Named in honor of the Soviet Union’s most influential naval leader, the Admiral Gorshkov–class frigates (Project 22350) are the largest surface combatants built in Russia since the Cold War. They represent the current high end of Russian naval surface combatant construction and recapitalization efforts. The class was designed by the Severnoye Design Bureau and is being built in Saint Petersburg by Severnaya Verf.
The Admiral Gorshkov was ordered in 2005 and laid down in early 2006, but did not commission until July 2018, joining the Northern Fleet. The ship subsequently undertook a celebrated global circumnavigation during 2019, with port calls in Asia, the Middle East, South America, and the Caribbean. Five additional units are now in varying stages of construction and fitting out. The second of the class, the Admiral Kasatonov, reportedly was undergoing final trials late in 2019, with fleet entry expected in 2020. The third and fourth units will be named Admiral Golovko and Admiral Isakov, both of which are expected for delivery by 2022. The modified fifth and sixth ships were laid down in April 2019.
From its outset, the class ran into a host of technical, financial, and political challenges. Russia’s seizure of Crimea in 2014 created one major headache: All Ukrainian-supplied gas-turbine engines not already delivered became embargoed, forcing Russia to explore alternatives while hastily developing its own domestic naval-propulsion technology. Despite ongoing issues, the Admiral Gorshkov class is expected to eventually form the power-punch of Russia’s surface naval modernization efforts in the decades ahead.
The Project 22350 frigates measure approximately 430 feet long and displace roughly 4,500 tons. Large by typical frigate standards, their offensive missile capabilities are causing consternation in the West. The ships are fitted with two vertical-launching systems (VLS) with 16 and 32 cells. The former houses the Kalibr family of missiles that provide high-speed, long-range antiship and land-attack capabilities—as well as antisubmarine warfare options. The 3M-54 Kalibr antiship missile (NATO designation: SS-N-27) has a reported maximum range between 81 and 162 nautical miles (nm). The weapon’s attack phase supersonic speeds and terminal maneuvering make it a challenging weapon to defend against.
Published sources give the 3M-14 Kalibr land-attack missile (NATO designation: SS-N-30) a variety of ranges, from a low of 160 nm, to a high of 1,350 nm, depending on type. These land-attack variants are reportedly armed with a large 992-pound high-explosive warhead, and rumors persist that a nuclear-armed version exists. The R91 antisubmarine missiles carried in the VLS enable rapid engagement of enemy submarines out to roughly 20 nautical miles. The VLS cells can alternatively be filled with 16 of the 160-nm-range 3M-55 Oniks antiship missiles (NATO designation: SS-N-26), which travel at Mach 2.5.
The Poliment-Redut air-defense system reportedly has faced significant delays and remains shrouded in mystery. It is thought to include a phased-array radar linked to the 32-cell VLS, equipped with highly maneuverable surface-to-air missiles, including the short-range 9M100, as well as medium- and long-range 9M96 missiles. Rounding out the warship’s capabilities are a close-in weapon system for point defense, a 130-mm deck gun, antisubmarine warfare equipment, and a landing deck and hangar for a single naval helicopter.
Future production is expected to emphasize the larger and more advanced Project 22350M design, beginning with the fifth and sixth ships, which are planned for delivery from the mid-2020s. These modified units will have increased displacement and are expected to carry at least 24 antiship weapons, potentially including the new Tsirkon hypersonic missile under development.