Combat Gallery Sunday: The Cold War artwork of Pavel Pavlinov and Andrey Babanovsky

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sundays (when I feel like working), I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, photographers and the like that produced them.

Combat Gallery Sunday: The Cold War artwork of Pavel Pavlinov and Andrey Babanovsky

Admiral of the fleet of the Soviet Union Sergei Georgiyevich Gorshkov, accomplished, especially considering what the Soviets had to work with, an impressive feat. Gorshkov gave his life to the Red Banner Fleet, joining at age 17 in 1927. By WWII, he was in the Black Sea and rose to command a destroyer squadron after much heavy contact with the Axis forces in the landlocked body of water increasingly owned by the Germans. He received the Order of the Red Banner twice for his wartime exploits.

Recognised as cut from a different cloth than the typical party functionaries, by just age 46 he was given command of the entire Soviet Navy by Nikita Khrushchev and spent the next 30 years building the largest fleet in either Asia or Europe and the second largest (only outclassed by the USN) in the world– seizing that cherished spot from the British Royal Navy who only begrudgingly relinquished their own first place title holder to the Americans a generation before. Had there been no Gorshkov, it could be argued there would have been no Tom Clancy and the Soviets would have been content with only a minor naval force, a role Russia had basically always fulfilled.

At the high water mark of the Red Banner Fleet’s power in 1973 came this chapbook of postcard drawings entitled, “Modern ships of the USSR Navy” by Pavel Pavlinov and Andrey Babanovsky. Sure, it was Soviet propaganda of the most obvious, but it froze a moment in time and presented it in its best light– regardless of the fact that a lot of the ships were poorly manned by conscripts simply glad to not be in the Army, officered by professional mariners that lacked the fundamental foundation of an NCO corps they could depend on, and suffered from often suicidal nuclear engineering plants and moody weapon and sensor packages.

But, you have to admit: they look pretty!

Note the Foxtrot diesel boat on the cover. The Project 641 subs were among the most numerous in the Red Fleet

Sverdlov cruiser Mikhail Kutuzov. These all-gun cruisers were obsolete when completed, but the Russians carried them on their Navy list throughout the Cold War. Packed with 1940s-era electronics, they could always serve as a flagship post-Atomic exchange/EMP!

Operating in the polar cap

Looks to be a Kresta-class cruiser

The Soviets were serious when it came to amphibious light tanks and landing vehicles, fielding the PT-76, PTS, and BTR series vehicles along with lots of Polnocny-class and Alligator-class LSTs to truck them ashore. While not capable of large-scale landings, this capability still gave Baltic and Black Sea-based NATO allies heartburn

Moskova-class helicopter carrier Leningrad. The three 17,000-ton Moskovas, the first Soviet helicopter carriers, could tote almost two dozen Ka-25 or Mi-8 aircraft and were seen as big medicine to help curb the NATO hunter-killer threat in SSBN Bastion areas.

The Soviets built 32 Gus- and 20 Aist-class LCAC’s, the former, shown above, capable of carrying 25 troops, while the latter were capable of carrying 200 troops or 4 light tanks. They would later be carried in the carried by the Ivan Rogov-class dock landing ship, the first Soviet LSDs, which were under construction at the time the book came out.

Osa class fast attack boat. Those big SS-N-2 Styx missiles had been proved in combat just a few years before. Egyptian Komar-class missile boats used the Styx to splash the WWII-vintage Israel Navy destroyer Eilat during the Six Day War in October 1967

Beriev Be-12 Mail flying boat seaplane

As for Gorshkov, he only stepped down from commanding his fleet at age 75, reluctantly handing the reins to Adm. Vladimir Chernavin, who, less than a half-decade later, preside over the force’s break-up and spiraling demise which was to endure for two decades.

Thank you for your work, Mr. Pavlinov and Babanovsky

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