Throughout the Cold War, the Navy of the Soviet Union of the Soviet Union recognized that one of the greatest threats posed to the Soviet Navy was the Carrier Battle Groups of the West. Although they belatedly started their own carrier program, their answer to NATO carriers came in three forms. Naval Land aviation with long range bombers, the massive Soviet submarine fleet and the Missile Cruiser, more particularly Rocket Cruiser RKR, as they were called in the Soviet Navy. Designed to smother an opponent in a barrage of surface to surface missiles, the crowning achievement of the RKR evolution was the Kirov Class. These extraordinarily large cruisers have sometimes been called battlecruisers. With a mixed nuclear and conventional propulsion, they have sometimes been called atomic rocket cruisers. By whatever name you call them, they bristle with weapons and sensors and is one of the most striking warship designs of the Soviet Union.
There were four in the class and they all received a new name when the Soviet Navy became the Russian Navy with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The lead ship was the Kirov, later Admiral Ushakov, and was easily distinguishable from the other three. At the break of the forecastle in the bow, Kirov mounted twin SSN-14 cannisters. The others did not have that position. Instead the space was taken up by panels for vertically launched (VLS) SA-N-9 missiles. Kirov had two single gun 100mm gun mounts on the aft end of the ship. The other three have a single twin 130mm gun mount instead. Kirov apparently suffered a minor accident with her nuclear plant in 1990. She did not set to sea from that time. On October 17, 1998 she was stricken from the fleet with the intention of using her for cannibalization for parts for the other three. The following year, the navy had a change of heart and sought to acquire funds to bring her back into service. The cost of that would have been 1/2 their budget and parts had already been removed from the ship.
The other three are Yuri Andropov, now Petr Veliky (Peter the Great), Kalinin now Admiral Nakhimov and Frunze now Admiral Lazarev. These photographs are unclassified aerial reconnaissance photographs from the collection of Mark Meredith, who wished to share them with the readers of SteelNavy. The sequence of photos of the Frunze are especially illuminating for the modeler of these impressive warships.