Towards the end of the Cold War (1947-1991), the Soviet Union invested heavily in a new class of conventionally-powered fighting cruisers, the Slava-class. The group was to number ten total warships and succeed the Kara-class in the guided-missile cruiser role but the end of the Soviet Empire limited the class to just three active ships while the remaining seven were cancelled. The ones to enter service became Slava, Admiral Flota and Chervona Ukrayina. Within the inventory of the reborn Russian Navy, the vessels were renamed to become Moskva, Marshal Ustinov and Varyag, respectively.
Varyag, the third of the group, saw her keel laid down in 1979 by 61 Kommunara Shipbuilding Plant and she was launched to sea in July of 1983. Formally commissioned on October 16th, 1989, she was assigned to the Pacific Fleet where she remains active today (2017). A major overhaul in 2008 has kept her a viable instrument-of-war for today's highly-advanced battlefields.
As built, Varyag was given a displacement of 11,500 tons. Overall length measured 611.5 feet with a beam (width) of 68.2 feet and a draught of 27.5 feet. Her propulsion scheme was a COGOG (COmbined Gas Or Gas) arrangement in which one set of engines or the other was used to accomplish such actions and general cruising or high-speed dashing. As such, the scheme was made up of 2 x M70 gas turbines (for cruising) and 4 x M8KF gas turbines (for dashing). These drove upwards of 121,000 horsepower to 2 x Shafts under stern and propelled the warship to speeds of 32 knots out to ranges of 3,000 nautical miles.
Onboard there was provision for a crew of 480 and an air arm managed operations of a single Kamov Ka-25 or Ka-27 "Helix" navalized helicopter.
In its more modern arrangement, the warship is outfitted with a bevy of processing systems and sensors including the Voskhod MR-800 3D search radar and the Fregat MR-710 3D search radar. Rum Tub and Side Globe antennas as part of the Electronics Warfare (EW) fit.
At the heart of this warship remains its armament suite. This is led by 16 x P-500 Bazalt anti-ship missile launchers. Air defense / denial is through 64 x S-300F "Fort" (8x8 cells) long-range surface-to-air missiles as well as 40 x OSA-MA (2x20 cells) short-range surface-to-air missiles. 6 x AK-630 serve in the Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) air defense role. Over the forecastle is a twin-gunned 130mm AK-130 turreted deck gun and 2 x RBU-6000 mortar launchers are carried as a range submarine defensive measure. Additionally there are no fewer than ten 533mm torpedo tubes held in two quintuple launchers.
Beyond this projectile- and missile-based armament suite is the aforementioned helicopter which provides valuable over-the-horizon service in the anti-ship / anti-submarine role and can double as a maritime reconnaissance and Search and Rescue (SAR) platform.
As warships go, Varyag is conventionally arranged with a bridge superstructure worked in as part of the overall main structure. A pyramidal main mast is featured aft of the bridge section and a pair of smoke funnels are seated, side-by-side, at midships. These are of a low-profile design. A secondary mast is featured ahead of these structures. Closer to the stern is a secondary superstructure with various systems atop it. The flight deck makes up the stern area of the ship.
Relatively fast for its size and very well armed, Varyag is a potent opponent within the ranks of the modern Russian Navy. Modernization has certainly helped the vessel remain a critical contributor to Russian Navy actions.
Varyag made the first visit of a Russian/Soviet warship to an American port in 147 years when it stopped in San Francisco in June of 2010. The warship has since conducted other friendly port calls and is known to have been called to the Mediterranean Sea offshore of war-torn Syria in January of 2016. While this reinforces Russian military ties to Syria and its beleaguered leadership, it promotes Russian Navy strength while adding valuable training for its crew in a war environment.