Missile Loadouts: Project 61 "Kashin" (1962-2020)

After the end of World War II, it was discovered that the pre-war types of naval ships were largely obsolete and did not reflect the new reality of warfare. Experiments eventually led to a new breed of large multirole missile ships in the 1950’s. Among United States and her allies these ships were known as “frigates” or “DLG’s,” but in the Soviet Union they were dubbed “large antisubmarine ships” (большие противолодочные корабли).

The first of these large antisubmarine ships was Project 61, known to NATO as the Kashin-class cruisers. However, the early members of this class were actually commissioned as “patrol ships” (сторожевых корабли) before their classification was changed in 1966. Commissioned between 1962 and 1970, the 20 ships of Project 61 were contemporaries of the 20 American frigates of the Leahy, Bainbridge, Belknap, and Truxtun classes. Measuring 144 meters in length, Project 61 was significantly smaller than the 162 or 172 meters of the American ships. However, their combat power was similar because of a huge difference in range - Project 61 could travel 3500 miles at 18 knots while the Leahy-class could go 8000 miles at 20 knots. But for the Soviets this was an acceptable trade-off as their navy was primarily defensive in nature.

Despite being a “large antisubmarine ship,” Project 61 lacked any sort of antisubmarine missiles and instead relied on 21” SET-53 torpedoes fired from a quintuple launcher amidships for antisubmarine work, along with short-range RBU-1000 and RBU-6000 depth bombs. The missile battery of Project 61 consisted of a pair of twin-arm launchers for the M-1 Volna (Wave) air defense complex. Installed fore and aft, each launcher had 16 V-600 missiles (aka SA-N-1 Goa). However, the range of this weapon was only around 15 kilometers, making the V-600 a self-defense weapon roughly equivalent to the original RIM-24A Tartar, rather than a true area-defense weapon like the roughly 40-kilometer RIM-2E Terrier found on the American frigates. While V-600 could also be employed against surface targets if needed, this use appears unlikely as the missile was actually outranged by both the torpedoes and 3” guns of Project 61. As was common with Soviet surface-to-air missiles, the V-600 was also used on land as the S-125 Neva (named for a river in St Petersburg, aka SA-3 Goa).

Project 61 in 1962: 32x V-600

In the late 1960's, the missile battery was upgraded to Volna-M standard with the improved 25-kilometer V-601 missile. But the ability to hit low altitude targets did not arrive until the late 1970's with Volna-N and the V-601M missile. However, the greatest change came in 1971, when five ships were modernized as Project 61MP. This upgrade included the installation of four box launchers for the P-15 Termit (Termite, aka SS-N-2 Styx) antiship missile. Somewhat oddly, these launchers were installed amidships firing backwards. But the modification was deemed successful enough that the last ship of the class was completed to similar Project 61M standard. In 1977, the six ships of Project 61M and 61MP were briefly reclassified as “large rocket ships” (больших ракетных кораблей) before again becoming large antisubmarine ships in 1980.

Project 61MP in 1971: 32x V-601, 4x P-15

From 1990-1995, one ship of the original Project 61 standard (Сметливый / Smetlivy / Sharp-witted) was heavily upgraded. Along with significant changes to her sensors and electronics, she also received two amidships quadruple box launchers for Kh-35 Uran (Uranus, aka SS-N-25 Switchblade) antiship missile. This subsonic sea-skimming weapon had a range of 130 kilometers, making it a significant upgrade over the aging P-15. The end of the Cold War and collapse of the USSR is likely the only reason why this extensive modernization was not applied to every ship of the class.

Project 61 modernization in 1995: 32x V-601, 8x Kh-35

One member of Project 61 (Отва́жный / Otvazhnyy / Courageous) was lost in 1974, when one of her V-601 missiles exploded during an exercise and started uncontrollable fires and flooding. But the remaining 19 ships served the Soviet Navy until the end of the Cold War and were an active part of the Russian Navy for years afterwards. Even today, fifty years after her commissioning, Smetlivy remains in service, making her one of the world's oldest active warships.


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