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What is the future for Russia’s troubled aircraft carrier?

What is the future for Russia’s troubled aircraft carrier? 

Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier.jpg

Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov  "Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov"

The flagship of the Russian navy, Admiral Kuznetsov has had problems since she was first set sail from dry dock. 

When the Admiral Kuznetsov was first built, Russia had a free spending military budget during the height of the Cold War. 

However, when the fall of the Berlin Wall came and the Russian military was out of money. The expensive programs to fund futuristic planes for Admiral Kuznetsov disappeared. 

The Admiral Kuznetsov was always intended to carry vertical takeoff planes, but the technology for the planes was not and still isn’t ready for Russia. 

America went through many trials and travails getting their Osprey helicopter working and the British had a tough time getting their Harrier jet perfected. 

For instance Russia’s YAK-141 first flight was in 1987, it was cancelled in 1991. 

Officially titled the Yakovlev 141, or known as the Yak-41, is a Soviet supersonic vertical takeoff/landing fighter aircraft.

But, there are so many issues with Admiral Kuznetsov, that at this point her mere existence is not unlike Germany’s Bismarck. A show of pride for the nation. The same lack of funding that caused the Kursk disaster gave birth to the Admiral Kuznetsov situation.  

Firstly, her spare parts come from Nevskoye Planning in the Ukraine. However, Russia is currently at “war” with Ukraine. Or engaged in smaller hostilities on the border. Either way, these spare parts are not coming quickly.

Secondly, the Russian ground crew on the carrier are not trained in arrested landings. So, the Russians must use the carrier for helicopter landings or vertical airplane takeoffs.

President Dmitry Medvedev inside the hangar of Admiral Kuznetsov, behind is the Kamov Ka-27 helicopter

However, Russia’s Navy’s favorite plane, the Su-33 or the Yak are too heavy for the ski lift takeoff on the Kuznetsov. 

Sukhoi Su-33 aircraft aboard Admiral Kuznetsov during exercises in the Barents Sea in 2008.

So the Russians must choose between an abridged mission length, i.e. curbing the fuel load. Or, putting on fewer missiles and guns. So that they can lower the weight for takeoff from the carrier. 

Russian sailors lined up on deck of Admiral Kuznetsov

Admiral Kuznetsov (right) at anchor in Severomorsk, alongside new Indian Navy aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, 2012

Arrested landings are not an easy thing. The French have trouble with their carriers and send crews onto American carriers to learn how to administer the mechanisms properly. 

Carrier landings are not easy. 

America has been learning for nearly 100 years, see Rebellion’s piece on the USS Langley CV-1. 

Furthermore, the Admiral Kuznetsov has unreliable engines and has to venture with a tugboat accompanying her. So that she can be towed back to Russia when she fails. 

Admiral Kuznetsov docked in PD-50 (2006)

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