When one hears the name of the warship Bismarck, one thinks of the mighty German battleship that drew the attention of the British Royal Navy’s Home Fleet and more when she broke out into the Atlantic Ocean in 1941. Before she could be stopped she sank the famous British battlecruiser Hood and battered battleship Prince of Wales.
But in the late Cold War in the Northwest Pacific area there was another warship which stood out; she was the biggest, meanest, most heavily-armed surface warship the Soviet Union had afloat. Kind of like the Bismarck of the Pacific with her vast array of sensors and weapons. She was the Kirov-class nuclear-powered guided-missile battle cruiser (CGN) Frunze (Фрунзе), the second ship of the class, named after Bolshevik leader Mikhail Frunze. No one in their right mind flying over the ocean blue, whether fixed or rotary wing, prop or jet, wanted to be anywhere near her in a time of war.
Not to say that was the case in a time of peace, as various US and friendly nation ships and aircraft were keen to view this vessel. After Frunze was commissioned on 31 October 1984 she joined the Soviet Pacific Ocean Fleet in December, 1984, visiting Angola, Yemen and Vietnam along the way.
Vessels like the four completed CGN’s of the Kirov-class inspired the modernization and return to service of the US Navy’s four Iowa-class battleships in the 1980s.
Frunze’s arrival in the Pacific was definitely noted by the 432nd TFW which activated at Misawa just a few months before. And as the 13th TFS came on line (1 Jun 1985) and then the 14th TFS (1 Jan 1987), they too noted her presence in the Soviet Pacific Fleet’s order of battle across the Sea of Japan.
What made this vessel so fearsome? (info tailored to Frunze; sister-ship armaments differ)
20 x SS-N-19 SHIPWRECK (P-700 Granit)
12 x octuple vertical launchers for SA-N-6 GRUMBLE (S-300PMU Favorit) long-range SAM (96 missiles)
The missiles are ejected vertically from their launch canister after which the rocket motor ignites and propels the missile on its way. Seen immediately below is the view of one such SA-N-6 GRUMBLE missile just out of the canister right before the rocket motor kicks in, possibly taken from Peter the Great. (Source: http://slide.mil.news.sina.com.cn)
Below: 16 x octuple vertical launchers for SA-N-9 GAUNTLET (3K95 Kinzhal) point-defense SAM (128 missiles)
2 x twin rail launchers for SA-N-4 GECKO (4K33 OSA-M) point defense SAM (44 missiles)
Dual-Purpose Guns (anti-air and anti-surface)
2 x 5.1 inch (130 mm)/L70 guns (one gun turret with twin gun mount)
8 × AK-630 six-barreled 30 mm/L60 point-defense gatling guns
2 × RBU-1000 305 mm ASW rocket launchers
2 × RBU-12000 (Udav-1) 254 mm ASW rocket launchers
10 x 533 mm ASW/ASuW torpedo tubes, Type 53 torpedo or SS-N-15 STARFISH ASW missile
3 x Ka-27 HELIX ASW helicopters
Although the Soviets built four of these vessels, only Frunze served in the Pacific, though some sources state Admiral Nakhimov did also. Not as active as a US Navy equivalent vessel, she occasionally ventured out from her homeport in the Vladivostok area into deeper waters, but it didn’t seem often, and not for long, offering limited opportunities to get acquainted with US airpower in the region.
Her first commander was Captain 1st Rank Eugene G. Zdesenko, who remained her skipper until September, 1987 (or 1988, depending on source). He was succeeded by Captain of the 1st Rank Mikhail Shcherbakov.
On 22 April 1992 she was renamed Admiral Lazarev (Адмирал Лазарев) after Russian admiral Mikhail Petrovich Lazarev, as some things changed after the fall of the Soviet Union. She continued service until July, 1999, when she was inactivated and placed in caretaker status due to fiscal constraints.
On 6 December 2002, she apparently suffered a four-hour fire in the forecastle area before it was extinguished. Perhaps as a result of the damage, circa 2004-2005, components of her nuclear powerplant were removed, impacting her ability to return to service. In 2008 her commanding officer was 1st Class Captain Andrei Granin.
Reports in 2011-2012 that the ship would be returned to service did not pan out. A Russian source indicated there is not a facility in the Far East that can accomplish the work needed to modernize Admiral Lazarev and it is a long tow to Severodinsk at the other end of Russia for such work. A video posted in Youtube circa 2011 showed a vessel in perhaps a less than optimum state of preservation, with less than excited sailors pitching a little bit of snow from her decks, in this video titled “Admiral Lazarev:”
As recently as 2014, her location was reported as in the Russian mothball fleet in Abrek Bay, near Fokino, Primorski Krai. She is only about 3.7 miles (6km) away from the Chazma Bay nuclear ship decommissioning facility. In August, 2014, she received new paint to help preserve her. See a short video in Russian language of the commemoration of the ship’s 30th birthday (giving an impression of German battleship Tirpitz in a snowy Norwegian fjord…) and a splendid new coat of paint, in a video titled “Admiral Lazarev” celebrated the 30th anniversary of the first ascent moisture (sorry, using Google translate!), at:
«Адмирал Лазарев» отпраздновал 30 лет со дня первого подъема влаг https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Xr2_hEL12I
Some reports that came out in 2015 which indicated Admiral Lazarev, technically outdated and worn, would be scrapped in 2016. For now it appears the 14th Fighter Squadron Samurai won’t have to face the same prospective seaborne-threat their Tactical Fighter Squadron predecessors did in the Cold War. And that’s OK, really….
Today, only one vessel of the original four Kirov’s completed is active, Pyotr Veliky (Peter the Great, the ex- Yuriy Andropov) as the flagship in the Russian Northern Fleet.
But reports indicate a second vessel of the class, Admiral Nakhimov (ex-Kalinin), is being refurbished and updated for service after being laid-up for 15 years. Russia’s newest anti-ship, anti-air, and surface-to-surface missiles will be fitted on the vessel, expected to be available by 2019, including the Kalibr, Zircon hypersonic missiles (ready by 2020), and a naval variant of Russia’s S-400 missile system. More details on the extensive refit are at:
Russian media says that after Admiral Nakhimov returns to service Pyotr Veliky will be docked to undergo similar weapons upgrades, which could take three years. Meanwhile, Admiral Lazarev awaits her fate – will she return to life like Lazarus? Time will tell…
Kirov-class battlecruiser, Wikipedia entry, at:
Russian Battlecruiser Admiral Lazarev, Wikipedia entry, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_battlecruiser_Admiral_Lazarev
Admiral Lazarev, Russian language entry in Wikipedia (with reference to 2002 fire), at: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%90%D0%B4%D0%BC%D0%B8%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%BB_%D0%9B%D0%B0%D0%B7%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B2_%28%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%BE%D0%BC%D0%BD%D1%8B%D0%B9_%D0%BA%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B9%D1%81%D0%B5%D1%80%29
Admiral Lazarev to be disposed of in 2016, at: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=ru&u=http://politrussia.com/news/kreyser-admiral-lazarev-307/&prev=search
“Admiral Lazarev” – Kirov Class Battlecruiser, at: http://wikimapia.org/4895252/Admiral-Lazarev-Kirov-Class-Battlecruiser
Memories of the Future. Modernization of the nuclear eagles, at: http://survincity.com/2011/09/memories-of-the-future-modernization-of-the/
Russia is bringing back the world’s largest surface-combatant ship, at: http://www.businessinsider.com/russia-is-bringing-back-the-worlds-largest-surface-combatant-ship-2016-3
Kirov Class Battle Cruiser: The World’s Largest Surface Combatant, at: http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/kirov-class-battle-cruiser-the-worlds-largest-surface-1570998551
Ships of the Soviet Navy : Kirov class, at: https://battlemachines.wordpress.com/2015/08/02/ships-of-the-soviet-navy-kirov-class/
SA-N-6 GRUMBLE missile, mislabeled SA-N-9, at: http://slide.mil.news.sina.com.cn/slide_8_204_1388.html#p=4
Bismarck picture at: http://www.climate4you.com/images/Bismarck2%20880.jpg