Battlecruiser vs. Battleship: What if Russia and America's Deadliest Warship Went to War?

Kyle Mizokami

Key point: Our 1988 hypothetical engagement is an example of the superiority of guns over missiles in certain scenarios.

It’s 1988. World War Three has begun, with the armies of the Soviet Union and the rest of the Warsaw Pact pouring over the Inter-German Border. Their destination: the Rhine River and beyond, dealing NATO a knockout blow that will end the war.

Meanwhile at sea, an equally titanic battle is about to take place. A Soviet Kirov-class battlecruiser, attempting to intercept a U.S. Navy carrier battle group, is intercepted by the battleship USS Iowa. The biggest ship-against-ship battle since the World War Two is about to begin. Who wins?

Built in the late 1980s, the Kirov-class battlecruisers were designed—like much of the Soviet navy at the time—to neutralize American carrier battle groups during warfare. American aircraft carriers were a threat to not only the Soviet mainland but also Moscow’s nuclear missile submarines, and were to be taken out as quickly as possible. A secondary mission of the Kirov class was as commerce raider, designed to cut the flow of American and Canadian ground reinforcements to the battleground in Europe.

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The Kirov class were the largest surface warships built since the end of World War II. Each displaced twenty-four thousand tons and measured 826 feet long—nearly as long as an aircraft carrier. Nuclear powered, they could cruise indefinitely at speeds of up to thirty-two knots.

The purpose of the battlecruisers was to attack, and they were well suited for the task. Each carried twenty enormous P-700 Granit antiship missiles. Each, a Granit missile weighed more than fifteen thousand pounds. This was enough to include 1,653-pound high explosive warhead, enough fuel to give it a range of three hundred miles at Mach 2.5, and a both inertial and active radar guidance. Initial targeting data would be provided by the space-based Legenda satellite targeting system, shore-based aircraft, shipboard helicopters or the battlecruiser itself.

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