Warship Wednesday May 11, 2016: The Slothy Siberian Heavyweight
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday May 11, 2016: The Slothy Siberian Heavyweight
Here we see crew of the Maxim Gorky (Kirov)-class “medium” cruiser Kalinin enjoying a peaceful moonlight and spotlit violin serenade in 1955. Though some 10,000~ tons when completed and with an impressive armament that sounded great on paper, she was a mixmaster of parts from all over the world and the People never really got their rubles’ worth out of her.
Under Tsar Alexander III and later Nicholas II, the Imperial Russian Navy sought to move up from being like the 11th or 12th most powerful ocean going armada to about the 5th or 6th. This led to a huge program to build modern cruisers and battleships, amassing the world’s most numerous submarine fleet, and designing some very nice destroyers both built at home and on contract abroad. The only thing was that the Russo-Japanese War was a world-class setback, and so was the Great War and the subsequent Russian Civil War. By 1923, the once powerful fleet had either atrophied, exiled, been cannibalized, or rested on the ocean floor.
Stalin pushed to get at least some decent first class warships abroad (including almost buying one of Hitler’s pocket battleships before settling the German cruiser Lützow and some 15-inch gun turret plans instead) and consulting with the Italians on some cruiser and battlewagon designs in the 1930s that would be made back in the Worker’s Paradise.
One of the more successful of these endeavors was obtaining the plans for the 8,800-ton Condottieri-class light cruiser Raimondo Montecuccoli, herself a subtype of that class. Armed with 8×6 inch and 8×3.9 inch guns, Montecuccoli was a nautical Ferrari, capable of some 37+ knots. Of course, her belt was paper thin at just 2.4-inches, meaning if she got in a scrap with something larger than a destroyer, she had some bad spaghetti on her hands.
The modification worked out by the Soviets’ Neskoe Design Bureau on the Italian boat led to the Kirov (Project 26) type cruisers, which weighed in at a chunkier 9,400-tons though with a thinner 2-inch belt. The weight went into upping the armament and giving the Red cruiser 9 impressive 180 mm/57 (7.1″) B-1-P Pattern 1931 guns in three triple mounts along with another 9 100mm DP guns plus torpedoes, mines, machine guns and the will of Karl Marx.
This main battery, used first on the rehashed and incomplete Svetlana-class light cruiser Krasnyi Kavkaz and designed by the Italian firm of Ansaldo, were capable of firing six rounds per minute, per tube, allowing the Project 26 cruisers to rocket out 54 shells– each some 215 lbs. in weight– to 40,000 yards in 60 seconds. (More on this later).
Their large size, coupled with their armament, made them very potent when compared to other “light cruisers” of the 1930s. Nevertheless, they were nowhere near the sluggers that heavy cruisers– which typically mounted 8-inch guns and up—were. This led to these oddball garlic and borscht combos termed by some as “medium cruisers.”
Six were ordered, laid down two each in the Baltic and Black sea and the final pair in the Pacific Ocean, all begun between 1935 and 1939.
The hero of our story, Kalinin, was late in the design process and officially a Project 26bis2 ship, with slight modifications (no catapults fitted, eight single 76.2 mm 34-K anti-aircraft guns rather than the 6x100mm secondary battery of her sisters though this was later changed to 85mm Army mounts, experimental Mars-72 sonar system, armor belt upped to 2.8-inches, etc.)
Kalinin was laid down at Amur Shipbuilding Plant, Komsomolsk-on-Amur on 26 August 1938 and her components, which included parts obtained from Germany, Britain and Italy, were shipped across Europe some 6,000 miles and 7 time zones by rail on the Trans-Siberian to be installed. Built during the war, she also received lend-lease sensors from the Allies including ASDIC-132 sonar, British Type 291 and U.S. SG air search and Type 282 FC radars.
However, Kalinin, named for some old school Bolshevik guy who somehow managed to keep his head during the Great Purges, never got to use her systems in combat.
Completed in 1943, she was going to transfer to the Soviet Northern Fleet in Murmansk to help keep a lookout for the German surface raiders harassing convoys ending there, but that fell through due to a poor showing on her trials.
Kalinin remained out of commission until December 1944, inactive in Vladivostok alongside her even less complete sister Kaganovich, though neither were used against the Japanese in Stalin’s brief 24-day war in the Pacific in August 1945.
This was a marked difference from her sisters Kirov and Maxim Gorky in the Baltic; and Voroshilov and Molotov in the Black Sea, all of whom had ample opportunity to mix it up with the Germans and Italians (oh the irony) during the Siege of Leningrad and the Crimean Campaigns, respectively.
During the conflict it was found out that the prestigious 180mm guns installed on this class were hamstrung in actual use because the turrets were too cramped, dropping their theoretical rate of fire by some 67 percent. Doh! They should’ve called Mussolini and complained…
After the war, Kalinin became something of Stalin’s Love Boat in the Pacific, sailing far and wide and entertaining visiting dignitaries.
She was the flagship of the Pacific fleet under Vice-Admiral Yuri Panteleyev from 1947-53.
With a staggering 30 brand new 16,000-ton 12x152mm gunned Sverdlov (Project 68bis) class cruisers being built, Kalinin was laid up 1 May 1956 after just over a decade of use.
Disarmed the next year, she was used as a receiving ship for a bit until being sold for scrap 12 April 1963. Even so, she outlived her redheaded stepsister Kaganovich who was scrapped three years earlier. The last of her kind, class leader Kirov, was used as pier side training ship for some time, which gave her an extension on her life until 1974.
Some of Kalinin and Kaganovich‘s guns were remounted in railway units that the Soviets kept active in Siberia into the 1970s and 80s. With that being said it wouldn’t surprise me that one of those 180mm guns is rusting away on some forgotten railway siding near a birch forest ala Dr Zhivago.
The most visible remnant of these ships still around is an intact forward turret from Kirov, moved to Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, as a memorial in 1977.
Kalinin’s name was reissued to a massive 28,000-ton Kirov-class battlecruiser in 1983 that was later renamed Admiral Nakhimov after the wall came down, as the old Communist’s name finally fell out of favor.
8,400 tonnes (8,267 long tons) (standard)
10,040 tonnes (9,881 long tons) (full load)
Length: 191.2 m (627 ft. 4 in)
Beam: 17.66 m (57 ft. 11 in)
Draught: 6.3 m (20 ft. 8 in) (full load)
Installed power: 126,900 shp (94,600 kW)
2 shafts, TB-7 geared turbines
6 Yarrow-Normand oil-fired boilers
Speed: 36 knots (67 km/h; 41 mph) (on trials)
Endurance: 5,590 nmi (10,350 km; 6,430 mi) at 17 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph)
Sensors and processing systems: ASDIC-132 and Mars-72 sonars
3 × 3 – 180 mm (7.1 in) B-1-P guns
8 × 1 – 85 mm (3.3 in) 90-K dual-purpose guns (after 1947)
6 × 1 – 45 mm (1.8 in) 21-K AA guns
10 × 2 – 37 mm (1.5 in) 70-K
6 × 1 – 12.7 mm (0.50 in) AA machine guns
2 × 3 – 533 mm (21.0 in) torpedo tubes
50 depth charges
Waterline belt: 70 mm (2.8 in)
Deck: 50 mm (2.0 in) each
Turrets: 70 mm (2.8 in)
Barbettes: 70 mm (2.8 in)
Conning tower: 150 mm (5.9 in)
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