The Project 1134B Berkut-b, NATO reporting name "Kara", were a class of large anti-submarine destroyers* built in the 1970s for the Soviet Navy. After the fall of the USSR the remaining ships transferred to the Russian Navy. These large, well-armed ships were the designated successors to the cramped Kresta II class and shared many characteristics. Though some Western sources call these ships cruisers, their lack of ASuW armament and small displacement relative to their Slava class, Kiev class and Kirov class contemporaries makes the destroyer designation more appropriate.

The astute may note that there was never a ship named Kara - this is because during the Cold War, NATO forces used two different systems to name Soviet ships. The first gave them a code name, chosen from Russian words starting with 'K'. The Kynda, Kashin, Kresta, Krivak and Kara classes, among others, were named according to this scheme. The second scheme named ships after the leading ship in the class. In a few cases (like the Kiev, Kirov and Kuznetsov classes), this resulted in a name that fit both schemes.

The Kara class is designed to address three missions. First, it is designed to act as the capital ship in a group tasked to hunt down and destroy NATO attack subs that threaten Russia's SSBN bastions. Second, it would assist the Kresta II class and Kashin class in providing task force air defense. Finally it is designed to provide anti-submarine escort to the high value units of a Soviet task force. The third mission is probably the least important, as the major units at the time of its design and construction, the Moskva, Kiev and Kirov classes, were powerful ASW combatants in their own right. Thus, they are fitted with powerful anti-sub and anti-air armaments. Anti-surface combat is given tertiary importance.

The Kara class's primary armament consists of two quad launchers for SS-N-14 Silex ASW missiles. Recently the Rastrub dual-purpose round is carried, but initially this weapon was useful against subs only. Its main air defense is provided by two twin-arm launchers for SA-N-3 Goblet SAMs, backed up by two twin-arm SA-N-4 Gecko launchers. Mounted midships, forward of the Gecko bins, are two AK-276 twin 76mm autocannon for air defense and emergency surface defense. Eight AK-630 Gatling guns provide terminal-range missile defense. Short-range ASW is provided by two quin-mount 533mm torpedo tubes, 2 RBU-6000 rocket launchers and 2 RBU-1000 short range rocket launchers. Finally, one Kamov Ka-27 helicopter provides stand-off ASW and sensor ability.

Propulsion is based on gas turbine engines, a major departure from the pressure-fired steam systems of the Kresta II (which, interestingly, were duplicated on the more recent Sovremenny). It has two shafts with controllable pitch propellers, allowing quick speed changes. The four turbines provide about 100000 shaft horsepower, allowing a maximum speed of around 34 knots. The hull is the typical long, narrow form expected of a destroyer, displacing around 8500 tons.

Seven vessels of this class were built. Of them, only the RFS Kerch remains in service as of 2006, having been largely eclipsed by the newer Udaloy class destroyer. The Ochakov remains nominally on the active list, but has not been to sea in many years, its repair budget diverted to maintain Kerch. One of these seven, Azov, was fitted with the SA-N-6 Grumble VLS in lieu of its SA-N-3 systems, making it more capable in both the anti-air and anti-ship roles. Peculiarly, Azov was decommissioned shortly after the fall of the USSR, while the older and less capably equipped Kerch was maintained.

General characteristics, Kara class ASW destroyer (Project 1134B Berkut B)

  • Hull designator: DDG - missile destroyer (US/NATO). BPK - Large antisubmarine ship (болшой противолодочный корабль. Russia/USSR)
  • Number: 1 in service, 1 in reserve, 5 scrapped
  • Displacement: 8565 tons
  • Length: 173 m (567 ft)
  • Beam: 18.5 m (60.7 ft)
  • Draft: 5.3 m (17.3 ft)
  • Propulsion: 4 gas turbines, COGAG configuration, 2 shafts, 100000 shp
  • Speed: 34 knots
  • Range: 6500 nmi at 18 knots
  • ASW missiles: 8x (2 quad, 8 rounds) SS-N-14 Silex.
  • Anti-air missiles: 2x (88 rounds) SA-N-3 Goblet. 2x (44 rounds) SA-N-4 Gecko. 8x (8-round VLS, 64 rounds total) SA-N-6 Grumble in Azov in lieu of Goblet.
  • Torpedoes: 10x (2 quin) 533mm torpedo tubes. Type 53 nuclear or conventional torpedoes, ASW or ASuW.
  • ASW rocket launchers: 2x RBU-6000, 2x RBU-1000.
  • Guns: 2x twin 76mm AK-276 air defense guns. 8x AK-630 30mm Gatling.
  • Aircraft: 1x Ka-27 Helix.
  • Crew: 380

* - because the Kara class' immediate predecessors, the Kresta class, were sometimes referred to as cruisers, the Karas occasionally receive that designation as well. However, she was very much more a DD than a CG in displacement, armament and mission. Further, the Russian 'Large Antisubmarine Ship' designation is uniformly translated as destroyer or frigate in the West.

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