The only Russian aircraft carrier cannot attack Ukraine (and will never be able to leave again)
Where is the cursed Russian aircraft carrier? : Earlier this month, the satirical Twitter account @Sputnik_Not – clearly a reference to Russian state news agency Sputnik News – posted an image of a Ukrainian farmer in a tractor towing the Admiral Kuznetsov, the only aircraft carrier of the Russian Navy. The photo was not real; it was just one of many doctored images that have been making the rounds on social media in recent weeks that showed Ukrainians towing rockets, jet planes and even a submarine.
Such messages were probably in response to the very real news that a farmer had actually used a tractor to “steal” a Russian tank. Why not the Admiral Kuznetsov?
“Ukrainian farmer doing everything possible,” said the caption of the March 10 tweet, which showed the aircraft carrier in the context.
A farmer may not have towed the warship, but it may be the most he has moved in years.
The Soviet-era aircraft carrier, which is now the flagship of the Russian Navy, was decommissioned in 2018 for a refit. It is being modernized at the 35th Ship Repair Plant in Murmansk and was originally scheduled to resume operations by 2020.
Then the trouble started – and some in Russia whispered that the warship was cursed. And there is even a chance that he will never sail again.
Multitude of misfortunes
In November 2018, Admiral Kuznetsov was damaged when a 70-ton floating crane fell on the flight deck, killing one worker and injuring four others. A fire broke out in the engine room during a welding accident in December 2019 resulting in the deaths of two people, while 14 were injured by fire and smoke inhalation.
The drydock itself, which was vital to ongoing repairs, was also damaged during a power failure and further delayed progress. It is now unlikely that the flagship will even be able to begin sea trials after repairs until the middle of next year at the earliest.
In addition to a number of unfortunate accidents, corruption in Russia has also contributed to the lack of progress in the carrier’s refit.
A year ago, in March 2021, Yevgeny Zudin, general director of shipyard No. 10 in Polyarny, was arrested on suspicion of the theft of forty-five million rubles (about 600,000 USD) which had been allocated for the repair of the Northern Fleet Warship of the Russian Navy.
Shipyard No. 10 (10 Order of the Red Banner of Labor Shipyard) is part of Zvezdockha shipyard in Severodvinsk, a subsidiary of United Shipbuilding Corporation. The shipyard had been contracted by the Zvezdochka Ship Repair Center for several stages of clean-up work in October 2018. The work was reportedly completed in July 2019 and the shipyard billed the Russian military for twenty-three thousand hours of work instead of the thirteen thousand man-hours of work that were actually performed.
The only carrier from Russia
Despite the refit issues, Russia remained determined to return the carrier to service. It lacks the money to build a new carrier – but at this point it could have been a better investment.
Admiral of the Soviet Union Fleet Kuznetsov is currently the largest warship of the Russian Navy and the only aircraft carrier. If or when returned to service, it will be able to carry twenty-six aircraft and twenty-four helicopters on the flight deck and in the hangar below deck. Russia’s flagship displaces 58,000 tons and is 304.5 meters long. Unlike US Navy aircraft carriers, it does not use a catapult to launch aircraft and is instead equipped with a ski jump ramp.
It is a conventionally powered vessel, with a capacity of 200,000 horsepower at full speed and a speed of up to 30 knots. In addition to its air wing, the Admiral Kuznetsov is also armed with anti-ship missile and air defense systems. It operates with a crew of 1,300 while the air group personnel number 660.
Built during the last decade of the Cold War in the Soviet Union, the aircraft carrier was not launched until 1985 and commissioned in 1991. Due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the aircraft carrier remained inactive for four years until it became the flagship of the Russian Navy in 1995.
Technically, it wasn’t designed as a transporter either.
During construction Admiral Kuznetsov was officially designated as an aircraft carrier cruiser. This designation allowed her to transit through the Turkish-controlled Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits under the Monteux Convention, which unofficially prohibits aircraft carriers from making such transits.
Turkey has now closed the waterway to Russian warships, but in this case it would not matter because its carrier is far from returning to service. Maybe he would need the help of some Ukrainian tractors to get him going.
Today’s editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He writes regularly on military hardware and is the author of several books on military headgear, including A Gallery of Military Headdress, available on Amazon.com. Peter is also a contributing writer for Forbes.