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The Sverdlov class was the last class of primarily gun-armed cruisers produced for the Soviet Navy. The fourteen Sverdlov class ships were all built during the 1950s, and were essentially improved versions of the World War II-era Chapayev class gun cruisers. (Which were themselves upgraded variants of the Kirov class light cruisers of the late 1930s - not to be confused with the Kirov class missile cruisers of the 1980s.) Initially, about 30 Sverdlovs were to be built, but Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev canceled the building program in favor of the Kynda class cruiser and Kashin class destroyer.

The Sverdlovs were very much a conventional guns-and-armor light cruiser, comparable to many 1930s and 1940s designs of the United States Navy, Royal Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy. Indeed, they were designed primarily with possible war against Japan, not the US and Britain, in mind. Therefore, their primary designed missions were commerce raiding and anti-aircraft screening for battleship-based surface action groups. Secondarily, they could perform anti-aircraft screening and escort for convoys, and some limited anti-submarine duties, as well as fire support for amphibious landings. As one of the few classes of gun cruiser built after World War II, they were essentially obsolete when built. Nevertheless, several of them remained in service until the early 1980s, mostly in the fire support role. Indeed, until the introduction of the Krivak II frigate with its 100mm guns, no other class of Soviet warship had guns of sufficient power and range for effective fire support.

Other than their modern radars, sonar and homing torpedoes, the Sverdlovs were built with mostly 1930s design and systems. Their main battery consisted of twelve 152mm, 57 caliber naval rifles in four triple turrets, backed up by twelve 100mm/56 in six twin turrets for anti-aircraft and anti-small-craft purposes. A further 32 37mm guns provided close-in anti-aircraft protection. They also carried ten 533mm torpedo tubes in two quintuple batteries, for both anti-sub and anti-surface use. They were armored, making them the last Soviet warships to carry any more than splinter protection, however the belt was unusually thin for a cruiser, resistant only to 5" projectiles, and 6" only at specific range bands. Contemporary cruiser designs of other nations tended to feature anti-8" plating, even on light cruisers armed with 5" or 6" guns. However, in the post-WW2 era, their weak armor wasn't a particularly significant liability, as it was still sufficient to withstand most light shore battery weapons. Underwater protection was improved relative to the Chapayev class, but was still designed only to withstand direct hits by torpedoes. By the 1950s, however, most heavyweight torpedoes were designed to detonate underneath their target, breaking the keel. The passive defense systems of the Sverdlov, and of most other ships, were defenseless against this kind of attack. Further, unlike the Kyndas and other later ships, they lacked anti-torpedo decoy launchers, though anti-missile chaff launchers were fitted to the remaining units in the 1960s, along with better fire control radars for the 100mm and 37mm guns.

In the 1960s and 1970s, a few Sverdlovs were converted as test ships for guided missile systems. One, Dzherzhinsky, received an SA-N-2 Guidline mounting in place of her aftmost turret, but since the navalized SA-2 Guideline missile to go with this launcher never materialized, it was replaced a year later with an SA-N-1 Goa system. Two others had their forward gun turrets replaced with SS-N-7 Starbright launchers. This was apparently for testing, as no other warship of similar size got the Starbright system, preferring the SS-N-3 Shaddock or SS-N-12 Sandbox instead. A planned upgrade program, which would have replaced the old 100mm hand-loaded twin turrets with the newer AK-100 automatic, and added some AK-630 CIWS, was canceled for lack of funding. One unit was sold to Indonesia, but never saw extensive service.

General characteristics, Sverdlov class light cruiser (Project 68B)

  • Hull designator: CA - Gun cruiser (US/NATO); KR - Cruiser (крейсер - USSR)
  • Number: 12 scrapped, 1 preserved as a museum, 1 sold to Indonesia, status unknown.
  • Displacement: 16500 tons
  • Length: 210m (687 ft)
  • Beam: 22 m (72 ft)
  • Draft: 6.9 m (22.5 ft)
  • Propulsion: 6 pressure-fired boilers, 4 geared steam turbines, 2 shafts. 120000 shp
  • Speed: 32 knots
  • Range: 9000 nmi at 18 knots
  • Anti-ship missiles: 4x quad SS-N-7 Starbright on two units in lieu of forward 152mm turrets. Intelligence unclear on which two units.
  • Anti-air missiles: 1x (30 missiles) SA-N-1 Goa in Dzherzhinsky only. Previous SA-N-2 Guideline mounting removed.
  • Torpedoes: 10x (2 quin) 533mm torpedo tubes. Type 53 nuclear or conventional torpedoes, ASW or ASuW.
  • Guns: 12x (4 triple) 152mm/57 ASuW, 12x (6 twin) 100mm/56 dual-purpose. 32x (8 quad) 37mm/60 AA. Aftmost 152mm turret deleted on Dzherzhinsky. Forward two 152mm turrets deleted on two missile testing ships.
  • Armor: Belt 100mm face-hardened. Conning tower 150mm RHA. Turret faces 75mm face-hardened. Deck 50mm RHA.
  • Countermeasure fit: 2x 155mm chaff launchers fitted in some units. 2x Bell Clout ECM on same.
  • Crew: 1200

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