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Keeping The Battlecruisers Alive
by James Dunnigan
February 26, 2014

Russia has begun a four year long overhaul of the Admiral Nakhimov, one of four Kirov class battlecruisers. This overhaul was initially supposed to begin in 2005, but got delayed by money and political problems. The upgrade, which all four Kirovs are to eventually go through, will keep each overhauled ship in service for another twenty years. The upgrade will include new electronics, upgraded weapons and refurbishment of the nuclear reactor and most mechanical components. Russia currently only has one of these nuclear powered battlecruisers, Pyotr Velikiy (Peter the Great), in service.

The Kirovs are 28,000 ton warships that first entered service in 1980. This was the Admiral Ushakov, which was initially called the Kirov but renamed after the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. Admiral Lazarev entered service in 1984, Admiral Nakhimov in 1988 and Pyotr Velikiy in 1998. The last one to enter service is the only one still in working order which it still at sea.

The Kirovs, in addition to their nuclear power plants, carry twenty Shipwreck (P-700) anti-ship missiles and three different type of anti-aircraft missile systems (and over 250 missiles). There are also anti-submarine torpedo launchers, eight 30mm cannon for anti-missile and close in defense, two 130mm guns and three helicopters in a below-decks hanger. There is also 76mm (3 inches) of armor around the reactor and lighter armor in other parts of the ship. The Kirovs are very vulnerable to submarine attack and, despite their formidable air defenses, are not invulnerable to a determined missile attack. 

The crew of 710 has plenty of space, as the ship is 252 meters (827 feet long) and 28.5 meters (94 feet) wide. The Kirovs are fitted with additional (quite comfortable) staterooms for senior officers, so that the ship can operate as the flagship of a task force. While the upgrade can be seen mainly as a way to keep shipbuilding technicians employed, and maintain a formidable looking Russian warship in commission, a Kirov on the high seas is a warship to be reckoned with. The high speed (Mach 2) Shipwreck anti-ship missiles weigh seven tons, have a range of 500 kilometers and carry a 750 kg (1,700 pound) warhead. This missile was built to cripple an American aircraft carrier, but it would outright destroy any lesser vessels. The Shipwreck entered service in 1983 and evolved into Yakhont and currently the Russo-Indian BrahMos. The refurbished Kirovs will receive the Yakhont and more modern anti-aircraft and anti-submarine weapons.

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