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Destroyer Leaders


Destroyer Leader Kharkov
Project 1 / Leningrad Class

Kharkov was one of six Leningrad-class destroyer leaders built for the Soviet Navy during the 1930s, one of the three Project 1 variants. They were inspired by the contre-torpilleurs built for the French Navy. They were ordered in two groups of three ships each; the first group was designated Project 1 and the second Project 38.

Ordered under the First Five-Year Plan, the three Project 1 destroyer leaders were intended to lead flotillas of destroyers in combat. Rather than copy the British concept of a slightly enlarged version of the standard destroyer like HMS Codrington was for the A-class destroyers, the Soviets chose to copy the French contre-torpilleurs like the Vauquelin class, a series of very large and very fast destroyers that were not intended to cooperate with other, slower destroyers. When the Leningrads were being designed the only destroyers in service for them to lead were old ex-Tsarist ones that were only capable of 30 knots, but the Leningrad-class ships were designed for 40 knots. They were the largest ships built thus far from the keel up by Soviet shipbuilders and were plagued with delays and design issues as the Soviets overestimated their ability to construct ships of their size, having only previously built the Uragan-class guard ships, only one-third the size of the Leningrads.

Destroyer Leader Kharkov laid down on 29 October 1932 at the Shipyard No.198, Nikolaev (yard No.223), launched on 09 September 1934, commissioned on 10 November 1938 and was assigned to the Black Sea Fleet. She served as the leader of the 3rd Destroyer Division of its Light Forces Detachment from May 1940, participating in training exercises.

Kharkov was repaired by 18 July 1941 and covered the retreat of the Danube Flotilla to Odessa during the next several days. She bombarded Axis positions a number of times during the Siege of Odessa as well as escorting the evacuation convoys from Odessa to Sevastopol in October. During the Siege of Sevastopol she provided gunfire support and evacuated cut-off troops from elsewhere in the Crimea into Sevastopol and brought in reinforcements from Caucasian ports. She helped to transport the 388th Rifle Division from Novorossisk and Tuapse to Sevastopol between 7-13 December, the 79th Naval Rifle Brigade on 19-20 December and the 354th Rifle Division between 21-22 December, bombarding German positions in the interim.

Between February and July 1942 she bombarded German troops on multiple times and brought in reinforcements and supplies for Sevastopol, evacuating wounded and refugees as she returned to port. She bombarded Axis positions near Feodosiya on 2-3 August and provided fire support for the defenders of Novorossiysk on 1-4 September. Between 8-11 September she ferried the 137th and 145th Rifle Regiments along with the 3rd Naval Rifle Brigade from Poti to Tuapse and Gelendzhik and a month later she transported 12,600 men of the 8th, 9th and 10th Guards Infantry Brigades from Poti to Tuapse to reinforce the defenses there between 20 and 23 October.

On 29 November 1942 she escorted the cruiser Voroshilov on a mission to bombard Axis positions on Feodonisi and bombarded Yalta during the night of 19-20 December. On the night of 4 February 1943 the Soviets made a series of amphibious landings to the west of Novorossiysk, behind German lines. Kharkov, two cruisers, and two other destroyers provided fire support for the main landing, but the Soviet troops there were wiped out by 6 February, although one secondary landing was successful. She bombarded German positions near Novorossiysk again on the night of 21-22 February. Anapa was bombarded on the night of 13-14 May and Feodosiya on 22-23 May.

During the night of 5-6 October 1943 Kharkov and the destroyers Besposhchadny and Sposobny bombarded Yalta, Alushta and Feodosiya and were spotted on their return voyage and attacked by Stukas of III./StG 3. Kharkov was damaged by their first attack and had to be towed by Sposobny. The second attack damaged all three ships and Sposobny took Besposhchadny under tow as well. The next attack sank both Kharkov and Besposhchadny. Sposobny was sunk by the fourth wave while trying to rescue survivors. This incident prompted Stalin to issue an order forbidding the use of ships destroyer-sized and larger without his express permission.

Displacement (tons):
Full load:3080
Dimensions (m):
Speed (knots):43,57
Range:2100 nmi at 20 knots

3 three-drum boilers, 3 geared steam turbines, 3 shafts, 66000 hp

Armament:5x1 130-mm B-13-2s guns
2x1 76,2-mm 34-K guns
2x1 45-mm 21-K guns
4x1 12,7-mm machine guns
2x4 533-mm torpedo tubes (16 53-F or 53-36 or 53-38 torpedoes)
124 Type 1908-1939 mines
30 M-1 depth charges


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