Former Soviet military equipment can’t be found just anywhere in North America, although I wish the opposite were true! Fortunately, I found myself at Battleship Cove in Massachusetts over the summer of 2012, and there I toured the former Soviet missile corvette Hiddensee. What an amazing experience that was- I was beyond excited and felt so fortunate.
The Hiddensee was laid down in 1984 in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and was used by East Germany until German reunification in 1990. After serving with the German Navy, she was transferred to the US who used her for several years before eventually decommissioning her and turning her into a museum ship at Battleship Cove. A Tarantul-class vessel, the Hiddensee is a missile corvette fitted with P-15 Termit anti-ship missiles, and gas turbine engines that propel her to 42 knots (48 miles per hour to land-lubbers).
The port side of the Hiddensee
The Hiddensee’s starboard side
It was fascinating to examine the anti-ship launchers on board the Hiddensee. She is equipped with four; there is one dual launcher on each side of the deck. Visitors get to walk right past these towering launchers, and can examine a loaded missile at close quarters. This was fantastic! P-15 missiles are pretty massive, and it was so interesting to see one and its entire launcher system up close.
The rear of the starboard launcher, with a missile inside
The inside of the launcher was so cavernous that I could have crawled inside!
The fins of the missile, which stabilize its flight- a flight that can cover as much as 50 miles
The lights on this panel beside the launcher are labelled (from left to right) “LOADING”, “STOP”, and “UNLOADING”. Presumably, each would be illuminated at the appropriate time
The rail off which the missile is launched
The starboard launcher seen from atop the superstructure
Despite the impressive propensity for destruction of the four P-15 launchers, they are not the Hiddensee’s only armament. Towards the bow of the vessel, one finds its main gun; an AK-176. This very capable 76 mm gun was capped with an ornamental Soviet star- a touch which I appreciated!
The Hiddensee’s main gun, which can shoot down missiles and attain a rate of fire of 120 rounds per minute
The stern of the Hiddensee was also well-defended, with several launchers of various types. I was thrilled to see that one of them appeared to be a Strela launcher, something I knew from Call of Duty: Black Ops.
An AK-630 Gatling-type turret menacingly faces the USS Massachusetts
Mounted Strela launchers protect the stern of the Hiddensee
These launchers fire 22-pound surface-to-air missiles
PK-16 chaff launcher; this weapon launches countermeasures against incoming missiles or radar
Below deck, the Hiddensee only got more captivating! Everything was very well-preserved and most parts of the vessel were accessible to visitors.
The stairs leading below
A plaque featuring information on the Hiddensee’s heritage
I believe this was the officers’ mess. I was intrigued by the various flags in this room
Part of a control room below deck
This room was cramped, utilitarian, and filled with hundreds of dials, gauges, and switches
The bridge was also open to visitors, and it was very spartan indeed! Apart from a few controls and fittings, it was empty. Visibility from the small square windows was also quite poor, and I would feel very remote and caged up if I were captain of this corvette.
The dark, vacant interior of the bridge
My favourite thing about the Hiddensee was something that I really did not expect to see. Since she was built in Leningrad as a Soviet vessel, all her controls and fittings were labelled in Russian! As soon as I went below and realized that, I was elated and took what must have been to my family an annoyingly long time browsing and photographing everything. But I couldn’t help it! I began studying the Russian language on my own initiative and direction in 2008, and so I was thrilled to see Russian (that only I could read and understand!) on the Hiddensee. It felt a bit like an inside joke, and it made touring this vessel extra special for me.
A signal board was one of the first things I saw that had Russian on it. It seemed strange that, although English labels had been added, no one had bothered to remove the Russian ones
Almost everything was either bilingually labelled…
…or in some cases, trilingually (though with an error in the Russian part)!
Engine controls in the bridge
Dials for engine temperature
One of my favourite touches in the whole vessel- the leftmost Cyrillic says “Made in USSR”
Part of the rocket control panel- so complex!
This notice on the wall below deck was neat; it outlined three types of signals and their respective meanings. A ‘drumming’ of strokes denotes a fire in the compartment; a series of two strokes means the compartment is flooding; and a series of three strokes means all must leave the compartment.
I seem to have made this post excessively long, but I really just can’t contain my excitement when it comes to Soviet military stuff! I couldn’t when I was touring the Hiddensee, and I can’t any better now. I’ll finish with a few final pictures of this fascinating missile corvette, and with a heartfelt recommendation: go and visit Battleship Cove and the Hiddensee! She may be the smallest museum vessel there, but she is the most unique and interesting. Touring her was one of the most noteworthy experiences I’ve had, and I will without a doubt remember it forever.
The angular and modestly-proportioned bridge
The Hiddensee may now fly an American flag, but her soul is still visibly Soviet!
The starboard side of the bow
Compact, heavily-armed, and a relic of Russia’s Soviet era, the Hiddensee is beautiful and truly enthralling!