SNS Sovietsk Soyuz Class (BB-1944)


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I have just gone through and re-read the grandiose plans Stalin had had to build fifteen of the Sovietsk Soyuz class. Yes it said 15 (fifteen). This was done when during the Soviet - German non aggression pact when the Soviets were made aware of plan Z and the types of ships that would be built. Four of the new ships were to be laid down in 1939 with the rest following through to 1947. That is over a million tons of steel. Mind boggling.

No ship of that size had been built in the Soviet Union, ever. The largest ships then under construction for the Soviets were the 8,000 ton cruisers of the Gorkiy type. Thats a hell of a jump to 65,000 ton battleships. The Soviet shipbuilding industry was just not able to handle that much work. There was no infrastructure available to build the guns, armour, and turrets needed for these ships. It only got worse, of the four laid down only two were advanced in any meaningful fashion. The Baltic build of the Sovietsk Soyuz got to 19% before the outbreak of war in June 1941 stopped further work on the ship as material was diverted to war construction. Eventually the ship was cancelled in the late 1940's. The Sovietskaya Ukraina, being built in the Black Sea, was the only other unit with any serious work done to it. When the ship was captured by the Germans in August 1941 it was estimated the ship was 18% complete. When the Germans withdrew in 1944 they sabotaged the ship, crippling it, and the ship was eventually launched, then towed to Sevastopol and scrapped. Sovietskaya Rossiya had only 1% of work completed when it was cancelled. The last battleship, Sovietskaya Belorussiya, was cancelled on 19 October 1940 after serious construction flaws were found (70,000 rivets used in the hulls construction were found to be substandard).. Below is a Luftwaffe photo of Sovietsk Soyuz in 1942.

The design work for a 16" Black Sea battleship had started as early as 1914-15 with ships to be laid down in 1917-18. The First World War stopped the design work and the Soviet Revolution put paid to any ships being laid down for many years to come.

Jump forward 20 years and the Soviets start looking at building battleships. But what to build? The Odessa is on the slipways and is showing up all of the shortcomings of the Soviet shipbuilding industry. Modern armour could only be produced up to 11" (280mm). Any of the modern 16" battleships being laid down overseas would pierce that armour like a knife through butter. Two things could be done. One - build the new infrastructure required to build thicker armour. Cost and time would put the battleship building times by 3-4 years. In favour of that was Stalin wanting to build large numbers of battleships. Two - use the old technology and methods and put up with the extra weight and lesser protection that that would provide. Overall that gives a 25-30% difference to other countries construction, unacceptable. Historically, the 14" armour plate was just plain substandard when cast. Many sheets not passing acceptance tests. Lastly the Soviet Union asked overseas yards to produce designs and maybe even to build ships. Some, like the design below, were even more grandiose than Stalins vision for the Soyuz type.

There were many other parts of the ships that did not match foreign contemporaries. Machinery would have been 40% heavier than the British and US ships. While the rest of the world had gone to dual purpose weapons for secondary batteries, there was no such weapon in the Soviet arsenals and a mixed secondary, tertiary armament would be required. More weight used up. The sheer size of the historical Sovietsk Soyuz made them equivalents of the Japanese Yamato and the US Montana, and totally inferior to both. The US and UK 45,000 ton 16" battleships would have been more than a match for the Soyuz.

Probably the best of the overseas designs produced, and submitted, for the new ships, was the entry from Ansaldo which was a 16" version of the Littorio class, one of which was being built by Ansaldo. No offers to build ships for the Soviet Union were made. They were on their own. It was decided that they would design their own ships based on the Ansaldo design.

What should the Soviet ships designs be? That has two parts, 1, what are their enemies likely to be? 2. what ships are the rest of the world building. In my alternate world (in most cases) I don't change the ships, just make them available earlier. I have the Japanese not signing the 1930 Treaty and the world starts laying down 35,000 ton battleships, with the escalation clause to 45,000 ton ships not coming into force till after 1935. The Soviets were not signatories of any of the Naval armament treaties so could build what they like. What the Soviet Naval Attaches (Spies?) could do is to get as much factual information on the ships that had been built or were now building. The worst for putting out bullshit information on their ships was the US Navy. According to them their ships had 18" armour belts? (information as given to Janes Fighting Ships) when they actually had 12" belts.

Enemies -  in the Baltic this is the ships of Germany, Scandinavia and Polithstovia (if I am using my alternate countries). The Germans and Scandinavians are building ships with 15" and 16" weapons, but these ships are intended for use in the North Atlantic. The Soviets could never hope to out build the Axis forces in the Baltic. Anything they built would be cannon fodder. I will digress for a bit to the 8,000 ton cruisers armed with 9x7.1 guns. These ships  armament had a range of 42,000 yards, further than most battleships. Bismarck's 15" were only rated at 39,500 yards. In the Gulf of Finland the most useful weapon was the mine. Minefields made the gulf of Finland a very dangerous place. Fast minelayers / destroyers, fast patrol boats backed by the Kirov class cruisers would have made the Gulf a difficult nut to crack. The other problem is that the Gulf of Finland freezes during winter. Any ships you have based in Leningrad are ice bound for a substantial part of the year. What do you need hundreds of thousands of tons of battleships for?

Enemies - in the Black Sea, historically, there was nothing to fear. The largest potential enemy ship was the Turkish Yavuz, an 11" armed battlecruiser. No match even for the equally elderly Sevastopol. In my Alternate world the enemies are slightly better armed and armoured. I have a better armed Turkey and Galicia with ships armed with up to 13.8" weapons which would need battleships to be built to contain these threats. The Odessa is a good stepping stone but bigger and better armed ships were needed. How big?, how well armed? There was only one ship in the Black Sea armed with 16" guns. The Galician battleship Hungaria of 1927. With a speed of 24 knots it was not fast enough to catch the Soviet Sevastopol and Odessa. The low angle 16" only had a range of 25,000 yards where the 12"/52cal weapons on Odessa had a 32,000 yard range. So do you base your building plans on that one ship or work on the averages and build ships that could defeat that ship with a lesser sized armament. They could build clones of the Odessa armed with 9x14" guns of the Borodino type which the jigs were still available for. The modern triple turret and guns for the 14" would fire 1600lb shells 40,000 yards. To build 16" guns would require a complete new gun line being set up with the time penalties that would give.

As can be seen I have kept with more guns aft, specifically to get away from the Hungaria while still firing a majority of your guns.

The only way for the Soviets to get some significant ships completed before the June 1941 deadline is to lay down three Odessa type hulls, the one with reused 12" would complete quicker while the other two were waiting for their 14" guns and turrets to be built. One of the better add ons was the fitting of the extra 130mm dual purpose turrets in B and X positions.

These would not be the grandiose monsters that Stalin might have wanted, but they would be fit for their purpose and could be built in a reasonable time.

Displacement 30,00 tons std 35,000 tons full load
Length 705 ft.
Breadth 100 ft
Draught 30 ft
Machinery 4 shaft steam turbines, 110,000shp
Speed 28 knots
Range 5,500 miles at 12 knots
Armour 11" side, 7.1" deck, 13"/8"/4" turrets
Armament 9 x 14" (3x3)
16 x 5.1" (2x3, 10x1)
12 x 45mm (4x1)
Torpedoes 6 x 21" (2x3)
Complement 1500
Notes SNS Sovietsk Soyuz
SNS Sovietskaya Ukraina

Below are various drawings of the different plans for the Sovietsk Soyuz. The last one is what the Sovietsk Soyuz might have looked like if the Soviets had completed the ship post-war.


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