‘Do svidaniya’ Admiral Kuznetsov – Russian aircraft carrier may sink

Battered by corrosion and mechanical hiccups, Russia’s solitary aircraft carrier, The Admiral Kuznetsov, finds itself in a precarious position. After a series of malfunctions, it was dry-docked in 2018 for refurbishment. The question now is whether it will ever see service again. 

Top-5-largest-warships-in-the-world-admiral-kuznetsov
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Launched in 1985, The Admiral Kuznetsov was a cornerstone of the Soviet Union’s dream of a two-carrier fleet. However, the Soviet Union’s collapse in the early 90s threw a wrench into these plans. The other prospective carrier, the Varyag, ended up being sold to China, becoming the backbone of the PLA-Navy. 

The Admiral Kuznetsov’s return would be nothing short of a miracle, considering the extensive corrosion and damage reported. Numerous news outlets have highlighted the severe erosion of the carrier’s metal structures. For instance, a recent Pravda.com article from January 2023 suggests the carrier is unfit for redeployment. The article quotes ship repairmen warning of a high risk of sinking or capsizing due to substantial corrosion, particularly below the third deck. Murky water filling the holds has further hampered detailed internal inspections. 

The same Pravda article hints at internal discord among the workers tasked with renovating The Admiral Kuznetsov. The repair process has already been marred by accidents, including a 2019 engine room fire, necessitating additional fixes. Despite these hurdles, Russia hopes to deploy The Admiral Kuznetsov for another 15 years post-refurbishment. However, given the current state of affairs, this plan seems far from certain. 

He still has a lot to give

'Do svidaniya' Admiral Kuznetsov - Russian aircraft carrier may sink
Photo by Andrei Luzik

These challenges mirror broader issues faced by Russia’s naval strategy. How far is Russia willing to go to project a formidable naval presence beyond its borders? With only one carrier, matching the US’s multi-carrier fleet seems like a pipe dream. 

That said, having a carrier, even for limited regional purposes, could still serve Russia’s interests. A refurbished Admiral Kuznetsov could potentially keep NATO allies on their toes along the Black Sea. Moreover, it could bolster Russia’s defense capabilities within its airspace from the ocean. 

Notably, Russia and Ukraine share borders with the Black Sea, where the U.S. occasionally operates warships. The ability to launch cruise missiles or fighter jets from offshore could pose a real threat to Ukraine and other NATO allies, which might explain Ukraine’s success in sinking Russian warships with land-fired missiles.

About Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier

The Admiral Kuznetsov is a Russian aircraft carrier that was commissioned in 1990. It is the only aircraft carrier in the Russian Navy and is named after Admiral Nikolai Gerasimovich Kuznetsov, who was a prominent Soviet naval commander during World War II.

'Do svidaniya' Admiral Kuznetsov - Russian aircraft carrier may sink
Photo credit: Getty Images

The carrier has a displacement of 58,500 tons and is 305 meters long. It has a maximum speed of 29 knots and a range of 8,500 nautical miles at 18 knots. The ship has a crew of approximately 1,960 personnel, including 626 officers.

The Admiral Kuznetsov is equipped with a ski-jump ramp for aircraft takeoff and arresting gear for aircraft landing. It can carry up to 41 aircraft, including Su-33 and MiG-29K fighter jets, as well as Ka-27 and Ka-31 helicopters for anti-submarine warfare and search and rescue missions.

The carrier is also armed with a variety of weapons, including 12 P-700 Granit anti-ship missiles, 24 3K95 Kinzhal surface-to-air missiles, and eight AK-630 close-in weapon systems for defense against incoming missiles and aircraft. It also has two RBU-12000 anti-submarine rocket launchers and can carry up to 2,000 tons of ammunition.

Despite its impressive technical characteristics and armament, The Admiral Kuznetsov has been plagued by technical problems and accidents throughout its service. In 2016, a MiG-29K fighter jet crashed into the Mediterranean Sea while attempting to land on the carrier, and in 2018, the carrier itself caught fire during maintenance work in the port. These incidents have raised concerns about the safety and effectiveness of The Admiral Kuznetsov and its role in the Russian Navy.

'Do svidaniya' Admiral Kuznetsov - Russian aircraft carrier may sink
Photo credit: Getty Images

Combat experience

The Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov has participated in several missions, including the Syrian civil war. In 2016, the carrier was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea to support Russian military operations in Syria. The carrier’s aircraft were used to conduct airstrikes against rebel forces in Syria.

Despite its participation in various missions, the combat experience of The Admiral Kuznetsov is limited. The carrier has never been involved in a major naval battle and has not faced any significant threats from enemy forces. Its combat experience is primarily limited to conducting airstrikes against ground targets in Syria.

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