The Gepard-class guided-missile frigate of the modern Russian Navy survived the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent budget cuts to become a four-strong group now in service with the Russian Navy and the Vietnamese People's Navy. These represent half of the originally planned number that succeeded the Koni-class of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Gepard-class is led by its first ship, "Tatarstan", which was originally ordered as "Yastreb". The design is offered for export under several cost-effective configurations.
Tatarstan saw her keel laid down in 1991 and she was launched to sea during July 1993. Her work was suspended during the mid-1990s when the Russian Navy budget was severed but she was eventually fitted out, completed, and launched again on August 31th, 2003 to which she was then assigned as flagship of the Caspian Flotilla where she remains an active participant in Russian patrols there.
As completed, Tatarstan was given a displacement of 1,500 tons under standard load and nearly 2,000 tons under full load. Her measurements include an overall length of 335 feet, a beam of 42.9 feet and a draught down to 17 feet. Power is from a CODOG (COmbined Diesel Or Gas) arrangement allowing some customizability by the crew in choosing what power configuration to use during certain actions (cruising / dashing etc...). Maximum speed in ideal conditions is 28 knots and operational ranges are out to 4,000 nautical miles (when cruising at 10 knots).
The Tatarstan features a crew complement of 98 men and holds enough supplies and food for up to fifteen days at sea, forcing the vessel to remain somewhat close to allied ports. Its hull is designed for deep water service, able to withstand Sea States up to Level 5 (up to 13 feet waves) but she is a naturally lightweight design. Onboard systems include hull-mounted and towable sonar systems, fire control radars and the Cross Dome air search radar system. A full-service helicopter hangar and deck support rotary-win operations at sea, giving a vital over-the-horizon ability as well as an active submarine-hunting capability.
Armament is key to the survival of the guided-missile frigate. Tatarstan is appropriately equipped with 2 x quadruple missile launchers supporting the Kh-35 Anti-Ship (AS) series missiles and 1 x Osa-M twin launcher Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) system to protect against incoming aerial threats. Conventional armament includes 1 x 76.2mm Ak-176 turreted deck gun along the bow and 2 x 30mm AK-630 Close-In-Weapon Systems (CIWSs). She also carries 4 x 533mm torpedo tubes as well as 1 x RBU-6000 Anti-Submarine ROCket (ASROC) launcher. In this way, Tatarstan is fully-equipped to engage all manner of modern battlefield threats - whether they lie above the water, on it or under.
The Gepard-class is also marketed by Russia for interested export parties across five distinct configurations: "Gepard-1" loses its Variable Depth Sonar (VDS) functionality as well as its helicopter hangar while "Gepard-2" brings along the latter but does not feature the VDS fit or the SA-N-4 missile fit. "Gepard-3" is completed with a heavier displacement as well as enlarged beam measurement and installs the "Kortik" Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) over the standard AK-630 CIWS units. The "Gepard-4" loses its weapon installations altogether for featuring a more dedicated Search-and-Rescue (SAR) role. "Gepard-5" does not have a helicopter hangar but increased operational range through use of diesel units (8,000 horsepower each) though at the expense of straight line speed (reduced to 23 knots).
Vietnam is the only foreign operator of the Gepard-class. The Russian Navy is set to feature three total units before the end - Albatros (commissioned on November 28th, 2012) and Burevestnik (to be added). Vietnam operates the ship type as the HQ-011 "Dinh Tien Hoang" and the HQ-012 "Ly Thai To". Two more ships have yet to be named and remain under construction as of October 2015.
Tatarstan is named after the Republic of Tatarstan in the Volga Federal District of Russia.
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