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The Russian Navy Is So Broke Putin Might Scrap a ‘Nuclear’ Battlecruiser

Russian Navy Kirov-class
Kirov-class Battlecruiser. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Russian-state media revealed that the world’s largest nuclear-powered military vessel – a Kirov-Class battlecruiser – might be sent to the scrapyard.

According to TASS news, the cost of maintenance and upgrading the hefty ship is not worth it.

RIP Kirov-Class Battlecruiser? 

More than fourteen months into its invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has expanded the majority of its resources and funds.

The decision to possibly cut off the lift extension of the Kirov-Class battlecruiser Pyotr Velikiy ship coincides with the rapid decline of another Russian vessel, its Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier. The Kuznetsov has been plagued with years of misfortune, perhaps symbolic of Moscow’s struggling Navy. 

Although Russian officials have not officially announced the retirement of Pyotr Velikiy, the aging ship is expected to be replaced by the Admiral Nakhimov. TASS has reported that the Nakhimov should enter the fleet by 2024, although it is important to note that Moscow’s timelines are often very exaggerated.

The Kirov-class battlecruisers were a product of the Cold War, designed as “heavy nuclear-powered guided-missile cruisers.” Initially, four vessels were conceptualized by the USSR, but only two survived its dissolution and the subsequent financial troubles endured by the Russian Navy. In 2019, Russian officials formally revealed that it planned to cancel the modernization efforts of both its Kirov-class Admiral Ushakov and Admiral Lazarev ships.

What Was There Purpose? 

The Kirov-class vessels were designed to sport up to three helicopters in addition to 96 S-300F surface-to-air missiles, 192 3K95 short-range surface-to-air missiles, 192 3K95 short-range surface-to-air missiles and six AK-630 defense systems. 

As detailed in an earlier 19FortyFive piece, “The propulsion system was a combination of nuclear power and steam turbine, with two nuclear reactors coupled to two oil-fitted boilers, which superheated the steam produced in the reactor plant to increase the power output available during high-speed running, while it also provided an essentially unlimited range.”

Since 2021, the Pyotr Velikiy has remained the sole operational Kirov-class battlecruiser in the Russian Navy. In February, Russia’s Northern Fleet set sail armed to the teeth, posing a significant threat to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members. As the flagship of the Northern Fleet, the Pyotr Velikiy led the deployment. Now that this battlecruiser may be put to rest in the near future, its only surviving sister ship would theoretically take its spot. One glaring issue with this prospect, however, is that the Admiral Nakhimov has not seen active service since it was originally laid up for refit back in the late 1990’s. 

The Pyotr Velikiy’s Successor May Not Be Ready for Service

Russian officials have frequently altered the reservicing of the Admiral Nakhimov over the years. In fact, the vessel’s manufacturer the United Shipbuilding Company has claimed in the past that the battlecruiser would be upgraded and ready to deploy by 2017, 2018 and 2021. If the Pyotr Velikiy is being scraped due to its high maintenance and modernization costs, Moscow may even be short on funds for fully upgrading its successor. Russia intends to refit the Nakhimov with modern anti-ship missiles, anti-submarine missiles, and perhaps even hypersonic missiles, which are currently under development.

However, considering Moscow’s resource and equipment shortage amidst its ongoing invasion of Ukraine, it may be a while before the new battle cruiser ever hits the water. 

MORE: Video – Ukraine Has Massive New NATO ‘Cannon’ Ready To Fight Russia

Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin

Written By

Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.



  1. Yoni Andaa

    April 30, 2023 at 5:33 pm

    “…world’s largest nuclear-powered military vessel…”

    The Pyotr Velikiy displaces 28,000 tons. Nimitz class aircraft carriers displace a bit over 100,000 tons.

    “Military” refers to armies. Warships are naval vessels.

  2. Lee C.

    May 5, 2023 at 12:22 pm

    Given that the former commander of the Russian Pacific Fleet, Admiral Sergei Avakyants, was recently replaced for refusing to strip trained sailors from his ships to form naval infantry units to fight in Ukraine, the future of the Russian navy is indeed in serious doubt. With aging ships and questionable industrial support, transferring trained personnel to the Army seems an even more serious threat to the Russian Navy than the scrapping of a ship of dubious utility.

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