Cold War Samurai – The 14th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 1987 – 1991

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The Bismarck of the Pacific

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.


The German battleship Bismarck seen before her dramatic breakout from the Baltic Sea into the Atlantic Ocean in May, 1941.  (

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.

Kirov-class_battlecruiser Frunze

Soviet nuclear-powered guided-missile battlecruiser Frunze is seen enroute to the Soviet Pacific Fleet in 1984.  She was the largest surface combatant assigned to the Soviet Pacific Fleet during the Cold War (Wikipedia)


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.

Adm Lazarev and Chinese DD Chungking

The Soviet battlecruiser Frunze passes near a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) guided-missile destroyer DDG-133 Chungking enroute to join the Soviet Pacific Fleet.  (

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.


US Navy battleship Iowa (BB-61) fires her main battery of 9 x 16-inch naval rifles in this 1980’s photo.  She was also armed with 12 x 5-inch guns, 4 x Phalanx 20mm Close-In Weapons Systems (CIWS), 32 x Tomahawk cruise missiles and 16 Harpoon anti-ship missiles.  (


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)

Frunze schematic admiral-lazarev-project-1144-orlan-battlecruiser-ex-ussr-frunze

Schematic of Kirov-class battlecruiser Frunze / Admiral Lazarev.  She is fitted with a slightly different array of sensors and weapons as compared to her sisters.  (

Anti-Ship Missiles
20 x SS-N-19 SHIPWRECK (P-700 Granit)

Peter the Great SSM firing

Kirov-class battlecruiser Peter the Great fires a SHIPWRECK anti-ship missile, capable of Mach 3 flight.  (

Surface-to-Air-Missiles (SAM)
12 x octuple vertical launchers for SA-N-6 GRUMBLE (S-300PMU Favorit) long-range SAM (96 missiles)

SAN6 Grumble

SA-N-6 GRUMBLE missile canisters which contain one GRUMBLE missile each are seen suspended beneath the octuple rotary missile launchers aboard a Kirov-class battlecruiser.  (Foxtrot Alpha website)

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:

SAn6 Grumble liftoff

Below:  16 x octuple vertical launchers for SA-N-9 GAUNTLET (3K95 Kinzhal) point-defense SAM (128 missiles)


A pair of SA-N-9 GAUNTLET point defense SAMs emerge from the forward octuple vertical launcher aboard Admiral Lazarev.  (Wikipedia, Tor missile system entry)

2 x twin rail launchers for SA-N-4 GECKO (4K33 OSA-M) point defense SAM (44 missiles)

SAN4 Gecko

Retractable twin rail launcher for SA-N-4 GECKO point defense missile in the intermediate position, with two GECKO missiles loaded, launch rails elevated outside circular storage base, but not yet extended out for firing.  (Foxtrot Alpha website)

Dual-Purpose Guns (anti-air and anti-surface)
2 x 5.1 inch (130 mm)/L70 guns (one gun turret with twin gun mount)

AK-130 130 mm L70

Twin 5.1-inch (130mm) guns on the Russian nuclear-powered guided-missile battlecruiser Peter the Great.  (

8 × AK-630 six-barreled 30 mm/L60 point-defense gatling guns


A Dalek-like AK-630 point defense gatling gun.  (Wikimedia Commons)

Anti-Submarine Weapons
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.


A US Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft  flies past Soviet battlecruiser Frunze in the 1980’s.  (JDR Military Service on


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:”

адмирал лазарев

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

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.

cgn099-Pyetr Veiky 001b

The flagship of the Russian Northern Fleet, the battlecruiser Peter the Great, maneuvers at sea with Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov  in the background.  (Jeff

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:
Admiral Lazarev, Russian language entry in Wikipedia (with reference to 2002 fire), at:

Admiral Lazarev to be disposed of in 2016, at:

“Admiral Lazarev” – Kirov Class Battlecruiser, at:

Memories of the Future. Modernization of the nuclear eagles, at:

Russia is bringing back the world’s largest surface-combatant ship, at:

Kirov Class Battle Cruiser: The World’s Largest Surface Combatant, at:

Ships of the Soviet Navy : Kirov class, at:

SA-N-6 GRUMBLE missile, mislabeled SA-N-9, at:

Bismarck picture at: