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The Russian Navy’s Battlecruisers: Battleships In Disguise?

Russia Battleships

It is a tale of two navies. In New Jersey, the World War II battleship named for the Garden State is undergoing a major upgrade while across the world at the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinski, the Russian Navy’s battlecruiser Admiral Nakhimov is undergoing a refit.

In the case of the USS New Jersey (BB-62), the Iowa-class battleship, the current efforts are to replace its wooden decking to make the ship safer for tourists and other visitors. Along with her sisters, USS Iowa (BB-61), USS Missouri (BB-63) and USS Wisconsin (BB-64), the BB-62 is a museum ship. Theoretically, each could be reactivated for service if the need came, but it has been nearly 20 years since those old battlewagons last headed to sea. Their job is simply to help preserve the memories of the sacrifices made by those who served and to highlight the history of the American battleship.

For the Russians however, it is a very different story.

As one of the Soviet Navy’s largest and most powerful ships, Admiral Nakhimov has slowly been undergoing a refit that could see it return to service with the Russian Navy as early as next year. She is the third battlecruiser of the Kirov-class and could join her sister ship Pyotr Velikiy (Russian for Peter the Great), the current flagship of the Northern Fleet, in active duty.

While the two other vessels of the class, Admiral Ushakov, and Admiral Lazarev are both laid up and scheduled to be scrapped this year, the Russian Navy has kept Pyotr Velikiy – originally named Yuri Andropov in honor of the former general secretary of the communist party – in service while modernizing Admiral Nakhimov.

Russia’s Battlecruisers, Explained

Officially designated as “heavy nuclear missile cruisers” by Moscow, western defense analysts have used the term “battlecruiser” to describe the warships, which are now the largest surface combatants in the world. Developed in the 1980s to neutralize American carriers, their secondary role was to raid commerce and disrupt the flow of forces from North America during a conflict in Europe.

Weighing some 24,000 tons and measuring 826 long, these were smaller than the U.S. Navy’s carriers but large enough to pose a serious threat. The warships were armed with ninety-six S-300F long-range surface-to-air missiles, one hundred ninety-two 3K95 short-range surface-to-air missiles, and forty 4K33 missiles. Secondary armament included six AK-630 close-in weapon systems equipped with thirty-millimeter Gatling guns

According to recent reports, the vessels could soon be among the most powerfully armed. The Russian Navy has considered equipping the battlecruisers with its Tsirkon hypersonic missile, which is currently undergoing tests.

The 3M22 Tsirkon, also known as Zircon (North Atlantic Treaty Organization reporting name SS-N-33) is a winged, anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile that entered development in the 2010s. While the exact capabilities of the Tsirkon aren’t known, based on prior testing data, the missile is capable of reaching speeds from Mach 8 to Mach 9 and its operational range could be upwards of two thousand kilometers. The missile’s sheer speed and purported ability to maneuver mid-flight could credibly threaten NATO assets; in particular, Russian military experts argue that ship and submarine-launched Tsirkon missiles can be a potent counter to U.S. carrier strike groups (CSGs).

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.



  1. Steven Lodahl

    March 29, 2021 at 5:55 pm

    The primary reason those battle cruisers were so heavily armed was the LACK OF RELIABILITY and LACK OF ACCURACY of all those weapons

  2. Scooter Van Neuter

    March 29, 2021 at 6:01 pm

    They’ll make great artificial reefs if the sh*t ever hits the fan…

  3. Rod Allen

    March 29, 2021 at 6:02 pm

    …and while the Russian military is advancing strike capabilities…we are providing Transgenders with surgeries…making mueseum ships..and looking into the private lives of troops looking for the boogeyman of “domestic” terrorism. The Chinese and Russians are laughing their collective asses off. Our military better “get their shit together”

  4. John Macavin

    March 2, 2022 at 4:29 pm

    Their offensive capabilities are far superior to battleships but they lack the heavy armour of a battleship as heavy armour is pointless if you are hit by a supersonic missile. Battlecruiser is the correct classification given their size and speed.

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