Cruising ominously above the skies of the world, looking down on its foes from a vantage point that assures it mastery of all it surveys, the Tu-348 Kirov Gunship is the crowning achievement of the Russian aviation industry. A leviathan rigid airship larger than almost any other military craft save an aircraft carrier, the Kirov’s unique design ensures the protection of the vast and empty Russian frontiers with the heaviest aerial firepower ever devised since the advent of the nuclear bomber.
Devised by young Tupolev engineer Andrei Tatarinoff, and named after his home city, the Kirov Gunship revolutionises the concept of air support with its twin heavy cannon turrets and a full-sized landing pad for the recovery, repair and maintenance of helicopter gunships that can be based off the flying behemoth. It also sports two giant radar panels on the sides of its mammoth helium gasbags; with its almost limitless endurance thanks to a series of radioisotope thermal generators and boosted turbine intakes, the Tu-348 was envisioned as the perfect airborne early warning platform. While the extra power required can only be spared from the lift engines for so long, the Kirov can survey a vast area with its ability to conduct a powerful radar sweep.
Initially devised only as an indirect AWACS and logistics platform for aircraft, trials revealed the potential of giving it armament for the direct fire support of friendly ground troops in its theatre of operations as well. The two triple 130mm gun turrets dispense powerful laser-guided shells from their lofty perch, devastating vehicles, infantry, emplacements and naval units alike with mere handfuls of salvos. An armament of air-to-air missile launchers was investigated, but with the craft already breaking weight – and expense – records around the world, it was decided instead to allow the craft it was designed to service, helicopters and VTOL-capable fighters, fend off airborne attackers for it. The use of thick, fire-retardant fabrics for the gasbags and the installation of a unique self-sealing mechanism in the form of an internal polymer spray unit made the Tu-348 more durable than an airship had any right to be.
The cost, of course, of a giant airship with multiple gun turrets, giant radar systems, an aircraft support base and high durability, was speed. Airships are not known as speed demons at the best of times, and though the Kirov utilises an extensive lift array there is simply too much mass for the drive units to propel the craft to a considerable velocity. However, commanders that procure the Kirov will hardly regret their choice once their foes begin to disintegrate under the shattering bombardment of one of these almost invincible monsters, dispensing heavy shells from its automatic loaders across any terrain.
Earth shattering lore by JB.
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