The Kirov-class nuclear-powered guided-missile cruisers often grab most of the attention when people look at the Russian Navy's surface ships. That's very understandable — these are powerful assets, packing powerful weapons, like the SS-N-19 Shipwreck surface-to-surface missile and the SA-N-6 Grumble surface-to-air missile.
A look at the SS-N-19 cells on the Soviet battlecruiser Kirov. (DOD photo)
But Russia has other, almost-as-powerful cruisers that roam the seas. The Slava-class cruisers entered service in the 1980s, and they are no slouches, even though they've never had the cachet of the Kirovs.
The Slava-class cruiser Marshal Ustinov. (U.S. Navy photo)
Today, Russia is focusing more on smaller ships with a big punch, back in the heyday of the Soviet Union, they were trying to reach the status of a blue-water navy. The Kuznetsov-class carriers — and a nuclear-powered follow-on called the Ulyanovsk — would need escorts capable of providing area air defense and to kill enemy ships.
Russian Sailors man the rails as Russian navy Slava-class guided-missile cruiser Varyag departs San Francisco Bay. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Pamela J. Manns)
The Slava could do that. The Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World notes that the Slava-class cruiser carried 16 SS-N-12 Sandbox surface-to-surface missiles and 64 SA-N-6 Grumble surface-to-air missiles. The ship also carried a pair of SA-N-4 missile launchers for point defense, a twin 130mm gun, six AK-630 30mm Gatling guns, two quintuple mounts of 21-inch torpedo tubes, and a Ka-27 Helix helicopter.
An aerial starboard view of the bow section of a Soviet Slava-class guided missile cruiser showing 16 SS-N-12 missiles, a twin 130 mm dual purpose gun, and two 30 mm Gatling guns. (U.S. Navy photo)
Russia presently has three such ships in its arsenal. A fourth vessel sat around, waiting to be finished for roughly two decades before being scrapped. Two others were planned and slated to be equipped with improved surface-to-surface missiles, but were canceled after the fall of the Soviet Union.
"Moskva" ("Moscow") (ex-"Slava", which means "Glory") is the lead ship of the Project 1164 Atlant class of guided missile cruisers in the Russian Navy. The Project 1164 Atlant class was developed as "Aircraft carriers killer". This warship was used in the 2008 Russia–Georgia War. (Wikimedia Commons photo by George Chernilevsky)
The Russian Navy will have these ships around for at least another decade, by which time they hope to have the Lider-class destroyer ready to enter service. Until then, the Slava-class cruisers give the Russian Navy a hefty punch.
Learn more about these ships in the video below.