Uragan-class guard ship

Vikhr' during the mid-1930s
Class overview
Name: Uragan
Operators:  Soviet Navy
Succeeded by: Yastreb class
Subclasses: Series I, II, III, IV
Built: 1927—1938
In service: 1931—1959
Completed: 18
Lost: 4
General characteristics (Uragan (1931))
Type: Guard ship
  • 457 tonnes (450 long tons; 504 short tons) (standard)
  • 629 tonnes (619 long tons; 693 short tons) (full load)
Length: 71.5 m (234 ft 7 in)
Beam: 7.4 m (24 ft 3 in)
Draught: 2.6 m (8 ft 6 in)
  • 2-shaft geared steam turbines
  • 2 watertube boilers
  • 7,200 shp (5,400 kW) (trials)
Speed: 26.5 knots (49.1 km/h; 30.5 mph) (trials)
Endurance: 1,500 nmi (2,780 km) at 14 knots (26 km/h)
Complement: 90 men

The Uragan-class guard ships were built for the Soviet Navy as small patrol and escort ships. Eighteen were built in the 1930s and served during World War II in all four of the Soviet Fleets: Baltic, Black Sea, Northern and Pacific. Four were lost during the war and the rest remained in service until the late 1950s in various secondary roles. The official Soviet designation was Project 2, Project 4 and Project 39, but they were nicknamed the "Bad Weather Flotilla" by Soviet sailors by virtue of their meteorological names.


By the mid-1920s the Soviet Navy wanted to replace the few old Tsarist torpedo boats that it had left acting as guard ships. The initial requirement was for a ship not to exceed 300 long tons (300 t), armed with two old 4-inch (100 mm) guns, three 450 mm (18 in) torpedo tubes and could carry mines as necessary. It was to be powered by four Beardmore 6,000 shaft horsepower (4,500 kW) diesel engines imported from the United Kingdom, but this plan was thwarted by Soviet financial support for the miners during the 1926 United Kingdom general strike. The preliminary designs had to be revised for steam propulsion, a task greatly complicated by the break in Soviet ship construction between 1917 and 1924 when no ships, naval or commercial, had been built and many experienced naval architects had either fled the country, found new jobs, or were politically suspect and not allowed to work. It proved impossible to work within the 300-ton limit with steam turbines and the tonnage limit was increased to 350 tons when the Navy approved the preliminary design on 26 November 1926. Detailed design of the ship and its power plant was assigned to the Zhandov Shipyard in Leningrad. They proposed two alternative steam pressure power plants; one low-pressure (20 atm (20 bar)) and one at 35–40 atm (35–41 bar). The Navy rejected the high-pressure design and ordered studies evaluating "a three-shaft combined power plant with 2-shaft geared turbines plus 1-shaft diesel engine for cruising, diesel-electric, and diesel."[1] These were rejected and the original two-shaft turbine power plant was selected. At the same time it became clear that the new 350 ton limit was also inadequate and 400 tons would be needed. The twelfth design was approved on 23 June 1927 as the Project 2.[2]

General characteristics

The Uragan-class ships displaced 457 tonnes (450 long tons; 504 short tons) at standard load and 629 tonnes (619 long tons; 693 short tons) at full load. They were 71.5 m (234 ft 7 in) long overall, had a beam of 7.4 m (24 ft) and at full load a draft of 2.6 m (8.5 ft). The ships had 14 main watertight compartments and a double bottom only underneath the machinery and boiler rooms. The riveted hull used the typical Russian framing method of longitudinal framing for the bulk of the hull and traverse framing for the ends.[1]

Shtorm in a moderate sea during the 1930s. Note how wet her main deck was

The Uragans proved to be heavier than designed and had only a meter of freeboard aft, which made their main deck almost permanently wet in any kind of sea. Their stability was also less than optimum as they were top-heavy and they were almost 6 knots (11 km/h; 6.9 mph) slower than designed. In their intended role they "were complete failures — they were too slow for use as torpedo boats and of no value as ASW vessels because of their lack of depth charge handling equipment and underwater detection devices".[3]


The power plant was two three-drum watertube boilers and two geared turbines, each driving one shaft. It was arranged on a unit basis, with alternate boiler and engine rooms in pairs, so that a single hit could not disable both boilers or both turbines. Each boiler had a nominal capacity of 20-tons/hour of superheated steam at a pressure of 21 atmospheres and a temperature of 210 °C (410 °F). Each turbine set consisted of one high-speed turbine and a low-speed turbine. The latter had an astern turbine housed in its casing, all driving the same shaft. The total power was designed to be 7,500 shaft horsepower (5,600 kW), but this figure wasn't reached in practice. Each shaft drove a three-bladed bronze propeller for a designed speed of 29 knots (54 km/h; 33 mph), although this too wasn't reached in practice. The normal oil capacity was 48 long tons (49 t) which gave an endurance of 700 nmi (1,300 km) at full speed or 1,500 nmi (2,780 km) at 14 knots (26 km/h). The maximum amount of fuel that could be carried was 160 long tons (160 t).[4]

Two 30 kW turbo-generators supplied the 115 volt electrical systems of the Uragans. One 11 kW auxiliary generator was carried; it was powered by an Izhora-type 20 horsepower (15 kW) kerosene engine.[5]


Two single 4-inch (100 mm) guns were carried in open pivot mounts as the ship's main armament. Each gun had a magazine with a capacity of two hundred rounds underneath it, although only the one on the forecastle had a hoist. The ammunition for the rear mount had to be hand-carried. Three single Vickers 2 pounder pom-poms and three 12.7 mm (0.50 in) machine guns were intended as the anti-aircraft armament, but deteriorating relations with the United Kingdom prevented the Soviets from buying any of these weapons. Most ships completed without any AA guns as the Soviets needed some time to develop their own equivalent AA guns.[5]

A triple 450 mm (18 in) torpedo tube mount was fitted between the funnels. Up to fifty mines or depth charges could be carried using mine rails mounted on the main deck. No sonar was fitted so dropping depth charges was largely an act of futility. Two K-1 minesweeping paravanes were fitted on the main deck after the design was finalized. They were served by a trawl winch and a jib crane mounted on the stern.[5]

One 2-metre (6 ft 7 in) rangefinder was mounted above the open bridge and a 1-metre (3 ft 3 in) searchlight was fitted on a small platform abaft the rear funnel.[5]


A total of eighteen Uragan-class guard ships were planned, but Soviet shipbuilding capacity was inadequate to begin them all at once. Series I was intended as a group of six to be built at the Zhandov Shipyard in Leningrad and Series II was to consist of two ships constructed at the Marti Shipyard in Nikolayev to that shipyard's variant of the basic design which received the designation of Project 4. The construction of this class was to prove to be a series of problems including design flaws, lack of shipbuilding capacity and a poorly designed and built power plant that was delivered two years after the first ships were launched.[6]

Prefabrication of the hulls began even before the final design was approved and proved to be a major mistake as the strength analysis of the longitudinal joints in the hull proved to be severely flawed and construction was suspended until the end of November 1927 when new blueprints were issued. No slipways were available at the Zhandov Yard until three were finished in May 1928, having only begun construction at the end of 1927, and the assembly of the hulls of the first three Series I ships began shortly afterwards. The other three slipways were completed by July and the other three ships began assembly as the slipways were finished.[7] The hull of Uragan was completed within ten weeks after the keel was laid, although the other ships were built a more normal pace. "Possibly she was built to gain as much experience as possible."[8]

Although Uragan was launched on 4 September 1928 she didn't receive her power plant for another almost another two years. The ability of Soviet industry to deliver precision machinery like turbine gears was greatly overestimated by the Navy and the gears for the first eight ships had to be imported from Germany to have any chance of completion in a timely manner. The first boiler design proved unsatisfactory during preliminary testing in late 1928 and early 1929 and a second design was tested later in 1929 and into 1930. Even this new design wasn't entirely satisfactory as it proved to be impossible to force its output above the specified limits, but it was approved for use in the Uragans when an improved model would have taken at least another year put into production.[9]

Uragan was accepted on 16 December 1930 for sea trials. She proved to be heavier than estimated and had only a 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) of freeboard aft, which made her main deck very wet in almost any kind of moderate sea. She was also top-heavy which reduced her stability and sea-keeping abilities. She was proved capable of 26.5 knots (49.1 km/h; 30.5 mph) during her trials, but 23 knots (43 km/h; 26 mph) was her normal top speed. This was primarily because her boilers had been designed only deliver enough steam for her turbines, nothing was in reserve to power her steam-driven auxiliary machinery. And since her turbines drew 5-6% more steam than specified and her auxiliary machinery had to be powered there simply wasn't enough steam to power her turbines at their designed output. For trials they produced 7,200 shp (5,400 kW), but a more realistic output was 6,400 shp (4,800 kW) in normal use. Uragan was finally commissioned on 12 September 1931, two years after her intended delivery date, the first Soviet-built surface warship.[3]

After Uragan was commissioned four more ships were laid down for service in the Far East, two each at Leningrad and Nikolayev. They were built in sections and transported by the end of 1933 to the Dalzavod Shipyard in Vladivostok for assembly. The four Series III ships were laid down in 1934, three at the Zhandov Yard and one at the Marti Yard. One ship from each shipyard were sent to the Far East. Sources differ if these ships were simply repeats of the Series I ships or if they had been improved in detail and known as Project 39.[10] These changes were fairly minor, other than some improvements to the turbines that it was hoped would increase speed by a knot or so. The two ships of Series IV definitely had the improvements and were built at Leningrad for service with the Baltic Fleet.[11]


The minesweeping paravanes were fitted on each ship shortly after completion and further contributed to their overweight problem. By the mid-1930s two semi-automatic 45 mm anti-aircraft gun (21-K) and three or four 12.7 mm DShK AA machine guns were being fitted. Normally the 45 mm guns were mounted fore and aft of the rear 4 inch gun with two machine guns flanking the latter, although some ships mounted one 45 mm gun in front of the forward 4-inch gun with one machine gun on each side of the bridge. As each ship was refitted for the first time its bridge was enclosed. The rear mast was removed during the war.[11]

Their anti-aircraft armament was further increased as a result of lessons learned during the Winter War. Most ships in European waters received two single mounts for the fully automatic 37 mm AA gun before Operation Barbarossa, one on each side of the bridge. Sometimes these replaced the 45 mm guns. During the war gun shields were added to the 4-inch guns from 1942 and most ships exchanged one 45 mm for a 37 mm gun and an extra machine gun or two. Smerch landed both of her 4-inch guns and received one new 100 mm (3.9 in) B-52 gun on the forecastle with one 76.2 mm (3.00 in) anti-aircraft gun mounted in front of it and three 76.2 mm AA guns replaced the rear 4-inch gun. All of these additions did nothing to improve their stability and top-weight problems.[12]


Series I (Project 2)
Ship Builder Laid down Launched Commissioned Fate
Uragan (Ураган - Hurricane) Zhdanov, Leningrad 13 August 1927 4 September 1928 12 September 1931 Broken-up 1959
Taifun (Тайфун - Typhoon) Zhdanov, Leningrad 13 August 1927 1 June 1929 14 September 1931 Stricken 1959
Smerch (Смерч - Whirlwind) Zhdanov, Leningrad 13 August 1927 22 July 1929 13 September 1932 Sunk 8 December 1942, but later raised
Tsiklon (Циклон - Cyclone) Zhdanov, Leningrad 13 August 1927 28 November 1929 3 July 1932 Sunk 28 August 1941
Vikhr' (Вихрь - Vortex) Zhdanov, Leningrad 13 August 1927 12 October 1930 12 September 1932 Sunk 21 September 1941, but later raised
Groza (Гроза - Thunderstorm) Zhdanov, Leningrad 13 August 1927 22 September 1930 22 July 1932 Scrapped 1959
Metel' (Метель - Driftstorm) (Zhdanov, Leningrad) 18 December 1931 15 June 1934 18 November 1934 Training ship 1945
V'yuga (Вьюга - Snowblast) (Zhdanov, Leningrad) 26 December 1931 5 July 1934 18 November 1934 Training ship 1945
Series II (Project 4)
Shkval (Шквал - Squall) Marti, Nikolayev 24 September 1927 1 July 1929 13 October 1932 Stricken 1959
Shtorm (Шторм - Storm) Marti, Nikolayev 24 September 1927 1 September 1929 5 March 1932 Stricken 1959
Buran (Буран - Blizzard) (Marti, Nikolayev) 22 April 1932 27 September 1934 7 October 1935 Stricken 1959
Grom (Гром - Thunder) (Marti, Nikolayev) 17 June 1932 22 September 1934 22 July 1935 Stricken 1959
Series III (Project 2)
Burya (Буря - Gale) Zhdanov, Leningrad June 1934 November 1935 27 October 1936 sunk 24 August 1942
Molniya (Молния - Lightning) (Zhdanov, Leningrad) 23 March 1934 24 November 1934 20 September 1936 Stricken 1959
Purga (Пурга - Snowstorm) Zhdanov, Leningrad June 1934 November 1935 4 September 1936 Sunk 1 September 1942, but later raised
Zarnitsa (Зарница - Distance Lightning) (Marti, Nikolayev) 21 March 1934 6 November 1934 6 November 1936 Stricken 1959
Series IV (Project 39)
Sneg (Снег - Snow) Zhdanov, Leningrad 27 April 1935 14 July 1936 25 September 1938 sunk 28 August 1941
Tucha (Туча - Thundercloud) Zhdanov, Leningrad 27 April 1935 20 October 1936 25 September 1938 Stricken 1959

Ships with their shipyard in parentheses were built in sections and shipped to the Dalzavod Shipyard in Vladivostok for assembly.


Uragan, Smerch and Groza were sent to the Northern Flotilla via the newly opened White Sea-Baltic Canal in 1933. To lighten the ships for passage through shallows their armament was removed, along with much of the moveable deck equipment, and carried in barges that followed the ships.[13] During the Lake Khasan Border Incident with the Japanese in the summer of 1938 Metal' carried wounded to Vladivostok and escorted three convoys carrying troops and supplied to Posyet Bay, fortunately without interference by the Imperial Japanese Navy.

As part of the effort to pressure the Baltic States into accepting Soviet troops they staged an incident in Narva Bay by sinking the tanker Metallist on 26 September 1939. The sinking was then blamed on the Polish submarine Orzeł which, however, was en route to the United Kingdom at the time.[14] "According to Finnish information (based on statements made by a Soviet Prisoner of war) Metallist was sunk by Tucha (with loss of life) after being missed by the submarine Shch 303 to give the Soviets an excuse to claim rights to defend Estonian waters."[15] The Estonians capitulated to Soviet demands a few days later.

During the Winter War Burya, Vikhr', Sneg and Purga provided fire support as the Soviets conducted landings on the small Finnish-held islands in the Gulf of Finland. Groza helped to transport the 104th Rifle Division to occupy Liinakhamari and provided fire support when Petsamo was occupied between 30 November and 2 December 1939.[15]

World War II

Northern Fleet

When the Germans invaded Uragan was laid up pending replacement parts for her turbines from Leningrad. They didn't arrive before the city was cut off and she therefore remained laid up until late 1944 after Leningrad had been liberated. Her sisters were quite active early in the campaign providing fire support for Soviet troops defending the Zapadnaya Litsa River and the Rybachy Peninsula.[16] But things were much quieter for most of the rest of the war although Smerch was sunk while on trials after a refit on 8 December 1942. However, she was later raised and repaired although it took until Autumn 1944 before she was recommissioned. Groza was laid up pending repairs from 1943 until 1945.[17]

Baltic Fleet

Sneg and Tucha accompanied a force of seven destroyers in a failed attempt to intercept a German convoy off the Daugava River estuary on 13 July 1941. Burya, Sneg and Tsiklon were assigned to the rear guard during the Soviet evacuation of Tallinn and laid mines in the harbor approaches before departing: on their mines (barrage 26-A) was sunk the Finnish coastal defence ship Ilmarinen, during Operation Nordwind, scoring one of the best successes of the Soviet Navy against an enemy major warship. However Sneg and Tsiklon hit mines themselves in the Axis-laid minefield off Cape Juminda and sink during the night of 28—29 August.[18] Vikhr' was sunk by German bombers on 21 September and Taifun badly damaged two days later. Purga was sunk in Lake Ladoga by German bombers on 1 September 1942, but she was raised in 1943 and cannibalized to repair Vikhr', but she herself was eventually repaired and returned to service in 1944. Burya ran into an Axis minefield when attempting to bombard Finnish positions on Suursaari Island and was sunk on 24 August 1942.[17]

Black Sea Fleet

Shtorm had been laid up for repairs to her engines at Sevastopol since March 1939 and the repairs were not fully complete by 30 November 1941 when the Germans began their initial attacks on the city. Shtorm and Shkval escorted the tugs evacuating all of the ships either damaged or under repair to ports in the Caucasus and returned a number of times escorting convoys carrying men and material for the defense of Sevastopol. Shtorm provided gunfire support during the Kerch-Feodosiya Operation on 29 December 1941. Both ships ferried troops and supplies to Novorossisk and Tuapse during 1942 as well evacuating the wounded. Shtorm's refit was finally completed in June 1942. Both ships supported Soviet landings near Novorossisk during 1943 with gunfire and supplies, but they were both worn-out by the end of the year. Shtorm was active again in 1944 (escort duty) but was torpedoed by the German submarine U-9, however she did not sunk and was towed in port.[17][19]

Pacific Fleet

Guard ship Metel' on the postage stamp. Russian Post, 2013.

During the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in August 1945 V'yuga and Metel' supported amphibious operations by the 25th Army along the eastern coast of Korea while Zarnitsa supported operations on Sakhalin Island.[20]


Little is known about the detailed history of the Uragans after the end of the war although it appears that most became training ships shortly afterwards. Smerch was turned over to DOSAAF in 1950 as a training ship and transferred to the Caspian Sea in 1951. It appears that most were disposed of during the mid to late 1950s although sources differ and lack details.[20]


  1. 1 2 Budzbon and Lemachko, p. 143
  2. Budzbon and Lemachko, pp. 140-3
  3. 1 2 Budzbon and Lemachko, p. 199
  4. Budzbon and Lemachko, pp. 143-4
  5. 1 2 3 4 Budzbon and Lemachko, p. 144
  6. Budzbon and Lemachko, pp. 144-5, 198-9
  7. Budzbon and Lemachko, pp. 144-5
  8. Budzbon and Lemachko, p. 145
  9. Budzbon and Lemachko, pp. 144, 198
  10. Breyer, p. 187
  11. 1 2 Budzbon and Lemachko, p. 201
  12. Breyer, p. 189
  13. Budzbon and Lemachko, p. 202
  14. Polmar, Norman; Jurrien Noot (1991). Submarines of the Russian and Soviet navies, 1718-1990. Naval Institute Press. p. 95. ISBN 0-87021-570-1.
  15. 1 2 Budzbon and Lemachko, p. 203
  16. Budzbon and Lemachko, p. 292
  17. 1 2 3 Whitley, p. 241
  18. Rohwer, pp. 86, 95
  19. http://uboat.net/allies/merchants/ships/3247.html
  20. 1 2 Budzbon and Lemachko, p. 297


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