Soviet naval hardware

In the course of building our Navy, a great deal of attention was devoted and continues to be devoted to constantly maintaining all the elements comprising its combat strength in the most favorable combination, that is, as we have come to say today, to keep them balanced.
Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union, S.G. GORSHKOV

The Soviet government has made a tremendous investment in ships, aircraft, weapons, sensors, and related naval hardware during the past two decades. This investment has been directed toward producing a large ocean-going fleet that is, in many respects, innovative and highly capable. However, the missions of the Soviet Navy are somewhat different from those of Western navies, as are certain personnel traits, approaches to research, industrial base, and strategy, tactics and doctrine. Hence, Soviet naval hardware is, in many respects, different from “equivalent” US. naval systems.

Surface Warships

The Soviet Navy maintains by far the world’s largest fleet of principal surface combatants, patrol and coastal combatant forces. Admiral Gorshkov has stated that his surface ships are to provide “combat stability” for his prime war fighting forces, the submarines and naval aviation. The Soviets not only view their surface warships as necessary elements of a “balanced fleet,” but also use their ocean-going warships as primary instruments for “showing the flag” throughout the world, providing a visible naval presence when necessary in support of Soviet foreign policy. Emphasis continues on multi-purpose, long-endurance ships more heavily armed with anti submarine, anti air, and antiship weapons than most comparable ships in other navies.

Photographs and specifications of the surface warships are provided in Appendix C of this publication .

Aviation Ships

The widely publicized KIEV class aircraft carriers are the largest warships ever completed by the Soviet Union.* After years of criticizing US. carriers as being obsolete and vulnerable, Soviet naval writers began to change their professed views in the late 1960s. Grudging praise of the flexibility and mobile power represented by the modern aircraft carriers, particularly those with nuclear power, began to creep into Soviet writings and has increased in recent years.

The Soviets now, for the first time, have a seabased , fixed-wing aircraft in operation. The second KIEV class ship, the MINSK, is now in the Pacific Ocean Fleet, a third is fitting out, and a fourth is under construction.

There is evidence that the Soviets are planning to build a larger class of aircraft carrier than the KIEV. As to the form and purpose such a ship will take, there are several alternatives which can be debated . They vary from an enlargement on the present KIEV VSTOL/cruiser hybrid to a full blown conventional take-off-and-landing (CTOL) carrier similar to those operated by the US. Navy. A logical advance on the KIEV design could be nuclear-powered , of about 60,000 tons, with catapults, and an air wing of some 60 aircraft. Such a ship could join the fleet late in this decade.

The Soviet Navy introduced several new and relatively radical cruiser and destroyer designs during the 1960s. At top is a KYN DA class cruiser with eight tubes for the long-range SS-N-3 antiship missile. The four-tube launchers are evident forward and aft of the ship's superstructure in this view. At center is a KASHIN class antiaircraft missile destroyer. This ship introduced gas turbine propulsion to large warships. At bottom is a KRESTA I class missile cruiser. The KRESTA l is a multi-mission ship, heavily armed and fitted with a variety of electronic systems.

The salient point to be understood with regard to Soviet aircraft carrier policy is that it appears that the Politburo has opted for yet another naval program which requires a long term commitment of extensive national resources and manpower. For whatever purpose or intent the Soviets pursue this high capital investment, the West cannot afford to ignore its future implications.

The KIEVs have an unusual design. They have a full load displacement of about 37,000 tons, are 900 feet long, have an angled flight deck some 600 feet long, and an island superstructure to starboard in the tradition of Western carriers. However, the forward part of these ships is similar to Soviet missile cruisers, with antiship, anti submarine and antiaircraft missile launchers. They also have a profusion of more traditional weapons, electronic sensors, electronic warfare systems, and a number of advanced communications devices.

The lack of aircraft arresting wires and catapults on the flight deck limits the ships to helicopters and VSTOL aircraft. A mix of about 20 HORMONE helicopters , and 15 FORGER VTOL aircraft is a nominal air group, although this mix could be changed to meet varied mission requirements.

Although the primary mission of the KIEV class is stated by the Soviets as ASW, the ships also have a powerful antiship capability in their cruise missile battery. They have eight large launching tubes, with reloads for SS-N-12 missiles, which are an improvement over the older SS-N-3 antiship missiles. The HORMONE B helicopter has been seen aboard the KIEV class, with that helicopter being capable of providing over-the-horizon targeting information for the SS-N-12 missiles (which have a maximum range of some 300 nautical miles). Most of the embarked HORMONE helicopters are for ASW.

The FORGER has been observed operating in the antiship and nominal air defense roles. Depending on Soviet intentions, the aircraft might also be capable of ground attack, reconnaissance or other support roles. To date these aircraft have shown little inclination to stray any distance from the “Bird Farm”. Tactical VSTOL technology is in its infancy with only FORGER and the British-designed HARRIER in service in significant numbers)’ It is evident that this type of aircraft is destined to be widely deployed in a number of navies of the world. Although this first Soviet effort appears to be only VTOL capable and is relatively limited when compared to other front-line tactical aircraft, it is important to remember that it represents the beginnings of a most significant and growing trend in the Soviet Navy—sea-based, fixed-wing air power. As this power grows, the Soviet Navy will present opponents with a new range of threats, which in turn will tend to limit further those options available to Western naval commanders in a confrontation.

The KIEV is a second generation class of Soviet “aviation ship,” following the helicopter carriermissile cruisers MOSKVA and LENINGRAD, which were completed in 1967 and 1968, respectively. These earlier ships also were of innovative design, being essentially missile cruisers forward with a clear flight deck aft for operating up to 18 HORMONE anti submarine helicopters. The latter ships are rated as "anti submarine cruisers’ ’ by the Soviet Navy and have been used primarily in that role as well as serving as flagships.

Although helicopters are their main weapon, the MOSKVA class ships also have anti aircraft and anti submarine missiles, ASW rockets, torpedo tubes, and guns. Advanced radars, sonars (both hull mounted and variable depth), and advanced electronic warfare equipment are fitted in the ships. They thus combine the full weapons-sensor suite of a guided missile cruiser with the capacity to handle a large squadron of ASW helicopters.


Late in 1962 the Soviets sent a new type of warship to sea, the first KYNDA class guided missile cruiser. This ship is of small cruiser size, displacing about 5,500 tons full load, and measuring 465 feet in length. The four KYNDA class ships are armed with anti aircraft missiles, multi-purpose guns, and anti submarine weapons.

Most significant is the main battery of the KYNDAs : eight tubes for the SS-N-3 antiship cruise missile and eight reload missiles in the ship’s superstructure . With a maximum operational range of some 250 nautical miles the SS-N-3 is one of the world’s longest-range operational weapons of its kind for use against ships. To insure accuracy when fired at ranges beyond the horizon (about 25 miles), the SS-N-3 requires midcourse guidance. Still, the missile allows a Soviet warship, so equipped, to outrange every Allied warship except for an aircraft carrier. Thus, Admiral Gorshkov attempted to counter the US. superiority in aircraft carriers with another type of warship rather than compete in a category where the United States had overwhelming superiority.

After producing the four KYNDA class ships, in 1967 Soviet yards began building the KRESTA I class of slightly larger dimensions (7,500 tons and 510 feet). In this ship, the Soviets reduced the number of long-range SS-N-3 launchers from eight to four, but increased the twin antiaircraft missile launchers from one to two, and added a helicopter hangar. This permits the KRESTA I to maintain a HORMONE helicopter on board to provide missile targeting or other services.

The KRESTA I was apparently an interim class, pending the final development of an ASW cruiser design, and only four ships were built. The next cruiser off the Soviet building ways was the slightly larger KRESTA II.

With the KRESTA II class the Soviets changed the main weapon from the long-range SS-N-3 to eight launchers for the SS-N-14 ASW missile with a range of about 25 miles. This missile change apparently reflected the Soviet shift in missions discussed earlier, from purely anticarrier to antisubmarine and selective sea control. In addition, the KRESTA II has improved antiaircraft missiles and more advanced electronics. Ten of the KRESTA II class ships were completed from 1970 to 1978.

Another new missile cruiser was introduced in 1973 with completion of the first ship of the KARA class. The size trend in surface warships continued, with this ship having a displacement of 9,700 tons ' and a length of about 570 feet. Again, there were improvements in weapon and sensor capabilities, and there also was a concomitant increase of operating range with the larger size, demonstrating the expanding horizons of Soviet maritime interests.

The KARA class ships are gas-turbine powered and are more heavily armed than any similar sized ships of other navies. The KARA’s main weapons are the same as in a KRESTA II, but with two additional launchers for short range antiaircraft missiles , a heavier gun battery, and the addition of a variable depth sonar. Seven KARA class cruisers are in service and construction has apparently been completed.

Besides the succeeding classes of missiles cruisers produced by the Soviet yards since the early 1960s, the Soviet Navy has retained twelve of the older SVERDLOV class large cruisers built during the 1950s. Most of these ships remain in active service with an allgun armament (12 six-inch guns). It is interesting to note that while almost all of the gun cruisers in the world’s other navies have been retired, the Soviets continue to modernize and operate these ships. One SVERDLOV class cruiser has a “refitted” twin launcher for medium-range antiaircraft missiles in place of a six-inch gun turret, while two other ships have been converted to “command ship” configurations. Amidships these two ships have been fitted with additional spaces for an admiral and his staff, satellite communications systems have been installed, and short-range missile launchers and rapid-fire “Gatling” guns are provided for antiaircraft-missile defense. These two modified SVERDLOVs, as well as the aviation ships, provide extensive communications, especially for command and control of operations. Several other SVERDLOVs have recently been modernized as well, so the class is expected to remain in service for some years to come.

Cruiser type warships are currently being built in the Soviet Union at the rate of approximately two per year. US. cruiser construction, in comparison, has averaged one ship every 2% years over the past decade.

The Soviets are currently embarked on a most ambitious surface warship construction program. At least four new classes of cruiser or large destroyer size warships have been identified under construction in Soviet yards, totalling about a dozen new hulls with more anticipated.

The most impressive ship of this new generation of combatants is the Soviet’s first nuclear powered warship . This ship, and a sister, are being built in Leningrad . It is estimated to be some 23,000 full load displacement tons, which will make it, apart from aircraft carriers, the largest warship built in the world since World War II. The first of this class, KIROV, joined the fleet in late 1980. This ship carries 20 of a new type cruise missile of about the same size as the SS-N-12 but probably with improved performance. Additionally, KIROV has 12 launchers for a new advanced surface-to-air missile system plus two shorter range SAM launchers, two 100mm guns, two ASW missile launchers, Gatling guns, torpedoes and several helicopters.

The other three new warship classes are estimated to vary in size from 7,500 to 14,000 displacement tons. Reports of armament vary by class and include new types of surface-to-air and cruise missiles as well as large guns.

One of these ships, the guided missile destroyer SOVREMENNYY, built in Zhdanov Shipyard, Leningrad, from whence the KRESTAs came, is conducting sea trails and is expected to join the fleet soon. Although her main armament is not installed, it appears provisions have been made for two large gun mounts, two new type SAM launchers and four or more antiship cruise missile launchers. This ship is already equipped with two short range SAM launchers, four Gatling guns, torpedoes and a helicopter hanger.

The function for which each of these four new warship classes has been designed will remain speculative until equipments and employment patterns are discerned. What is definite, is that the Soviets continue to demonstrate their commitment to expanding naval capabilities with ambitious, extensive programs such as these.


Since World War II, the Soviets have added five new classes of destroyers to their active fleet. As in the West, Soviet destroyers have experienced an evolutionary growth in the size of their destroyers. The first post-World War II destroyer construction program produced the SKORYY class. Over 70 of these ships were built and a number still remain in active service. They are rarely seen beyond Soviet coastal waters. Fourteen of these ships have been transferred to Egypt, Poland, and Indonesia.

In the early 1950s and early 1960s the Soviet Navy successively introduced the KOTLIN class gun destroyer (27 built), the KILDIN class antiship missile destroyer (4 built), and the KRUPNYY class antiship missile destroyer (8 built). The KOTLINs have received various modifications over the years, including surface-to-air missiles added to nine (one since transferred to Poland). The KILDINs were built on KOT LIN hulls and three have also been modified in recent years, including the installation of four improved STYX antiship missiles. All eight of the KRUPNYYs have had their early antiship missile systems replaced by eight 57mm guns forward and a twin SAM launcher fitted aft, and additional ASW weapons and equipments were added. Thus reconfigured, these ships are now called the KANIN class.

From early 1963 through 1967 Soviet shipyards delivered 20 KASHIN class guided missile destroyers. These are ships of 4,500 tons and 476 feet in length. They are armed with two antiaircraft missile launchers , antisubmarine rocket launchers, five torpedo tubes, four 76mm multi-purpose guns, and mine rails. Five have been subsequently fitted with four short-range, antiship missiles (SS-N-2), and variable depth sonar. In the fall of 1974, one KASHIN class ship sank in the Black Sea, apparently as the result of an internal fire and explosion.

Their most distinctive feature is four large funnels in pairs for the tandem gas-turbine power

plants. These were the world’s first large warships with gas turbines and they give the KASHINs an estimated top speed of over 36 knots for brief periods. Marine gas turbines provide a high horse-powerto -weight ratio, and are easy to maintain and replace . They can go from “cold-iron” to full power operations in a few minutes, and can rapidly accelerate , unlike steam turbines that require a steam buildup for acceleration.

Soviet success with the KASHIN propulsion system led to gas turbine application in the smaller KRIVAK class missile frigates and the larger KARA class cruisers.

The Soviet Navy has a large number of frigates which operate with fleet formations on the high seas as anti submarine escorts and as coastal patrol ships. The KRIVAK class missile frigate, the first of which went to sea in 1970, now numbers about 30 ships and construction continues. These ships displace about 3,600 tons and have an overall length of 405 feet. The KRIVAKs are armed with both antisubmarine and antiaircraft missiles. They have a fourtube launcher for the SS-N-14 ASW missiles and two twin reloadable launchers for the SA-N-4 shortrange SAM missile. In addition, the ship has antisubmarine rockets, eight torpedo tubes, mine rails, and four 76mm guns. In some of the later ships two single guns of 100mm size replace the 76mm weapon ; these ships have been designated the KRIVAK II class. The ship’s sensors are complemented by advanced electronic systems, including both hullmounted and variable depth sonars. The KRIVAKs have been built at a rate of three to four per year. Few of the destroyers built since World War II have been scrapped. The great majority are still in active service, with SKORYYs providing most of a small reserve force.

The remainder of the approximately 135 frigates in the Soviet Navy are smaller types of the MIRKA, PETYA, and GRISHA classes which are each about 1,200 to 1,600 tons in displacement (about the size of United States World War II destroyer escort). In addition, there are a number of the older RIGAS (1,500 tons). The first units of a new class, the 2,100 ton KONI, have recently been delivered to the East German Navy and Yugoslavia. Of the smaller frigates , only the GRISHA and KONI class remain in production.

Although these frigates are smaller than most Western frigates, they nonetheless deploy regularly to the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean where they are an integral part of the permanent Soviet squadrons operating in those seas.

Small Combatants

The Soviet Union operates large numbers of small combatants—missile, torpedo, patrol, and mine craft.

Probably the most publicized of these craft are the OSA missile boats which displace some 215 tons and are 129 feet long. Each OSA carries four launchers for the SS-N-2 STYX missile, which has a range of

about 25 miles. The OSA II boats carry improved missiles which have a range of over 40 miles. With a sustained speed of 34 knots and two rapid-fire, twin 30mm gun mounts, the OSAs are potent ship killers. About 120 OSAs are currently in Soviet service and over 125 have been transferred to other navies (as have some 60 of the earlier, two-missile KOMAR missile boats).

In 1969 the Soviets introduced the NANUCHKA class guided missile patrol combatant into service. This ship displaces amost 900 tons and is 194 feet long. The NANUCHKA I has a twin SA-N-4 antiaircraft missile launcher forward and a twin 57mm gun aft. A later variant, the NANUCHKA III, have a single 57mm and a 30mm Gatling gun. The main battery consists of six tubes for the SS-N-9 missile. This antiship weapon has a maximum range estimated at about 60 miles. Several modified versions of this ship, NANUCHKA II, carrying four SS-N-2 missiles have been sold to India. A new hydrofoil missile boat, the SARANCHA, has been operating for several years. This gas turbine powered craft is smaller than the NANUCHKA and mounts only four SS-N-9 missiles, plus an SAN -4 missile system and a Gatling gun. Besides the aforementioned ships, the Soviet Navy has large numbers of a variety of classes of small combatants: patrol boats, torpedo boats, hydrofoil patrol boats, submarine chasers, gunboats, and river monitors. The maritime arm of the KGB

(the state security police) also operates several classes of frigates and small combatants. Several new classes of these types of ships have been observed and include the MATKA class missile equipped hydrofoil gunboat, the TARANTUL missile gunboat, and the BABOUCHKA class submatine chaser. The Soviet Navy’s mine warfare force is the largest in the world. Over 200 ocean and coastal minesweepers , plus a number of minesweeping boats, make up the active force. The classes of ocean minesweepers (540 to 900 tons) includes the NATYA, YURKA, and T43 classes; and the coastal minesweepers (200 to 400 tons) include the SONYA, ZHENYA, VANYA, and SASHA classes.

The Soviet Navy uses these mine warfare ships for a variety of tasks besides their primary function, such as patrol and picket duties. Besides this large force of minewarfare ships, it is estimated the Soviets also maintain the world’s largest stock of mines of numerous different types. The Russians have a long history of interest in mine warfare and continue to actively pursue all aspects of mining, both offensively and defensively.


The Soviet Navy long has been a world leader in operating submarines. Beginning in the late 1930s, the Soviet Navy generally has had more undersea craft than any other navy.

    Today the Soviet submarine force numbers about 360 units. In discussing them one must address three specific categories:
  • Torpedo attack submarines—that attack an enemy surface warship or submarine using torpedoes or missile delivered ASW weapons.
  • Cruise missiles submarines—that fire large antiship cruise missiles as well as torpedoes.
  • Strategic ballistic missile submarines—armed with vertically-launched, nuclear-tipped, missiles for strategic targets.
    • The Soviet Navy is operating a total of about 165 nuclear powered submarines compared to some 115 in the US. Navy.

      Attack Submarines

      The Soviet Navy operates about 210 attack submarines . Most are diesel-electric powered and many are of recent construction. A growing percentage of these submarines are nuclear powered. About 40 of the torpedo attack submarines are nuclear powered, being of the NOVEMBER, ECHO, VICTOR, and

      ALFA classes. The last is believed to be the fastest submarine in service today. An improved VICTOR class is now in production and the small, high-speed, deep-diving ALFA class may well be in series production . The Soviet Navy continues to build diesel powered submarines, the FOXTROT class for overseas sales (Indian, Libya and Cuba) and the new TANGO class. Soviet writers have noted that dieselelectric submarines offer a quiet-running, highly capable platform which can operate in shallower waters than the larger nuclear powered boats and at a fraction of the construction cost.

      The prime weapons of these attack submarines are anti submarine and antiship torpedoes; however, mines also can be carried. The newer submarines have a rocket-propelled ASW weapon as well.

      Cruise Missile Submarines

      Building on German experiments during World War II, both the U.S. and Soviet navies experimented with missile-launching submarines after World War II. In the U.S. Navy this effort evolved into the REGULUS cruise missile program. Although the REGULUS could be used against ships, the lack of significant Soviet surface threat in the 1950s led to American development of the REGULUS as a strategic weapon for strikes against bases, ports and cities. The POLARIS technology quickly overtook the REGULUS in this role.

      The Soviet Navy developed cruise missile submarines in the 1950s for strategic attack and as a part of a strategy to counter U.S. aircraft carriers. Initially , existing submarines were converted to fire the long-range SS-N-3 missile. Then, newer submarines designed to carry the SS-N-3 joined the Soviet fleet —the diesel powered JULIETT class and the nuclear powered ECHO I and II classes.

      After producing about 50 submarines of the JULIETT and ECHO classes, the Soviets completed the first CHARLIE I class SSGN in 1968 with the improved CHARLIE II following several years later. These nuclear powered submarines can fire eight antiship cruise missiles while remaining submerged at a range of some 30 miles from an intended target. Although the CHARLIE missile range is less than that of submarines armed with the SS-N-3, the latter submarines must surface before firing their missiles. The underwater launch capability of the CHARLIE makes this craft one of the most potent antiship submarines in service today. All of these cruise missile submarines also have standard torpedo tubes. The Soviets have launched a new class of very large, nuclear powered cruise missile submarine, the OSCAR class. It is estimated that this behemoth will carry 20 to 30 of a new generation cruise missile perhaps similar to those installed on the Soviets’ new nuclear powered cruiser, KIROV.

      The Soviet Navy’s cruise missile submarines and their missile-armed bombers form the greatest threat to Allied naval forces operating on the high seas. This is especially so when within range of Soviet air bases where the Soviets can launch coordinated attacks using not only reconnaissance aircraft to provide target data for submarine-launched missiles, but also their extensive force of naval and air force missile equipped bombers.

      Ballistic Missile Submarines

      The development of nuclear weapons led to another role for the submarine, that of strategic or ballistic missile attack against land targets. Submarines are valuable in this role because the difficulty of their detection in the ocean depths makes them highly survivable against hostile attack. As discussed earlier, the Soviets began converting existing diesel powered submarines in the mid-1950s to fire short-range Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs). Then, in the early 1960s, the GOLF class diesel and HOTEL class nuclear SLBM submarines were completed. These submarines were initially limited by mechanical difficulties, shortrange missiles, and the requirement for surfacing to launch their missiles. (Most of these submarines were later provided with a submerged missile launch capability and improved weapons.)

      Today, the Soviet Navy has an SLBM force that exceeds that of the US. Navy in numbers of submarines and in missiles. By the end of 1974, the Soviet Navy had 34 of the YANKEE class SSBNs in service , each carrying 16 nuclear-tipped missiles with a range of at least 1,300 nautical miles (later increased to about 1,600 miles). During 1973 the first of the larger DELTA class submarines was completed.

      The early DELTAs displace some 11,000 tons submerged and have an overall length of about 460 feet. The DELTA I has 12 tubes for the SS-N-8 missile with an estimated range of over 4,000 nautical miles. The DELTA II and III carries l6 SS-N-8 or SS-N-18 SLBMs, respectively, and are about 50 feet longer than the DELTA I. The DELTA III class is the largest submarine presently in operation (about 13,000 tons submerged displacement), but will soon be surpassed by the US. Navy’s OHIO class SSBN (about 18,000 tons). The SS-N-18 missile is the first Soviet SLBM to have multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles (MIRV), carrying as many as seven warheads which can be aimed at separate targets. The SS-N-18 is more accurate, if not longer ranged than the SS-N-8. The SS-N-17 is the first solid propellant SLBM built by the Soviets and to date is carried on only one converted YANKEE (designated YANKEE II). This missile uses a post-boost vehicle which would allow it to carry a MIRV package.

      This new missile probably has increased accuracy and range capabilities compared to the SS-N-6 carried on the YANKEE I class. To keep within the SALT I treaty limits of 62 “modern” SSBNs, the Soviets are removing the missile tubes from a YANKEE for each DELTA III now added to the fleet.

      In the fall of 1980 the Soviets launched a new strategic ballistic missile submarine at Severodvinsk shipyard in the Northern USSR. It is estimated this is the initial unit of a new class of large nuclear powered submarine capable of launching longrange strategic missiles.

      This new submarine could well be the “Typhoon” referred to by the Soviets in the past, which has prompted the West to designate it the TYPHOON class. Initial information indicates this gigantic submarine is at least twice the tonnage of the DELTA III class SSBN, the largest submarines ever put to sea. By contrast the US. Navy’s OHIO class SSBN, scheduled for sea trials in 1981, is about 18,000 tons submerged and will carry 24 TRIDENT missiles.

      With the “state of the art” achieved in other Soviet strategic missile programs it is assumed the missile for this new submarine will be more capable than the SS-N-18 carried on the DELTA III; possibly having either, or all of, greater range, better accuracy, higher payload and more warheads. The DELTA III submarines can today cover most US. targets from the relative security of their home waters—the TYPHOON will certainly have no less capability.


      Soviet Naval Aviation (SNA) is completely subordinate to the Soviet Navy, with regiments being assigned to each of the four fleets under an aviation officer who reports directly to the fleet commander. The naval air arm consists of over 1,300 aircraft, most of which are based ashore except for helicopters assigned to various cruisers, and the helicopters and VTOL aircraft that fly from the KIEV class aircraft carriers.

      Although they are career naval officers, aviators in the Soviet Navy have the same rank structure as the Soviet Air Force, which also provides their basic training.

      Soviet naval aviation currently has four basic missions:

      Reconnaissance and Surveillance

      Naval aircraft are employed in long-range reconnaissance (“recce”) and ocean surveillance, with some aircraft equipped to provide mid-course target data for antiship missiles launched “over the horizon” from surface ships, submarines, and other aircraft . Reconnaissance aircraft now in use include about 50 of the larger BEAR D turbo-prop planes;

      about 100 twin-jet BADGER aircraft, with about the same performance as the now-discarded U.S. B-47 jet bombers; and a few BLINDER jet aircraft that have a supersonic dash speed. Additionally, the MAY maritime patrol aircraft are used for surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

      Antiship Strike

      The prime striking force of Soviet Naval Aviation consists of some 290 twin-jet BADGER aircraft which are fitted to carry one or two of several types of antiship cruise missiles with “stand-off” ranges varying from 55 to over 250 miles. Some missiles have variable flight paths to help penetrate ship defenses and various homing techniques. All these missiles are assessed to be nuclear capable or carry a high explosive warhead of about 1,000 to 2,000 pounds. Soviet Naval Aviation also flies the twin-jet BACKFIRE , a supersonic aircraft with variable-swing wings. This plane carries stand-off missiles and is slowly replacing the BADGER in strike squadrons. The Navy is receiving this aircraft at about the same rate as Long-Range Aviation (the strategic bombing force) and the inventory has climbed to over 50 aircraft . The BACKFIRE greatly increases the capability and extends the range at which SNA strike aircraft can attack Western surface forces such as aircraft carrier or amphibious task groups.

      The introduction of aircraft carriers and FORGER aircraft gives the SNA another dimension of antiship strike. The FORGER can be fitted with shortrange air-to-surface missiles, rockets, or bombs for use against ship or shore targets.

      The FITTER fighter-bomber has been introduced into SNA over the last several years. These aircraft are assigned to the Baltic Fleet primarily to provide antiship strike and close support to amphibious operations in the Baltic.

      In addition to naval aircraft armed with antiship missiles, certain BEAR and BADGER bombers of Soviet Long-Range Aviation can be used for attacks against shipping, and these aircrft regularly participate in naval exercises. Most of these strike aircraft can be refueled in-flight by naval BADGERs fitted as tankers as well as by Long-Range Aviation tankers.

      Anti submarine

      The Soviet Navy has a large force of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters configured for submarine detection and attack. This force currently includes about 30 ASW configured BEAR F aircraft, 50 MAY turbo-prop aircraft that resemble the US. P-3 ORION , and 100 MAIL twin-engine flying boat aircraft. Only the BEAR F appears to be still in production. These aircraft operate from Soviet land bases to search out seaward areas for foreign submarines. They carry a variety of detection equipment as well as ASW depth bombs and torpedoes.

      An increasing number of anti submarine helicopters are being flown by the Soviet Navy. The HORMONE A, a twin turboshaft helicopter, is flown from the newer Soviet cruisers, as well as from the helicopter carriers MOSKVA and LENINGRAD and the KIEV class aircraft carriers. An ASW version of the HIP helicopter, which has been named the HAZE by Western intelligence, has been entering SNA inventory . Because of its larger size, it is unlikely to be used on existing Soviet warships. It is more likely a replacement for the older shore-based, HOUND ASW helicopters. The HAZE is reported to be now operating in all four fleets.

      The aircraft carrier KIEV operates both ASW and missile targeting variants (the “B” model) of the HORMONE. A utility version (HORMONE C) is also carried for miscellaneous missions including search-and-rescue. From extensive experimental work in VSTOL technology, the Soviets developed the FORGER VTOL tactical aircraft; both the single and two-seat versions have been sighted on the KIEV. This aircraft is estimated to have about the same speed as the US. Marine Corps’ AV-8A HARRIER VSTOL, but does not appear to have similar range or maneuvering capabilities.

      During their four years of limited operations of the FORGER the Soviets have provided some indication of the role this aircraft is intended to play, as it has been employed primarily as a basic flight training and surface strike aircraft. It is likely the plane is designed for several roles such as fighter defense , antiship strike, reconnaissance, close air support ashore and possibly even ASW support. Its capabilities in any of these roles are limited relative to Western carrier aircraft.

      But one must understand that this is the first attempt by the Soviets at fixed wing carrier operations —their “Model T” compared to future developments . What must be emphasized is the trend,‘ where the Soviets had “zero” capability in this area 10 years ago, now they have some. One can be assured that the Soviet Navy will be operating many more carrier-based aircraft with much greater capabilities ten years from now. As Soviet carrier air capabilities increase so do the seapower options available to the Politburo.


      The Soviet Naval Aviation also operates some 125 transport and utility aircraft of various types. Although basic and advanced training are provided by the Soviet Air Forces, maritime operational training is accomplished within the Navy. The SNA retains a number of transports to provide a logistics capability to better meet the Navy’s priority needs. In recent years Soviet Naval Aviation has been gaining in strength and prestige. Recent manifestations include the construction of KIEV class carriers , the introduction of the BACKFIRE bomber, the elevation of the commander of Soviet Naval Aviation to a rank of Marshal, and the various references in Admiral Gorshkov’s writings as to the importance of his air arm.

      Amphibious Forces

      Another area of continuing development in the Soviet Navy has been amphibious assault forces. Within the Soviet Navy, “marines” are known as “naval infantry”. Since it was reformed in the early 1960s, this force has received considerable publicity in the Soviet press and is bannered as an elite combat force. Today there are an estimated 12,000 Soviet marines, mostly allocated to the four fleets. (The U.S. Marine Corps, by comparison, numbers about 185,000 men and women.)

      The mission of the Soviet marines and hence their organization and equipment differ somewhat from that of the U.S. Marine Corps. The Soviets are not able to conduct extensive independent operations as our marines are. Instead, they spearhead amphibious landings for other ground forces and hold captured beachheads against counterattack, carry out “prolonged” river crossings and defend naval bases. Although described as “light” infantry, the Soviet marine force is highly mechanized and is equipped with tracked and wheeled amphibious vehicles, including tanks and armored personnel carriers.

      Amphibious lift for the naval infantry is provided primarily by IVAN ROGOV class LPDS, ALLIGATOR class and ROPHUCHA class LSTS, and POLNOCNY class LSMS. The Soviet amphibious forces exercise regularly in their respective fleet areas and regularly deploy to the Mediterranean, off West Africa , and the Indian Ocean. The Soviet Navy has about 25 LSTs and over 60 LSMs, plus numerous lesser landing craft and air cushion vehicles for amphibious operations.

      The Soviet Navy is now the world’s largest operator of military air cushion vehicles for which development continues. There are three classes currently in use: The GUS, LEBED and large AIST class. Although small by comparison to the U.S. Marine Corps (the Soviet Naval Infantry is the second largest marine force in the world), the potential power of even a few hundred Soviet marines afloat in any given area during a crisis provides the Soviet Union with a valuable politico-military tool. For operations at some distance from the U.S.S.R., the Soviet ability to conduct an amphibious assault is limited to landings against positions where little or no opposition is expected ashore or in the seaward approaches of the landing area. But the Soviets have in hand, or are developing, the elements necessary to provide a formidable projection into distant waters, if that is their choice. These include the improvement in assault lift capability, the expansion of a large administrative lift ability designed into certain ships of the Merchant Marine, the retention of a substantial gunfire support strength in the older cruisers and destroyers , development of sea-based tactical air power, and a steadily improving underway replenishment capability. The Soviet Navy’s ability to project tactical power ashore at some distance from the Soviet littoral may be part of Admiral Gorshkov’s “grand plan” in achieving a “balanced fleet”.


      As befitting a fleet of its size, the Soviet Navy operates a large number of auxiliaries, including many types and classes performing a myriad of function in various roles. The total of all categories approximates 760 ships.

      One area in which the Soviets have lagged behind the Western navies is that of underway replenishment . The Soviets provide the great percentage of replenishment and routine maintenance to their deployed units in open anchorages in international waters. Although such activities appear more than adequate in peacetime operations, this mode of support would be most vulnerable in times of conflict. The Soviet Navy has slowly been improving their capabilities in the area of underway replenishment.

      Today, of 85 replenishment ships about 20 are capable of alongside refueling. The BORIS CHILIKIN class AORs and the new BEREZINA AOR are the most capable of these types. The Soviets still extensively use the astern method of refueling, which requires the participants to proceed at slow speed or remain dead in the water. The Soviets also rely on the merchant marine to provide a substantial percentage of their fuel at sea.

      BEREZINA is a 40,000 ton multi-purpose replenishment ship, similar in size, appearance and capabilities to our WICHITA class aors. It is armed with guns and missiles and appears to be designed to operate as an integral part of a battle group. Besides various liquids, this ship can also transfer solid stores, including missiles, while underway. The ship has a two helicopter hangar capacity. Although only one of this class has been built, it is expected the Soviets will continue to develop and improve this type of auxiliary.

      Other auxiliaries which deploy regularly are material and fleet support ships such as: large submarine tenders (AS), which also serve the fleet as command and general maintenance ships, missile tenders (AEM), water transports (AW), (many Soviet ships suffer from small fresh water evaporator capacity), stores ships (AF), repair ships (AR), ocean tugs (ATA), etc. In addition to auxiliaries providing direct support to the fleet, other auxiliaries of the Soviet Navy are plying the “seven seas” in virtually every corner of the world in any given day. These include such types as intelligence, survey and research, and space event support ships. The Soviets also use auxiliaries extensively for fleet maintenance and support in many of their home operating bases, in lieu of extensive fixed base assets ashore.

      The Soviets rely to a fair extent on their Warsaw Pact allies, particularly Poland and East Germany to construct naval auxiliaries. A more recent example of this is the building of two large hospital ships in Poland; the Soviets have not had any such ships for years. The reasons the Soviets feel they need such ships at this juncture are speculative. Finland, West Germany, Sweden, Japan and the United Kingdom have also built auxiliaries now serving in the Soviet Navy. G. Surveillance, Intelligence, and


      The Soviet Navy’s increased operations have been matched by quantitative and by qualitative increases in related surveillance, intelligence, and communications activities. The most obvious manifestation of this aspect of Soviet naval activity has

      been the extensive operations of passive intelligence collection or “spy” ships.

      These ships are known as “intelligence collectors” and are designated as AGIs; more than 50 of them are in service. They are often depicted in the press as disguised fishing trawlers. However, they are clearly identifiable as naval intelligence ships, manned by naval personnel, flying the Soviet naval ensign, and easily identified by their varied and unusual electronic antennas. Some of the AGIs are of modified trawler design, others of modified survey-research ship design, and a number are builtfor -the-purpose of intelligence “factories.” The latter of the PRIMORYE class displace about 4,000 tons. A new large AGI, the BALZAM class, joined the Soviet fleet in 1980—this ship displaces over 5,000 tons.

      Soviet AGI-type ships normally keep watch off the U.S. missile submarine bases of Holy Loch, Scotland, and Guam in the Marianas. An AGI normally operates off the Southeastern coast of the United States, a position that permits surveillance of the submarine bases at Charleston, South Carolina , or Kings Bay, Georgia; the aircraft carrier operating areas off Virginia or Florida; or the missile activity at Cape Kennedy. AGIs regularly dog NATO and U.S. naval forces during exercises and are usually present in most Soviet-United States naval confrontations.

      The concept of operating ships exclusively for overt intelligence tasks was discarded by the U.S. Navy after the misfortunes of the USS PUEBLO (captured by the North Koreans) and the USS LIBERTY (severely damaged by Israeli air and naval attack back in the 1960s). Significantly, U.S. Navy ships employed in this passive intelligence role during that period were converted World War II-built cargo ships, whereas the Soviet vessels are of relatively recent construction. Over the last several years, the Soviets have armed a number of their AGIs with small surface-to-air missiles.

      In addition to AGIs, the Soviet Navy, like other major navies, employs surface warships, submarines and aircraft for intelligence collection. Increasingly, the Soviet Navy is also employing advanced satellite surveillance systems. Recent naval-associated surveillance satellites have improved collection rates and processing capabilities. These include electronic intelligence (ELINT) satellites (that can “lock on” to electronic signals from Western warships to provide location information), radar surveillance satellites and photographic satellites . The ELINT and radar satellites can provide almost real-time detection and possibly some weaponguidance capability.

      Satellite surveillance systems are in extensive use by the Soviet armed forces. According to published reports, the Soviets apparently employed reconnaissance satellites to keep track of the 1973 war in the Middle East. Four reconnaissance satellites were orbited during the 12-day period in early October, apparently related to the Arab-Israeli war that erupted on October 6, 1973. Indications are that the Soviets increased their satellite collection during the more recent Iranian and Afghan crises.

      Satellites are also employed by the Soviet Navy for long-range communications. A number of Soviet warships and support ships have satellite communication equipment, including the KIEV class carrier and the two SVERDLOV class cruisers that were modified to serve as command and communication ships in remote ocean areas. These ships are fitted with advanced communications equipment, command and control spaces, and accommodations for an admiral and staff. More recently the Soviets modified a GOLF class submarine for this same purpose.

      The Soviet Navy has developed advanced conventional communication equipment for the tactical coordination of strike forces. For example, Soviet surface missile ships, missile-armed submarines, and aircraft are able to rapidly exchange targeting information and coordinate strikes against surface ship targets. During the large-scale OKEAN maneuvers of 1970 and 1975, the Soviets were observed to simulate several coordinated attacks against surface ships. In some phases of the multi-ocean exercise, naval bombers simultaneously flew simulated strike missions in both the North Atlantic and Western Pacific Oceans, with warships in the different oceans being attacked at the same moment. Now the Soviets conduct more extensive and complex exercises than in the past, particularly during the spring and summer periods.

      This requirement for simultaneous strikes in widely separated ocean areas is part of the Soviet Navy’s “short war” or “first salvo” concept discussed earlier in this publication. Published Soviet reports describing OKEAN 1970 tell of the Navy Commander-in-Chief being able to communicate with major units anywhere in the world almost instantly, knowing that an order had been executed by a ship in a “matter of minutes,” having available in real time the status of air, surface , and underwater situations, including friendly and enemy orders of battle, and being able to monitor “how the (ship) commander conducts a search and accurately judges the effectiveness of his actions.”

      Other Warsaw Pact Navies

      Four of the six non-Soviet Warsaw Pact (NSWP) countries have navies: Poland, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) (East Germany), Bulgaria and Rumania. These forces are designed primarily to operate in the coastal areas of their respective countries, and units are seldom seen outside of the Baltic Sea (Poland and the GDR) or the Black Sea (Bulgaria and Rumania).

      The Baltic NSWP navies are by far the more capable in relation to those in the Black Sea, and it appears the former are much more integrated with the Soviet Navy in matters of Warsaw Pact operations than the latter. These navies have a proliferation of ship classes that are home-built or provided by the Soviets.

      The Poles and Germans are excellent ship builders, and their navies have several classes of ships which are of indigenous design and construction. Examples of these are the FROSH class LST, LIBELLE class PTL and HAI class PG in the GDR Navy and the POLNOCNY class LSM and the OBLUZE class PCS in the Polish Navy. A number of amphibious ships and auxiliaries in the Soviet Navy were also built in Poland.

      The Poles have a naval air arm which consists of about 90 helicopters, older MIG fighters and BEAGLE bombers. The GDR Navy operates a small contingent of ASW helicopters.

      Poland has a well balanced navy which includes: four WHISKEY class submarines; a KOTLIN class DDG; a number of smaller combatants, including OSA class missile boats; a good size amphibious force; about 50 mine warfare ships and craft, plus a few auxiliaries. Although there are no marines in the Polish Navy, there is a dedicated “amphibious landing division” in the Polish Army which exercises with the Navy's amphibious assault force. The GDR Navy has no submarines or destroyers but does have two of the new KONI class frigates recently built by the Soviets. They also operate a large coastal patrol force including OSA class missile boats, an amphibious force able to lift the amphibious dedicated motorized rifle regiment in the GDR Army, and a coastal minesweeper group.

      The Rumanian Navy consists mainly of 3 POTI class patrol escorts, about 66 coastal patrol craft, including a few OSAs, and a mine warfare force of approximately 32. Some of the Rumanian units were purchased from Communist China, another indication that the Rumanians do not collaborate as closely with the Soviets as the latter might wish. The Bulgarian Navy has four submarines of the WHISKEY and ROMEO classes, two RIGA class frigates, three POTI class patrol escorts, a mine warfare force of 26, and about 24 coastal combatants , including several OSA missile boats.

      Naval weapons