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Project 56M Kildin class
Guided Missile Destroyer

Gorshkov can be credited with the first Soviet guided-missile destroyers. Probably the major development in the Soviet Navy during the 1954-64 years was the appearance of the guided cruise missile on both surface ships and submarines. The Soviet guided cruise missiles, with ranges from 25 to 250 nautical miles, were effective anti-ship weapons and could also be employed against shore installations.

After the death of Stalin in 1953, the primary threat was seen to be nuclear attack from Western aircraft carriers. Surface ships would never get within gun range, and great expectations were placed in nuclear-armed long range cruise missiles, to allow the neutralization of Western aircraft carriers by destroyer-sized surtace ships, by submarines, and by land-based aircraft able to outrange the carrier-based bombers.

The review of the entire naval construction program called for the gradual, three-stage introduction of the new weapons systems. The first stage contained improvisations in the program to the extent that existing units or units whose construction was far advanced were to be experimentally converted as carriers for such weapons systems. The idea was to gain experience in operating these vessels and to take the lessons learned into account in subsequent warship types and their weapons systems. During the second step—-which likewise called for improvisations—the idea was to convert such weapons systems for already designed but not yet started ship types. During the last stage it was hoped to tackle warship types which were tailored from the very beginning for those new weapons systems.

Relatively few units were built during the first improvisation stage. They included primarily four "Kotlin" destroyer hulls which — equipped with an "SS-N-1" missile system — were completed as experimental carriers for this new weapons system. This class henceforth was labeled as the "Kildin" Class by NATO. Incomplete Kotlin destroyers were converted for surface-to-surface missiles, the Kildin class being the first in the world with this capability. Initially laid down as destroyers of the Kotlin class, these were the first Soviet ships fitted with the SS-N-1 "Scrubber" anti-ship missile.

Comprehensive modernization projects were also carried out starting in the middle of the sixties. Thus, a number of "Kotlin" destroyers was converted to ship-to-air guided missile systems; soon thereafter, the "Krupniy" destroyers were converted; their obsolete "SS-N-1" guided missile system was replaced with a ship-to-air guided missile system; in both classes, the ASW potential was at the same time increased, in some cases quite considerably. Early in the seventies came the modernization of the "Kildin" Class in a similar manner.

Several were refitted in the early 1970s with the newer SS-N-2C anti ship missile. The ships were reclassified as Large Missile Ship (Bol'shoy Raketny Korabl' - BRK) in the mid-1960s, and as Large Anti-submarine Ship (Bol'shoy Protivolodochny Korabl' - BPK) in the mid-1970s. The last of the MOD Kildin and Kildin class destroyers were stricken in the early 1990s.



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