Haze Gray Photo Feature


A Soviet corvette serving the U.S. Navy

In November of 1991 the U.S. Navy received a most unusual vessel -- a Soviet-built 'TARANTUL I' class guided missile corvette. From 1992 to 1996 this vessel served the U.S. Navy, then went into retirement at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts.

This TARANTUL class corvette began life at Volodarskiy Shipyard, Rybinsk (Leningrad), USSR. Upon completion she was transferred to the East German government and placed in service as Rudolf Egelhoffer. The 540 ton craft was typical of TARANTULs transferred abroad by the Soviets; more capable versions were built for Soviet service. The corvette's main armament was two pairs of SS-N-2C "Styx" antiship missiles. She also carried a single 76.2mm (3 inch) rapid-fire gun, two AK-630M 30 mm Gatling close-in defense guns, and a launcher station for four SA-N-8 Strela man-portable SAMs. A massive gas-turbine propulsion plant gave the corvette a top speed of over 45 knots.

Upon the reunification of Germany in 1990, Rudolf Egelhoffer became the (West) German Hiddensee (P6166), the only one of five sisters to be placed in service by the reunified navy. She was transferred to the U.S. in November 1991, and was brought across the Atlantic on a heavy lift ship early in 1992. Included in the transfer were over 170 SS-N-2C 'STYX' missiles for the ship. The corvette was placed in U.S. service 14 February 1992. The craft was not assigned an official USN name, but was always known as Hiddensee.

From 1992 to 1996 Hiddensee was operated by the Naval Air Warfare Center from Solomons, Maryland; the Chesapeake was her operating area. Although acquired for use in training exercises - an afloat equivalent to the Navy's adversary or "agressor" aircraft squadrons - the craft saw little use in that role. The fleet never seemed interested in making use of the vessel's unique equipment and abilities to enhance training exercises. Hiddensee was laid up in September of 1993 owing to a lack of operating funds. She returned to service in 1994 for research and testing purposes, but her career would not last much longer. Hiddensee was deactivated for the final time on 18 April 1996, a victim of tight budgets and lack of interest in the fleet. After a short period of storage the corvette was put on display at Battleship Cove, Fall River, Massachusetts.

 [THUMBNAIL] Hiddensee underway at high speed in the Chesapeake. Her port-side SS-N-2C launchers are beside the deckhouse.

 [THUMBNAIL] Looking aft along Hiddensee's deck. The 76.2 mm gun is at center; SS-N-2C missile launchers are on either side of the deckhouse. Her 'BASS TILT' fire control radar is clearly visible atop the bridge; a 'PLANK SHAVE' search radar is at her masthead.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another view of Hiddensee's bow. Massachusetts (BB 59) is in the background.

 [THUMBNAIL] Hiddensee's stern. The two huge exhausts in the stern serve her two 12,000 horsepower gas turbine engines, used for high speed running. Two 4,000 horsepower gas turbines were provided for cruise operations; they exhaust through a small uptake aft of the mast.

 [THUMBNAIL] A view of the pilothouse and starboard-side SS-N-2C launcher. The lower missile rests on a reloading platform ahead of the launcher. The pilothouse allows very restricted visibility due to its tiny windows; manuvering one of these craft into port must have been quite a chore.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another view of the starboard SS-N-2C launcher, looking forward. The missile rests on a reloading platform. This large, cumbersome platform had to be assembled each time the missiles were reloaded; this operation must have been a slow one, unlikely to be undertaken anywhere but in port.

 [THUMBNAIL] An overhead view of the SS-N-2C missile on the reloading platform.

 [THUMBNAIL] Looking forward through the starboard-side missile launcher. A cable system for hauling the missile from the reload platform into the launcher is barely visible along the center of the tube.

 [THUMBNAIL] The port-side SS-N-2C launcher with the missile in firing position.

 [THUMBNAIL] A closer view of a dummy SS-N-2C in the port-side launcher. The propulsion motor hangs beneath the main body of the missile.

 [THUMBNAIL] Looking forward at the port-side launcher. The rocket motor and missile tailfins are clearly visible in this view.

 [THUMBNAIL] The starboard-side AK-630M 30 mm Gatling close-in defense gun. Hiddensee has two such guns, placed at the rear of the deckhouse, port and starboard.

 [THUMBNAIL] An overhead view of the port-side AK-630M Gatling gun.

 [THUMBNAIL] The SA-N-8 Strela man-portable SAM launcher. This launcher is on the corvette's fantail, between a pair of chaff launchers. The launcher is a simple affair, really nothing more than a support and aiming platform for four man-portable SAMs, equivalents to the U.S. Stinger. Two pipes have been placed in this launcher to simulate missile launch tubes.

 [THUMBNAIL] The port-side PK-16 chaff launcher on Hiddensee's fantail.

 [THUMBNAIL] Hiddensee's starboard chaff launcher, with a dummy chaff round resting atop it.

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