Admiral Hipper-class Heavy Cruiser, USSRS Petropavlovsk - Importing and Finishing a Treaty Cruiser

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USSRS Petropavlovsk
Project, not fully completed

Petropavlovsk after being severely damaged during the Defense of Leningrad.

Background
USSRS Petropavlovsk, originally KMS Lützow, was the fifth and final member of the Admiral Hipper-class of heavy cruisers. She was laid down the 2nd of August, 1937, launched on the 1st of July, 1939, sold to the Soviet Union on the 11th of February, 1940, whereupon she was renamed Petropavlovsk; she was never officially commissioned into the Soviet Navy.

The Admiral Hippers were the product of the changing times. In the mid-1930s, Germany had been forbidden from building, or even researching, heavy cruisers, by the Treaty of Versailles. This changed in 1935, with the signing of the Anglo-German Treaty, allowing Germany a 35:100t ratio to the Royal Navy. This allowed Germany to begin construction of “Treaty” cruisers, or those that would fall under the Washington Naval Treaty’s 10,000t displacement limit. While ostensibly under this limit, the Admiral Hippers would exceed this by such a wide margin that no cruiser but the Des Moines-class of the late-war US Navy would come close.
The Admiral Hippers had been designed as the ultimate commerce raiders, incorporating the lessons learned by foreign navies in its design. Although Germany never actually signed the Washington Naval Treaty, it was still required to follow it by the terms of the Anglo-German Treaty. Nonetheless, they decided to give “conservative” reports of displacement, and so the Hippers ended up nearing 20,000ts of full load displacement. They needed to at least match the French Algérie, or the Italian Zaras. However, the guns remained at 8-inches, as gun size was much easier to verify than displacement. The last two of the class, Seydlitz and Lützow, were intended to be “light cruiser” versions, much like the Japanese had done with the Mogamis. They were to be armed with triple 15cm turrets, instead of the twin 20.3cms, but this was rejected in 1936 and they were instead to be built as the rest of the class had been.

The at-the-time incomplete Lützow was sold to the Soviet Union in February of 1940 with only half of her main armament, and only 3.7cm secondaries, installed and much of the superstructure missing. She was towed to Leningrad, renamed Petropavlovsk, and assigned the designation Project 83. She was approximately 70% complete when the German Invasion of the Soviet Union began in June, 1941. She would beach herself to avoid sinking following damage during the Siege of Leningrad, being refloated in 1943 and renamed Tallinn. She would again be renamed post-war, this time to Dniepr, when she was converted into a barracks ship in the Neva, where she would remain until being scrapped sometime in the late-50s.
Had no invasion taken place in 1941, the crew would have begun training late that year, and the ship probably would have been completed to the Admiral Hipper design sometime in late 1941 or early 1942.

Service History

Lützow was ordered by the Kriegsmarine in 1935 following the signing of the Anglo-German Treaty, as “L.” She and “K,” which would become Seydlitz, were originally ordered as “light cruiser” versions of the Admiral Hipper-class, otherwise being the same but with triple 15cm turrets as opposed to dual 20.3cm turrets. However, in 1936, the Kriegsmarine ordered that these two ships would be completed to the same standards as the rest of the Admiral Hipper-class, and as neither ship had been laid down yet, this change was completed and the ships would be built as their sisters. Lützow was laid down in August of 1937, and launched in July of 1939, but she was not yet completed.


image
Lützow under construction in Bremen, after having been launched.

In 1939, following the agreement of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Soviet Union approached Germany with a request to buy the at the time uncompleted Prinz Eugen, Seydlitz, and Lützow, along with the sale of German capital ship plans, naval artillery, and other related naval technology. Germany denied the sale of Prinz Eugen and Seydlitz, but did go ahead with the sale of Lützow, as well as a few 38cm turrets and other naval designs and weaponry. She was priced at 150 million Reichsmarks, almost double her original price of 83.5 million Reichsmarks. Lützow was renamed to “L,” for the transfer to the Soviet Union, and she was towed to Leningrad in April of 1940.

At the time of her arrival in Leningrad, “L” only had her forward turrets installed, her superstructure was incomplete, and a few 3.7cm AA guns were installed. She was renamed Petropavlovsk in September of 1940, and designated as Project 83. She inspired plans for a new Project 82 cruiser, a similarly sized cruiser with 8-inch guns, but work would be put off on this design due to unforeseen circumstances. The training of her crew was difficult, as the Soviets wanted their personnel trained in Germany, but the Germans preferred to send their instructors to the Soviet Union; adding to this were inexperience with foreign training as well as language barriers.
Petropavlovsk was planned to go on sea trials in late 1941, and some Soviet officers were to be sent to German naval schools in 1941, along with other officers being sent to train on Seydlitz when she would be commissioned. German instructors were to be sent to Leningrad to train engine room personnel, and the main crew was not to begin training until a month before the sea trials. At the time of Petropavlovsk’s commissioning, technical and training manuals would be sent to the USSR, though in German only.

When Germany broke the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and invaded the Soviet Union, in June of 1941, Petropavlovsk was approximately 70% complete. Nevertheless, she would be used as floating artillery during the Defense of Leningrad. On the 7th of September, she would fire ~700 shells from her forward turrets - the only ones operational. Then, on the 17th of September, she would be disabled by German heavy artillery and forced to beach herself to avoid sinking, after enduring 53 hits.
During an attack on naval forces in Leningrad on the 4th of April, 1942, Petropavlovsk would be hit once, and the damage would cause her to be sunk. She would then be raised on the 17th of September, 1942, and subsequently towed to the Neva River, where she would be repaired.
She would be renamed Tallinn in 1943, and returned to service to support the Soviet counter-offensive, which eventually broke the Siege on Leningrad in 1944.



The incomplete cruiser Tallinn, formerly Petropavlovsk, in 1949.

Following an inspection at the end of the war, most of her equipment and machinery was found to be beyond repair. There was a proposal to finish the ship with equipment from the captured Seydlitz and rearmed with Soviet weaponry, designated Project 83K, but nothing would come of it. The ship would never be completed, and would be used as a stationary training ship until, and following, the end of the war. She would be renamed Dniepr in 1953, possibly while the idea of completing her was still around, but then was renamed once more to PKZ-112, and relegated to use as a floating barracks.



Barracks ship PKZ-112, formerly Dniepr, formerly Tallinn, formerly Petropavlovsk, and originally named Lützow.

When she was disposed of is uncertain, with multiple dates ranging from 1953 to 1961, but, ultimately, the ship would be scrapped sometime in the 1950s or early 1960s.



Recognition drawing of an Admiral Hipper-class cruiser.

Specifications
If completed under the Project 83 design - otherwise known as the original Admiral Hipper design.

General Information
Displacement 19,800 tons (full load)
Length 210m (690ft)
Beam 21.8m (72ft)
Draft 7.9m (26ft)
Speed 32 knots (59 km/h)
Complement 1384 officers and enlisted
Sensors Purpose Notes
FuMO 22 Direction Finder, Active Ranging No evidence for having been fit to Lützow, but Admiral Hipper was completed with one so it can be extrapolated that Lützow/Petropavlovsk may have been given one at completion as well
No radars were fitted at any point during construction, but it could be plausible for a Soviet radar such as Redut-K, or maybe a lend lease radar such as the Type 281 (UK), as fitted to “most battleships and cruisers”
Weapon Turret/Mount Notes
8 × 20.3cm(8")/60 SK C/34 4 × Twin LC/34
12 × 10.5cm(4.1")/65 SK C/33 6 x Twin Could be replaced by 100mm/56 B-34 or B-24BM, or 85mm/52 90K, or 76.2mm/55 34-K assuming required mountings fit
12 x 3.7cm/83 SK C/30 5 x Twin, 2 x Single The only secondaries installed upon transfer to USSR, can possibly be replaced by 37mm/67 70-K
8 x 2cm/65 FlaK C/30 8 x Single Could be replaced by 25mm/76 84-KM or DShK or similar small weapon
24 x 533mm (21") G7a Torpedoes 4 x Triple Launchers - 6 Torpedo Broadside One reload per launcher - could have been reconfigured for Soviet 53-38/38U/39 torpedoes
? x KOR-1 Floatplanes 1 x Aircraft Catapult Amidships Also known as Be-2 - Petropavlovsk likely would have been reequipped for compatibility; if not, then Arado 196 would be here instead
203mm (8") Ammunition
Designation Mass Bursting Charge Muzzle Velocity Notes
20.3 cm Psgr. L/4.4 (m.Hb) 122kg (269lbs) 2.3kg (5.1lbs) 925m/s (3035f/s) APCBC L/4.4 Shell
20.3 cm Spgr. L/4.7 Bdz (m.Hb) 122kg (269lbs) 6.54kg (14.4lbs) 925m/s (3035f/s) Base Fused HE L/4.7 Shell with Ballistic Cap
20.3 cm Spgr. L/4.7 Kz (m.Hb) 122kg (269lbs) 8.93kg (19.7lbs) 925m/s (3035f/s) Nose Fused HE L/4.7 Shell with Ballistic Cap
Armor
Belt 70-80mm (2.8-3.1") Of Wotan Weich and Wotan Hart type
Armored Deck 20-50mm (0.79-1.97") Of Wotan Hart type
Upper Deck 12-30mm (0.47-1.2") Of Wotan Hart type
Turrets 70-105mm (2.75-4.1") Turret front 105mm, sides and top 70mm
Barbettes 80mm (3.15") All around protection
Forward Conning Tower 50-150mm (2-5.9") Sides 150mm, top 50mm
Rear Conning Tower 20-30mm (0.79-1.2") Sides 30mm, top 20mm

Conclusion
This is a ship that, in my opinion, the Soviet Naval tree needs. As far as I am aware, there were no proper “treaty” heavy cruisers of the Soviet Union. There were definitely projects and design studies, but as far as I know, none were ever laid down.
The only ships that come close were those of the Kirov-class, but those aren’t really heavy cruisers on account of their armor scheme - but you could make the case for them being heavy cruisers, as according to the Washington/London Naval Treaty, a heavy cruiser is a cruiser with guns larger than 6-inches. But the Soviet Union didn’t sign the treaty, or really play any part in the treaty, so it doesn’t really apply.
Nonetheless, the Soviet tree is missing a proper heavy cruiser, at least one to the treaty standards. For that reason I think it is probably one of the only realistically viable options for a heavy cruiser in the tree, and I think it would fit before any of the battleships, in either line.
Regarding the Soviet secondaries, this is just somewhat of an estimate/guess on my part based on the fact that the ship was delivered without most of the secondary armament, and that it likely would have been rearmed with Soviet weaponry in lieu of the intended original German armament; except for the main guns at least, as at least half of those were delivered, and the rest were planned to be delivered. But ultimately, it would not be up to me, and perhaps some people reading this can share their thoughts.

Sources

Wikipedia - Admiral Hipper-class Cruiser
Wikipedia - Soviet cruiser Petropavlovsk (1939)
Naval-Encyclopedia - Admiral Hipper-class heavy cruisers
Naval-Encyclopedia - WW2 Soviet Cruisers
DestinationsJourney - Pictures of the cruiser Petropavlovsk
Navypedia - Russian Cruiser Tallinn (Project 83)
Navweaps - German 20.3cm (8")/60 SK C/34
Navweaps - German 10.5cm (4.1")/65 SK C/33
Navweaps - German 3.7cm/83 SK C/30
Navweaps - German 2cm/65 C/30
Navweaps - Torpedoes of Germany
Navweaps - German Naval Radar to 1945

Regarding various Soviet things for potential implementation
Navweaps - Soviet 100mm/56 B-34
Navweaps - Soviet 100mm/56 B-24BM
Navweaps - Soviet 85mm/52 90-K
Navweaps - Soviet 76.2mm/55 34-K
Navweaps - Soviet 45mm/46 21-K
Navweaps - Soviet 37mm/67 70-K
Navweaps - Torpedoes of the Soviet Union/Russia in WWII
Navweaps - Soviet/Russian Radar WWII

2 Likes

So you have my tentative +1 on this. Also, I applaud your suggestions on possible Soviet Weaponry, this is one ship that’s quite hard to find a lot of concrete info on as unfortunately a lot of Western sources don’t cover much about this ship. However, for this suggestion, you are in luck as the Soviets did consider the option of rearming the ship with Soviet weaponry Post-War. In 1949 the Soviet Navy drafted a proposal to complete the ship using Soviet armaments under Project 83-K. The Specifications for this original proposal, centered around rearming the ship as follows:

4 x 3 152 mm/57 B-38 Pattern 1938
6 x 2 100 mm/70 CM-5
6 x 4 45-mm/78 SM-20-ZIF
6 x 4 25 mm/79 2M-3

(The Seaplane facilities were not retained in this proposal, but the original Project 83 proposal would have supposedly had Beriev KOR-2 Seaplanes)

In essence, the ship was intended to be a heavier version of the already under-construction Project 68K and the planned Project 68bis. Under these same drafts, it was also proposed to use the 180 mm/57 B-1-P Pattern 1932 as well. Ultimately however the modernization and rebuild proposals were deemed too expensive and as such were cancelled. There was also a later proposal to complete her as a training Cruiser armed with 2 x 3 152mm but this was also deemed too expensive.

That being said, luckily for us naval history fans, the other game did present a very close approximation of what the 180mm armed 83-K would’ve looked like as seen here: (Note there are various inaccuracies with this model)

Spoiler

I might not have mentioned this in the post, but I was specifically going for Project 83, not Project 83K. By then the ship had been (re)named to Tallinn, and was an entirely different proposal - maybe grounds for a separate addition, since it’s name changed.
But I was going for 83 because it would give the Soviet Union probably the largest gun cruiser they can feasibly get, with the German 203s, unless more information is dug up about something like Project 82 or 66. In any case, those ships were never finalized, let alone laid down, which is why I went with the 8-inch armed version of Project 83.

So in essence, what I was going for with the Soviet secondaries was an Admiral Hipper but with Soviet secondaries. The primary armament stays the same, and the design doesn’t stray too far, being limited to the easy to replace parts like the small caliber AA. The one I’m not sure about with that is the potential replacement for the 10.5cm guns, which I listed as 100mm, 85mm, and 76.2mm. All of those are a lot harder to really say if they would have been replaced the same way something like an anti-air autocannon would have been.
Alternatively it could just be a straight, as built, Admiral Hipper, but I think that’s kind of lame. Given that the Soviets did rearm their foreign ships like Novorossiysk I think it’s at least plausible to speculate on something similar here.

2 Likes

Ah, I see, then yeah I can see where you’re going with the alternative Soviet weapon proposals and it is indeed plausible that they could have done something like that. I do recall that the basic intention though Post-War was to use armaments that had been captured or given to the Soviets (likely from other ships) via war repatriations to complete the ship as a standard Admiral Hipper-class albeit with the Arado Ar 196s replaced by the KOR-2 which while somewhat of a lame addition as is, would probably be the most historical. I would say that 83K would probably be the more interesting addition but honestly, I think either would be neat and base 83 could give the Soviets a neat Heavy Cruiser

+1

I mentioned this in the service history part, down near the bottom.

Yeah so either just basic Hipper with a Soviet floatplane or the different Project 83K versions. I might make a separate suggestion for Tallinn (the Project 83K version of the ship) some other time, though. But yeah, this one is intended to basically be Project 83 maybe with Soviet secondaries, if they decide to give them.