Cold War Warships: Krivak Class Frigate

In 1970, as construction continued on the final units of the Kashin class, the Soviet Union completed the first of its Krivak-class guided missile frigates. These were the largest of the frigates produced in this age. The hull of one of these vessels measures 405 feet, 3 inches by 46 feet, 3 inches by 15 feet, 1 inch and displaces 3,300 tons. Designed for ASW duty, the armament consists in part of one SS-N-14 ASW box launcher mounted in the bow that holds four missiles. Entering service in 1969, this missile measures 25 feet long and has a range of 30 nautical miles. It can also be used against surface ships. In addition, the ship also possesses two RBU- 6000 ASW rocket launchers and eight 21-inch torpedo tubes. A Krivak-class warship also carries two SA-N-4 SAM launchers with 20 reloads each and four 3-inch guns mounted in dual-piece gun houses located in the stern. A subsequent version of the type, Krivak II, mounts two 4-inch guns in single-mount gun houses in place of the original gun armament. The top speed is 32 knots. Crew complement consists of 200 officers and men. The Soviet Union completed 33 Krivak-class warships between 1970 and 1982.

The production program of the Soviet Union did not approach that of the United States. This was due to both the struggling Soviet economy by the 1980s and the coming to power in March 1985 of Mikhail Gorbachev. The new Soviet leader greatly curtailed the construction of new warships and began to lessen the extent of seaborne operations for existing units to ease some of the burden on the Soviet economy. As a result, Soviet production was a far cry from that of the first decades of the Cold War. The Soviet Union constructed nine more Krivak-class frigates to counter the production of the United States and its NATO allies.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, financial difficulties have rendered the former Soviet Navy a shadow of its former self, as there is not a great deal of money to provide for new construction. Production has not ended, and in 1993 the Russians commissioned one frigate of an improved Krivak design. This vessel, however, represents the only new unit in service (as of 2004) and certainly cannot make up for the losses of the fleet through financial cutbacks. Of the enormous number of destroyers and frigates produced by the Soviet Union, only 1 of the 18-ship Kashin class remains, and that unit is not fully operational. In addition, 15 of the 42 Krivak-class frigates are in service and 22 of the 43-unit Grisha-class frigates are operational. The frigate fleet also includes the 11 vessels of the Parchim class. However, the frigates are largely coastal defense vessels ill-suited to bluewater operations. In 2004, Russia operated 61 frigates of oceangoing capability and 33 smaller frigates.

Units: This class comprised 42 units.

Type and significance: This design was a large frigate that was unusual for the Soviet Union, which constructed mostly small frigates for coastal defense.

Dates of construction: All units were laid down and completed between 1970 and 1991.

Hull dimensions: 405’3″ x 46’3″ x 15’1″

Displacement: 3,300 tons

Armor: None

Armament: One SS-N-14 SAM launcher located on the bow, two SAN-4 SAM launchers, four 3″ guns, two RBU-6000 ASW launchers, eight 21″ torpedo tubes, and 20 mines. Some of these ships, known as Krivak II, have 4″ guns in place of the 3″ weapons. In 2004, most of the surviving units carried eight SS-N-25 SSM in two quadruple-cell launchers, two SA-N-4 SAM systems, four 3″ guns, eight 21″ torpedo tubes, and two RBU-6000 ASW launchers.

Machinery: Diesel and gas plant capable of 48,600 shaft horsepower.

Speed: 32 knots

Complement: 200

Notes: On 8 November 1975, a portion of the crew of one of these vessels, Storozhevoy, staged a mutiny in an effort to seize the ship and defect from the Soviet Union. Their endeavor ultimately failed. Today, 15 of these units remain in service. Of the others, three were transferred to Ukraine in 1997, and many of the others have been scrapped.

This very large class of anti-submarine escorts was in continuous production from 1968 until 1990. Some 39 were built in three distinct subgroups and the original Krivak I was the world’s first major class of warship to be powered entirely by gas turbines, the uptakes venting through a single squat funnel set well aft The Krivak I disposed the missile armament mostly forward, quadruple torpedo tubes amidships and two twin 3in (76mm) gun mountings right aft This arrangement was repeated in the Krivak II, but the gun armament was altered to two single 3.9in (100mm) guns.

Neither of these versions had any provision for operating a helicopter, but the Krivak III, of which eight were completed between 1983 and 1993, incorporated some substantial changes including the provision of a hangar and flightdeck on the stem. A single Kamov Ka-27 Helix is carried. This alteration necessitated the deletion of the after SA-N-4 launcher and also the two gun mountings. Instead, a single 3.9in (100mm) automatic was mounted on the foredeck in place of the quadruple launcher for the SS-N-14 ASW missiles, which were no longer carried. Interestingly, the Krivak Ills were not originally built for the Soviet Navy but for the USSR Border Guard, which was run by the KGB. However, all are now in regular naval service with the exception of the last to be completed, which was ceded to the Ukraine after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

In 1997 India ordered six frigates based on the Krivak III hull and machinery, but armament and equipment installation is yet to be decided and may well differ from that of the Russian ships. The first ship of this order is being built at St Petersburg and is due for completion in 2002.

A total of 20 Krivak Is were completed between 1970 and 1982, and these were followed by 11 Krivak lis, which commissioned between 1975 and 1982. Many of these two groups have been retired and three ships were transferred to the Ukraine Navy in 1997, although none appear to be currently operational.

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