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.

BAL 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, "Buzzard".

One 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.

Profile, Plan & Quarter Views
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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 Kaliningrad , which had designed the smaller Krivak ASW frigate. Sovremenny on the other hand, came from one of the big players, the Zhdanov yard in Leningrad . Zhdanov had a long history of designing large Soviet rocket cruisers BRK or RKR, as the Soviets called their missile cruiser designs. This had been true since the original Kynda Class missile cruiser design of the early 1960s. Zhdanov had built the last of the Kresta II BRK in 1976 and immediately initiated construction of their next design, Sovremenny. Based upon this pedigree, it was assumed that the new class would be a follow on rocket cruiser design. One characteristic of Soviet rocket cruiser designs was their double-ended armament layout. The gun and SAM armament forward was replicated at the stern and Sovremenny had this layout while Udaloy did not. Lastly the new design used basically the same hull form of the earlier Kresta II.

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 so equipped.

Hull Detail
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The 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 Kirov class. Also for the anti-surface mission Sovremenny was outfitted with eight (4x2) Moskit SS-N-22 Sunburn surface to surface missiles compared to the eight (4x2) SS-N-14 Silex SSM of the Udaloy. Sea-skimming with active radar homing, the Sunburn missiles have been described as having a range from 55 to 68 nm. They fly at 2.5 mach and have a 500kg warhead. Apparently there are no telemetry fittings for the Sovremenny, so to use the missiles for over the horizon targets, she must use her Ka-25 Hormone-B helicopter or another asset as a spotter/guidance.

For 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. For ASW the Sovremenny is fitted for self-defense, rather than for hunter operations like the Udaloy. She is equipped with two RBU-1000 ASW six-barreled rocket mounts. The RBU-1000 has a short range of 1,000m. Ships with a strong ASW role, such as the Udaloy are fitted with the 12-barreled RBU-6000 rocket mount with a 6,000m range. Also for ASW the ship is fitted with two twin 533mm (21-inch) torpedo mounts. The ships were also fitted with mine rails, which is no surprise since mine warfare has always been stressed far more in the Imperial Russian and Soviet fleets than in the west.

A Sprue - Superstructure
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The Sovremenny 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.

Zhdanov started building the Sovremenny at the rate of one per year. Ship names were the traditional adjectives, given to Russian destroyers. Ships constructed were (name/translation/date in service): Sovremenny – Modern – 1980; Otchayannyy – Merciless – 1982; Otlichnyy – Perfect – 1983; Osmotritelnyy – Circumspect – 1984; Bezuprechnyy – Irreproachable – 1985; Boyevoy – Militant – 1986; Stoykiy – Steadfast – 1986; Okrylennyy – Inspiring – 1987; Burnyy – Fiery – 1988; Gremyashchiy, originally Vedushchiy – Thunderous – 1988; Bystryy – Speedy – 1989; Rastoropnyy – Prompt – 1989; Bezboyaznenny – Intrepid - 1990; Bezuderzhannyy – Tenacious –1991; Project 956A ships: Bespokoynyy – Restless –1992; Nastoychivyy – Reliable (Ex-Moskovskiy Komsomolets) – 1993; Besstrashnyy – Fearless – 1994; Vazhnyy – Eminent; Vdumchivyy – Thoughtful. These units were parceled out with the Northern Fleet receiving 60% and the Pacific Fleet receiving 40% of production.
B Sprue - Weapons
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The class was severely impacted with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. The true impact was not at first realized. In Combat Fleets of the World 1995 reported that in a article from April 16, 1993 Admiral Felix Gromov, CinC Russian Fleet, stated that production of the Sovremenny would continue with the introduction of a new variant, Project 956U. In December it was still reported that 28 of the class would be built. Two more of the class were to be built on the Black Sea at 61 Kommuna Zavod in Nikolayev . The first was Vnushitelnyy – Imposing. She was laid down in 1982, launched in 1987 but never completed, only turned into a floating storage bin. The second of the Black Sea ships wasn’t even started.

The Bespokoynyy 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 China to come up with more funds.

Funds 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 and Okrylennyy were stricken in 1997. Bezuprechnyy in the yard since 1992 had been moved to St. Petersburg for conversion to the Project 956A configuration. She became a derelict after being stripped of parts for completion of the two Chinese ships. Stoykiy placed in reserve, flooded and capsized in early 1999, because a sailor had stolen the flooding valve castings. Other units went to reserve with mechanical problems that could not be fixed without an expanded budget. As of 2002 only four of the class were still in commission in the Russian Navy. The machinery plant of the Sovremenny class is in the form of steam turbines driving two shafts and producing a total of 110,000 shp. Maximum speed is listed as 32 knots but given the high shp, that is probably a low figure. (Bulk of History from Combat Fleets of the World 1990/1991 edited by A.D. Baker III; Jane’s Fighting Ships 1984-1985, 1995, 2000-2001 Edited by Captain John Moore; Jane’s Warships Recognition Guide, 2002, by Robert Hutchinson; Slava, Udaloy and Sovremenny, 1992, by Steven J. Zaloga; Soviet Warships 1945 to the Present, 1992, by John Jordan)

D Sprue - Lower Hull
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The 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.

Dragon 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 for Dragon USA ) mentions the improvements as, “This kit has been upgraded using our latest technology and high detail standards. It features a completely new lower hull, which allows it to be modeled as either a waterline or full hull version. Add to this all of the overhauled and improved details and parts as well as a wide array of photo-etched parts and you have a kit that any mariner can appreciate! Main Features: - newly tooled hull bottom - assembly option of waterline or full hull version - new superstructure components for variant 965E - brand new radar mount with realistic details - photo-etched radar components and masts - photo-etched railings - photo-etched helicopter rotor blades - Cartograf decals offer markings for various Russian destroyers of this class.

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.

Brass Photo-Etch Fret
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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.

The separate parts, which comprise the sides to the superstructure are packed with detail. Life rings, doors, windows, vertical ladders and ventilation louvers are found on these parts. The characteristic square Russian windows are indented, so it will be easy to ink them in. This sprue contains optional parts for either the Russian Project 956 or PLAN Project 956E versions. Optional PLAN parts are clearly indicated in the instructions. Most of the superstructure parts display quite a bit of detail and are very nice for a plastic kit. One design decision with which I take issue is the decision to portray the flight deck markings with raised lines. Granted most manufacturers of plastic kits do the same thing and the raised lines make them easier to paint. However, the decal sheet comes with full flight deck markings and most modelers would be advised to sand smooth the flight deck of the raised lines and use the decals instead of painting the lines. Sprue A also contains in plastic most of the parts that appear in brass on the fret that is included with this kit. If you are not comfortable with working, bending and assembling brass photo-etch, you can certainly use the provided plastic parts instead. The lattice towers are rather good, as far as plastic goes, but the photo-etch parts will be much more delicate and nicer in appearance. However, the choice remains with the modeler.

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Sprue 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!
I don’t see how any resin manufacturer could have supplied as much surface detail in a 1:700 helicopter as Dragon did with this one. All of the smaller parts are nicely done. The RBU mounts, tilt bass, SAM mounts, radars and smaller fittings are all nicely done parts. This sprue even comes with cable/hose reels. If you want to quibble, I guess you could say that the reel wheels are too thick. How many plastic kits even provide cable reels?

Sprue D – Underwater Fittings
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.

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Brass Photo-Etch Fret
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.

Decal Sheet
Dragon provides a gorgeous sheet of decals in this kit. Cartograf of Italy prepared this sheet and it is full of options. Only the flight deck decal is shared in common with all of the possible variants. The two PLAN vessels, Hangzhou 136 and Fuzhou 137, use the large black decals for their hull numbers. When it comes to building a Russian Project 956 destroyer, there are ten different hull numbers and ship’s nameplates found on the sheet. Additionally red stars for the bow are provided for the Russian ships. The decals for the Russian ships are for Boevoi 770, Stokyy 743, Okrylennyy 415, Gremyashchiy 429, Bystryy 715, Rastoropnyy 420, Bezuderhannyy 435, Bespokoynyy 620, Nastoychivyy 610, and Besstrashnyy 434.

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.

Box Art
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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.