Until the Cold War, the bigger the ship was, the more powerful it was. The size of the ship determined the amount of armament it could take onboard; the most powerful battleships of WWII, Yamato and Musashi, had a displacement of 74,000 t and were armed with 9x460 mm guns; the German battleships Bismarck and Tirpitz had a displacement of 42,900 t and their main armament was made of 8x380 mm guns. The U.S. Iowa-class battleships were slightly heavier than Bismarck-class, carrying 9x406 mm guns as main armament; they also proved themselves quite long-living, still being in use as late as during Gulf War. But shortly after the war, there appeared an innovation which completely changed the naval warfare in a similar fashion to how jet engines changed aviation. It was the rocket technology.
The first designs which could be regarded as anti-ship missiles appeared as early as in 1940s. However most of them were air-launched missiles and bombs, not surface-to-surface armament. After the war, both Allies and Soviets captured some of the German V-1 and V-2 weapons and tested them in a variety of usage, including anti-ship warfare. The reason for that was simple: a single V-1 rocket carried an 850 kg warhead, while V-2 was armed with 1 t load (plus fuel which would sometimes remain in the tanks and explode upon impact as well). A single strike of such weapon would be deadly to any kind of ship, including massive U.S. carriers and battleships, as long as the rocket landed in some vurnerable place, i.e. close or below the water line. But for that, there was a need for accurate guidance system.
The Soviet Union was particularly interested in such usage of rockets. USSR did not have an aircraft carrier (allegadly they tried to tow uncompleted German carrier Graf Zeppelin from Poland to Leningrad shipyard, but it hit a mine along the way and was eventually used as a target for torpedo testing), and its battleship fleet was small and made of aging units (plus one Lend-Lease Arkhangelsk battleship and one captured Italian battleship Novorossiysk, which sunk in 1955), unable to protect vast Soviet naval borders from expected Allied attack. The Soviets decided that they need a weapon which could be powerful enough to sink any enemy ship in one blow (also by means of nuclear weapons), without engaging in massive naval battles. Rockets seemed perfect for this task.
The first Soviet anti-ship missile was designated KSShch, which stands for "Korabelny snaryad Shchuka", or Shchuka (Pike) Ship Missile. It was armed with a nuclear warhead, and was first deployed onboard Kildin and Kanin-class destroyers from 1958 onwards. However the rocket was not deemed succesful. The guidance system was primitive, the engines unreliable and the overall design quickly became obsolete. In 1959, the Soviet Navy adopted a new missile, designated P-5 Pyatorka, and known by its NATO codename SS-N-3 Shaddock (SS-N stands for "Surface-to-Surface - Naval"). It was much better than Shchuka - its range was over ten times greater (500 km to Shchuka's 40 km; later variants doubled that range) and it carried either a 1 t load of explosives or a nuclear warhead. But there was a problem - it was quite big weapon. It had a length of 10 m and 0,9 m of diameter, and weighed some 5 t. They were only suitable for large and medium-size ships and submarines.
So the Soviet designers also attempted to create a missile that could be fitted on small ships. In 1960 Soviet Navy adopted a P-15 Termit anti-ship missile (NATO codename: SS-N-2 Styx), which proved so succesful it remains in usage to this day. Designed by Raduga bureau, it was first fired in 1956. It's diameter was just slightly smaller than SS-N-3's (76 cm to Shaddock's 90 cm), but it only had slightly over half of its length (5,8 m). It also weighed just 2,3 t. The missile is guided by radar, suplemented by infra-red detectors. It flies at a speed of Mach 0.9 at the altitute of 100-300 m above sea level. It's armed with 454 kg hollow charge high explosive warhead, capable of delivering a deadly blow to any ship in the world. It's compact size, low cost and powerful warhead made it perfect for placing on small attack ships, as well as bigger units.
To carry the missile, a Komar-class torpedo boat was redesigned with two P-15 launchers placed at the stern. They were fired over the ship's deck and were automatically guided after the launch, allowing its carrier to retreat or fire another missile. The new "rocket cutter" entered service along with the missiles it carried. It didn't took long for this weapon system to score its first kill.
Shortly after the end of Six-Day War, on October 21st 1967, Israeli destroyer INS Eilat was sailing near the Egyptian city of Port Said. The Egyptians did not seem to take any actions against the ship. Suddenly the crew spotted something resembling a "fireball" approaching their ship at great speed. Despite laying an immediate barrage of triple-A's, the fireball struck the Eilat, just above the waterline, opening its hull and killing several Israeli sailors. Two minutes later, a second fireball struck the ship, adding to the destruction. While the Israelis were trying to save their destroyer and rescue the wounded, about an hour later a third attack came from the Egypt's direction, critically damaging the destroyer and sending it to the bottom of the sea shortly thereafter. The "fireballs" observed by the crewmembers of Eilat were P-15 missiles launched by two Egyptian Komar-class boats stationing in Port Said as a coastal rocket battery. Because they remained stationary and did not leave the port when they fired their missiles, they were not detected by Israeli radar, and remained beyond the range of Eilat's weapons. 47 Israeli sailors lost their lives in what became the first succesful use of anti-ship missiles in history.
Komar-class proved to be a formidable enemy to hostile ships. However they had their shortcomings. They performed poorly in rough seas, and the placement of missile containers made them vurnerable to elements. Also they had weak self-defence armaments (two optically-guided 25 mm cannons) and their radar was inadequate for its tasks. Therefore works on a replacement for Komar-class were started. They resulted in project 205 Moskit, better known as Osa-class missile boats, first launched in late 1950s. Osa-class had a displacement almost four times bigger than Komar-class, and carried four P-15 missiles instead of two. Because of their greater payload, they proved to be more effective than Komar-class. For the first time, an automatic radar-guided anti-aircraft artillery was installed, composed of two AK-230 turrets armed with rapid-firing 30 mm guns. Later variants could also carry Strela-2 AA missiles. With ~400 Osa-class boats built, they are probably the most numerous missile boats ever.
Osa-class became an export hit, being sold to most members of Warsaw Pact with sea access (Poland, Bulgaria, GDR, Romania), as well as Yugoslavia, Finland and Middle East countries. Perhaps the most significant usage of Osa-class boats was the Battle of Latakia, fought between Israeli and Syrian forces during Yom Kippur War in 1973. Five Israeli missile boats engaged 5 Syrian Komar and Osa-class boats, with Syrian rockets having twice the range of those used by Israel. However the Israeli sailor used electronic countermeasures (ECMs) to fool Syrian missiles once they were fired. Having expended their rockets, the Syrian forces were practically helpless against Israeli counterattacks. Two Komar-class and one Osa-clas boats were sunk by Gabriel missiles, while the remaining boats were finished with 76 mm artillery. This was the first engagement between missile boats in history, and showed that ECMs are important elements of naval warfare.
Still, Osa-class boats did have some disadvantages. Their anti-missile and ECM equipment was insufficient, as seen during the battle of Latakia. Moreover, anti-aircraft measures were not suitable to be used against enemy gunboats in case of need. Finally, while the seaworthiness was better than Komar-class', it was still not enough to perform tasks at full sea. Thus the Soviet designers started to work on a new class of missile ship - the Tarantul corvette.
Designated Project 1241 Molniya (Lightning), Tarantul-class corvettes, as they came to be known in the West, were much larger than Osa-class: they are 56 m long, 10 m wide and have a displacement of 540 t (maximum load). Still, they only carry four P-15 missiles (or their developement version, P-21 and P-22), mounted in double containers at each side of the ship. Tarantul-class' true strength in comparision to Osa-class lies elsewhere. Project 1241 ships are equipped with much better ECMs, and their radar is placed high above the deck, allowing the crew to spot danger faster and engage enemy at longer distances. For the self-defence, Tarantul-cass carries one 76,2 mm AK-176 automatic gun and two AK-630 Gatling guns, each placed in a turret. The latter are automatic, radar-guided systems, while the former can be either guided by fire control system, or manually. They can also be used against naval targets, giving the Tarantul corvette higher chances against enemy's vessels.
While not built in such great numbers as Osa-class, Tarantul-class were also quite successful as export ships. Interestingly, the Tarantul-II version is actually older than Tarantul-I; Tarantul-II corvettes were built for Soviet Navy, while Tarantul-I are exports ships, with somewhat downgraded electronics and radar. They were used by Poland, GDR, Bulgaria, Romania, India, Vietnam, Yemen and, after the collapse of USSR, Ukraine and Russia.
Tarantul-class corvettes were formidable enemies for NATO naval forces, even for U.S. aircraft carriers. Powered by either gas turbines or combined radial engines (5x6-cyllinder engines with common shaft), they achieve a top speed of 43 knots (~80 km/h) and a range of 2200 naval miles. Their streamlined shape gave them an excellent manouverability at high speeds, making them ideal for "hit-and-run" tactics. Still, their handling at low speed was somewhat difficult; plus, the gas turbines consumed a lot of fuel even at idle. One of the biggest drawback is the anti-aircraft armament - Strela-2M are good for ground units, but their short range (4 km) and a fact that to lock on target, the aircraft must usually be flying away from the ship (because the rockets are heat-seeking ones), makes them next to useless in the open sea.
Polish Navy recieved four of these ships, each named after one representant of working class: ORP Rolnik
(Miner) and Metalowiec
* (Metalworker). Interestingly, there is a rumor about planned purchase of fifth corvette that was to be named Stoczniowiec
(Shipyard Worker), however in the wake of events in Gdansk Shipyard in the 1980, the name was dropped, and soon the corvette was resignated from as well. Rolnik
was the youngest of four corvettes in Polish service and was launched on February 4th 1989. Just four months later, the events of June elections in Poland became the symbol of fall of communism in Poland. Altough it was a good news for Polish people, it was quite opposite for the Navy. With some exceptions, like domestic-built Polnocny-class landing ships, most of the Polish Navy's equippment was Soviet-made. The political transformation ment that Polish ships were deprived of proper service and Polish Navy fell into state of disrepair. Eventually, Hutnik
were retired in 2005, leaving Rolnik
the only Tarantul-class corvettes in Polish service. It is estimated that they'll be retired somewhere between 2014 and 2016.
* In Polish "Metalowiec" is also a colloquial term for fans of heavy metal EDIT: Rolnik and Metalowiec were retired on December 3rd 2013.
Hey, look! Wormwood has finished a naval model! Is the world coming to an end?
No, according to the voice in my head (not sure which, I've been hearing a lot of them lately) the world isn't going to end any time soon, which forces me to endure absurds of my everyday life, which I've been encountering a plenty of lately. But hey, at least I can make a model or two from time to time.
This kit comes from a company named Innex, altough it's also aviable in Mirage Hobby's offer. Though one thing I can say, Innex' model seems to have better proportions of the rocket containers (or they are different between Tarantul-I seen here and Tarantul-III which I bought from Mirage, but never finished). Funny fact: I assembled some of the pieces from the previous corvette (from Mirage) to use them as spares in case something was lost, but due to the mess on my desk chances are the AK-176 turret does not come from Innex's kit
The kit is a big combination of opposites. On the one hand, it has some nice details around front hull and the stern. On the other hand, though, the bridge's windows look like hand-carved, and the decks below radar tower are flat and lack any details. Plus, their placement made the sanding of putty (I had to use a lot of it
) very difficult. The antennae are very thick and though I accepted them at first, I'm thinking of replacing them with thin wire. Sadly, the kit does not contain photo-etched parts which could be used for railings. You can buy them, but they are twice as expensive as the kit itself.
Because pictures of Rolnik
were rather scarce and didn't show much of its colour, I based my kit's paintjob on a paper model from some Polish publisher. However this seems to be the original colour (different tone for deck and superstructure), because right now Rolnik
has a single-tone dark gray painting with red bottom of the hull. The toughest part was the waterline - I used a lot of masking tape to make it look at least acceptable
Sadly, both Innex and Mirage decided to troll me with a set of despicable decals. As soon as I've put them into the water, they broke into several pieces, rendering them unusable. That's why there's only one tactical number on the left-hand side of the ship. I didn't try to paint the black belt separating the two colours of the hull at the waterline, because I was afraid I'll rip the red paint off - it doesn't look very solid.
I used black and brown paint solved in alcohol to simulate corrosion on the ship's deck and superstructure.
The master shipbuilders will probably turn their backs to this model and I can't blame them, because I know it's not a top-quality thing. But I bet in several years, I'll look at this model and think "Maybe I should get rid of that one, it only takes space on the shelf", and that forementioned voice in my head will respond "Nay, sir; for this is the first ship model you have ever finished".