Despite being regarded as the second most naval power in the world, Russia has only one active aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov.

As we all know, one of the symbols of the strength of the US military – the world’s leading military superpower – is the carrier force. While US aircraft carrier fleets are widely known, Russian aircraft carriers and their fleets are quietly. Despite being regarded as the second most naval power in the world, Russia has only one active aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov.

Learn about “Admiral Kuznetsov” – the only Russian aircraft carrier in service

After World War II and during the Cold War, due to the experience of manufacturing and using experience from the Pacific War, the United States possessed a significant number of aircraft carriers. In comparison with the US, the Soviet Union did not have enough potential and experience to use this modern naval weapons line. Aware of the dangers of carrier fleets, the Russians had to find their own naval strategy: Use nuclear submarines with long-range anti-ship cruise missiles to attack, and the other surface warships in the payroll are mainly for defense, defend the sovereignty, patrol, etc.

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74)  conducts operations in the North Arabian Sea.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) conducts operations in the North Arabian Sea.

However, due to the superiority of the aircraft carrier in multitasking, the Soviet Navy also began to develop its own aircraft carriers. They place a greater emphasis on defense and independent combat ability than merely floating bases like US and Western aircraft carriers. A typical model for the Soviet aircraft carrier doctrine is the heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser of Project 11435. The two ships of this type still exist today: the Russian-owned Kuznetsov and was intended to be the lead ship of the two-ship Kuznetsov class. However, its sister ship Varyag was still incomplete when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The second hull was eventually sold by Ukraine to the People’s Republic of China, completed in Dalian and commissioned as Liaoning.

The Varyag was still incomplete when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991
The Varyag was still incomplete when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991

The Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, is a fixed-wing aircraft carriers, originally designed for the Soviet Navy. The ship was built at the South Nikolayev shipyard on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast in 1985 but it was not officially operational until 1995.

While most Western and US aircraft carriers are equipped with nuclear engines to ensure unlimited combat capability, Kuznetsov is equipped with eight boilers and four steam turbines, each producing 50,000 horsepower, driving four shafts with fixed-pitch propellers. With such equipment, Kuznetsov is capable of reaching a maximum speed of 29 knots and her range at maximum speed is 3,800 nautical miles. At 18 knots, her maximum economical range is 8,500 nautical miles.

Most of the Soviet navy's warships are heavily armed with artillery, anti-aircraft missiles of various ranges to enhance their ability to cope with aerial threats.
Most of the Soviet navy’s warships are heavily armed with artillery, anti-aircraft missiles of various ranges to enhance their ability to cope with aerial threats.

In the original project specifications, the ship should be able to carry up to 33 fixed-wing aircraft and 12 helicopters . The primary aircraft carried are Su-khoi Su-33 fighters, naval variants of the Su-khoi Su-27 Flanker. Kamov Ka-27 naval utility helicopters and its subsequent variants make up the helicopter wing, providing anti-submarine, maritime patrol and naval assault mobility capabilities. In addition the Kamov Ka-52K “Katran” attack helicopter, naval variant of the Kamov Ka-50, can also be included amongst its air wing. The Admiral Kuznetsov do not carries any airborne early warning aircraft. Instead it uses Ka-31 airborne early warning helicopters. It also lacks dedicated electronic warfare and defense suppression aircraft, that are used on the US carriers.

the ship should be able to carry up to 33 fixed-wing aircraft and 12 helicopters
The ship should be able to carry up to 33 fixed-wing aircraft and 12 helicopters

Kuznetsov carrier has a crew of 1,600 sailors. But unlike U.S. carriers, the Kuznetsov was built as a defense carrier. The heavy surface armament makes Kuznetsov different from other countries’ aircraft carriers, which carry only defensive armament and rely on their aircraft for strike power.

The Kuznetsov is armed with 12 P-700 Granit anti-ship cruise missiles housed in silos underneath its flight deck, a Kinzhal air defense missile system armed with about 200 anti-air missiles, one Udav-1 anti-torpedo multiple launch rocket system, and eight Kashtan air defense systems.

For long-range air defense, Kuznetsov carries 24 vertical launchers for Tor missile system surface-to-air missiles with 192 missiles. For close-range air defense, the ship carries eight Kashtan Close-in weapon system mounts. Each mount has two launchers for 9M311 surface to air missiles, twin GSh-30 30mm rotary cannons, and a radar director. The ship also carries six AK-630 30mm rotary cannons in single mounts. For defense against underwater attack, the ship carries the UDAV-1 Anti-submarine warfare rocket launcher.

Helicopter takes off from Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier

During a major overhaul set to begin in September 2017, the P-700 tubes will be replaced with new vertical launch tubes capable of housing newer Kalibr and P-800 Oniks cruise missiles. Air defense upgrades will include replacement of the Kashtan Close-in weapon system with the Panstyr-M and the 3K95 Tor system with the Poliment-Redut system.
According to The National Interest, the end of the Soviet Union “also meant the collapse of funding for the carrier project,” leaving the Kuznetsov to languish without substantial upgrades. The Kuznetsov is set to return to service in 2021, but it may take longer.

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