The fourth hull of the Kiev class was altered during construction into an improved design, intended in part to test systems planned for the forthcoming full-size CVs and CVNs.
Baku’s island being lifted into position at the Nikolayev South shipyard in 1981
Compared to her near-sisters, Baku had a much-modernized sensor fit with redesigned island, more anti-ship missiles and fewer ASW and AA weapons, newer guns, and omission of troublesome items such as the torpedo tubes. Additional processing capability was built into the “Gauntlet” system, so four targets could be engaged simultaneously. They still kept the troublesome steam propulsion system, however. The “Sky Watch” phased array was not operational when Baku commissioned and according to some sources, never was.
detail of “Sky Watch” phased array; a “Gauntlet“ VLS can be seen aft of the island and parked “Forger“
Tactical Aviation Cruiser (Kiev Class):
Classified as aviation cruisers (taktichesky avianosny kreyser), they were much closer to conventional aircraft carriers than the Moskva class. They had a large island superstructure to starboard, with an angled flight deck to port. However, unlike American carriers, the bow of the ships carried a very heavy armament fit, including the long-range, nuclear-capable P-500 Bazalt anti-ship missile, known to NATO as the SS-N-12 Sandbox. The air wing consisted of up to 22 Yakovlev Yak-38 Forger VTOL fighters and 16 Kamov Ka-25 Hormone or Ka-27 Helix helicopters. Ten of the helicopters were ASW machines, with two utility/SAR machines and four missile-guidance aircraft.