I have only set foot on two Russian warships. Admiral Vinogradov – 554,  an Udaloy-class destroyer of the Russian Navy; it is currently active with the Russian Pacific Fleet. It is named for Admiral Nikolai Ignatevich Vinogradov.

Admiral Vinogradov, underway.

The second ship was the Boevoy (Militant), a Sovremenny class, guided missile destroyer, Soviet designation Project 956 Sarych (vulture).

Sovremenny Class guided missile destroyer

I’ll share my perspectives, taken from that time and place, years ago. At the time I went on the Admiral Vinogradov, circa 1990, she had only been in commission for about one year. The ship, even though in commission for a year, hadn’t had much sea time and it still looked fresh. From a technology perspective, it was a brand new, thirty year old ship. The Udaloy-class was primarily laid down for anti-submarine warfare, though as with all Russian ships, there were weapons systems onboard that dated from the Second World War (Great Patriotic War).

Decks: I’d seen the brown decks of Russian warships on photographs, many taken from P-3C aircraft of the type flown by Old NFO. I wondered about the brown decks. They were rusted. The American navy laid down non-skid to keep traction on wet decks, the Russians felt that a rusted deck was a non-skid deck. They’re not wrong. It just surprised me.

NBC Preparation: The Russian systems for dealing with Chemical warfare were impressive. They could wash down the deck of the ship in very short order. There were nozzles everywhere for that purpose — if they worked. I never saw them work, but my sense was that thy did. There were wires, grounding everything to cope with EMP from a nearby nuclear blast. Maybe 1/3 of the wires were rusted through and broken on the Boevoy.

Damage Control: Neither the Boevoy or the Admiral Vinogradov had seals on their watertight doors, which meant that they were not water tight. One decent hit below the waterline was not survivable by either ship. From my discussion with members of the crew of both ships, none of them expected to survive a battle with the American fleet. The missile officer on the Boevoy said that they’d fire the missiles and run, hoping to escape. The Russians were very candid about what they perceived their chances to be. US Navy damage control training is obsessive. The Russians had some shoring material (2×4’s and steel plates) but they didn’t train in damage control.

I am not pointing these things out to denigrate the Russian Navy or its sailors, who do the best with what they have. To be fair, the US Navy’s missile launch system was patterned after the Soviet Navy. Likewise, the Soviet Ships were running gas turbine engines long before the Americans were clued in. The difficult Arctic operating environment that the Russians had to contend with meant that missile rails wouldn’t work. They came up with a better way. And the US perfected it.

Captioned Photo: The Kirov class, Soviet designation Project 1144 Orlan (sea eagle), nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser. Take a moment and count the various radar and radio masts and antennas on the Kirov cruiser.  There are a lot of them. And even though US warships have their share, the Russians don’t seem to deconflict them in the same way. They just add weapons systems and sensor systems and bolt them in an open/empty space. While the Kirov class was impressively large and carried a huge punch in terms of missiles, it was in effect, a big target.

Philosophy: The Soviet/Russian philosophy was, and to some extent still is, to build a ship or submarine around a particular weapons system. The US philosophy is to build the ship and adapt weapons. That’s not always the case, but if you take the SSGN class of American submarines, they didn’t start out as SSGN’s. The same can be said for other submarines. The Soviet/Russian attack submarines were built around their MASSIVE torpedoes.

Crew Comfort: With the exception of the Typhoon class of ballistic missile submarine, Russian warships are spartan. During WW2, American warships were very uncomfortable as well, but priorities shifted for us. Not so for the Soviet/Russian Navy.

Weapons: My sense of Russian/Soviet missiles without going into details that could get me into trouble, is that they are big, they pack large warheads, and they work.

 

Footnote: The old Russian navy with the Kirov was the last Soviet gasp. They wouldn’t have lasted long in a fight, primarily because they would have been bottled-up in ice in the winter and if they sortied during the summer, they would have to sail through choke points long before they arrived at the G-I-UK gap. Lots of artificial reefs.  Their submarines are a different matter, but they don’t have many of them anymore. Their newer boats aren’t bad and I think that they’re the general peer of most of the world’s better subs.

20 COMMENTS

  1. “large warheads”

    “Use Enough Gun” Robert Ruark, who did his time as a gunnery orificer during WWII.

  2. Saw on another site that, at least for the Marines, the officer corp IQ has dropped 10 points over the last couple of decades.
    If this is happening in the other branches, we’ll end up with super whizbang systems that require more brainpower to use than what is available.

    • In the US Navy, enlisted personnel are technicians and the officers are managers. In the Soviet and now Russian Navy, enlisted personnel handle minor functions, the officers are the technicians – and the managers.

      When I was in the navy, I knew/worked with a couple of master chiefs who were working on PhD’s in very technical fields. I was not the technician, simply interfaced with the people who worked on a special access program. You’d NEVER see that in the Russian Navy. I’m sure that the master chiefs moved on. Neither wanted to be officers, and given their situation, who would? They were YOUNG master chiefs.

  3. Thanks for the briefing. And I might be wrong, but I get the feeling the Russian Navy’s not too concerned with climate change, diversity quotas and gender awareness training. Serious error. As their jack tars collapse laughing on their rusted decks, we swoop in with diversity torpedoes. Take that, “Putin.”

  4. Yep rusty decks worked for them, on ALL their classes of ships. The other point was, in our day, many of the ‘crew’ of the ships were conscripts one or two years into their service, so just becoming basically competent as sailors. All those antennas made a helluva radar or ESM target, especially given their ‘tendency’ to run everything all the time.

  5. I’ve never been on a Russian ship, but I worked with a lot of Russians and Ukrainians, and had to help them repair some American equipment they had in one of their systems. Somebody had broken an RF connector, and they were stumped trying to find a simple female, Type-N, bulkhead connector. I had them back on-the-air in about two hours, and they were extremely grateful.

    They also had some equipment in one of our spaces, and it was fascinating (to me, anyway) to look at it, and see what they were using for such mundane things as connectors, cable, knobs, switches, meters, indicators, etc.

    It was brand spanking new equipment, but it looked like it had been built in the 1950’s~1960’s. Some of my radio friends who collect military stuff tell me their currently in-service comms gear looks like brand-new 1970’s gear.

    • Those MIL spec connectors are great, and a radio guy usually has a few spares lying around. That they are still in use goes to that Murphy’s Law axiom, if it works don’t fix it.

      • Soviet-era MS connectors were similar, but yet very different than ours. The pins looked similar, but the diameters and threads were different, along with the sealing mechanism. They had some unique RF connectors, too, but for the most part their stuff was Western knock-offs. Why pay all that NRE when you can just copy somebody else’s design?

  6. I’ve always had the impression the Russians/soviets consider themselves a land based power and their navy is very much a poorer service in terms of resources.
    How long will it take before NATO and the US push too far and too close? Ukraine is in spitting distance after all. Georgia showed there is a limit to what they’ll put up with.

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