The Pyotr Veliky (Peter the Great) is the current flagship of the Russian Northern Fleet. It is a Project 1144.2 Kirov class battle cruiser displacing 26,000 tonnes using nuclear propulsion. The vessel is regarded as the most powerful surface combatant ever set to sea and is the most updated ship in the class. It was launched in 1989 and completed sea trials in 1995. It has been the lead ship in numerous exercises in 2000 during the Kursk disaster, 2003, and 2004. On 17 February 2004, RIA Novosti reported that the ship had successfully repelled a ballistic missile attack. It was the first time missiles were shot at ballistic targets from aboard a Russian warship and the "event was a success" said Chief of Staff Anatoly Kvashnin.17 On 23 March 2004, a serious problem arose from the Chief of the Navy about the ship which was reported in Gazeta.ru. Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov was quoted as saying, "The ship is in such a condition that it may blow up any minute… In areas where admirals walk around it looks all right, but in places they do not visit, the situation is such that it may explode… I mean among other things maintaining the nuclear reactor." 18In 2003, the ship was declared the fleet’s model ship by top officials.19 Kuroyedov made his remarks after Kommersant published an article saying the reason for bringing the ship into dock was the result of a power struggle among top Russian admirals.20 The admiral later retracted his statements.
State news source RIA Novosti reported that the ship was tied up for a month to bring it back up to code but the “reactor compartment is the only space to be maintained up to standard” and “in the course of the preventive maintenance the ship's commanders will have time to establish elementary order in the questions of the duty-watch service and of compliance with the Navy rules.”21 It was shortly after this incident that Kuroyedov was sacked by Putin for this and many other failures. The following year on 18 August 2005, Vladimir Putin had enough confidence to sit in Pyotr Veliky’s conning tower during exercises in the Barents Sea. During his trip he witnessed the ship’s missiles rip-off into the distance in a war game. He was impressed and recalled his first encounter during the construction, “These ships are usually built for four or five years, but this one was built in ten years. At that time, they could not only fail to build the cruiser, but the shipyard could have broken up altogether.”22 In 2006, the ship underwent an overhaul to prepare for cruising and for a US delegation lead by Admiral Henry G. Ulrich, commander of US Naval Forces Europe. He was given an inspection of the ship on 29 July 2007 and was the first high level US delegation to visit to the Northern Fleet in eleven years.23 On 23 April 2008, the ship again headed to the Barents Sea for live fire exercises and successfully engaged target drones launched by the Rassvet missile-ship. On 25 November 2008, the Pyotr Veliky arrived in Venezuela for VENRUS-2008 after an uneventful Atlantic crossing. Prior to the trip, the ship had made port calls around the Mediterranean showing the flag. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack quipped that it was "very interesting that they found some ships that could actually make it that far down to Venezuela."24 American analysts made light of the trip to Venezuela asking if Russia had made sure to bring their tugboats.25 There was no evidence to suggest such action was needed and Pyotr Veliky is currently making its way to South Africa to join up with the fleet for exercises in the Indian Ocean.
The Pyotr Veliky has received much criticism from Western military analysts but begs the question whether such criticism is valid. The flagship of the Northern Fleet has been the most active of all Russian cruisers and has not had a single reported accident in recent times. Vladimir Kuroyedov brought attention to problems that shocked the very foundation of a ship that was supposed to be the model for the Russian Navy. Officials inside the service were saying nothing was wrong while Kuroydov made statements to the contrary; these were made during a power struggle in the Russian Admiralty that he later retracted. According to state information sources, the only thing that was wrong was disciplinary related. There is some merit to Kuroydov’s comments as the sailors pay for the ship was reduced while it was docked and state information services noted personnel deficiencies. The punishment of reduced pay would not affect a conscript to a large degree as their pay is minimal, but it would punish officers. As we will find, discipline is a major concern in the Russian fleet.
The missile armament of Pyotr Veliky is impressive even compared to American Ticonderoga class cruisers. The 20 P-700 Granit missiles might not match up in offensive punch compared to a load-out of Tomahawk cruise missiles, but the defence suite is unmatched in the world. The battle cruiser carries over 500 SAMs of varying ranges and has more CIWS capability than any ship afloat besides the Kuznetsov. With almost one-hundred S-300F/M SAMs gives the ability to take out long distant aircraft and even ballistic missiles. The Klinok defence suite carriers 128 missiles with four channels of fire giving the ship capabilities of the TOR-M1.26 The flagship of the Northern Fleet has six Kasthan modules making a missile strike on the ship all but futile without a hard jamming effort.27 The long range of the S-300F/M makes jamming the ship a difficult task. It has yet to be seen if Western aircraft have the ability to successfully counter the missile system. NATO nations of the Slovak Republic and Greece both have older land versions of the system to exercise with, but it is likely that this ship with TOMB STONE radar has better ECM capabilities than those old systems. The capability to intercept short-ranged ballistic missiles leaves a future position for the S-300F/M system as a possible sea-based ABM defence shield. At the very least, it could operate as a last-ditch defence for strategic coastal targets as it has been proven capable of at least one intercept.
The current cruise undertaken by the Pyotr Veliky is a landmark event for the Russian Federation. Not since the fall of the Soviet Union has a ship gone on a cruise that covers much of the globe. In the last two months it has traveled from the Kola Peninsula to Turkey, from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean and to the Cape of Good Hope. It still has a long journey ahead for exercises in the Indian Ocean and the cruise home. There were some issues with a crew that spent most of its time on land and only went out if a flag officer or official was going to witness exercises in the past. This was brought to light by Admiral Vladimir Kuroydov and measures were taken to resolve the issues. The ship has since been able to make way with no incident and is completing the longest voyage to date. Results from the live fire exercises appear to have the ship’s weapon systems working as designed. Unlike the Admiral Kuznetsov, this ship has no list of major incidents and has the confidence of the Russian Admiralty to undertake the longest cruise of any ship to date and host US delegations. With recent joint exercises in VENRUS-2008 and the upcoming INDRA-2009, the ship will be one of the most active in the fleet. The commanders are gaining experience as how to operate and maintain this ship under long durations. As to the Western critics who want to deride this ship, their formulations are lacking in merit.
Last edited by Vladimir79 on Wed Apr 07, 2010 6:56 pm; edited 1 time in total