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Russians Built A Ship Too Big To Sail

Courtesy: US Defense Department
February 19, 2014

During the Cold War, the Soviets built a ship that was too big to sail!  The reason it was unable to sail?  The ship was so large that there was not a port in the Pacific large enough to house the ship.  The Soviets continued to use it as an intelligence ship, but crew members had to be ferried onto the ship from other ports and ships.


Designed to act as the eyes and ears of the Soviet Pacific Fleet, this massive command ship was among Russia’s most ambitious Cold War constructs. Packing cutting edge electronic warfare and communications systems, this enormous ship could have become the monolithic centerpiece of Russia’s navy. So why did it end up rotting away as off-shore barracks instead?

Commissioned in 1989, the Ural (SSV-33) was a 265 meter long, 36,000-ton communications and intelligence gathering vessel operated by the Soviet navy at the tail end of the Cold War. The Ural performed a variety of roles during its decade of service, including that of fleet flagship, space and missile tracking, electronic warfare and reconnaissance, and as a communications relay.

The Ural was built from an earlier Kirov class cruiser design and powered by a pair of 171 MWt nuclear reactors working in tandem with an oil turbine to produce a whopping 66,500 HP, enabling speeds in excess of 21 knots. Not bad for a ship so large that nearly 1000 sailors were needed to operate it.

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