Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Slava-class cruisers

The Soviet program also produced three more cruiser classes during the 1980s and early 1990s, the first being the 20-ship Sovremenny- class designed for antiship warfare. They were followed by the 13-vessel Udaloy-class, which mounts weapons arrays for use against submarines. The final group of vessels that were completed between 1983 and 1989 are the two Slava-class cruisers. These vessels are a smaller, cheaper version of the Kirov class and are designed primarily as surface strike ships. All are conventionally powered. Together with the Kirov-class and two more units of the Kiev-class that were completed between 1981 and 1983, they are the final units produced by the Soviet Union before the collapse of the communist regime.

Men and women who operate cruisers do so in an environment where the future of their ships is questionable. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the end of the Cold War have led to a massive reduction of the world’s cruiser force. Due to financial constraints that were a contributing factor to the fall of the Soviet system, Russia has been forced to scrap, decommission, or sell several of its cruisers. In 1990, three of the Kiev-class cruisers and both of the Moskva-class ships were retired from service and sold for scrap. The fate of the additional unit of the Kiev-class, Minsk, is perhaps one of the most unusual in the history of cruisers. Minsk was sold to private interests in China in the early 1990s, purportedly for conversion into a casino and entertainment complex. Two ships of the Kirov-class remain operational; the other two have been placed in reserve. One of these latter vessels, Kirov (now renamed Admiral Ushakov), suffered the nightmare of all crews that serve on nuclear-powered vessels. In 1990, this vessel had a nuclear accident and subsequently entered a shipyard in 1999 for repairs, but a lack of funds probably will lead to its being scrapped. The other reserve unit has been inoperable since the early 1990s in lieu of needed repairs. Like its sister ship, this vessel will also probably be discarded from lack of funds to make repairs. The situation is so poor that the Russian Navy is reportedly asking for donations to fund the repair project. Both units of the Slava-class are still in service. The Sovremenny-class has been reduced to nine ships. Four of the other units have been scrapped, while two others are derelict vessels awaiting disposal. An additional unit of the class has been hulked as a storage ship; another two have been sold to China. Two units were also placed in reserve, but the low budget of the Russian Navy has led to their deterioration at anchor. One sank while in reserve, and the other is entirely unserviceable. Of the 13 Udaloy-class ships, seven remain in service. Three were sold for scrap in the mid-1990s; another suffered a fire in 1991 and 1995 and is now a derelict. An additional unit has been in overhaul since 1990 and will probably not be reactivated owing to budget constraints. Only one Kara-class cruiser remains in service. By 1994, the old cruisers of the Kynda-, Kresta I-, and Kresta II-classes were all sold for scrap, and only one unit of the Kashin-class remained in service. In 2002, the result of all these reductions in the former Soviet Navy has led to a 21-ship cruiser force for the Russian Navy.

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