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Admiral Kuznetsov: Russia’s Last Aircraft Carrier Is Nothing But a Rustbucket

Admiral Kuznetsov Aircraft Carrier from Russia.
Admiral Kuznetsov Aircraft Carrier from Russia. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Summary and Key Points: Russia’s only aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, remains plagued by challenges despite promises of a return.

-After years of repairs marked by accidents, fires, and delays, the vessel lacks a trained crew and functional flight deck for operations.

-Optimistic state media claims of advanced air defense systems, including Pantsir-M and Kinzhal missiles, add to the narrative.

– In fact, most naval experts expect the old carrier to be scraped rather than repaired. That means the Russian Navy would have no aircraft carriers and very little hope of building a new one anytime soon,

-However, with Russia’s focus on ground warfare in Ukraine and limited resources for shipbuilding, skepticism remains high. The true readiness of the Kuznetsov and its new crew will be critical as it faces an uphill battle to regain operational status.

Russia’s Only Aircraft Carrier Faces Uphill Battle: Can Kuznetsov Sail Again?

Russia’s only aircraft carrier always seems like it is a punchline waiting for a new joke, but the plight of the embattled warship is profound, considering that it has endured the loss of life over its troubled history.

Admiral Kuznetsov has been in drydock for so long that it currently doesn’t have a crew.

So, the Russian navy will have to scramble to recruit and train sailors who are adept at carrier operations on the high seas.

That means experts on the flight deck who can help launch and arrest airplanes, not to mention fighter pilots who have the right stuff to make carrier landings on dangerous seas and at night.

Who Is Going to Crew This Bucket of Bolts?

The cursed carrier finally left the dry dock in February, 2023 near Murmansk on the country’s Arctic coast.

The Russians are hoping the vessel can launch on a cruise sometime in 2024 or at somepoints soon, but that is optimistic judging from its troubled past and lack of a trained crew.

Sailors could be ready to go by then, but what will they train on when Admiral Kuznetsov’s deck is being replaced?

There is no other carrier to practice take-offs and landings.

Trail of Tears

The ship has been under repair for years so setting dates for when it is ready will likely not be accurate due to numerous accidents on the ship, including fires, crane wrecks, and dry dock sinkings that have killed and maimed workers.

But Russian state-run media has spun the future of Kuznetsov into something that would make this carrier able to dominate the world, so we should take the claims with a grain of salt. Plus, the Russian military is concerned with ground warfare in Ukraine.

Current industrial endeavors and time, money, and resources are now dedicated to making tanks, acquiring artillery ammunition, and producing land-attack missiles. Shipbuilding is not a grave concern so there will be inevitable delays in the work on the carrier.

New Weapons Systems Are Being Trumpeted

The government-aligned media organ Izvestia claimed in an article on April 24 of last year that the Kuznetsov would have elaborate air defenses for better survivability.

This includes Pantsir-M air defenders. The Pantsir-M is a medium-range surface-to-air missile system re-purposed from a tracked vehicle to be placed on ships.

The naval version of the eight missile Pantsir-M has been successfully tested on a Russian corvette in 2020. It is claimed to be “jam resistant” and can be used for close-in situations when an incoming bogey infiltrates other defense systems.

The carrier will also have various other surface-to-air missile defenders such as Kinzhal and the Kortik six-barreled close-in weapon systems.

The Kuznetsov will be also supplied with advanced sensors and a battle system the Russians think is comparable to the U.S. Navy Aegis Combat System. The Russian version of this battle control software and computing suite will be better able to find, fix, and finish incoming threats. This is supposed to protect the carrier from enemy anti-ship missiles, aerial bombings, submarine cruise missiles, and drones.

Additionally, the Kuznetsov will have its own set of cruise missiles to enhance the attacks from its combat air wing.

“The ongoing special military operation clearly shows that planning bombs and modern guided missiles are what we need,” military historian Dmitry Boltenkov told Izvestia. “And most importantly, aircraft can use them without entering the enemy’s air defense coverage area. Thus, the aircraft carrier can solve the tasks of hitting surface and ground targets, and the range of its carrier-based aircraft is increased,” he said.

Are the Russians Serious About the Carrier?

Call me a skeptic, but this all sounds fanciful.

The ship is clearly not ready to hit the seas despite the enthusiastic rundown of its new weapons systems from a government mouthpiece newspaper. If there is not a crew ready to handle this hardware, when will they be able to train?

They could find experienced sailors on other ships and then transfer them to the Kuznetsov, but this assumes that the carrier will be seaworthy by this year. Testing the weapons on a shake-down cruise could take additional months before the carrier would be ready for battle.

Thus, the Kuznetsov has a long road ahead. It is not clearly a priority, or it would have already been finished and ready to sail by now. The new weapons systems are optimistic in their timeline for efficacy and a new crew must be recruited and trained. Therefore, the Russian navy may not meet the 2024 deadline, and the ship will be delayed once again.

Author Expertise and Experience: Dr. Brent M. Eastwood

Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

Brent M. Eastwood
Written By

Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Avatar

    joe tentpeg

    July 6, 2024 at 8:52 am

    Perhaps the Russians know something we don’t?

    Ie. Carriers are obsolete…like battleships…1940s tech.

    Their subs are state of the art…and invisible to satellites.

    Welcome to the world of ISR (Intelligence, Reconnaissance, and Surveillance) and hypersonics.

  2. Avatar

    Obama

    July 6, 2024 at 8:55 am

    Russia my not have much floating on top of the sea, however, they dominate below the surface.

    • Avatar

      Kimbell

      July 6, 2024 at 12:03 pm

      U.S. Hunter Killer Subs trail Soviet Subs all the way back to their “Sub Pens”….Russian Submariner’s have developed a quick Turning Maneuver in attempts to see if anyone is behind them !!!! Thank Goodness, “Ham Fisted” Russia hasn’t enlisted “Precise” German Engineer’s into their program…..it might be a Different story ????

  3. Avatar

    Chris Brown

    July 6, 2024 at 11:49 am

    If you are not empire building, you don’t need an aircraft carrier…

  4. Avatar

    Soldier Zan

    July 6, 2024 at 12:01 pm

    Another article from globalists, attempting to make Russia look weak in order to try and prop up their money laundering funds through Ukraine’s corrupt government.

  5. Avatar

    Donald Foster

    July 6, 2024 at 1:35 pm

    Even the houthies in Yemen have the capability of sinking US carriers, so do the Russians, Chinese, Iran and Hezbollah.
    The author of this article is diverting attention away from this new reality by pointing to a Russian aircraft carrier being a rust bucket of bolts with no crew as opposed to carriers being obsolete!

    • Avatar

      Tom

      July 6, 2024 at 8:49 pm

      That’s it.

  6. Avatar

    ObamaIsSorosButtBoy

    July 6, 2024 at 1:56 pm

    How can anyone even begin to take this article or the author seriously when he can’t even spell “scrapped”? LOL

  7. Avatar

    Tom

    July 6, 2024 at 4:24 pm

    More context would be welcomed: When was the ship built? Is it nuclear powered? What is the history of carriers generally in the Russian/Soviet Navy? What’s the maximum they’ve every had afloat? Why? Have they ever used carriers in combat?
    It also would be pertinent to mention that while Russia doesn’t have an operational carrier, they do maintain an impressive fleet of ice breakers. Why do they have these priorities?
    Finally, the use of the word “last” in the article’s title seems ambiguous.

  8. Avatar

    Richard Leblanc

    July 6, 2024 at 5:55 pm

    I guess Russia is not into Oboming.

  9. Pingback: Admiral Kuznetsov: Russia's Last Aircraft Carrier Might Never Sail Again - NationalSecurityJournal

  10. Avatar

    Gvillewill

    July 7, 2024 at 4:02 am

    Aircraft carriers are sitting ducks.
    If we keep messing with people, one of ours will be sitting on the bottom.

  11. Avatar

    Quartermaster

    July 7, 2024 at 4:57 pm

    The US needs more subs, and it needs its carriers as well. The idea that carriers are just sitting ducks is silly. On that basis, every surface ship is a sitting duck.

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