite operating ranges. This system is tied to a twin-shaft arrangement under stern and allows the vessel to make up to 32 knots in ideal conditions. Steam turbines provide boosting capabilities and can range the vessel out on conventional power to 1,000 nautical miles. Combined output is 140,000 horsepower.
The air arm consists of up to 3 x Kamov Ka-27 "helix" or Ka-25 "Hormone" navy helicopters. Full onboard facilities (by way of hangar) are available for the launching, retrieval and maintenance of the helicopters.
Pyotr Velikiy wrapped up her sea trials in 1996 to which point she was stationed with the North Fleet out of Severomorsk. She served as the exercise target for the ill-fated "Kursk" nuclear submarine (detailed elsewhere on this site) in August of 2000 and was part of the salvage attempt the following year. Her condition deteriorated during the new decade to the point that she was labeled unfit for service in 2004. Repairs were enacted to get the warship back to sailable condition before the end of the year.
During 2008 through 2009 she made several foreign port visits and took part in joint exercises (Venezuela, India) while the relationship between Russia and the United States continued to deteriorate. In February of 2009, she and her crews neutralized several pirate vessels near Somalia. More exercises followed into the next decade as did general patrolling actions. In 2016, she was sent, along with the carrier Kuznetsov and a modest fleet, through the English Channel which raised some eyebrows in Europe and the United States - no doubt to serve a something of a show of force to the West amidst still-worsening relations and a greater Russian involvement in the Syrian Civil War (2011-Present).
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