Scrap or Swim: What Will Happen to the Admiral Lazarev?

Russia’s Kirov-class battlecruisers are some of the most heavily armed ships sailing today. During the Cold War, they were emblematic of the power of the Soviet Navy. Four of these ships were built between the 1970s and 1990s, with the armament and weapons fit of the ships being upgraded as time went on.

Unfortunately for the Russian Navy, the first two ships of the line, the Admiral Ushakov and Admiral Lazarev have been laid up since incidents in the 1990s that prevented them from being seaworthy. The remaining two ships are seaworthy, but also in need of modernization.

Currently the fourth ship, the Pyotr Velikiy is in service while the third ship, Admiral Nakhimov has been undergoing a refit that is expected to complete in 2022.

Of the first two ships commissioned, the Admiral Ushakov is in extremely poor condition and is expected to be scrapped. Reports on the Admiral Lazarev are mixed, but in April 2019 a report by from anonymous Russian naval sources suggested that the Lazarev was going to be scrapped as well.

This comes as a surprise, as prior to this announcement the Lazarev’s fate was linked to the success of the Admiral Nakhimov’s refit. In 2011 it was suggested that the Nakhimov’s refit would be evaluated when complete, then the decision to modernize both the Pyotr Velikiy and Admiral Lazarev would be taken then.

Certain navy watchers in Russia have also suggested that it would be cheaper for Sevmash, the firm undertaking modernization for all the Kirov-class ships, to modernize the Admiral Lazarev and Pyotr Velikiy at the same time, as one of the primary issues with Sevmash is the lack of personnel. If both modernizations were to be undertaken at once, then Sevmash could get it done for cheaper and faster by hiring more workers on a limited contract.

The latest announcement suggests that this plan has been scrapped in favor of just modernizing the Pyotr Velikiy. However, this may be more expensive in the short term than waiting to modernize the Admiral Lazarev, as the scrapping will cost 350 million Rubles. The scrapping should be completed by 2021, before the Admiral Nakhimov’s refit completes.

However, not all Russian Navy watchers think the scrapping of the Admiral Lazarev will happen.  The Russian Navy invested money in keeping the Admiral Lazarev afloat in dock for “long term” storage as recent as 2014. Scrapping it now would mean that relatively recent investment (in naval terms) would go to waste. Time will tell.