Ships of projects 26 and 26 bis. The first Soviet cruisers fleetlaid in the USSR. Graceful handsome men in whose silhouettes the sweeping outlines of the Italian school are easily discerned ... It seemed that almost all of these ships should be known to us: they were built in our country, all archival documents should be at hand. Nevertheless, among all the cruisers of the Russian imperial and Soviet fleet, there are probably no ships that would receive such conflicting ratings as cruisers of the Kirov and Maxim Gorky type. Only Soviet nuclear-powered cruisers, by a strange coincidence, are also Kirov-class cruisers, who can compete with them on this issue. Surprisingly, it is a fact: even the classification of ships of the project 26 and 26 bis is still the subject of discussion.
In the USSR Navy, these cruisers were considered light, and Soviet historiography, like most modern publications, also refers these ships to a subclass of light cruisers. Indeed, “if something floats like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, then it is a duck”: the 26 and 26-bis projects were not only called light cruisers, they were created on the basis of a light Italian cruiser project, and the sizes and other basic characteristics, with the exception of the main caliber, fully corresponded to this class of ships. There were light cruisers in world practice and bigger ones, better protected or faster ones, but there were quite a few that were inferior to Soviet cruisers in these characteristics. The only difference between the "Kirov" and the "Maxim Gorky" from foreign ships of this class is that the caliber of their guns is an inch larger than was accepted.
This is the difference that proponents of a different point of view point out: despite all the above, the firstborn shipbuilding of the Soviet shipbuilding should be considered not heavy, but heavy cruisers, because according to the international classification, any cruisers with guns above 155-mm are considered heavy. And this is one of the reasons for the polar assessments of our ships. After all, if we compare Maxim Gorky with Fiji, Montekukkoli or Leipzig, our cruiser (at least on paper) is very good, but, of course, against the background of Hipper, Zary or Takao type 26-bis looks pale.
In the series of articles presented to your attention, the author will try to understand stories creating cruisers project 26 and 26-bis. Understand what tasks they were designed for and how their tactical and technical characteristics were determined, were these ships clones of Italian cruisers or should they be considered the brainchild of Soviet shipbuilders, what was the quality of their construction, what were their strengths and what were weak. And, of course, compare Soviet cruisers with their foreign counterparts.
The history of the cruisers of the 26 and 26-bis project began on 15 on April 1932 of the year, when V.M. Orlov approved signed by the head of the USU (the command and command building, in fact - the fleet headquarters) E.S. Pantserzhansky tactical task to develop a light cruiser. According to the document, the cruiser was required to:
1. Providing submarine warfare at their bases and at sea.
2. Intelligence, support for intelligence and destroyer attacks.
3. Reflection of enemy landings and the provision of their tactical assault forces.
4. Participation in the combined strike of fleet forces against the enemy at sea and at the position.
5. Fight with enemy cruisers.
These tasks should be a little more detailed. Where, for example, has the task of ensuring the combat operations of submarines ever come from? Cruisers had to withdraw submarines from the base, act in conjunction with them, direct them at the enemy, and manage ... But these are ships of completely different qualities and purposes! How did the Soviet soldiers manage to tie in one harness “a horse and a quivering doe”?
Let's try to figure out how this happened. To do this, recall that less than two years before the events described, in 1930, engineer A.N. Asafov proposed the idea of a squadron submarine. In his opinion, it was possible to build an underwater ship with a surface speed of up to 23-24 units, capable of supporting its surface squadron, attacking enemy warships. At a time when the leadership of the USSR naval forces was fascinated by the development of the "mosquito fleet", such ideas were simply doomed to the understanding and support of the "commanding fathers". Thus began the history of the submarines of the type "Pravda", the first three (and last) ships of this series were laid in May-December 1931.
By the way, the expensive experiment to create a squadron boat ended in a deafening failure, since attempts to combine the obviously incompatible elements of a high-speed ship and submarine could not be successful. Destroyer lines, required to achieve high speed, are absolutely not suitable for scuba diving, and the need to ensure good seaworthiness required a large reserve of buoyancy, because of which the submarine became extremely difficult to dive.
However, our sailors should not be blamed for excessive adventurism: the idea looked extremely attractive, and it was probably worth a try, especially since similar attempts were made by other maritime powers, including such as Britain and France. Although, of course, at that time in no country in the world did attempts to create a squadron submarine succeed (something like this was approached only with the advent of nuclear power plants, and even with certain reservations). But as long as the creation of an effective squadron submarine seemed possible, the task of interacting with them for the light cruiser seemed quite rational.
Participation in the combined strike. Everything is quite simple here: in the early 30s, the theory of the “small sea war” still retained its position. The main assumption of this theory was that in coastal areas such weapons as aviation, submarines, torpedo boats, coupled with modern land artillery and mines capable of defeating the obviously superior naval forces of the enemy.
Without going into details of the discussions between the supporters of the “small war” and the traditional fleet, I would note that in the specific economic conditions in which the USSR was at the turn of the 30, one could only dream of a powerful ocean fleet. At the same time, the task of defending one’s own coast was extremely acute, so reliance on the “mosquito fleet” as a temporary measure was justifiably up to a known measure. And if the supporters of the “small sea war” were engaged in the thoughtful development of naval aviation, submarines, communications equipment, paying special attention to the development of effective tactics of their use and the practice of crews (not by number, but by skill!), Then all this would not be easy undoubted, but colossal. Unfortunately, the development of domestic light forces went a completely different way, the consideration of which would lead us away from the topic of the article too far.
Combined strike was, in fact, the highest form of battle in the theory of "small war". Its meaning was to quickly and imperceptibly for the enemy to concentrate maximum forces in one place and deliver an unexpected and powerful blow with diverse forces - aviation, destroyers, torpedo boats, submarines, and, if possible, coastal artillery and so on. A small nuance: sometimes a combined strike is called concentrated, which is not entirely true. The difference between them lies in the fact that the combined strike assumed a simultaneous attack by all forces, while a concentrated strike is carried out by successively entering into combat units of different types. In any case, the greatest chances of success were achieved in coastal areas, since it was there that it was possible to concentrate the maximum of light forces and provide the best conditions for coastal aviation attacks. One of the main options for combat was a battle in a mine position, when the enemy was weakened by submarine operations while advancing to it, and the combined strike was delivered during attempts to force it.
At that stage of its development, the Soviet fleet did not intend to go to the world ocean or even to remote sea areas - it simply had nothing to do with it. The main task of the Red Army Navy in the Baltic was to cover Leningrad from the sea, on the Black Sea - to protect Sevastopol and to defend the Crimea and Odessa from the sea, and in the Far East, due to the almost complete absence of naval forces, no tasks were set before them.
Under these conditions, the clause on the participation of Soviet light cruisers in the combined strike became no alternative. Of course, the Soviet admirals wanted in every way to strengthen the light forces that were to perform the main task of the fleet, but even if it were not so, no one would understand the leadership of the Red Army Command, wish it to assign other tasks to cruisers. Create the most modern light cruisers without the ability to use them to perform the most important task of the fleet? “This is worse than a crime. This is mistake".
True, the question may arise here: how exactly should light cruisers be used in a combined strike? After all, it is obvious that any attempt to send them into an artillery battle against battleships, battlecruisers or even heavy cruisers is doomed to failure. The author was unable to find a direct answer to this question, but, apparently, it is contained in the second paragraph of the HTA: "Intelligence, maintaining intelligence and destroyer attacks".
In those years, reconnaissance functions in squadrons of surface ships were everywhere assigned to light cruisers. Aviation provided only preliminary data, but when the distance between fleets preparing for a confrontation was reduced to several tens of miles, it was the light cruisers sent forward who were supposed to detect an approaching enemy, maintain visual contact with it and notify the commander about the structure, course, speed of the main enemy forces . Therefore, light cruisers were very fast to prevent heavy enemy ships from moving closer to dangerous distances, strong enough to fight on an equal footing with ships of their class, and the presence of numerous medium-caliber artillery (130-155 mm) allowed them to effectively deal with enemy destroyers . It was to be expected that the enemy light cruisers would be the first to discover and try to intercept the Soviet destroyers in order to prevent them from reaching the main forces. Accordingly, the task of the domestic cruisers was to defeat or drive away the light forces of the enemy and bring the leading destroyers to the line of attack of heavy ships. Hence, in fact, the point of HTA "Fight with enemy cruisers".
Unfortunately, the leaders of the naval forces of the Red Army did not strive for apothecary accuracy in the formulations, because otherwise this point would surely have sounded like “Fight with enemy light cruisers”. Such a battle could occur in two situations: during a combined strike on heavy ships, as described above, or during an attack by enemy transport or amphibious convoys. Soviet naval thought suggested that such convoys would have “two-level” protection — destroyers and (maximum) light cruisers in the direct guard of transports and larger ships, such as heavy, or even battle cruisers, as long-range cover. In this case, it was assumed that the Soviet cruiser should quickly get close to the convoy, destroying its direct artillery guard, attacking transports with torpedoes and quickly retreat in order not to get hit by heavy ships.
Paragraph: "Reflection of enemy landings and the provision of their tactical landings" does not add anything new to the above functionality of the Soviet cruisers. It is obvious that the enemy’s heavy ships will go into the Soviet coastal waters only for carrying out some important and large-scale operations, most likely landing operations, as was the case with the memorable Operation Albion. Then the task of the Soviet naval forces in general, and cruisers in particular, will be counteraction to such landings, by delivering a combined strike against the main forces of the enemy or by an escort of amphibious transports.
What qualities should a Soviet cruiser have to have in order to meet the requirements of a tactical task?
First, the ship had to have a high speed comparable to the speeds of destroyers. Only in this way could the cruiser, not looking up from the destroyers, advance to the area of the "combined strike" and that was the only way he could lead torpedo-powered flotilla in battle. At the same time, Soviet cruisers had to act in the conditions of the overwhelming superiority of the enemy naval forces, and only speed gave chances for survival both in battles near their own coast and in raids on enemy communications.
Secondly, a long range for Soviet light cruisers was not required, and could be sacrificed for other characteristics. All tasks of this class of ships, with reference to the Soviet fleet, were solved in coastal areas, or during short raider attacks on the Black and Baltic Seas.
Thirdly, the main-caliber artillery must be more powerful than the ships of this class and powerful enough to quickly disable enemy light cruisers.
Fourthly, the reservation should be sufficiently developed (extended along the waterline). The need for maximum armor space was due to the requirement to maintain high speed, even when subjected to intense shelling of enemy light cruisers and destroyers, because the shells of the latter had already reached the caliber 120-130 mm and, if they hit the waterline, they could do a lot of work. On the other hand, increasing the thickness of the vertical armor to counter more powerful than 152-mm shells did not make much sense. Of course, protection is not superfluous, but the cruiser was not designed to fight with heavy enemy ships, and increasing the vertical armor increased displacement, required a more powerful power plant to ensure the required speed and led to an increase in the cost of the ship. But horizontal booking should have been made as powerful as possible, which could only be placed on a cruiser, without prejudice to its speed and artillery power, because acting in coastal areas, and even on the flanks of the warring armies, the danger of enemy air raids could not be ignored.
Fifth, all of the above was required to fit into the minimum displacement and cost. We must not forget that in the early to mid-thirties the possibilities of the military budget and industry of the USSR were still frankly small.
It was assumed that in order to meet all the above tasks, the cruiser should be armed with 4 * 180-mm (in two towers) 4 * 100-mm, 4 * 45-mm, 4 * 12,7-mm machine gun and two three-tube torpedo tubes, the ship also had be able to take up to 100 min in overload. Aviation armament was to consist of four "torpedo bomber" unknown hitherto design. Reservation of the side was supposed to protect from 152-mm high-explosive projectile at a distance of 85-90 KBT, decks - from 115 KBT and closer. The speed should have been 37-38 nodes, while the range was set very small - only 600 miles at full speed, which corresponded to 3 000 - 3 600 miles economic course. It was assumed that such performance characteristics can be obtained with a cruiser displacement in 6 000 t.
The rather strange requirements for the protection of a cruiser attract attention: if the armored deck was supposed to provide almost absolute protection against 6 caliber artillery, then the board should protect only against the high-explosive 152-mm projectile and, practically at the limit for such guns 85-90 KB It is difficult to understand what this is connected with: after all, the lead destroyers for a concentrated strike, and the attack of enemy transport convoys were a type of oncoming and fleeting naval combat, and therefore it was necessary to expect a rapprochement with enemy light cruisers to much closer distances than 8- Xnumx miles It is possible that the sailors were impressed by the high performance of 9-mm guns and hoped to quickly crush the enemy over a long distance. But most likely, the answer should be sought precisely in the counter character of the battles: if the ship goes to the enemy, then the course angle is relatively small and the enemy shells will hit the board at a very large angle, at which even the 180-mm armor-piercing can not even do relatively thin armor.
Thus, having studied the HTA and the supposed technical characteristics of the Soviet cruiser, we can make an absolutely unambiguous conclusion: no one set our ship to achieve success in artillery fighting with heavy enemy cruisers. Of course, a cruiser in 6 000 tons with 4 * 180-mm guns could not withstand the modern at that time "Washington" heavy cruiser with its eight 203-mm guns and a displacement of 10 000 and at least it would be strange to assume our sailors did not understand this. In addition, we see that for the armor protection of the Soviet cruiser, the tasks of confronting 203-mm projectiles were not set at any distances (at least long-range). Heavy cruisers could become an object of attack for the "combined strike" of the naval forces of the Red Army, but in this case the task of the Soviet cruisers was to pave the way for them to their destroyers and torpedo boats, which were to deliver a mortal blow.
In other words, in the light of the then views, the fleet needed an ordinary light cruiser, with one exception: the requirements for the main caliber of our ships exceeded the standard tasks for light cruisers. While the classic light cruiser was enough not to yield in artillery to ships of the same class in other countries, our ships needed a large firepower sufficient to quickly disable or even destroy light cruisers. This is understandable: to break through the barriers of enemy light forces required quickly, for any lengthy firing duel time could not be.
Other requirements: high speed with moderate displacement, booking and range, in many respects coincided with the Italian concept of ships of this class. Small, very high-speed, decently armed, though not very well-armored, Mare Nostrum fenders corresponded to the tasks of the Red Army naval forces to a much greater degree than light cruisers of other powers.
England, France, Germany - all of them for the most part built poorly protected ships almost equally armed (8-9 six-inch guns) and had a very moderate speed (32-33 node). Moreover, the most high-speed ones (French “Duge Truen”, 33 bonds) did not have deck and side armor at all: 25-30 mm only towers, cellars and cabin were protected by armor plates. The situation was even worse with the Emil Berten that was laid out in 1931 - although this ship had already received an 20-mm armored deck, but its artillery was not protected at all - neither the tower nor the barbette. The British Linders had a good vertical citadel protection, consisting of 76 mm armor plates that supported the 25,4 mm lining of medium carbon steel. But this bronepoyas covered only the boiler rooms and engine rooms, and the armor-decks, barbety and towers had only an inch (25,4 mm) armor protection, which, of course, was absolutely not enough. Although in fairness we should mention a fairly strong "boxed" protection of artillery cellars, but in general, "Linder" looked clearly undefended. The German “Cologne” had a longer stronghold than their British counterparts, the thickness of the armor was 50 mm (and 10-mm slant behind it), but otherwise - only 20 mm armored decks and 20-30 mm armor towers. At the same time the standard displacement of these ships was 6700-7300 tons.
Only the French La Galissoniere cruisers stand apart.
With standard light cruiser armament (9 * 152-mm guns in the three towers), the ships had extremely powerful reservations: covering the vehicles and cellars of an armored ammunition unit 105 mm thick (thinned to the bottom edge to 60 mm). There was also an 20-mm bulkhead right up to the armored belt to the very bottom of the ship, which played the role of not only splinter but also anti-torpedo protection. The thickness of the deck armor was 38 mm, the forehead of the towers was 100 mm, the barbats were 70-95 mm.
At the time of the laying of the "La Galissonier" was the most protected light cruiser, so that there - many heavy cruisers could envy his armor! However, the price of such a powerful defense turned out to be considerable - the French cruiser had a standard 7600 tonnage, and its maximum speed should have been just an 31 knot, which is why ships of this type did not fit into the concept of the Red Army Naval Forces.
Italians are another matter. In 1931, the fleet of the Duce was replenished with the four “Kondotieri” series “A”: light cruisers “Alberico da Barbiano”. Ships of this type were designed as Italy's ultimate answer to the extremely powerful (perhaps the most powerful in the world) leaders of the destroyers built in France. Interestingly, initially these offspring of the Italian shipyards were not even considered cruisers. According to the design assignment, these ships were called “37 nodal scouts,” a bit later they were referred to as “esploratori”, i.e. scouts - peculiar only to the Italians class, in which were also large squadron destroyers. And only later the Condotieri were reclassified into light cruisers.
Their defense was extremely weak, designed to counter the French high-explosive 138-mm projectiles. The main belt 24 mm thick was thinned to the extremities up to 20 mm (in some sources 18mm). It should be noted that the Italians used the spaced vertical booking system, which was innovative for the light cruiser, since the main armor had 20 mm armored partitioning, which gave the 38-44 mm cruiser the total thickness of the vertical armor. But in the battle with the cruiser there was no sense in this, because with such “thicknesses” both “armor belts” penetrated 152-mm projectiles at any reasonable distance of the battle. The armor and traverses also had 20 mm, the towers defended with either 22-mm or 23-mm armor plates. In general, the views of those Italian historians who consider ships of the type “Alberico da Barbiano” to be cruiserless ships are not far from the truth.
However, surprisingly, from the point of view of protection among their foreign peers, Italian cruisers do not look like “white crows” - simply because these peers were also armored very badly (not counting the “La Galissoniers” who were only laid back then when the first "Condotieri" were already part of the Italian fleet). And the rest (it would seem!) "Kondottieri" series "A" consisted of the merits alone. Not inferior in armament (8-152-mm cannons), they were almost one and a half thousand tons lighter than the smallest foreign cruisers - the German Cologne (5280 tons versus 6650-6730 tons) and at the same time almost at 10 nodes are high-speed. The ancestor of the series, "Alberico da Barbiano", was able to develop on the tests enchanting 42,05 node!
So is it any wonder that in 1932 v. M. Orlov wrote to Voroshilov: “A Kondotieri type cruiser should be considered a very suitable type of light cruisers for the USSR Naval Forces,” and shortly before that (and even before issuing the HTA to Soviet cruisers), the USSR tried to acquire one ready-made cruiser of this type so that in the future to build similar ships in their shipyards? True, Soviet experts noted the weakness of booking Italian cruisers, which is why “Kondotieri” did not fully meet the expectations of the Red Army MS leadership, but it seems that the desire to get a new cruiser outweighed the rest of the considerations as soon as possible. it would be to finalize ... Fortunately for the Soviet fleet, the deal did not take place - the Italians refused to sell one of their newest and just entered ships.
The “Italian miracle” did not happen: it is impossible to build equally powerful and protected, but much lighter and faster than the competitors, ships on an equal level of technology. Moreover, the technological base of Italy can hardly be considered equal to the French or British. The Italians' attempt to forge ahead led to a natural finale: the Alberico da Barbiano-type cruisers turned out to be extremely unsuccessful ships, over-light and low-passage, while in daily operation they could not develop more 30-31 nodes. Many of their shortcomings were obvious to designers even before they were commissioned, so the next series of Kondotieri, Luigi Cadorna-type cruisers, laid out in 1930, began to work on errors — an attempt to correct the most glaring flaws without a global reworking of the project.
However, here the result was very far from what was expected, which again became clear at the design stage - therefore, only a year later, work on two light cruisers of a completely new type began to boil on Italian stocks.
This time the Italian fleet approached the matter extremely reasonably: by setting high, but not excessive demands on the speed of the new light cruisers (37 units) and leaving unchanged the main caliber (four two-gun 152-mm towers), the sailors demanded protection from 152-mm projectiles, agreeing to the associated increase in displacement. So the cruisers “Raimondo Montecuccoli” and “Muzio Attendolo” were designed, in which the speed, power of artillery and defense were combined very harmoniously.
With a standard displacement in 7 431 t (in some sources - 7 540 t), the thickness of the booking of the board of the new Italian cruisers was 60 mm (and also 25 - 30 mm longitudinal bulkhead behind the main armor belt), towers - 70 mm, barbat towers - 50 mm . Only the traverses (20-40 mm) and the deck (20-30 mm) looked unimportant, but in general such a reservation was a huge step forward compared to the previous Condottieri. The next pair ordered for construction (“Duca d'Aosta” and “Eugenio di Savoia”) was distinguished by further improvement of protection, for which they had to pay an increase in displacement of almost a thousand tons and a drop in speed by half a node. All four ships of these subtypes were laid in 1931-1933. and became part of the Italian fleet in 1935-1936. and precisely these ships were destined to become the “Italian roots” of the Soviet cruiser project 26.
However, it is worth noting that the development of Italian cruisers (in iron) and the Soviet ship (for the time being only on paper) in the period of 1932-33. went completely different ways. While the Italians, satisfied with the firepower that 8 * 152-mm guns gave, concentrated on improving protection, doing so to the detriment of such a traditionally important parameter for their shipbuilding school as speed, the Soviet ship further evolved side gain weapons.
Planning to use the Italian power plant, 19 in March 1933. Namorsi Orlov affirms the “Tactical mission for a light cruiser with the mechanisms (turbines) of the Italian cruiser“ Montekukkoli ”. The side and deck bookings should have been 50 mm, traverse barbets and barrels of main-caliber guns - 35-50 mm, turrets - 100-50 mm, speed - 37 nodes, economic range - 3500 miles. All these data are within the limits of the initial HTA of 15 on April 1932 of the year, unless the armor thickness is specified to ensure the level of protection specified in the HTA. But the composition of weapons began to significantly increase. So, it was decided to add a third two-gun 180-mm turret, bringing the number of trunks of the main caliber to six, and even this namorsi seemed not enough: having approved the new TK for a three-turbo cruiser with six guns of the main caliber, Orlov immediately orders to calculate the possibility of installing the fourth such a tower. Anti-aircraft artillery is also increasing: the number of 45-mm anti-aircraft guns and 100-mm guns increased from four to six, but the latter (if it was impossible to keep within a given displacement) were allowed to leave four. The four unintelligible “torpedo bombers” from the project disappeared, only two KOR-2 scouts remained with one catapult and after all the listed innovations the standard displacement should have increased to 6 500 t.
The conservatism shown in determining the speed of a future cruiser is interesting. As already mentioned, the Soviet ship was to receive the turbines and boilers of "Raimondo Montecuccoli", which, having a 7 431 t standard displacement, in a normal cargo had to develop 37 nodes. Accordingly, from the Soviet cruiser, whose displacement at that time was estimated at almost a thousand tons less and with the same power of machines, one would expect greater speed, but it was installed at the level of the Italian "relative" - all the same 37 nodes. What this is connected with is unclear, but we note that the Soviet designers in this case did not at all strive to achieve some record characteristics.
Interestingly, this "modesty" was practiced in the future. Namorsi Orlov approved the draft design of a cruiser with a displacement of 6 500 tons of April 20 1933, and it is clear that the turbines and the theoretical drawing "Raimondo Montecuccoli" would be quite suitable for such a ship. Nevertheless, the USSR acquired turbines in Italy and a theoretical drawing of a much larger Eugenio di Savoia, whose standard displacement reached 8 750 t.
Perhaps the sailors feared that the displacement of the Soviet cruiser, as the project improved, would continue to climb up? It would be quite reasonable: first, the ship was still “breathing” in the sketches and there were no guarantees that its performance characteristics were close to the final one — quite serious changes in the composition of weapons and so on could occur. And secondly, one of the problems in determining the ship’s displacement was that for him there were not yet many mechanisms that had yet to be developed, so there was simply no precise information about their mass and they could be much harder than now supposed.
Thus, it can be stated that the Soviet cruiser was designed for the specific tasks of the naval forces of the Red Army without copying the views of the Italian fleet. However, in terms of tactical and technical characteristics, it was Italian cruisers of the types “Raimondo Montecuccoli” and “Eugenio di Savoia” that turned out to be the best prototype for the 26 cruiser. How much did the cruisers like Kirov copy their Italian prototype?
To be continued ...