Russia’s Fourth Kirov-class Battlecruiser Has Seen Better Days – In a development that shows the Russian navy is in a transition period to rid the fleet of older and larger warships, its most giant naval vessel could be retired.
The massive Kirov-class Pyotr Velikiy battlecruiser could be headed to the scrapyard.
The Pyotr Velikiy (Peter the Great), the fourth ship of the Kirov-class, has seen better days.
One would think that Russia would need every ship it can muster to sail the Black Sea and send guided missiles to targets in Ukraine.
Still, the Pyotr Velikiy is difficult and expensive to maintain and will soon be taken out of service, according to the TASS state-run media agency.
Possible End of a Nuclear-powered Ship
The Russian navy had been trying to modernize the warship for a significant period, but the effort remained tedious and pricey.
The Pyotr Velikiy made history as the only nuclear-powered ship in the Russian fleet.
“At the moment they are working out the logistics of removing Pyotr Velikiy from the Russian navy. It appears that the experience of repairing, and modernization of similar-classed Admiral Nakhimov has shown that the process is too costly,” a source from the navy told TASS.
It Hasn’t Been Active Much Over the Last 12 Months
The last major deployment for the Pyotr Velikiy was during a Northern Fleet exercise in the Barents Sea approximately a year ago.
The vessel is the flagship of that area of operations, and it launched a Granit anti-ship cruise missile to display its power.
It also used “practical anti-aircraft missile and artillery firing at air targets” during the drills.
Cold War Relic
The Pyotr Velikiy is long in the tooth. It was built in the Soviet era when the Russian navy wanted mighty ships to protect the homeland against the American navy that had over 500 ships at the time.
The ship was laid down in 1986 but did not hit the open seas until 1996.
The Kirov-class battlecruiser displaces 28,000 tons fully loaded. It is 837 feet long and 94 feet wide at the beam.
This ship is packed with a wide range of weapons, especially guided missiles. That’s why decommissioning it will rob the Russian navy of immense firepower that could be used against Ukraine even though it would have to be transferred from the Northern Fleet to the Black Sea Fleet to get into the fight.
It Deploys an Impressive Number of Armaments
The Pyotr Velikiy carries 20 Granit anti-ship missiles, 64 Gauntlet surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), and 48 Fort-M SAMs. There are also six Kashtan close-in weapons systems. The SAMs are part of the vaunted Russian S-300 shipborne air defense system.
The Pyotr Velikiy can also engage in anti-submarine warfare with various torpedoes on board such as the Type 53. Anti-submarine rocket launchers are also present.
Engine power is provided by a “2-shaft, nuclear propulsion with steam turbine boost.” This results in an admirable speed of 32 knots – impressive for such a large ship. Its range is 1,000 nautical miles. Without the steam turbine boost, the ship can only travel at 20 knots but then its range is unlimited.
The Kirov-class guided missile battlecruiser can also deploy three helicopters to patrol the waters around the ship.
If the Pyotr Velikiy goes to the scrapyard, it will be seen as a disappointment for the Russian navy. The maritime branch has endured a mediocre war. They have only lost one ship, the Moskva, in fighting, but many of the ship-to-shore missiles are getting shot down by Ukrainian air defenses.
The retirement would handicap the fleet and it is not clear what ship will replace the Kirov-class battle wagon. It was, however, meant for the Cold War when it was expected that U.S. boomer submarines would sneak close to Russian shores and fire nuclear weapons. Kirov-class ships were also intended to destroy American carrier battle group patrols. The Russian navy now looks like it will depend on smaller modern missile cruisers and frigates that are easier and cheaper to maintain.
However, without a functioning aircraft carrier and the long-range of the Pyotr Velikiy, it will be difficult for the Russian navy to operate out of its Near Abroad and have the capability of a “Blue Water” navy instead of a less desirable regional and coastal “Green Water” navy.
Author Expertise and Experience
Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.