"At 11:29 and 34 seconds, Moscow time, the Norwegian seismographs of the ‘NORSAR Institution’ detected an explosion of 1.5 magnitude on the Richter scale at 69 degrees 38 minutes North and 37 degrees 19 minutes East. Two minutes later at 11:31 and 41 seconds, the seismographs revealed a second explosion, much more powerful (magnitude 3.5 corresponding to the explosion of one to two tons of TNT). These two explosions were observed by the submarines, U.S.S. Memphis, U.S.S. Toledo and H.M.S. Splendid presently in the Barents Sea to observe the movements of Russian units." (Navires & Histoire #5)
The Toledo was less than 100 miles from the site and was engaged in following the Petr Velikiy, large Russian Missile Cruiser. On that Saturday morning of August 12, 2000 the Russian Northern Fleet was engaged in maneuvers. As part of the operation, the six-year old cruise missile submarine, Kursk, was to get within striking range of the surface forces. What was detected in Norway as well as the NATO submarines was the death of the 19,400 ton (submerged) Kursk and the loss of her entire crew. Although Russian naval authorities first blamed the loss on a collision with a NATO submarine, the evidence clearly points to a malfunction of a single torpedo, detonating the rest of the torpedoes. Would-be rescuers found that the torpedo room, as well as the rest of the bow, was completely destroyed. The Kursk was raised and the remains of her crew recovered but the bow broke off to remain on the bed of the Barents Sea. It was not the first time that a submarine was lost to a malfunctioning torpedo. USS Scorpion of the Skipjack Class is thought to have been lost in 1968 because of a malfunctioning torpedo.
Originally scheduled to have sixteen units built, the Project 949A Class had eleven completed. The first was Orenburg K-148 (ex-Vologda), laid down in 1982 and in service in July 1986. The Kursk K-141 was the next to last of the units to be laid down and completed. She was laid down in 1992, launched in 1994 and placed in service on January 20, 1995. Two more are uncompleted and listed in reserve. Before the loss of the Kursk four boats were in service with the Northern Fleet and seven with the Pacific Fleet.
The are given the designation of Nuclear Powered Cruise Missile Submarine (Podvodnaya Lodka Atomnaya Raketnaya Krylataya). They are also called Nuclear Powered Submarine Cruiser 1st Class (Atomnie Podvodnie Kreysery 1 Ranga). This is really in keeping with their mission. Since the Soviet Union lacked a carrier force and tradition, the major emphasis of construction programs was to counter the NATO carrier force. Soviet naval aviation had strong, land based bomber forces and for the surface fleet, missile cruisers. The Project 949A design NATO codename Oscar II was the submarine equivalent of a carrier killing surface rocket cruiser. Although it can function in an ASW capacity, the mission of the boats of the class is to destroy surface ships.
The ships of the Project 949A Class are powerful big boats. Displacing 14,700 tons surfaced and 19,400 tons submerged, they are heavier than any of the surface Rocket Cruisers, except the Kirovs. Their main weapon is the 24 P-700 Granit (SS-N-19) SSM, arranged in two rows of 12 on the flanks of the submarine. These can be employed with the submarines receiving targeting telemetry from satellites. Additionally there are 4 650mm and 4 533mm torpedo tubes in the bow. These use 28 Type 86R and Type 88R SS-N-16 Stallion missiles or torpedoes. The 650mm tubes can also employ the RPK-7 Veter Type 88R anti-submarine missiles. The two OK-650B nuclear reactors provide the boat with 98,000 shp for a submerged speed of 31 knots and surface speed of 15 knots.
Zvezda (Star) is a Russian company that produces injection plastic kits. Although they have other ships in their product lineup, Zvezda is known primarily for their aircraft kits. Because of the tragic loss of the Kursk, the ship and the class have become known to millions of people outside Russia. Zvezda has produced this kit in 1:350 scale. The Zvezda Kurst is molded in black plastic, which hides some of the detail because of the dark color. The complete kit consists of 44 plastic pieces, nice small decal sheet and instructions. Many of the pieces are optional, depending on how the modeler wishes to portray the Kursk. The Granit missile doors can be open or closed, diving planes can be deployed or retracted and the communication arrays can be deployed or retracted into the sail.
The instructions are easy to follow, in part due to the low parts count and are written in Russian, English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. Given the scale and the fact that the instructions are in six languages, the Zvezda Kursk is clearly aimed at the international market. The parts surface is textured without any oversize tiles. Overall quality is very good. The small decal sheet has the Russian double-headed eagle on the front of the sail, a nuclear warning for aft hatch and the Kursk coat of arms for the port side of the sail. The assembly is straightforward and will quickly produce a large and impressive model of one of the larger Russian submarine classes.
The Zvezda Kursk is now available from Pacific Front. If you have an interest in this massive submarine, or almost any other naval model from across the globe, give Bill Gruner a call.