The Kiev class were the second class of Soviet large aircraft-carrying warships built, the first being the Moskva class. While they are often referred to in the West as aircraft carriers, this isn't strictly true. They were designed in the late 1970s as multi-purpose warships, to act as the capital units in task forces designed to defend the Soviet SSBN Bastions, from where their ballistic missile submarines would unleash fusion-powered Ragnarok upon the Western world.
This task had three prongs. The first of these was anti-submarine, to keep NATO attack subs like the American Los Angeles class or the British Swiftsure class out. The Kiev class was designed to be able to prosecute this mission effectively, using her squadron of Kamov Ka-27 Helix helicopters. She also had FRAS-1 nuclear anti-sub rockets in case things got really hot, and 533mm torpedoes and RBU-6000 rockets for anti-sub defense. The second prong was anti-air. Usually, the anti-air mission consisted of defending a SAG against incoming missiles and attack planes, but in the Kiev's case, the mission was to destroy NATO ASW aircraft, like the P-3 Orion or the S-3B Viking. She carried a squadron of Yakovlev Yak-38 Forger VTOL aircraft for this mission, backed up by two SA-N-3 Goblet long-range AAW missile launchers for area defense. The final prong was that of anti-surface. Unlike the anti-surface units that the Soviets had up to then, the Kiev's mission was not to hunt down and destroy US carrier groups, but rather to destroy anti-sub hunter-killer groups. To this end, she was armed with eight P-350 Bazalt launchers. The USSR dubbed the resulting hybrid a 'tactical aviation cruiser'. While this is often seen as an example of doublespeak designed to placate Turkey (which will not permit aircraft carriers to traverse the Bosporus), this is not the case - instead, the label perfectly describes the hybrid cruiser/carrier design.
Rather like most large Soviet warships, they varied the armament considerably between the 4 units of the class - so radically on the last unit that she is sometimes regarded as her own class. The first two were armed as indicated above, and also had two SA-N-4 Gecko launchers, two 76mm twin guns and eight AK-630 point defense systems. The third unit, Novorossiysk received a minor refit, carrying the improved P-500 Bazalt missile. Also, the Gecko launchers were removed in favor of four-cell launchers for SA-N-9 Gauntlet. The final unit, Baku, later renamed to Admiral Gorshkov, lost the FRAS-1 launcher and both Goblet mountings, but instead gained four more Sandbox launchers and two more four-cell Gauntlet launchers. Also, her 76mm guns were replaced with 100mm units.
Several documents declassified after the Cold War revealed that the Kiev class was also intended for use as an anti-surface capital warship, complimenting the purpose-built Kirov class. Her capabilities were also to be expanded by adding the Yakovlev Yak-41 Freestyle fighter/attack planes. The latter plan was scrapped, however, in favor of operating navalized versions of the MiG-29 Fulcrum and Su-27 Flanker from the newer Kuznetsov class.
In 2005, the Admiral Gorshkov was sold to India as the INS Vikramaditya, and was converted to a full aircraft carrier. Her Sandbox and Gauntlet launchers, and the 100mm guns were removed, as were the RBU-6000 rocket launchers. The AK-630 point defenses were replaced with eight CADS-N-1 CIWS. The torpedo tubes were retained, but it is not known if they are still functional.
General Characteristics, Kiev class (Project 1143 Krechyet)
- Hull designator: CGVS - Missile cruiser, aircraft carrying, antisubmarine OR CVGS - aircraft carrier, guided missile, antisubmarine (US/NATO). TAKR - tactical aviation cruiser (тактический авиации крейсер. USSR/Russia)
- Number (Russian hulls): 1 decommissioned, 1 scrapped, 1 hulked and sold to China.
- Number (Indian hulls): 1 active
- Displacement: 45000 tons
- Length: 273 m (895.6 ft)
- Beam: 32.6 m (106.8 ft)
- Flight deck width: 53 m (173.8 ft)
- Draft: 8.2 m (26.9 ft ft)
- Propulsion: 8 pressure-fired boilers, 4 geared steam turbines, 4 shafts. 200000 shp.
- Speed: 32 knots (possibly higher)
- Range: 14,000 nm at 15 kn
- Armament note - all weapons except as noted removed from Indian hull.
- Surface-to-surface missiles: 8x (12x in Gorshkov only) SS-N-12 Sandbox, 2 reloads per launcher, 24 rounds in first 3, 36 rounds in Gorshkov. (P-350 Bazalt, P-500 in Novorossiysk, Gorshkov).
- Anti-air missiles: 2x SA-N-4 Gecko (44 rounds) in Kiev, Minsk. 2x SA-N-9 Gauntlet (64 rounds) in Novorossiysk. 4x SA-N-9 Gauntlet in Gorshkov. 2x SA-N-3 Goblet (120 rounds) except in Gorshkov. 8 SA-N-11 Grisom (64 ready 384 standby) in Vikramaditya as part of CADS-N-1.
- ASW missiles: FRAS-1 aka SUW-N-1, a navalized version of the FROG-7 Luna. 80kt nuclear depth-fused warheads. (not in Gorshkov)
- Torpedoes: 10x (2 quin) 533mm trainable torpedo tubes, ASW or ASuW. (not removed from Vikramaditya, but may not be usable.)
- ASW rocket launchers: 2x RBU-6000 except in Gorshkov.
- Guns: 2x twin AK-276 76mm except in Gorshkov. 2x AK-100 100mm/60 in Gorshkov only. 8x AK-630 in all units (deleted on Vikramaditya). 16x GSh-6-30 (8 twin) in Vikramaditya as part of CADS-N-1.
- Aircraft: 15-30 Ka-27 Helix ASW or missile targeting or Ka-32 Helix EAW. 10-25 Yakovlev Yak-38 Forger light fighter. 10-20 MiG-29N fighter, 10-20 AV-8B Harrier attack and 5-15 Ka-27 in Vikramaditya, possibly F/A-18 Hornet or Sukhoi Su-41 Berkut in the future.
- Crew: 1600-2000 including airwing in Russian units, 2000-2500 in Indian unit.