Russia’s heavy nuclear-powered missile cruiser Pyotr Veliky will be decommissioned, according to a TASS news report this week.
According to the Russian state media outlet, the battlecruiser will officially exit service once the repairs and upgrades on its sister warship Admiral Nakhimov are completed.
As the largest surface combatants across the globe, the Kirov-class ships are more than three times as large as the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke destroyers.
Among modern vessels, the Kirov-class is second in size only to larger aircraft carriers. The Pyotr Velikiy once made history as the sole nuclear-powered ship in the Russian fleet and is now headed to the scrapyard.
The origin story of the Kirov-class:
During the Cold War, the USSR desired a fleet that could counter the U.S. Navy’s 500-plus vessels. The Soviet Navy initially planned to construct five Kirov-class vessels, however, following the dissolution of the USSR the fifth and last ship was nixed. Back in the early 1970s, the lead ship in the class Kirov was laid down at Leningrad’s Baltiysky Naval Shipyard. The Pyotr Velikiy was laid down more than one decade later and did not officially sail the open seas until the mid-1990s. The ship was originally called Yuriy Andropov but was later renamed to honor the founder of the Russian Imperial Navy Tsar Peter I (Peter the Great). The four Kirov-class multipurpose surface combat ships were designed for blue-water oceangoing operations.
Specs and capabilities:
The hefty Kirov-class battlecruisers displace more than 24,000 tons under standard conditions. When fully loaded, these vessels displace 28,000 tons. Powered by a 2-shaft nuclear propulsion system with a steam turbine boost, the class can sail at a top speed of 32 knots. Armament-wise, the Kirov-class can pack a punch. The Pyotr Velikiy can carry 20 Granit anti-ship missiles, 48 Fort-M SAMS, 64 Gauntlet surface-to-air missiles, and six Kashtan close-in weapon systems. According to Russian sources, the S-300s fitted on the Kirov-class ship can track multiple aerial targets as far out as 300km.
“Pyotr Veliky is armed with 48 S-300F Fort and 46 S-300FM Fort-M (SA-N-20 Gargoyle) medium-range surface-to-air missiles (with effective range of up to 200 kilometers), 128 3K95 Kinzhal (SA-N-9 Gauntlet) short-range SAMs, and six CADS-N-1 Kashtan gun/missile systems,” as explained by Russian state media.
Considering the number of weapons the Kirov battlecruisers can sport, the decommissioning of the Pyotr Velikiy limits the Russian Navy’s firepower. This battlecruiser is not the only Russian surface ship to experience hardships in recent years. Russia’s sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, has a history marred with misfortune. Since 2017, the flagship of Russia’s Navy has been sidelined due to design flaws and a series of incidents. Although TASS state news has recently reported that the Kuznetsov could re-enter service by 2024, this timeline seems unlikely as the carrier has frequently been delayed over the last several years.
With the Kuznetsov sidelined for repairs and the Pyotr Velikiy set for decommissioning, Russia’s Navy is not looking too hot. Perhaps Moscow should allocate some of the resources it is pouring into its ongoing invasion of Ukraine to its sea fleet.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.