After World War 2 (1939-1945), the Soviet Union became the undisputed power in the East and entered into a "Cold War" (1949-1991) with the West which was led by the United States. To match the United State Navy's (USN) presence on the high seas pound-for-pound, the nation invested heavily in expansion of its surface and undersea fleet. One of the major commitments to the former category was the Sverdlov-class cruiser ("Project 68bis") of which some thirty ships were planned in all in 1947. However, several factors ultimately limited the group to just fourteen vessels as sixteen of the planned lot were cancelled or scrapped.
The class served with the Soviet and Indonesian navies for their time on the high seas but even at the time of their arrival they were more or less anachronistic - designs more akin to World War 2 surface combatants. At the time of their commissioning, the Sverdlov-class became the last gun-based ocean-going cruisers taken into service by the Soviet Navy.
Construction of the class spanned from 1949 until 1955 and the warships were in commissioned service from 1952 until 2000. The design displaced 13,600 tons under standard load and up to 16,640 tons under full load. Dimensions included a length of 689 feet, a beam of 72.1 feet, and a draught of 22.7 feet. Installed power was from 6 x Boiler units feeding 2 x Geared steam turbines developing 118,100 horsepower used to drive 2 x Shafts under the stern. Aboard was a crew of 1,250 personnel and armor ranged from 3.9" at the belt and 5.9" at the conning tower to 2" along the deck and 6.9" at the primary turrets.
Armament-wise, the warship was well-stocked with projectile-based systems. The suite was led by 12 x 152mm (6") /57 caliber B-38 series main guns set in four triple-gunned primary turrets. The secondary battery encompassed 12 x 100mm (3.9") /56 caliber Model 1934 guns set in six twin-gunned turrets (SM-5-1 mountings). Up to 32 x 37mm (1.5") guns were used for the Anti-Aircraft (AA) role and 10 x 533mm *21") torpedo tubes rounded out the suite of available weaponry.
All told, this collection of weapons was heavily influenced by design successes seen in World War 2 - though quickly falling out of place in the post-war, missile-minded world. Some of the obsolete qualities were offset by the emergence of viable radar and air-defense systems brought along by Soviet engineers.
The primary role of these fighting ships was to protect the vast Soviet Empire coastline with operations ranging from the unforgiving North Atlantic to the balmier environments of the Mediterranean. The warships could provide an anti-ship, air defense, convoy escort, or raiding capability such was their general design approach. In addition to this, there was always the added benefit of natural deterrence to European designs lacking search-and-tracking qualities - thus forcing European powers to invest heavily, in turn, in counters to the intimidating Soviet surface and undersea fleets.
Even while under construction, however, the planned total of thirty ships was curtailed due to the rise in missile technology, the dwindling value of "all-gun" warships, and the perceived reduced value of cruiser warship types in the age of the nuclear submarine and aircraft carrier. Stalin's death in 1953 offered the new Soviet authorities some flexibility and it was decided to halt work on additional hulls in 1954 after the fourteenth keel was laid down. At least four warships that were already launched for trials were ended while partially complete and a further two hulls were outright scrapped before seeing the light of day. To keep the remainder of the group viable for the foreseeable future, several modernization efforts were made which allowed them to remain in service into the 1970s.
Today, the only presence of the class that remains is Mikhail Kutuzov, existing as a preserved museum ship floating in Novorossiysk waters.
- Blue Water Operations
- Fleet Support
689 ft (210.01 m)
Width / Beam:
72.1 ft (21.98 m)
Height / Draught:
22.7 ft (6.92 m)
6 x Boiler units feeding 2 x Geared steam turbines developing 118,100 horsepower to 2 x Shafts astern.
33 kts (37 mph)
8,690 nm (10,000 miles; 16,093 km)
12 x 152mm (6") /57 caliber B-38 main guns set in four triple-gunned primary turrets.
12 x 100mm (3.9") /56 caliber Model 1934 guns set in six twin-gunned turrets.
32 x 37mm Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns.
10 x 533mm (21") torpedo tubes.
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