Russia's Forgotten Super-Ship In Black Sea: BORA Class Hovercraft
At the end of the Cold War the Soviet Union fielded an array of mechanically impressive 'super ships'. These included the world's largest submarines (TYPHOON and OSCAR-II Classes), the Kirov Class battlecruiser and Lun Class Ekranoplan. In the missile corvette category they build several impressive ships. But the most impressive of all, was the Bora Class.
Despite its unique design and capabilities, we haven't heard much about it since. It never captured the popular imagination. But this but is a very interesting design. It is the most powerful missile boat design of the Cold War.
Only two Pr. 1239 built, both now based in Sevastopol, Crimea. They are relevant during the war in Ukraine.
A unique design
It is described as a hovercraft, or surface effect ship (SES). At first glance it looks like a catamaran. But hovercraft skirts rotate down between the hulls both fore and aft. When deployed they create an air cushion but with hard sides formed by the catamaran hulls.
When the skirts are retracted they are behind protective flaps. This means that they are not always obvious to the observer.
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Normally it is driven by two conventional fixed screws which protrude below the keel. But it has two sets of extra screws (propellers) which fold down when it is in 'hovercraft' mode. These are in a pusher-puller configuration, loosely resembling a hydrofoil.
Although the Bora's displacement was modest, reportedly about 1,050 tonnes, it was physically very large. It dwarfs the Tarantul class missile corvettes and even the newer Buyan class ships.
When running on the air cushion it is extremely quick for a 1,000 tonne ship, capable of 55 knots (102 km/h, 63 mph).
Since the Bora class there have been several other SES designs used as missile boats. The Norwegian Skjold class and North Korean Nongo classes.
The primary armament is 8 x 3M-80E "Moskit", aka SS-N-22 SUNBURN supersonic anti-ship missiles. Really impressive weapons, famous in the 1990s. The missile has a range of about 65 nm (120 km) and can reach Mach 2. Some sources report these specifications higher.
This is the same armament as the Sovremenny Class destroyer, and is much heavier than other fast attack craft (FACs). Moskit was also the armament of another later Cold war super weapon, the Lun Class Ekranoplan.
As well as anti-ship missiles and guns, it has an SA-N-4 GECKO SAM (surface to air missile) launcher at the stern. This is in a twin-rail launcher which is retracted when not in use. Two AK-630 30mm anti-aircraft guns are also fitted, one fore and one aft. Soft-kill countermeasures are carried.
The end of the Cold War put paid to any plans for a fleet of these unusual vessels. One had already been launched, in 1987, and a second one was well on the way. That boat took until 2000 before it was commissioned.
The two were built are both based in Sevastopol, Crimea. One, Samum (616) is believed to have been active during the Ukraine War. Here it is exercising just before the invasion. It is heading away from the camera. The two boats in the foreground are Raptor assault boats and a Ropucha Class landing ship is in the background:
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