After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia inherited a large aircraft carrier and it remains to this day.
In the past, the Soviet Union devoted much effort to developing aircraft carriers early on, but a lack of resources and a military philosophy that emphasized the importance of land power made serious investment an impossibility. During the Cold War, the Soviet Navy’s first successes were the Moscow and Leningrad, a pair of helicopter carriers designed primarily for anti-submarine warfare. These ships, displacing 17,000 tons, can carry 18 helicopters each.
Moscow entered service in 1967, and Leningrad in 1969. The Moskvas-class ships were succeeded by the Kiev-class cruisers, closer to actual carriers. With a displacement of 45,000 tons, the four Kiev-class ships can carry 30 helicopters and Yak-38 vertical take-off and landing aircraft. These ships ended their careers when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, some were scrapped, some were bought by Chinese businessmen as floating casinos; and one last, refurbished and sold to India as the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya.
During the 1980s, the Soviet Union built the first two real aircraft carriers, and one of them is the only aircraft carrier in the Russian Navy today, and was renamed Admiral Kuznetsov. The other was sold to China as scrap, and China repaired the Liaoning. The Kuznetsov aircraft carrier has a displacement of about 60,000 tons, can carry 40 helicopters and 25 MiG-29K and Su-33 jet fighters. Like previous Russian aircraft carriers, the Kuznetsov is also armed with heavy anti-ship missiles, making it an aircraft carrier with all-round defensive capabilities.
However, incidents have occurred consecutively with the Kuznetsov during its operation, especially serious problems with the engine. The reason is attributed to lack of operating funds; But according to analysis, the main reason is that the Russian Navy has no experience in operating aircraft carriers. In 2016, the Admiral Kuznetsov participated in a number of combat operations for two months in the Syrian battlefield. Although it was not long, but Kuznetsov lost two fighters to the accident – a MiG-29K and a Su-33.
To support Kuznetsov, Russia attempted to purchase a pair of French Mistral helicopter amphibious assault ship; but Russia’s annexation of Crimea forced France to cancel the contract. Currently, Kuznetsov is seen only as a warship for influence and prestige, rather than combat ability. During the Soviet era, many aircraft carrier projects were canceled because of disagreement on development strategies. So did the Russian Navy. At one point, President Dmitri Medvedev suggested that Russia would build and operate six aircraft carriers by 2025; Obviously, that’s not happening at all.
Currently, the Russian Navy plans to build the Project 23000E Shtorm aircraft carrier, a 100,000-ton nuclear-powered super-carrier. It will be equipped with Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and many other modern technologies. But surely for many years to come, Russia will not be able to build such a ship.