The Kirov-class battlecruiser is a class of nuclear-powered warship of the Russian Navy, the largest and heaviest surface combatant warships (i.e. not an aircraft carrier or amphibious assault ship) in operation in the world (28,000 tons fully loaded).
Among modern warships, they are second in size only to large aircraft carriers, and of similar size to a World War I era battleship. The official designation of the ship-type is “heavy nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser” (Russian: тяжёлый атомный ракетный крейсер). The ships are often referred to as battlecruisers by western defense commentators due to their size and general appearance.
Originally built for the Soviet Navy, the class is named for the first of a series of four ships to be constructed, Kirov, which was renamed Admiral Ushakov in 1992. Original plans called for the construction of five ships, however the last was cancelled. In Russia this class of ship is usually referred to by the designation Project 1144 Orlan (sea eagle).
Only the Pyotr Veliky is currently operational. Admiral Nakhimov is projected to re-enter the Russian Navy in 2018.
Russia planned to reactivate the remaining two vessels by 2020, but recent reporting suggests that the reactors in Admiral Ushakov and Admiral Lazarev are in a poor condition, and these ships cannot be safely reactivated.
The appearance of the Kirov class played a key role in the recommissioning of the Iowa-class battleships by the United States Navy in the 1980s.
This week, the Pyotr Veliky has been involved in battle-drills in the Arctic Ocean.
The Russian Ministry of Defense released a video of the Granit missile launch:
The SS-N-19 with its booster attached is about the size and weight of a combat loaded MiG-21 and carries a 1,650 high explosive charge or a 500kt thermonuclear warhead.
In the case of the latter, a near miss is still a certain kill, although it’s very unlikely that the Russians still deploy these missiles loaded with nuclear warheads.
The Russian Navy initially planned to return both Admiral Ushakov and Admiral Lazarev to service after several years of disuse. It was later indicated that the condition of the reactor cores of both ships was such that it would prove difficult, expensive and potentially dangerous to remove the spent nuclear fuel and repair the cores.
As a consequence, it is likely that both ships will be scrapped. The modernization of Admiral Ushakov seems unlikely due to an alleged nuclear incident which may have left one of its reactors damaged with scrapping to start in 2016 or later.
Other sources disagree, stating that all four ships will be modernized and returned to service. In 2014 some maintenance work was performed on Admiral Lazarev (the only cruiser located in the Pacific). Skepticism was expressed regarding the ability of Sevmash shipyard to simultaneously modernize two Kirov-class battlecruisers.
Modernization of Admiral Nakhimov is ongoing (to be completed by 2018) with the modernization of Pyotr Velikiy to last from 2018 until 2021.
The Northern Fleet’s surface action group led by the Pyotr Veliky (Peter the Great) heavy nuclear-powered guided-missile cruiser has carried out firing drills with sea and shore targets, the fleet’s press service reported.
“The firing was carried out as part of the exercises for the Northern Fleet all-arms forces in the Barents Sea,” the report says.
According to the plot, the ship artillery helped support seashore defense and repel “enemy” amphibious assault.
After receiving information on the movement of the “enemy” troops, the surface action group led by the Pyotr Veliky and the Admiral Ushakov destroyer advanced to the intended intervention area in order to strike the aggressor’s ship group and forces.
The combat units of the AK-130 naval guns opened verification fire on the sea target position and then on the shore targets, with unmanned aerial vehicles adjusting the fire. All targets were reported to have been hit.
The Pyotr Veliky (Peter the Great) nuclear-powered guided-missile cruiser and the Admiral Ushakov destroyer have “destroyed” the “enemy” winged missiles at the Northern Fleet’s drill in the Barents Sea, the fleet’s press service reported.
“According to the drill plot, the ship strike group led by the Pyotr Veliky heavy nuclear guided-missile cruiser and the Admiral Ushakov destroyer was attacked by ‘enemy’ winged missiles and aviation at sea.
The ships’ crews carried out a joint drill with the use of radioelectronic weapons during which they seized, followed and ‘destroyed’ low-flying air targets,” the report says.
Su-33 planes from the Northern Fleet separate ship-based fighter aviation regiment acted as air targets. They simulated strikes with winged missiles and bombing air attacks.
Now the crews of the Pyotr Veliky and the Admiral Ushakov together with the MiG-29K fighters are preparing to repel the surprise attack that would be carried out by attack and fighter aircraft nosedown. The air attack, according to the episode, will be repulsed by AK-130 and AK-630 artillery systems, as well as air defense systems.
The Northern Fleet drill involving 10 diesel and nuclear submarines and more than 20 warships, 20 supply vessels and up to 30 aircraft kicked off on Thursday. More than 5,000 marines and more than 300 equipment and weapons units will also take part at various stages of the maneuvers. The training in the Barents Sea is expected to last a few days.
Russia’s Northern Fleet has begun an exercise with ten diesel and nuclear-powered submarines and twenty surface ships taking part.
“At different stages of the exercise more than 20 naval vessels, up to ten nuclear-powered and diesel submarines, 20 logistic ships and up to 30 aircraft will participate. In different episodes of the exercise more than 5,000 officers and men of the Northern Fleet and more than 300 pieces of weapons and military equipment will be involved,” the fleet’s service said in a news release.
Coastal missile and artillery units, a ground corps, coastal forces, an air force and air defense army and logistic units will take part.
The exercise is the main operative and combat training event for the Northern Fleet in 2017.
Currently, the preparatory phase of the exercise is in progress. The fleet’s forces are practicing alert measures and readying their command centers and forces for coping with the tasks to be set during exercise in the Barents Sea, which will last several days.
The Pyotr Veliky (Peter the Great) heavy nuclear-powered guided-missile cruiser and the Admiral Ushakov destroyer, followed by nuclear submarines, have headed a strike group during the Northern Fleet’s drill, head of the fleet’s press service, Captain 1st rank Vadim Serga, told reporters.
“An all-arms strike group has been deployed to the Barents Sea as part of the exercise of the Northern Fleet’s united strategic command. The group is led by a warship strike group which comprises the Pyotr Veliky heavy nuclear-powered guided-missile cruiser and the Admiral Ushakov destroyer,” he said.
The group also includes the Rassvet (Dawn) and Aisberg (Iceberg) fast attack guided missile craft and the Snezhnogorsk, Brest and Yunga corvette anti-submarine craft. The all-arms strike group was reinforced with two nuclear-powered guided-missile cruisers, and it is protected from underwater by a few submarines of other types.
The controlling staff is on board the Pyotr Veliky. The Bal coastal missile system is being prepared on the Rybachi Peninsula, and the Bastion on Teribesky Cape for the artillery missile brigade of the Kola Peninsula of the Northern Fleet’s all-arms forces.
“In the near future, the Northern Fleet’s all-arms forces will work out cooperation, check readiness of crews for emergency actions and start direct preparation for military exercises with weapon employment,” Serga noted.
The drill for the Northern Fleet’s all-arms forces is being carried out under command of the Northern Fleet’s commander Vice Admiral Nikolay Yevmenov. More than 20 warships, up to 10 nuclear and diesel submarines, about 20 support vessels and 30 aircraft will take part at different stages of the maneuvers. The drill’s events will involve more than 5,000 servicemen and over 300 equipment and weapons units.
Is the Russia-Belarus exercise Zapad 2017 is a reason for concern for NATO?
Russia-Belarus exercise Zapad 2017 started today. Experts are asked what the most important strategic objectives of the Russia-Belarus exercise Zapad 2017 are, especially from the Russian point of view and whether Zapad 2017 is a reason for concern for NATO.
Will tensions between the West and Russia run high during the exercise?
This is what they said:
Johan Norberg, Senior Analyst at FOI (Swedish Defence Research Agency)
The main strategic objective is to train and if possible consolidate the capability to launch and wage high-intensity war fighting operations on the war-theatre level. I base this on an analysis of Russia’s strategic military exercises in 2011 – 2014 report and on (yet unpublished) work covering 2015 and 2016. The West should worry about Russia’s capability intentions, what type of wars they want to be able to fight, not that this exercise takes place in Western Russia and Belarus right now (it does once every 4 years).
Tensions are political. The military exercises are in my understanding primarily for building military capabilities. I do not expect the exercise as such to create more tension than there already is. Yes, there is a theoretical higher risk of incidents since there will probably be more reconnaissance aircraft and ships active than usual.
Michael Kofman, Research Scientist, CNA Corporation, Fellow, Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center
There are three elements to this exercise. First, Russia is testing its ability to command combined arms formations and the logistics involved in moving heavy ground forces into the Baltic region. Second it is a large civil-defense drill designed to test how the military and civilian authorities would behave at a time of total war, de facto mobilization of the state for a conflict with an existential threat. In that respect it tests the National Guard and other authorities in their response to internal instability, protests and the like. Finally the exercise is important in signaling to the United States that Russia has the capability and resolve to intervene in Belarus, defend its interests, and see NATO down in a potential fight. The scenario is defensive but some elements of Russian strategy are principally offensive since they involve compelling the adversary during a crisis or conflict.
Absolutely, any time a country conducts large scale military exercises it is a time for prudent vigilance and caution on the part of neighbours. This is especially so because Russia has a mixed history of having used some announced and unannounced exercises in the past to prepare for combat operations against another state, most notably Kavkaz-2008 and the snap readiness inspection in February 2014. Tensions do run high in the context of the wider confrontation between Russia and the West, but few truly expect this exercise to be a prelude to some nefarious plan, or risky adventure. Most of the reactions among NATO members have been calm, although there is always some unfortunate panic and media sensationalism that takes place during such events.
Paal Hilde, Associate Professor, Centre for Norwegian and European Security, Institute for Defence Studies/Norwegian Defence University College
A major military exercise like Zapad 2017 generally has many objectives, ranging from narrow military aims to overtly political ones. What the most important strategic objectives of Zapad 2017 are from the Russian point of view is hard to determine with certainty. There are probably several such objectives and their relative significance will likely vary among different actors. From the military perspective, the exercise will be another occasion to test new concepts, including lessons learned in Ukraine and Syria. On the more political level, to show the Russian population, notably in Kaliningrad, as well as NATO that the Russian military is able to move quickly to defend the exclave may be another objective. Russia might also want to intimidate Belarus and other neighbours. More generally, military prowess has been a key tool in Putin’s attempt to re-establish Russia’s status as a “great power” in international affairs; including in Europe and the Middle East. Showing off military force, including in highly publicised exercises, is seemingly also useful for the Putin administration in domestic political mobilisation. The massive attention Zapad 2017 has gained in both Russian and international media is in itself a sign that such exercises are a highly useful political tool.
The speculations that Zapad 2017 might be a cover for plans to invade the Baltic states or Ukraine seem to be just that – speculations. Russian officials have obviously rejected such accusations and it is hard to see what Russia would want to achieve with such a military adventure. There is thus more reason for worry regarding situations where NATO and Russian military forces come close and where accidents or unplanned and unfortunate events spin out of control. Both sides are aware of this danger and will presumably seek to maintain safe distances and quickly deescalate if necessary. The most tangible and obvious concern from the point of view of NATO is of a political nature, however. Russia has claimed that only 12 700 personnel and a small number of military equipment will be involved in the exercise, bringing it below the threshold in the Vienna Document for inviting observers. Much suggests that the total military manpower and equipment that will be involved in the series of other exercises that run in parallel with the official Zapad 2017 will be vastly larger – perhaps up to 100 000. If this is the case, Zapad 2017 will represent a blatant Russian violation of the spirit if not the letter of the Vienna Document. It will thus represent yet another setback for arms control and confidence building in Europe.
Garret Martin, Professorial Lecturer, School of International Service, Editor at Large at the European Institute, American University
This is a bit of a speculation but we can assume that Zapad 2017 might serve the following interests/objectives for Russia. First, there is the declared aim of conducting an exercise against a simulated terrorist or asymmetric threat. But, in addition to that, it is likely that Russia is also keen to display its power and in particular to emphasize its ability “to impose substantial costs on a technologically advanced adversary, i.e. the United States” (see the very good piece from War on the Rocks that covers Russian thinking – https://warontherocks.com/2017/08/what-to-expect-when-youre-expecting-zapad-2017/ ). To cite the same piece, Zapad is also a way to establish Russia’s coercive credibility.
Is Zapad 2017 a cause of concern for NATO and a possible source of tension? That may be overstating it. Apprehension sure, but tension is too strong a word. It is true that Russia staged large drills before the conflict in Georgia in 2008 and before annexing Crimea in 2014. And Russia is most likely dramatically understating the number of troops involved in Zapad 2017 (announcing 12,700 troops, which puts it just under the threshold of 13,000 by which Russia would have to invite outside observers).
But on the other hand, there are plenty of reasons to keep Zapad 2017 in perspective. Many countries conduct such exercises, and Russia has conducted many before that were not prelude to actual operations. Moreover, part of the exercises will take place well inside Belarus and from a healthy distance away from the Polish and Lithuanian borders. Not to mention that it would be quite foolish for Russia to try and use the exercise as a smokescreen for an actual operation when NATO states are keeping a close eye on the region.
The overall objective of Zapad is to test how Russia, its C2 structures, armed forces units, and civil organisations will react if country went to war with NATO. Zapad has always had an anti-NATO character so it should not at all be surprising that NATO is target here.
That said, Zapad is much more than a military exercise. A significant part of country’s C2 structures, civil organisations are involved in Zapad as Moscow will want to see how they mobilise, move, develop, conduct operations in a state of war or increased emergency. The current movement of troops, readiness tests (such as the one from early September that tested readiness of the 11 ICBM regiments) likely fall under what Russia’s call a “threatening period”. This is when Moscow realises that threats are real. These threats need to be addressed by troop deployments, flexing muscles, and improving readiness. These moves are also a part of Zapad. How Russia mobilises pre-official start of Zapad will also be closely assessed by the civil-military leadership post-exercise.
In short not really. Zapad is going to be provide a great insight on the progress of the Russian Armed Forces reforms, how and how quickly it mobilises, how it seeks to deter potential adversaries. We should learn from it and how to be afraid of it.
It is very likely that aircraft will be intercepted over the Baltic Sea by both sides, NATO will deploy SIGINT and ELINT assets to take a peek into what’s going on in the Kaliningrad Oblast. I don’t expect tensions to run higher compared to what we have experienced in the past two-three years.
In conducting these large capstone exercises, Russia has pursued both military and political aims. On the military side, Russia seeks to highlight its abilities to conduct large-scale joint operations that involve multiple branches of its armed forces and require the activation of logistics networks that include the transfer of forces from one part of the country to another. Zapad 2017 and other exercises in this series also seek to develop military cooperation between Russia and Belarus, since Belarus is Russia’s most capable military ally and serves as a critical buffer zone between Russian and NATO member states. What’s more, a NATO intervention in Belarus is seen in Russia as one of the most likely causes for a major military confrontation between Russia and the West.
On the political side, Zapad-2017 is aimed at deterring the West by highlighting Russia’s preparedness to counter any aggressive actions by NATO or its individual member states. Despite Western perceptions of Russian aggressiveness, Russia continues to feel relatively weak when compared to the United States and its allies. As a result, it seeks to highlight its capabilities to defend itself, against both a direct attack and regime change efforts. The recent Western media stories highlighting the potential size of the exercise are very helpful in Russia achieving this goal.
NATO should treat Zapad 2017 as an opportunity to study the Russian military’s strengths and weaknesses and also its defensive strategy for its Western border. I don’t see any reason for tensions to be high during the exercise, except for the misplaced concerns expressed by politicians in neighboring NATO states about the possibility of the exercise being a cover for a Russian invasion.
Statements that Russian military exercises on its borders are inevitably a precursor to foreign intervention are a prime example of selection bias. Russia conducts military exercises on its borders many times a year, usually with little notice from non-specialists. Only on two occasions have these these exercises been followed by foreign interventions, and in both cases these took place during major international crises, not as a surprise attack. Russia has repeatedly indicated that it is not interested in a forceful intervention in the Baltic, both because it has no desire to occupy hostile territory and because its leaders continue to have faith in NATO’s willingness to back its Article 5 guarantees to its Baltic member states with armed force.
The Alexander Otrakovsky large landing ship of the Russian Northern Fleet has set off on a long mission to the Atlantic Ocean to fight pirates and terrorists, Fleet Spokesman Captain First Rank Vadim Serga said.
“While on the mission, the large landing ship will travel to important areas of the ocean,” he pointed out. “Its priorities are to ensure maritime security and Russia’s maritime economic activities, as well as to respond to the threats of the present day, such as piracy and international terrorism,” he added.
The ship’s crew will also hold defense and damage control exercises to train skills useful on long sea missions.
In 2015-2016, the Alexander Otrakovsky spent a total of 588 days at sea.
Russia’s frigate The Admiral Makarov of project 1135.6 has successfully hit anti-ship cruise missile simulators with its air defense system Shtil. The firing practice was part of the government acceptance test, the Baltic Fleet’s spokesman Roman Martov told the media.
“The frigate The Admiral Makarov has coped with the task of defending itself from a missile strike with its air defense system Shtil,” Martov said.
Two other Baltic Fleet ships – The Geizer and The Liven – had launched simulators of cruise missiles in the designated area of the Baltic Sea.
“The anti-aircraft missiles fired from The Admiral Makarov successfully hit the air targets,” Martov said, adding that the task was coped with in a complex electronic jamming situation.
The Baltic Sea’s area where the testing was conducted was closed to shipping and civilian aircraft. Ten naval and support ships of the Black Sea fleet cordoned off the area.
The frigate The Admiral Makarov (project 1135.6) began to be built at the Yantar shipyard on February 29, 2012 and set afloat on September 2, 2015.
Ships of this class are meant for resistance to surface ships and submarines and for repelling air raids, on their own or in cooperation with other ships.
They boast universal missile and artillery weapons and advanced radio-electronic equipment for anti-submarine and air defense. Project 1135.6 frigates have a displacement of about 4,000 tonnes, length of 125 meters and speed of up to 30 knots.
Unchallenged, Moscow is forging ahead with its northern ambitions, which leave the West vulnerable.
The world is not short of hotspots: Syria; North Korea; Libya; Ukraine… But one of the hottest is also one of the coldest – the Arctic, which is rapidly becoming the front line in a new Russian game of expansion. On Franz Josef Land, an ice-covered, desolate archipelago well into the Arctic circle, Russia has just opened a new military base. If Nato is to respond, which it must, then Britain, positioned at the gateway to the Arctic Ocean, will be at the heart of the showdown.
This little-known geo-political battle began almost 20 years ago, when Vladimir Putin came to power. The following year, 2001, Russia submitted an application to the United Nations asserting that a vast unclaimed area of the Arctic Ocean, including the North Pole, should be subject to Moscow’s oversight. Initially rejected, the bid was resubmitted two years ago; if successful, it would see Russia’s boundaries enlarged by 463,000 square miles.
The Russian flag was even planted on the central Arctic seabed 10 years ago, with the Kremlin aiming to exploit the area’s unique ambiguity of governance. For in contrast to the Antarctic, which is largely land beneath the ice, the Arctic is mostly just frozen seawater and thus subject to maritime jurisdictions, which are often less than clear.
Russian efforts in the frozen north are only partly territorial, however. Crucial resources are also at stake. A study released by the United States Geological Survey in 2008 estimated that 13 per cent of the world’s remaining oil and 30 per cent of its natural gas reserves are in the Arctic. Russia wants to harvest these; its official Arctic policy, adopted in 2008, makes clear that Moscow’s ambition is to turn the Arctic into the country’s “strategic resource base”.
To this end, it has spent the past decade militarising the region – far outstripping Western efforts. In 2007, it resumed the Cold War-era practice of long-range air patrols over the Arctic. A year later, the formidable Northern Fleet resumed surface patrols of its waters. Meanwhile, Russian submarine activity in the North Atlantic is reportedly reaching levels not seen since the Cold War.
As part of an intense programme of military modernisation, Russia has established an Arctic Joint Strategic Command to coordinate all of these activities, made considerable investments in a number of new Arctic brigades, and re-opened Soviet-era military bases as well as building new facilities. The polar region is now a major site for its war games.
As a result, the West is vulnerable. The US has only one icebreaker capable of operating in Arctic waters, and this vessel is 10 years past retirement. Russia, however, has 40, and is developing an additional 11 as part of its efforts to control the Northern Sea Route for shipping.
In response to Moscow’s actions, Nato is believed to be considering the revival of the Atlantic Command, dissolved after the Cold War. But what else can be done? During the Cold War, the so-called Greenlandiceland-uk Gap, the principal choke point between Russia’s Northern Fleet in the Arctic and its strategic interests in the North Atlantic, was probably the most minutely observed stretch of ocean on the planet – with the Royal Navy playing a principal role.
The “GIUK Gap” receded in importance after the Soviet Union collapsed. But now, as Russia becomes more assertive, the UK – together with Nato allies – is scrabbling to recover its capabilities there. In July 2016, the Ministry of Defence announced it would spend £3bn to buy nine P-8 Poseidon aircraft, in order to monitor activity across the North Atlantic.
Nato has long ignored the Arctic. This must change. It needs to ensure that there is a common understanding of the region’s security challenges as well as a comprehensive policy to address them.
Artur Chilingarov, Russia’s special envoy to the Arctic, said on Wednesday that he expects the UN to approve the extension of Russia’s Arctic boundaries. Suppose the opposite were to happen, however, and Russia were to use force to secure its interests, just as in Ukraine and Syria. How would Nato react?
MURMANSK, September 4. /TASS/. Russia’s nuclear-powered submarine The Dmitry Donskoy, the largest in the world, has returned to the Northern Fleet’s base at Severomorsk, the Northern Fleet’s press-service said on Monday.
“The submarine’s crew has been away from the base for more than three months. It participated in the main naval parade on the occasion of the Russian Navy Day in Kronshtadt and performed combat training tasks in the Barents Sea,” the Northern Fleet said.
In Severodvinsk, the submarine was welcomed by Rear Admiral Arkady Romanov, its former commander. He heard a report from the submarine’s current commander, Captain 1st Class Oleg Tsybin, on the successful completion of the tasks and return to base, congratulated the crew and thanked the sailors for their service.
The heavy nuclear-powered submarine The Dmitry Donskoy is the world’s largest operational submarine. It is 170 meters long and 23 meters wide. Its draught in the surface position is about 11 meters and submerged displacement, 50,000 tonnes.
In June 2017 the submarine made its first surface voyage from Severomorsk to Kronshtadt through the Baltic straits and the Gulf of Finland.