Project 1123 Kondor
Moskva class

Soviet seamen had alway dreamed about aircraft-carrying ships. In the first 30 years, the political management of the Soviet Union, which did not want to hear about ships of this type, interfered with the realization of this dream. However, the Great Patriotic War confirmed the leading role of aviation in the solution of basic problems at sea. Half of the large ships sunk were destroyed by aircraft.

Therefore in 1953 studies on the light aircraft carrier were renewed, and in 1955 was born preliminary design "263" - aircraft carrier to carry 40 aircraft. Soviet ship building in those years experienced a steep increase, and it seemed that the building of the ships of this class at hand. But again the political management killed, with the unprecedented reduction of armed forces, including the fleet. Cuts included the Sverdlovsk-class cruiser "Admiral Kornilov", which had been launched and was ready for delivery. A question about the air cover of ships and escorts even on the coast (to say nothing of supremacy in air) was quieted, large ships ceased to be built, and the aircraft-carrying connections were for a long time criticized as "the instrument of aggression and robbery".

Deployment of the American Polaris strategic missile system acted as a catalyst accelerating development of aircraft carrying ships in the USSR. The approach to the tasks of the Soviet Naval fleet completely changed with the advent in the NATO alliance countries with atomic underwater missile fleet: special support was made to the strategic and attack submarines - rocket bearers, and the Soviet above-water fleet was oriented predominantly to the antisubmarine direction. At the same time the decks of ships began to acquire helicopters. To enable the country's Navy to adequately counter the new threat a concept of the first Soviet helicopter carrying antisubmarine cruiser received governmental support in late 1958.

The competitive project of "CNII VK" [not clear who this was - this acronym does not seem to be currently in use, though it could correspond to Central Scientific Research Institute for Military Construction - ??????? ???????????], was the so-called Antisubmarine Defence Ship of Distant Area. Dozens of versions of the planned ship were considered during the design process. As a result, the 4,500-t displacement initially planned in the design and engineering requirements increased to 14,600 t at the construction stage.

At the beginning of the 1960's within the framework of the creation of oceanic fleet the design of the "antisubmarine defense of distant zone ship" with group basing of helicopters began. There were no such ships then in the fleet. The Nevskoye Planning and Design Bureau SKB-17 in St. Petersburg was directed to implement the aforementioned concept into the Project 1123 ship. Work was supervised by Chief Designer A.S. Savichev, and in 1967 A. Marinich succeeded him. For the association of designers under A.S. Savichev's management it was necessary to perfect from zero forms of housing with the wedge-shaped nose, the wide stern, which resembles fox wedge, to solve the problems of the arrangement of powerful hydroacoustic complex, aerodynamic problems, to place takeoff and landing strip and hangars.

The first ship of this project (construction number S -701) was laid down on December 15, 1962 [some sources report "at the beginning of 1963,"] in Nikolayev at the southern shipbuilding plant (now Black Sea). In two years it was launched ["gone down to the water"] and in May 1967 by the name "Moscow" it entered the system of Black Sea fleet. By the main builder of ships of this type was assigned I.I. Vinnik, overseen by officers V.F. Fedin and I.S. Platonov. Within two years (1967-1969) the Navy received two Project 1123 antisubmarine cruisers named Moskva and Leningrad. The two Moskva class ships were introduced in 1967 and were homeported in the Black Sea. They deployed to the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean.

They were designated as "aviation cruisers" at least in part to avoid problems with the 1936 Montreaux Convention, which prohibited passage of "aircraft carriers" through the Dardanelles. Many Western analysts concurred with an anti-submarine definition of the ships' purpose. The first Soviet aviation ships, the design was something of a hybrid, with features of a missile cruiser forward, and a flight deck aft of the superstructure. Their design seemed to have been heavily influenced by the French carrier Jeanne d'Arc and the Italian Vittorio Veneto. At the time of her construction, the Moskva was the largest ship ever built by the Soviet Union.

Project 1123 Moskva and Leningrad were designed and built primarily as anti-submarine warfare (ASW) vessels, and their weapons and sensor suite was optimized against the nuclear submarine threat. Unlike the first national large antisubmarine warfare ships used to carry only one helicopter, the Project 1123 ships had hangars in the underdeck space and superstructure to accommodate several vehicles. The "Moskva"s were not true "aircraft carriers" in that they did not carry any fixed-wing aircraft; the air wing was composed entirely of helicopters. The ship was designed to carry 14 Ka-25 antisubmarine warfare helicopters built in compliance with the traditional Kamov Design Bureau coaxial rotor principle without the tail rotor, which was very important for a shipborne helicopter. The ship was provided with four helipads and two helicopter lifts.

The ship's antisubmarine capacities were increased by introducing the first Soviet-made Vikhr antisubmarine missile system. Shipboard ASW armament included a twin SUW-N-1 launcher capable of delivering a FRAS-1 projectile carrying a 450 mm torpedo (or a 5 kiloton nuclear warhead). Two 533mm quintuple torpedo tube mounts were subsequently discarded owing to their susceptibility to flooding on the move, and two RBU-6000 ASW mortar rocket launchers.

To reconnoiter the underwater situation and obtain target acquisition, the ship was equipped (in addition to helicopters) with the powerful Orion low-frequency long-range sonar, with the antenna arranged in the retractable underkeel sonodome. This "Mare Tail" variable depth sonar worked in conjunction with heliborne sensors to hunt submarines, also with the Vega towed-array sonar. The ship was also provided with a well-developed air defense armament comprising two Shtorm multipurpose surface-to-air missile systems and two twin 57mm automatic gun mounts. The two twin SA-N-3 SAM launchers had reloads for a total of 48 surface-to-air missiles.

When the ships of a series of 1123 Moskva entered service, they proved to be already they were incapable to counteract American submarines both because of the increased number of submarines and because of their increased military characteristics. They were not capable carrying fixed wing aircraft, but embarked about 14 Ka-25 Hormone A anti-submarine helicopters. Developed to counter Western strategic missile submarines, they proved ineffective and unreliable. Therefore the program of the building of helicopter carriers was abolished. The flight deck of Moscow was modified, the ship itself was modernized and on November 18, 1972 was accepted to itself the first VTOL aircraft Yak-38M. So in the fleet was born new profession - ship pilot.

In 1974 at the request of the Egyptian government, Moskva together with the trawlers of Pacific Ocean fleet assumed the participation in the mine clearing of the water area of the Suez Canal. For this it was equipped with eight vertolet] - the trawlers, who defused ground and anchored mines in the places, where ships could not act.

The most serious emergency in the history of Moskva was the fire which flared up on February 2, 1975. At 12.15, when the major portion of the crew had dinner, a short circuit occurred in the accomodation of the bow diesel generators on the switchboard. There were no personnel in the section, and fire rapidly extended to the adjacent crew space of ? 3. Since partitions on the cruiser, with exception of those waterproofed, were made from the aluminum-magnesium alloy, they instantly burnt down, and fire covered all new accomodations. Very rapidly flame reached the energy-section of ? 1, which held auxiliary boiler and turbogenerator - the ship was de-energized. The situation aggravated the fact that autonomous fire extinguishing system in the burning sections was defective, fire main without the electricity did not work, and it was impossible to activate the stern diesel generator because of a breakdown in the oil system.

The command of ship turned to the operations duty officer of base for urgent help. Approximately an hour after the beginning of fire alongside the cruiser began to approach fire launches, tugs, rescue vessels "Kazbek", "Beshtau", SS-21, etc; onboard Moskva a total of 16 emergency rescue groups landed. Since the center of fire all grew, to avoid the explosion of ammunition it was necessary to first flood the cellars 57-mm of projectiles, systems of setting interferences, and then cellar [ZRK] storm. Fire poured from the hoses through the hatchways of the upper deck; therefore the new threat soon arose: on the decks higher than water line was saved much water, which created the threat of the tilting of ship.

On the order of Vice Admiral V.A.Samoylov arrived onboard the emergency cruiser water from the decks they began to immediately pass into the hold, and the extinguishing of fire to continue only by foam. To localize fire was possible only by 17.10, and the fire was completely extinguished by 19.15 - 7 hours after the fire started. Three crew members of Moscow - Warrant Officer D.N.Tkach, sailors Lukashev and Titov - perished from the carbon monoxide. A total of 26 additional people caught poisonings (including 11- heavy), but they lived.

These ships, according to the Soviet classification - [PKR] (antisubmarine of cruiser), proved to be insufficiently nautical in bad weather. Although of graceful appearance, their design was marred by a tendency to ride down in the bow. The ship rocked in the full gale - clearly was not sufficient displacement. Only two ships were built, both of which were part of the Black Sea Fleet. They were retired in 1991, and scrapped in the late 1990s.

An additional unit was laid down but cancelled in 1969 and scrapped soon thereafter. This third ship, which was to have been an anti-surface warfare vessel, was to have beeen named "Kiev". At the end of 1967 on the freed stock were laid the third cruiser of the type of "1123 Moskva", which was named "Kiev". In the process of building the third ship it was explained that the helicopters, determined by technical task, were insufficient for the solution of the problems presented fully, the area of the flight deck proved to be too small. Furthermore, in 1967 occurred one additional event, which influenced the completion of the third cruiser of the project "1123". At the air display in Domodedovo was shown the VTOL aircraft Yak-38M, the idea to plant this aircraft on the ship deck after which arose. Attempts by the simple lengthening of the third ship to create aircraft carrier did not succeed, "Kiev" was dismantled, and at its place they in 1970 placed new ship with the same name.

Some Western analysts projected that as many as a dozen units of this class were planned.

Join the mailing list