At the close of World War Two, Soviet naval experience had been limited to fire support, small-scale landings and ASW operations near Soviet ports. Lacking any carrier experience, and with limited naval experience in general, the post war Soviet naval program was extremely conservative, patterned after the German navy and technology. The resulting program relied, not surprisingly, on submarines, with surface force construction being in the form of destroyers and light cruisers. The strategy was to set up sea buffer zones around the Soviet Union, based on a close- in defense.

When Nikita Khrushchev came to power in 1956, the emphasis in the naval construction program changed dramatically. Khrushchev saw the old strategy of reliance on guns and torpedoes as outmoded and insisted on construction that relied on missiles. The Soviets recognized the threat posed by US and British carriers and their response was the Raketny Kreyser, Rocket Cruiser. The Rocket Cruiser was designed to be a carrier killer, using long range guided missiles to neutralize the NATO carrier threat. The first purpose built Rocket Cruiser, the Grozny, was laid down in June 1959 and was one of four ships that were given the NATO code name of Kynda Class. Through the 60s and 70s, class followed class of Rocket Cruisers. Each class was given itís own code name by NATO. Kresta I class, went into service 1967-1969, Kresta II class, followed them into service from 1969-1977 and was overlapped by the Kara class, which entered service 1973-1980.

VITAL STATISTICS

DISPLACEMENT: 24,300 tons, 28,300 tons (full load)
 
ARMAMENT:
20 x SS-N-19 Shipwreck (Granit) SSM (range 300 nm); 1 x 2 SS- N- 14 Silex (Rastub) ASW missile (range 30 nm); 12 x SA-N-6 (96 total) Grumble (Fort) SAM (range 60 nm, up to 90,000 feet in altitude); 12 x SA-N-4 (40 total) Gecko (Osa-M) SAM (range 6 nm, up to 80,000 feet); 2 x 1 3.9 inch (100 mm) DP guns (range 4.8 km); 8 x 1 AK-630M gatling gun AA CIWS (range 4-5 km); 2 x 5 533 mm torpedo tubes (20 torpedoes; 1 RBU-6000 (Smerch-2) ASW position (96 rockets); 2 RBU-1000 (Smerch-3) ASW positions (72 rockets); 2 KA-27 PL Helix ASW helicopters; 1 KA-25RT Hormone-B SSM guidance helicopter;
 
PERFORMANCE: 140,000 shp, 2 nuclear reactors, 2 steam plants, 32 kts (17 kts steam only); 14,000 nm range

The culmination of the Raketny Kreyser designs was the Kirov. Nuclear powered and displacing 25,860-26,296 tons, they were designed from the start for the anti-surface mission. Known as Project Orlan (Bald Eagle) the soviets sometimes called them Atomnaya Raketny Kreyser, atomic rocket cruiser, but as Combat Fleets (1998-1999) stated at page 665; "The Kirov class are the worldís largest "cruisers" and might best be termed "battle cruisers." The earlier guided missile cruisers were designed to contest NATO forces operating near the coasts of the Soviet Union. The Kirov and her three sisters, Frunze, Kalinin, and Yuri Andropov were designed to contest sea and air space far from the Russian coast. They were designed to take the contest to NATO controlled waters. There are design variations in all four ships. Kirov is the only one to have two single 100 mm mounts aft. The other three have a single twin 130 mm mount. The aft four CIWS gatlings are mounted on the rear superstructure of the other three ships as opposed to Kirov where they are mounted just forward of the flight deck.

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After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, on May 27, 1992 President Yeltsin changed the names of the four warships. Kirov became Admiral Ushakov. Frunze became Admiral Lazerev. Kalinin became Admiral Nakhimov. Yuri Andropov became Petr Velikiy. The old names commemorated historical Soviet figures. However, new names are traditional names of Russian warships carried by ships in the Imperial Russian Navy. A fifth ship (Dzerzhinskiy, then Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya, then Admiral Kuznetsov) was laid down but shortly after cancelled and broken up.

Although still part of the Russian fleet, the lack of financial resources curtailed their service in the 1990s. Admiral Ushakov had a minor nuclear power related accident and has not been deployed since January 1990. Admiral Lazarev has not gone to sea since 1990 and in 1997 it was stated that she would be decommissioned. Petr Velikiy was laid up November 24, 1996, after trials and before commissioning, due to lack of funds. Admiral Nakhimov has had the only significant service of the class during the decade and underwent a refit in 1996 at Rosta. (Combat Fleets of the World 1998-1999)

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RESIN
The HP Kirov is a Jeckyl and Hyde of a kit. Some features are done well, such as the hull cutouts at the superstructure, life raft canisters and splinter shielding. Other parts are adequate at best. There were very few voids and only minor repair was necessary for the splinter shielding. All of the lattice work is done with rather heavy looking resin parts. Replace them with PE from the GMM 700-9 fret (see sidebar).


Gold Medal Models
GMM 700-9 (Modern Russian Warships) Etched Brass
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The HP Kirov does not come with any photo-etch parts. This model cries out for a PE fret devoted to this unique class of warship. At this time no PE manufacturer has a Kirov PE. However, Gold Medal Models (GMM) has a fret that provides most of the PE needs of this kit. The GMM 700-9 (Modern Russian Warships) fret was released in 1993 and was designed for 1:700 Aoshima Kiev and Skywave Krivak kits.

The fret has some items that need no conversion, such as the Top Steer Radar on the aft superstructure, 4 bar railing for the superstructure decks and 5-bar railing for forecastle, main deck and quarterdeck (flight deck). This fret also contains detail that can be easily adapted for the HP Kirov. The fret comes with a four-sided crane for Kiev. This structure can be converted to create the two Kirov cranes by removing the side supports, and after shortening them, using the top and bottom for the two cranes. The fret comes with a Top Sail radar for Kiev as well as two Head Net-C radars. Removing the counterbalance and a section of the arms at the rear of the Top Sail radar and adding a Head Net-C in their place can create an acceptable Top Pair radar on Kirov. Additionally, adapting other parts of the GMM fret can make the supports/yardarms for the rear superstructure platform. Although not a perfect solution, I find that their usage on the HP kit, creates a much more pleasing model than using the clunky solid resin parts included in the kit. Until GMM, Tomís or WEM produces a Kirov specific PE, I believe that the GMM 700-9 fret is indispensable. If you buy this kit, do yourself a favor and also buy this fret.

The resin casting is inconsistent. Some parts are attached to a very thin resin sheet and others are attached to a thick sheet, all on the same sheet. The hull had a significant warp towards the stern and one deck was severely bowed. This was easily corrected by placing the parts on a cookie sheet, and baking them at 200 degree F for 20 minutes. Place a moderate amount of weight on them and they will be properly flat when cool. The flight deck has raised deck markings for the helicopter pad, designed to aid in painting. Although the prototypes have a raised landing light strings on the outside (parallel to the hull sides) of the pad, I don't like raised detail solely to aid in painting. The very prominent mack (combination of mast and funnel) comes in two halves. They needed extensive sanding for them to mate correctly and even then needed filling. The Side Globe jammers on the sides of the Mack were not uniform. Some were correctly round, others were slightly oval. It was very difficult to remove the CIWS gattling barrels from their resin sheet. More often than not, I destroyed the barrel trying to remove the casting sheet. After only successfully removing three of the barrels, I decided to use stretched sprue for the other five.

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Some of the parts such as the chaff launchers, helicopter roters and eye bowls are too large. The superstructure is assembled level by level. I had to fill and sand at each step. The first superstructure level runs 40% the length of the ship. Since it locks in front of the prominent Punch Bowl towers on the forward part of deck, there is no alignment problem forward. Be very careful of the alignment on the aft end of this level. The two 100mm mounts should be in alignment. Use white glue on this part so you have time to correct the aft alignment of these mounts. The structure behind the RBU-6000 could not be centered until I removed one of the deck fittings on the starboard side. Almost every part of the kit required a fair to large amount of sanding. Most of the small parts had little detail.

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The kit also has a number of inaccuracies, however most of them are minor. One of the more significant was the absence of the prominent knuckle that runs down each side of the ship from just ahead of the forward CIWS positions to the stern. The SA-N-6 towers had a four shield arrangement in the kit rather then a three shield arrangement shown in photographs. Also they presented an incorrect plan. The Top Dome radar mounts have an incorrect shape. The platform on top of the Mack was incorrectly shaped. The forward portion of the platform that overhangs the forward face of the Mack should be stepped higher than the rest of the platform. Instead the platform was cast flat. I cut off the overhanging forward portion of the platform, so I could raise it as in the prototype. The shape of the supports of this overhang is also wrong because it was cast flat with the rest of the platform. The boat davits donít rise high enough above the life raft canisters for the boats to fit correctly and there are too few strips of life raft canisters. The kit did not have the Pop Group mounts that are slightly forward and inboard on the SA-N-6 towers. Lastly the deckhouse for the aft Top Dome was missing and I had to scratch build it from resin scrap.

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Other than the PE, I only added some large hatches, Pop Group mounts, rigging, aft mast head, jack staffs and whip antennas.

INSTRUCTIONS
The instructions comprise four sheets. One shows the plan and profile of the ship. The second one has an isometric view of the assembly. The last two are merely smaller sized copies of the first two sheets. At first glance the instructions appear adequate. Upon building the model, I discovered that they were not. Some parts are not even shown on the instructions. There is some guesswork in determining which parts are which. Two pieces that I thought were platforms for the after superstructure turned out to be propeller guards. The instructions show the RBU-1000, Eye Bowls and Kite Screech as one-piece parts. In reality each one has a pedestal which is separate from the unit. The placement of the missile king post was reversed; the long arm should be to the rear. I believe to build this model, you should have access to other plans & profiles and photographs of the ship. Soviet warships, 1960 to the Present, by John Jordan, published 1983 (128 pages) and Soviet Warships, 1945 to the Present, by John Jordan, published 1992 (224 pages), which greatly expands upon the first title, are still easily obtained at moderate prices through www.abebooks.com 

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VERDICT
The HP Kirov is one of the rare kits where the whole exceeds the sum of the parts. If I had done an In-Box review, I would have only seen the negatives. In spite of the problems that outlined above, the kit builds into a pleasing model of this unique warship. The bottom line is that I am very pleased with the final result. If you take your time, clean & fit the parts, align carefully, make a moderate number of corrections and additions, and above all use the GMM 700-9 for the radars and other lattice work, you'll wind up with a model of which you can be proud.

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Perhaps the greatest strength of the HP Kirov is that it is the only kit of this ship. This will probably change in the future. KomBrig has plans to release a kit on each of the four ships in this class. The Kirov placed first in the last annual pole of High-Mold as the kit most in demand. I donít know if they plan to release one but they donít announce a kit until it is ready for release. However, until someone else releases their version of Kirov, HP has the only game in town.