Russia Just Might Have the Last ‘Battelships’ on Earth

Russia Just Might Have the Last ‘Battelships’ on Earth

Robert Farley


Or, to be more accurate, the last ships that might resemble them. 

The Kirovs (and ships like them) also made clear that the Soviet surface fleet could pose a serious threat to U.S. carrier battlegroups, and potential to U.S. ballistic missile submarines.  This resulted in increased attention to the conventional cruise missile threat, including improved radars and point defense systems.

In the 1970s, the Soviet Union embarked on a project to do what no navy had done for decades—build a surface warfare vessel comparable in size to the battleships of World War I and World War II. The U.S. Navy—and every other navy in the world—had given up on ships of this size due to expense and vulnerability. Why concentrate capabilities in a single ship which could quickly fall victim to missiles and torpedoes?

The Soviets not only persisted in building the ships, but have kept them in service even after the Cold War ended. Originally intended to threaten the U.S. Navy’s most precious warships—aircraft carriers and ballistic missile submarines—the surviving ships now play a different role, showing the flag and ensuring that the world keeps Russian naval power in mind.

(This first appeared in July 2016.)


The Kirovs (Project 1144) originated as nuclear powered antisubmarine cruisers, designed to either hunt American missile submarines, or protect Soviet nuclear “bastions” from U.S. and British attack boats. At the time of their initial conception, the Soviets did not focus on antiship capabilities in their surface ships. However, improvements in missile technology, combined with the increasing threat posed by American surface vessels and especially American carriers, made it possible to imagine a ship that could combine surface, subsurface and antisubmarine warfare capabilities.

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