Russian nuclear cruiser on the verge of decommissioning: End of an era?

The Russian Navy is facing the potential loss of one of its most iconic nuclear battlecruisers, the Kirov-class Pyotr Velikiy. The cost of maintaining and modernizing this naval giant has led to consideration of its scrapping.

Russian Navy: between modernization and decline

The cruiser Pyotr Velikiy and its history reflect the current situation of the Russian Navy, caught between modernization and decline. Following the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has consumed most of its resources and funds, limiting the capabilities of its Navy.

This situation parallels the rapid deterioration of another Russian ship, the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, which has suffered numerous setbacks in recent years.

Russian nuclear cruiser on the verge of decommissioning: End of an era?

Although the retirement of Pyotr Velikiy has not been officially announced, It is expected to be replaced by Admiral Nakhimov, albeit with possibly exaggerated delivery times, according to the TASS news agency.

Kirov-class battlecruisers: relics of the Cold War

The Kirov-class cruisers were designed during the Cold War as “heavy nuclear-powered guided-missile cruisers.” Only two of them survived the dissolution of the USSR and the financial problems suffered by the Russian Navy.

Equipped with helicopters and a wide range of surface-to-air missiles, these ships represent the spearhead of Russian naval capability. Its propulsion system combines nuclear power and a steam turbine, providing practically unlimited autonomy.

The Kirov-class battlecruisers were a series of warships developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. These ships were designed to be heavily armed and armored, providing the Soviet Navy with a powerful surface warfare capability.

The first Kirov-class ship, the Kirov, was commissioned in 1980, and four more ships were subsequently built. However, due to the high cost of building and maintaining these vessels, the Soviet Union was only able to produce a small number of them.

Today, the Kirov-class battlecruisers are considered relics of the Cold War; most have been retired from service. The only remaining ship, the Pyotr Velikiy, remains in service with the Russian Navy but is believed to be in need of significant modernization.

While the Kirov-class ships were impressive feats of engineering and represented a significant military threat during the Cold War, their high cost and limited capabilities in modern warfare have made them largely obsolete. 

As a result, most naval experts believe that the future of naval warfare lies with smaller, more agile vessels that can operate in a variety of environments and are equipped with advanced technology and weaponry.

the role of Pyotr Velikiy in the Northern Fleet

Since 2021, the Pyotr Velikiy has been the only operational Kirov-class battlecruiser in the Russian Navy. As the flagship of the Northern Fleet, she has led armed deployments that pose a significant threat to NATO.

If Pyotr Velikiy is eventually scrapped, her only surviving sister ship, Admiral Nakhimov, would theoretically take her place. However, the latter has not been in active service since the 1990s.

Financing and modernization problems

Over the years, Admiral Nakhimov’s modernization deadlines have constantly changed. The lack of funds could hinder the complete modernization of this ship, including the incorporation of modern anti-ship, anti-submarine and even hypersonic missiles.

Moscow’s shortage of resources and equipment, coupled with its ongoing invasion of Ukraine, suggests that the arrival of the new battle cruiser could be significantly delayed.

Russia: A Navy in Trouble?

The uncertain future of the Pyotr Velikiy and the modernization problems of Admiral Nakhimov are symptoms of a struggling Russian Navy, affected by economic constraints and the depletion of its resources due to international conflicts.

With the possible loss of the Pyotr Velikiy and Admiral Nakhimov still far from ready for active service, the Russian Navy faces significant challenges in terms of its naval capability and power projection on the global stage.

Summary

The Pyotr Velikiy, a nuclear battlecruiser, could be decommissioned due to high maintenance and modernization costs. This reflects the current situation of the Russian Navy, caught between decline and the need to modernize. Although Admiral Nakhimov is set to replace Pyotr Velikiy, a lack of funds and the current political situation in Russia could delay this process.