Why Russia stopped building a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier

Russia’s so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine has sparked renewed interest in the country’s military technologies and weapons systems, although it is recognized that much of this interest stems from a morbid curiosity because of their poor performance. Among the questions raised is that of knowing why the only Russian aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, is not used in the current conflict. Well it turns out the Kuznetsov is plagued by a host of illnesses, from addiction to ultra-thick, tarry black substance called Mazut as a power source, Fire on board 2019 which cost 300-350 million rubles in damages. This in turn raises an additional question: Why doesn’t Russia have a more modern nuclear aircraft carrier?

Why are you, Russian nuclear carrier?

Given Moscow’s developments in other facets of nuclear technology, ground technology nuclear refineries to nuclear submarines – like the Titanic-class Typhoon – to nuclear ICBMs such as the new “Sarmat” – why couldn’t they also apply this industrial engineering know-how to aircraft carriers? Well, it turns out that the lack of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers among the Russkies was definitely not due to lack of effort or desire.

In the mid-1980s, the then Soviet government designed a supercarrier project known as the Ulyanovsk, named after the birthplace of Vladimir Lenin. As the columnist noted Paul-Richard Huard Explain“If he had ever sailed, the Soviet super aircraft carrier Ulyanovsk would have been a naval monster over 1,000 feet long, with a displacement of 85,000 tons and enough storage to carry an air group of up to 70 fixed and rotary wing aircraft. For comparison, the US Navy USS George H. W. Bush – the most modern and advanced flat-top of the improved Nimitz-class supercarriers – is approximately 1,100 feet long, with a displacement of 102,000 tons fully loaded with ammunition and supplies, and a normal carrying capacity of 56 planes. The Russian aircraft carrier also had an impressive arsenal, including P-700 missiles and on-board surface-to-air missile systems.

The UlyanovskThe keel of was laid in 1988, when the Soviet economy was already in dire straits, and three years before the collapse of the soviet empire. Even if the USSR hadn’t collapsed, this giant ship was such a big project that the builders wouldn’t have finished it until the mid-1990s. Ironically, construction took place at the Black Sea Shipyard , aka Nikolayev South Shipyard 444, in Ukraine!

As a bit of gee-whiz historical trivia for you movie buffs out there this is the same shipyard where the famous Russian battleship came from Potemkin – scene of the famous naval mutiny of 1905 and subject of Sergei The classic Eisenstein movie – Was launched.

But, of course, the USSR did indeed collapse, and with it the funds needed to complete the construction of the Ulyanovsk. As Professor James R. Holmes, JC Wylie Professor of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College, said: “The Soviets weren’t stupid. They would not fade into oblivion to follow the Joneses, and as a major land power they had enormous rights over their resources to finance the army and the air force. There was little to do for the “luxury fleet” projects. Ultimately, if you can’t afford to keep the existing fleet at sea, where are you going to get the money to complete your first nuclear-powered super carrier, a ship that will require even more manpower? artwork you can’t afford? »

Resurrect the Russian Nuke Carrier?

Fast forward to today, and in the years since, Vladimir Putin has done a lot to modernize Russia’s armed forces since Boris Yeltsin replaced Mikhail S. Gorbachev at the end of the Cold War. While Putin’s modernization agenda certainly included the Russian Navy, aircraft carriers were simply not a priority.

However, this may soon change, as the head of the Russian Navy Admiral Viktor Shirkov recently publicly stated, “The navy will have an aircraft carrier. Research companies are working on it. Admiral Chirkov did not specify the size or capabilities of this new aircraft carrier, or give an estimated timeframe for its keel laying or completion. Given the Russians’ recent failures to meet certain other military deadlines, particularly regarding their “special military operation in Ukraine”, we probably shouldn’t be holding our collective breath anytime soon.

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments in Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany and the Pentagon). Chris holds a BA in International Relations from the University of Southern California (USC) and an MA in Intelligence Studies (Terrorism Studies Concentration) from the American Military University (AMU). It was also published in The Daily Torch and The Journal of Intelligence and Cybersecurity.

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