Ladies and gentlemen, captains and admirals, welcome to the weekly ship spotlight for May 14, 2019, featuring my favorite ship in history and in-game: Tashkent, the Blue Cruiser!
History of the Blue Cruiser
In the mid-1930s, the Soviet Navy felt that it was in need of better destroyers and larger, more capable ones at that. They turned to Italy for help with design: the Soviets had studied Italian naval designs before due to the fact that their navies sought to fulfill similar purposes – regional control, mainly – and many design principles from Italy's navy, like high-velocity guns, were common in Soviet Naval design.
Several designs were requested, and the Soviet Navy ultimately decided on a design by Italian shipbuilder OTO, who would construct the lead ship in their Livorno shipyard, which the Soviets would then study, tweak, and build their own versions of back in the Soviet Union. Those ships would eventually become the Kiev-class we see in-game, though none of them would be finished. The lead ship, though, would be the Tashkent.
Construction (and Juicy Details)
Tashkent was laid down in January of 1937, and launched in late December of that same year. She completed her builder's sea trials in 1938 without armament, as the Soviets were building her turrets at the time, and she reached a top speed of 43.5 knots. In May of 1939 she was delivered without armament to the Soviets, and she was officially commissioned into the VMF in 1940. At the time of her commissioning her turrets were still incomplete, and so Tashkent received a provisional armament of 3×1 130mm B-13 guns, the same ones found on the Project 7 destroyers like Gremyashchy. It was here that Tashkent completed a second round of Sea Trials, reaching a new top speed of 42.7 kts with her provisional armament and some extra ballast to compensate for the missing weight of the twin turrets. Her paint job was a flint grey-blue color on her entire hull, which was not an uncommon color in the Regia Marina. In the VMF, however, it made Tashkent stand out; hence, she received the moniker "Blue Cruiser" (or "Blue Beauty" depending on who you ask).
Tashkent was… big. Very big. Thicc, even. She had a length of 139.7 m, and a beam of about 13.7 m. Her draft was roughly 3.7 m and she displaced roughly 2890 tons at standard displacement, which jumped up to roughly 3300 tons at full load and a staggering 4230 tons at deep load, when carrying all possible fuel and ammo. These displacement numbers were excessive for a destroyer at the time; in fact, Tashkent was the largest destroyer ever built at the time. For comparison, consider that Fletcher-class destroyers and Kagero-class destroyers both displaced about 2500 tons at full load and were about 20 m shorter. And yet despite her size, Tashkent was significantly faster than most destroyers of the era (barring the Le Fantasque-class), owing to her 110,000 shaft horsepower from her powerplant, which allowed her to reach her design speed of 42.5 kts easily, and gave her a modest cruising range of 5000 nautical miles at 20 kts.
In 1941 Tashkent received the B-2LM turrets she had been so eagerly waiting for. This gave her an armament of 6x130mm guns, 3×3 533mm torpedo tubes, and with her fancy 37mm AA guns finally installed, 6×1 37mm AA guns. By June of 1941 she had to be transferred to Sevestopol to avoid the German invasion while still fixing some propulsion problems, and by August Tashkent was finally combat ready, using her main guns to bombard German positions in a naval gunfire support role, then sailing back to Sevestopol for repairs after a nasty near-miss from a German bomber.
This would be a recurring location in Tashkent's combat record: the majority of her brief career was dominated by supply runs through the German blockade of Sevestopol, anti-aircraft defense against German bombers, and naval gunfire support on land-based targets as a means of helping defend the city. She also made several convoy runs, transporting wounded soldiers and civilians out of Sevestopol, and attempting to land various land troops near the city to help defend against German forces.
End of the Line
In late June of 1942, Tashkent was making a convoy run out of Sevestopol to Novorossiysk, with 2100 wounded on-board, as part of an evacuation effort from the besieged city. However, the Germans weren't going to let her go, and just as the many trips she had made beforehand, the Germans attacked her with bombers. The Germans got lucky: Several near-misses holed Tashkent's hull multiple times, damaged her steering, and flooded her forward boiler room, causing her to take on about 1000 tons of water in total. Supposedly, she shot down two of her attackers, but nevertheless the VMF sortied a small flotilla of ships from Novorossiysk, and 1975 of her passengers were offloaded to destroyer Soobrazitelny while destroyer Bditelny took Tashkent under tow. The voyage back to Novorossiysk was uneventful, but on the 2nd of July, a group of Stukas attacked the port; this time, the pilots apparently weren't recovering from a bad hangover, and two bombs struck Tashkent, who proceeded to sink in port.
It's Alive! (Kinda)
That's not the end of the story, though. Following her sinking, the Soviet Navy decided that recycling was the cool thing to do, so two of Tashkent's B-2LM 130mm Twin Turrets were stripped, along with her twin 76.2mm AA gun mount, and transferred to the destroyer Ognevoy, who would go on to continue serving in the VMF in that Frankenstein-esque configuration for some time (similar to the stock hull of the Ognevoi we have in game), until the post-war Skoryy class was developed. Tashkent's wreck would remain in Novorossiysk for some time, and in 1943 the VMF assessed her wreck, discovering that the bombs had destroyed her boiler and turbine compartments, damaged her hull, decks, superstructure, and transverse bulkheads, and even broken her back (keel). A salvage operation began in January of 1944, and in late August the wreck was even refloated and beached on a sandbar. However, the VMF decided that repairing a ship with the structural integrity of a house of cards was perhaps a bit uneconomical, and Tashkent would remain beached on the sandbar until after the war, when her wreck was towed to Nikolayev and finally, officially, scrapped.
But How Does She Play, Reshi?
I'm glad you asked, reader! Tashkent in World of Warships is currently a T9 Destroyer found in the main VMF DD line, or the so-called "Destroyer Leader (DDL)" line, which terminates at Khabarovsk, one tier higher. The line is characterized by a focus on direct, long-range gunnery and tankiness as opposed to concealment and utility. The general playstyle of the line focuses on evasion tanking and shell-dodging while spamming HE at angled targets to slowly burn them down, switching to AP when applicable.
Tashkent fills the role beautifully. Like the Kiev before her and Khabarovsk after, Tashkent can ditch her smokescreen for a standard heal, and coupled with her beefy 20k HP pool and BBAP protection, Tashkent is incredibly difficult to kill without extreme focus fire or high-alpha torpedoes. Her gunnery complements her tankiness well: Her 3×2 130mm guns have great ballistics, a reasonable 5-second reload, and an amazing 12.7 km gun range, which can go up to 15.2 km with Advanced Firing Training. It's worth noting, not even Khabarovsk can get range that high – it can only go to 13.5 km with AFT, and even with the Legendary Mod, it only gets up to 14.7 km. Even Grozovoi only gets up to 14.8 km. The AP shell used by these 130mm guns is as stunning as always, with insanely high penetration and velocity, and once you upgrade to the B-2-U turrets, you get a better turret traverse and even higher AP penetration (and slightly higher AP alpha) than before. It's not uncommon to citadel some high-tier cruisers at 10 km range in the Tashkent and Khabarovsk, and even at the edge of your range you can reliably rack up full penetrations on broadsiding BBs and CAs. Be warned though, the Tashkent, like all other VMF DDs, does not have improved AP bounce angles or normalization, so angled targets will bounce your AP still. Luckily, your HE has a solid 8% base fire chance and if you aim for superstructure, you can still do reasonable damage.
The Tashkent also has a variety of other tricks up her sleeve. Unlike the Khabarovsk, Tashkent has 8km torpedoes, and while her best concealment (7.4 km) isn't enough to contest caps, it is enough for a small stealth-torping window. With a 69 second reload and 3×3 torpedo launchers, Tashkent can rack up torp damage surprisingly well if you get the opportunity to do so, but I wouldn't recommend building for it: your guns are still your bread and butter, and Concealment Expert on Tashkent is more of a luxury than a standard pickup. Her high speed of 42.5 kts and 6.1 second rudder shift are adequate compensation for her large size and 730 m turning circle, so as long as you keep your enemies at arms length the Tashkent is fairly capable of dodging and speed-tanking. Against other destroyers, your insane HP pool (thanks to your heal) and strong gunnery makes you a dangerous foe, so don't be afraid to engage enemy DDs in gunnery duels, even at closer ranges. Just make sure to watch out for torpedoes! Her AA is nowhere near the strength of something like Grozovoi, but it is prickly enough to at least dissuade the average T8 CV from chasing you. T10 CVs though… well I hope you're good with that rudder, friend!
Ultimately, the Tashkent is one of the more flexible variants of the VMF DD gunboat we all know of. She has better concealment and torpedoes and range than Khabarovsk, allowing her to influence the match in more ways with more offensive options, but she isn't a true hybrid of gunboat and "real DD", like the Grozovoi. She plays very similarly to Kiev and Udaloi and Khab, but with a slightly more varied toolset that allows you to capitalize on a few more opportunities that the other gunboats would otherwise have to pass up.
If You Build It, They Will Die
In accordance with this identity, her builds are somewhat flexible (but not entirely). Modules are fairly standard fare: my usual picks are Main Armaments Mod 1 or Magazine Mod 1, Propulsion Mod 1 (Speed Boost mod if you have it, for even more speed-tanking!), AA Guns Mod 1 (Aiming Systems doesn't feel necessary to me), Rudder Mod 2 or Propulsion Mod 2, Concealment Mod, and Main Battery Mod 3 (since you can't mount GFCS Range Mod). I'm no unicum, but even I know that most modules right now are fairly straightforward. Concealment is still best-in-slot, MBM3 is chosen because you can't get Range Mod and more DPM is always good, etc. Only a few slots (namely slot 4) are actually worth switching out based on personal preference.
The captain build is a little more tricky. My personal recommendations for skills (not in any particular order) include a 1-pt skill of your choice (I prefer Priority Target, but I know many people like Preventive Maintenance), Last Stand (unless you are Dolphin_Princess; he's good enough to skip LS, but I'm definitely not), SuperIntendent (extra heal), AFT (extra range, and also some AA), and Adrenaline Rush (its just so good!). From there, you have some options. BFT boosts your DPM by ~11% and is therefore always a solid choice, while Survivability Expert gives you an extra 3150 HP, boosting not just your initial HP pool, but also boosting the amount of healing you get from your Repair Party consumable (it's based on %maxHP). If you want to be able to stealth torp and you can spare the points, Concealment Expert can be pretty reasonable, and if you want to be able to HE penetrate 27mm cruiser plating you could go with IFHE (although I wouldn't recommend it; you lose fire chance, and you still aren't able to pen 30mm, so some cruisers and all BBs will shrug off your HE shells even with IFHE!). Demolition Expert is an alright pick for extra fire chance, but I find that the 2% extra fire chance isn't worth 3 points in my experience, and thus I prefer BFT to just shoot faster.
That's All, Folks!
…and there you have it! Tashkent, the Blue Cruiser, is (in my opinion) an exceptionally interesting ship historically, as well as a comfortable and fun ship in-game. I hope that this ship spotlight has inspired you to give the VMF DDs a try if you haven't, and maybe revisit the Tashkent if you have. See you on the high seas, captains!
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