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Friday 24 October 2014

FLEETS #6 and HISTORY #1: Soviet Navy after WWII - A very unusual fleet!

Written by D-Mitch

Kuybyshev of Chapayev class cruisers at Sevastopol on Navy Day,
25 July 1954. On the background you can see Novorossiysk,
the former Italian battleship Giulio Cesare
The following image depicts the major surface combatants of Soviet Union some years after the end of World War II. Of the warships that are illustrated we can assume that the image presents the Soviet Union fleet in the beginning of the '50s, possibly 1950-2. Why "An unusual fleet"? Because this fleet, with the exception of some Soviet-built classes, it consists of Italian, German, Japanese and Finnish warships that were transferred to Soviet Union as war reparations! In order to describe better the situation of Soviet Navy after WWII towards the establishment of a naval superpower based on indigenous projects, I did not just upload the fleet-image as I did in the previous "Fleets" but I aimed to provide some details about the classes and the vessels of that time and especially their fate during their service under the Soviets. Thus, I have copied information related to the classes from wikipedia and I have slightly modified the text as my purpose in this article was not to make an analysis of a class or a vessel based on bibliography as I do in other naval analyses but to provide simple information about the Soviet naval vessels of the 1950s. I would like to mention also that most of the photos were obtained from the excellent

The assumptions over the new Soviet warships that were under construction in the '40s. From popular Mechanics magazine of July 1950.
Soviet Navy in early '50s. In high resolution here
The ships that are depicted in the previous image are:

1. Battleship Novorossiysk
She was the former Italian battleship Giulio Cesare that was transferred to Soviet Union in 1949 and served until 1956. Giulio Cesare was one of the three Conte di Cavour-class dreadnought battleships built for the Royal Italian Navy (Regia Marina) in the 1910s. She served in both World Wars. She was rebuilt between 1933 and 1937 with more powerful guns, additional armor and considerably more speed than before. The general characteristics of the ship after the major reconstruction were a displacement of about 30,000tons at full load, length 186m, speed 27knots, armament consisting of 2 triple and 2 twin 320mm (12.6 in) guns (10 in total), 6 twin 120 mm guns and 4 twin 100 mm (3.9 in) guns. The Soviets used her as a training ship when she was not undergoing one of her eight refits in their hands! In 1953, all remaining Italian light AA guns were replaced by 18 37 mm 70-K AA guns in six twin mounts and six singles. They also replaced her fire-control systems and added radars, although the exact changes are unknown. The Soviets intended to rearm Novorossiysk with their own 305 mm guns as she was the most heavy surface combatant in Soviet Fleet that time but this was forestalled by her loss. While at anchor in Sevastopol on the night of 28/29 October 1955 and operating as the Black Sea Fleet's flagship, she most likely detonated a large German mine left over from World War II. The explosion blew a hole completely through the ship, making a 4-by-14-meter (13 by 46 ft) hole in the forecastle forward of 'A' turret. The flooding could not be controlled and she later capsized with the loss of 608 men, including men sent from other ships to assist. It was a major disaster in national naval history. There are also many explanations for the ship's loss that have been proposed; the most popular one is that the ship was sunk by Italian frogmen of the wartime special operations unit Decima Flottiglia MAS.

2. Battleships Sevastopol (later Parizhskaya Kommuna) and Oktyabrskaya Revolyutsiya

Parizhskaya Kommuna
Parizhskaya Kommuna
The Gangut-class battleships, also known as the "Sevastopol class", were the first dreadnoughts begun for the Imperial Russian Navy before World War I. The four battleships were delivered from December 1914 through January 1915. Three of the ships were reconstructed and modernized before WWII; two survived after WWII, the Sevastopol (later Parizhskaya Kommuna) and Oktyabrskaya Revolyutsiya (former Gangut) that remained on the active list after the end of the war although little is known of their activities. Both were reclassified as 'school battleships' in 1954 and stricken in 1956 after which they were slowly scrapped. The general characteristics of the class were a displacement of 25,000tons, length 181m, speed 24knots while the armament was 4 triple 12-inch (305mm) guns, 16 single 4.7-inch (120mm) guns, one 3-inch (76mm) Lender AA gun and 4 single 17.7-inch (450mm) submerged torpedo tubes.

3. Cruiser Sverdlov (Sverdlov class)

Mikhail Kutuzov in 1970s
Sverdlov at the Coronation Naval
Review, 1953
The Sverdlov class cruisers (Soviet designation Project 68bis), were the last conventional cruisers built for the Soviet Navy, in the 1950s. They were based on Italian pre-Second World War concepts and designs, but with deployment on the North Atlantic and Arctic sea routes as a potential role and represent an intelligent approach with a modest armament of conventional 6 inch triple turrets on a large seaworthy hull able to run fast in rough water and fight her armament in a seaway. By the mid 1950s the development of USN and Royal Navy jet strike aircraft meant gun cruisers increasingly could only be used for gunfire support and as command ships. Only 14 Sverdlovs were completed before Nikita Khrushchev called a halt to the programme, with 2 hulls being scrapped on the slip and 4 more partially complete Sverdlovs launched in 1954, being scrapped in 1959. Six ships of the class dad been completed in 1952. Conventional cruisers were considered obsolescent by all navies with the advent of the guided missile, although many dissenting Russian admirals and officers still considered a cruiser effective in overcast weather in the late 1950s' before the age of the all-weather carrier strike aircraft. Only the Mikhail Kutuzov is preserved, in Novorossiysk. The ships had a displacement of about 16,300tons, length of 210m, speed 33knots while the armament consisted of 4 triple 6in (152,4mm) B-38 guns, 12 single 3.9in (100mm) Model 1934 guns in 6 twin SM-5-1 mounts, 16 twin 37mm AA and 10 x 533mm torpedo tubes (2x5). Later, several were converted to missile ships, while two were converted to command ships. In 1953 the Sverdlov was sent to Britain to represent the Soviet Union at Queen Elizabeth's Coronation Naval Review (watch the event here). There her elegant lines and immaculate handling made a big impression. Speculation was rife about her capabilities, and her essentially old-fashioned features were overlooked. Sverdlov class was the most advanced Soviet class of cruisers in that time but, on the other hand, Project 68-bis ships were only the improved pre-war design. Nevertheless, she was still one of the best artillery cruisers. Design was enlarged version of Chapayev class (see next paragraph). Sverdlov cruisers had the same machinery, main armament and side protection, but had much increased fuel capacity (for an endurance of 9000nm, sufficient provisions for 30 days).

4. Cruiser Zhelesnyakov (Chapayev class)

Komsomolets, former Chkalov, 1970s
The Chapayev class (Project 68) were a group of cruisers built for the Soviet Navy during and after World War II. Seventeen ships were planned but only seven were actually started before the German invasion. Three incomplete ships were destroyed when their building yard in Nikolaev was captured by Nazi Germany and the remaining five cruisers were completed only in 1950. The ships had a displacement of 14,300tons at full load, length of 201m while the speed was 33knots. The design was based on the Kirov class cruisers, but with significant changes in armament. The armament consisted of 4 triple152 mm (6.0 in) B-38 guns, 4 twin 100 mm (3.9 in) Model 1934 guns, 28 × 37 mm (1.5 in) AA and 6 × 533 mm (21.0 in) torpedo tubes (later removed). The five ships were completed after the war to a modified design (Project 69K). Later, the aircraft facilities and torpedo tubes were removed and radar and improved anti-aircraft artillery added (37mm guns in twin powered and water cooled mountings).

5. Cruiser Stalingrad

Stalingrad was the former Emanuele Filiberto Duca d'Aosta, an Italian light cruiser of the fourth group of the Condottieri-class, that served in the Regia Marina during World War II. She survived the war, but was ceded as war reparation to the Soviet Navy in 1949. She was first renamed as Stalingrad, then as Kerch and served with the Soviet Black Sea Fleet until she was stricken on 20 February 1959 and scrapped in the 1960s (possibly 1960). The ship had a displacement of 10,000tons, length of 187m, speed 36.5knots (!) while it was armed with 4 twin 152 mm (6 in) guns, 3 twin 100 mm (3.9 in) guns, 4 twin 37 mm guns and 4 twin 13.2 mm guns.

6. Cruisers of Kirov class

The Kirov-class (Project 26) cruisers were a class of six vessels built in the late 1930s for the Soviet Navy. After the first two ships, armor protection was increased and subsequent ships are sometimes called the Maxim Gorky class. These were the first large ships built by the Soviets from the keel up after the Russian Civil War, and they were derived from the Italian light cruiser Raimondo Montecuccoli. Two ships each were deployed in the Black and Baltic Seas during World War II, while the last pair was still under construction in the Russian Far East and saw no combat during the war. The first four ships bombarded Axis troops and facilities after the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. All six ships survived the war and lingered until the 1970s in training and other secondary roles before being scrapped. The Kirovs were built in pairs, each pair incorporating some improvements over the earlier pair. These pairs were designated as the Project 26, Project 26bis, and Project 26bis2 in sequence. The differences between pairs usually related to size, armor, armament and aircraft. The Project 26 class ships were 191.3 m long overall and they displaced 9,400tons at full load. The two Project 26bis ships were 9,700 tonnes at full load and they were only slightly longer at 191.4 m. On trials they proved to be the fastest ships of the class with a speed of 36.72 knots. The Project 26bis2 pair were still larger and displaced 10,400 tonnes at full load. The main armament consisted of three electrically powered MK-3-180 triple turrets with three 57-calibre 180 mm B-1-P guns. The secondary armament consisted of 6 single 100mm (3.9 in) B-34 anti-aircraft guns except the Project 26bis2 which used 8 single 85mm (3.3 in) 90-K guns. The rest of the armament varied among the vessels but in general the ships were armed with 45mm (1.8 in) 21-K AA guns, 12.7mm (0.50 in) DShK AA machine guns, 37mm (1.5 in) 70-K AA guns, Lend-Lease quadruple Vickers 0.50in machine gun MK III mounts, 2 triple 533mm (21.0 in) torpedo tubes and they could carry also 96–164 mines and 50 depth charges.

7. Cruiser Admiral Makarov 

Admiral Makarov
Admiral Makarov was the former Nürnberg, a German light cruiser of the Leipzig class built for the Kriegsmarine. She was named after the city of Nuremberg and had one sister ship, Leipzig. Nürnberg was laid down in 1934, launched in December of that year, and completed in November 1935. Nürnberg was 181.3 meters long overall, she displaced 9,000tons at full combat load and she could steam at a speed of 32 knots. She was armed with a main battery of 3 triple 150mm (5.9 in) guns . Nürnberg was the longest-serving major warship of the Kriegsmarine, and the only one to see active service after the end of World War II, though not in a German navy. After the end of the war, Nürnberg was seized by the Royal Navy and ultimately awarded to the Soviet Union as war reparations. In December 1945, a Soviet crew took over the ship, and the following month took her to Tallinn, where she was renamed Admiral Makarov. She served in the Soviet Navy, first in the 8th Fleet, then as a training cruiser based in Kronstadt. During this period, most of her light anti-aircraft armament was removed, and new radars were installed. By 1960, she had been broken up for scrap.

8. Cruiser Krasni Kaukaz

Krasni Kaukaz 
Krasnyi Kavkaz ("Red Caucasus") was a cruiser of the Soviet Navy that began construction during World War I, but was still incomplete during the Russian Revolution. Her design was heavily modified by the Soviets and she was completed in 1932. During World War II she supported Soviet troops during the Siege of Odessa, Siege of Sevastopol, and the Kerch-Feodosiya Operation in the winter of 1941-42. Little is known about her activities after the end of the war other than she was redesignated as a training ship on 12 May 1947. She was sunk as a target ship by SS-N-1 missiles on 21 November 1952. The displacement of the ship was about 9,000tons, the length was 160m and the speed 29knots. The armament was 4 single 180 mm guns, 4 twin 100 mm AA guns, 2 single 76 mm AA guns, 4 single 45 mm AA guns, 4 single 12.7 mm (0.50 in) AA machine guns, 4 triple 533 mm (21.0 in) torpedo tubes and she could carry 60–120 mines.

9. Cruiser Krasni Krim

Krasni Krim
Krasnyi Krym ("Red Crimea") was a light cruiser of the Soviet Navy. She was laid down in 1913 as Svetlana for the Imperial Russian Navy, the lead ship of the Svetlana class. She was built by the Russo-Baltic Yard in Tallinn, Estonia and launched in 1915. Her hull was evacuated to Petrograd when the Germans approached the port in late 1917 and laid up incomplete during the Russian Revolution. The ship was completed by the Soviets in 1926. During World War II she supported Soviet troops during the Siege of Odessa, Siege of Sevastopol, and the Kerch-Feodosiya Operation in the winter of 1941-42. The ship was reclassified as a training ship in 1954. On 7 May 1957 she was redesignated as Experimental Ship OS-20 and then reclassified on 18 March 1959 as Floating Barracks PKZ-144 before being scrapped in July 1959. The displacement was 8,000tons, the length 158m and the speed 29knots. She was armed with 15 single 130 mm (5.1in) B7 Pattern 1913 guns, 9 single 76 mm (3.0 in) AA guns, 2 triple 450mm (18in) torpedo tubes and she could carry 100 mines.

10. Cruiser Viborg

Viborg on Neva river.
Photo: Vitaliy Kostrichenko
Viborg was the former Väinämöinen, a Finnish coastal defence ship, the sister ship of the Finnish Navy's flagship Ilmarinen and also the first ship of her class; she was launched in 1932. Väinämöinen, as well as Ilmarinen were planned to be mobile coastal fortresses for the defence of the Finnish demilitarized islands at Åland in particular. The two ships were not suited for operations on the open sea. The biggest problems were that the ships were volatile and rolled too much. The minimal depth keel, together with the high conning tower, made the ships' movements slow and wide. It was said that the ships were uncomfortable, but harmless to their crews. After WWII it was decided to hand over the Väinämöinen as war reparations to the Soviet Union. The ship was handed over on 29 May 1947 to the Soviet Baltic Fleet, where it was renamed Vyborg. The ship served over 6 years in the Red Fleet at the Soviet base in Porkkala, Finland. The ship was called Vanya (a Russian short form of the name Ivan) by the sailors of the Baltic Fleet. The Vyborg was modernized during the 1950s and served for a while as a residential ship in Tallinn. Preparations to scrap the ship were begun in 1958. During this time, there were talks to return the ship to Finland. The ship was, however, scrapped in 1966 at a Leningrad scrapyard. According to Soviet calculations, they received 2,700 tons of metal from the ship. The ship had a displacement of 3,900tons, length of 93m, speed of only 14.5knots and she was armed with 2 twin 254mm (10 in) Bofors, 4 twin 105mm Bofors, four 40 mm Vickers and eight 20 mm Madsens.

11. Destroyers ex-Harutsuki (Vnezapny), Provorni and Prochni and others

Narvik class
We can distinguish three destroyers with a foreign origin, the former Harutsuki, an Akizuki-class destroyer of the Imperial Japanese Navy that was turned over to the Soviet Union, renamed Vnezapny and rearmed by eight 102-mm guns, 15 25mm guns and 4 533mm torpedo tubes. She became training ship Oskol in 1949, target ship TSL-64 in 1955 and finally floating barracks PKZ-37 before been scrapped in 1969. There were also German destroyers in service with Soviet Union of that time: Provorni (Z33 of the Narvik class; in service from 1946 to 1962), Prochni (Z20 Karl Galster of the  Type 1936-class; in service 1946-1956) as well as Pylky (Z15 Erich Steinbrinck of the Type 1934A-class; in service from 1945 to 1958) and Prytky (Z14 Friedrich Ihn of the Type 1934A-class; in service 1945-1952).

12. Battleship Arkhangelsk

This ship is not included in the image as she was scrapped just some years earlier, in 1949, but it is included in this post to show the diversity among the vessels and the fact that Soviet Navy gained important experience in the first years after WWII by operating a variety of vessels of foreign origin which were given as war reparations. Arkhangelsk was the former HMS Royal Sovereign, a Revenge-class (also known as Royal Sovereign and R-class) battleship of the Royal Navy displacing about 30,000tons, having a length a bit less than 190m, a speed of 23knots and been armed with 4 twin 15-inch (381 mm) guns, 14 single 6-inch (152 mm) guns, 2 single 3-inch (76 mm) AA guns, 4 single 47 mm (1.9 in) 3-pdr guns and 4 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes. She was laid down in January 1914 and launched in April 1915; she served with Royal Navy until May 1944 when she  was transferred to the Soviet Navy where she was renamed Arkhangelsk. She was the largest ship in the Soviet fleet during the war. While in Soviet service, she was the flagship of Admiral Gordey Levchenko and was tasked with meeting Allied convoys in the Arctic Ocean and escort them into Kola. Arkhangelsk ran aground in the White Sea in late 1947; the extent of damage, if any, is unknown. The Soviet Navy returned the ship to the Royal Navy on 4 February 1949 after the former Italian battleship Giulio Cesare was transferred to the Soviet Black Sea Fleet. The Soviet Navy had initially sought to avoid sending the ship back, claiming that she was not sufficiently seaworthy to make the voyage back to Britain. After an inspection by a Royal Navy officer, however, the Soviet Navy agreed to return the vessel in January 1949. Upon returning to the Rosyth naval base, Royal Navy personnel thoroughly inspected the ship and found much of her equipment to be unserviceable. It appeared to the inspectors that the main battery turrets had not been rotated while the ship was in Soviet service (!), and were jammed on the centreline. As a result of her poor condition, she was sold for scrap.


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