In late 1980 NATO analysts identified two new large Soviet warship types running trials in the Baltic. Both were identified within months of each other. Both were very similar in size. However, after seeing how they were fitted out, it was clear that the two had very different missions. The first type was initially labeled BAL COM 2 (Baltic Combat (design) 2) and the other as BAL COM 3.
COM 3 proved to be the Udaloy
Class BPK Large
Anti-Submarine Ship under the Soviet classification system. It was clear
from her armament that her almost exclusive mission was to hunt and destroy
submarines. BAL COM 2 was more difficult to pin down. For one reason, for the
first time a major Soviet combatant ran trials without armament being fitted.
Without the armament providing telltale clues to mission, the purpose of the new
vessel was merely conjecture. What was clear was that it was a completely
different design than the slightly larger Udaloy. BAL COM 2 proved to be
the Sovremenny Project 956, Sarych,
characteristic of Soviet military procurement was the use of multiple design
bureaus. Regardless of the service, equipment designs were assigned to specific
design bureaus and it was theirs to design as they saw fit. The Red Army used
different design bureaus for armored vehicles. The Soviet Air Force used design
bureaus that became very specialized. Antonov with the AN designation
specialized in large multi-engine bombers and transports. Illushin with the IL
designation produced one of the finest ground attack aircraft of WW2 with their
Sturmovick but gravitated to large transports and airliners later on. Mikoyan
and Gurnevich was the classic fighter manufacturer and their MiG designation is
instantly recognized as denoting a fighter design. The Soviet navy also used
design bureaus. Some were large, multi-purpose, multi-design, organizations and
others were smaller specialized firms.
In 1980 both of the
new designs could be characterized as large destroyers in the west. However,
western destroyer designs tended to be multi-purpose, while the Soviet designs
were focused on one facet of naval warfare. Just as the weapons fit for Udaloy showed complete focus
on the ASW mission, the weapons fit for Sovremenny
clearly showed that surface warfare was her strong suit. Another clue was the
yards building the lead ships. Udaloy
was built at the comparatively small Baltic yard of
The class was
eventually typed as Eskadrenny Minonosets (EM) (Squadron Torpedo boats) which had been the old traditional
classification for Imperial Russian and Soviet destroyers. Although based on the
same hull as a rocket cruiser, the radar fit of the Sovremenny
clearly indicated that her class was designed to operate as one component
of a larger task group. Rocket cruiser designs devoted considerable space to
long range radar and acquisition fittings. As a type the rocket cruisers were
designed to operate independently as carrier busters. In that role they needed long range acquisition
assets. The Sovremenny
was not fitted with the long-range gear, only medium and short range
radars. For long-range acquisition, the class would have to rely on another unit
armament of Sovremenny clearly defined her
mission. She had four AK-130 130mm/70 guns 2x2, compared to the two 100mm guns
of the Udaloy. These guns were of a
completely new design. Fully automated and water cooled, they are capable of
surface and anti-air fire. Capable of 65 rounds per minute with a range of
28,000m, they are far more effective than the old 6-inch (152mm) guns of the
large Sverdlov light cruisers, which
only had a rate of fire of 4 or 5 rounds per minute with a range of 27,000m. The
same AK-130 gun system was also fitted to the Slava
Class and the last three units of the
Anti-air defense the Sovremenny
is equipped with two single armed 9M38 Shtil/Smerch
SA-N-7 Gadfly missile mounts with 20
missiles per mount. In the classic RKR layout one mount is located at each end
of the ship. The Gadfly has a range of
28,000m and can be used at targets from 100 to 46,000 feet. Minimum range is
3,000m. It is probably capable of being employed in a SSM role. For close in
defense there are four AK-630 six-barreled 30mm/65 gattling mounts. Capable of
3,000 rounds per minute, they have a maximum range of 2,500m.
was fitted with a small hangar for the Ka-25 Hormone-B
helicopter immediately aft of the stack. Former practice in Soviet design was to
place the helicopter hangar on the quarterdeck. The placement of the hangar on Sovremenny
was more in keeping with standard USN design philosophy than with the prior
Soviet design philosophy. On the 02 deck, it is much higher than in other Soviet
designs, which make helicopter operations safer. Since it is much closer to
amidship with the range of ship movement being much reduced to that found at the
extreme stern. Additionally, this placement frees arcs of fire for the aft 130mm
and SA-N-7 mounts. The Ka-25 Hormone-B
helicopter is a targeting variant as opposed to the ASW variant. However,
photographs have been taken showing the Ka-27 Helix-A ASW helicopter on the flight deck of a Sovremenny,
which would add significantly to her ASW capabilities.
class was severely impacted with the dissolution of the
laid down in 1987 was the first ship of the Project 956A variant. They were
given longer cruise missile tubes for the extended range P-100 Moskit-M
3M82 SSM. They were also said to have been designed for a naval version of the
9M38E-1 Yozh SA-17 Grizzly
SAM. The ship laid down after Vdumchivyy
was the 20th hull of the class. She was to have been named Vechniy
and was the first ship of the next variant, Project 956U. Vechniy
was to have carried the Kortik point
defense anti-air system, gun and missile combination. She was never completed.
With the worsening budgetary situation she was broken up on the stocks. Worse
was to come. In August 1995 it was announced that the production run would end
with 19 in the class. All components already produced for future ships in the
series would be discarded. A few months later, this number was further reduced.
The 18th Yekaterinburg ex-Vazhnyy, and
19th Aleksandr Nevsky ex-Vdumchivyy
were sold to the People’s Republic of
dried up and construction ceased. Additionally there was not enough money to
maintain the units already in service and ships started to be laid up. In 1988 Sovremenny
had gone in for a refit which was never done. In August 1998 it was decided that
she would be cannibalized to produce replacement parts for newer units. Three
months later she was stricken from the fleet. Otlichnyy which had been
placed in reserve in November 1994 and partially stripped, had to be constantly
pumped to prevent flooding. She was also stricken in 1998. Otchayannyy
were stricken in 1997. Bezuprechnyy
in the yard since 1992 had been moved to
Dragon 1:700 Scale Sovremenny
Dragon Model Limited (DML) is well known in the world of armored vehicle models not only for their exquisite products but also for revising and correcting models. A friend of mine who is an armor model enthusiast was showing me his latest Dragon acquisition, a Hanomag halftrack variant, this weekend and commented how Dragon had corrected one of their German Mk IV kits. Unlike most if not all plastic kit manufacturers, Dragon will upgrade their product line. Now, we can see DML do this with a warship release.
had previously released a 1:700 scale model of the Soviet Sovremenny
class destroyer but apparently they discontinued production of this kit in 2005.
Why they did so is now apparent. DML
added additional parts to the kit to upgrade it and has released an improved
1:700 scale kit of the Sovremenny.
The Dragon USA website (click
At one time a Sovremenny kit was produced by
Skywave. This DML
kit may be the lineal descendant of that Skywave
kit but since I have never seen the older kit, I cannot compare the older kit
with this new DML release. At least
one person has said that that the older Skywave
kit had a problem with the bow that was apparent when you fitted the separate
forecastle piece to the hull. It was said that the forecastle piece did not have
a good fit within the well of the hull because of the hull problem. This kit has
no such problem. I fitted the forecastle to the hull and there was a perfect
flush fit on all sides. If the new Dragon
kit was based on an earlier kit with bow problems, any problem seems to have
been corrected by DML for this
release. The new Dragon Sovremenny,
kit #7048, comes with three sprues of plastic parts, one excellent sheet of
decals, one medium brass photo-etch fret and instructions. Oddly enough, the
plastic sprues are letter A, B & D. What happened to any C sprue and what
was on it is unknown, however a quick check of the components shown in the
instructions clearly shows that this release does not have a C sprue. In summary
the A sprue contains the hull and vast bulk of superstructure, B sprue is
devoted to weapons and sensors and D sprue has the lower hull with fittings and
additional parts not found on the original version.
As mentioned this has the hull and most of the superstructure, as well as a flat base for building the model in waterline format. When I first looked at the bow, I noticed what appeared to be slight dimples or ripples on either side. When I ran my finger over these areas, they were almost perfectly smooth with no depressions and a very slight swell on the starboard side around the cutwater. In other words these “ripples” may have been optically present but not physically present, except for the slight swell, which will be easily removed with some gentle sanding. As such they may be evidence that DML corrected any defect to the bow that was present in earlier incarnations. Again, without the earlier kit for comparison, this is just speculation on my part. The hull has nice lines, the sheer of the bow looks right, the twin knuckles forward are present and the cutaway transom stern looks right too. The bulk of the superstructure is made part of the hull piece and other than a few doors, on first glance there is little detail on the superstructure sides. This first impression is deceptive, as there are detailed bulkhead parts on A sprue that are applied to the superstructure base on the hull. The cutwater and shields around the two gun mounts are much thinner and nicer than I would expect from plastic. Styrene plastic is normally not capable as a modeling medium of attaining the thinness of resin or especially photo-etched brass. Although photo-etch may be capable of thinner shields, this reduction would only be marginal, as the plastic renditions on the hull are rather nice. DML provides a good level of deck detail with assorted bollard plates, quarterdeck mine rails and other fittings. One deck detail, which is not satisfactory, is what appear to be closed chocks. These appear as solid rectangles with no opening in the fitting. Although resin or photo-etch could capture the requisite detail, this may reflect a limitation on using styrene as a medium. The deck surfaces of the superstructure have some nice detail, especially the SAM positions with their reload doors.
B – Weapons
The B sprue is clearly a generic Russian weapons and sensor sprue, as it contains many more weapons systems than are found on the Sovremenny. As an example, there are five different types of gun turrets and barrels provided on this sprue but you only use the domed twin gun mounts. This sprue will give you a lot of spares to use in other projects. The quality of the weapons sprue is very nice. There is plenty of detail on the SSM missile tubes, sides and face plates, to make them stand out. The single helicopter provided on the sprue is OUTSTANDING!
Sprue D – Underwater
This appears to be a completely new sprue prepared for this release of the Sovremenny. This sprue is almost completely devoted to the lower hull and fittings found there. The lower hull features two sets of slanting bilge keels and a prominent sonar dome at the bow foot. The lower hull appears to be a fraction of a millimeter longer than the upper hull at waterline. The difference was so small it is almost not noticeable. It is very simple to line up both halves at the cutwater. This will provide about ¼ to ½ millimeter of lower hull to be removed at the stern of the lower hull. One swipe of a sanding pad should accomplish this. Other underwater fittings are nicely done twin rudders, five-bladed propellers, underwater stabilizers, and propeller shafts with struts. DML also provides a mounting stand for a full hull build of the kit on this sprue. Two other parts provided on this sprue are D12 and D13. Part D12 appears to be a deck house that is amidships between the fore and aft superstructures on the PLAN 956E variant. The assembly instructions don’t indicate that this part is for the optional PLAN variant but in the profiles of painting guide this structure, which appears on the 956E, is not present on the Russian 956. Part D13 is a new center spindle for attachment of the brass radars of the photo-etch fret on the Russian Project 956.
The inclusion of a full brass photo-etch fret is probably the biggest improvement for the Dragon Sovremenny. This fret provides not only ship specific detail but ship’s railing as well, so you do not have to go out and buy railing. The strong point of this fret is in the ironwork that makes up the main mast. The mainmast for the Chinese PLAN 956E is significantly different than the main mast for the original Russian Project 956. Both versions are of course included in this fret. Although different from each other, each will be equally lovely on the completed model, as each is intricate in its own right. The fret does not contain any inclined ladders and the only vertical ladder is the one provided for the mainmast. Other than the two optional mainmasts and the ship’s railing, the fret also includes the larger radar arrays. These arrays are solid and although they are better than the plastic parts in the kit, their solid nature is a disappointment. They are not state of the art and are the only things that mar, this otherwise lovely fret. The fret also includes optional helicopter rotors, which should be used over the plastic ones provided on B sprue.
Dragon provides a gorgeous sheet of decals in this kit. Cartograf of
Dragon provides the usual fold out set of instructions. There are a total of eight pages. Page one contains a parts laydown. Parts that are not used are shaded in blue. Page two starts with general instructions and painting color list in Chinese, Japanese, English, German, French and Spanish. Also included in blue are icons that are used in the instructions to indicate certain actions or options. At the bottom is the first step in the assembly sequence. The next four pages include clear drawings of nine stages of assembly. Optional assemblies for building the PLAN 956E version are clearly differentiated from the build of the Russian 956 version. One exception to this appear to be in step 8. The instructions do not show that Part D12 is only found on the PLAN 956E and yet appears to be true. Page seven has profile and plan views of both the Russian 956 and PLAN 956E versions with painting and decal placement instructions. Page eight addresses the assembly of the lower hull and attachment of the photo-etch railings. With the exception of attachment of part D12, the instructions should not cause any confusion.
The Sovremenny Project 956 destroyer is one of the essential ships to have in any collection of modern warships. It is a lovely design and was produced in substantial numbers. Ships of the class are still in service in the Russian and Chinese navies. Dragon has improved upon the original 1:700 scale kit of Sovremenny. This new version of the kit has new parts, new decals, and new brass photo-etch to present options and detail not available to the modeler before.