Russia’s only aircraft carrier could return to service after six years at dock

Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier of the Russian Navy undergoes a refurbishment and modernization process to continue sailing for another 20 years

Single aircraft carrier of the Russian Navy, Admiral Kuznetsov could return to active service in late 2024, according to TASS, citing an official. The vessel, which holds about 30 aircraft, has been idle for six years.

The last mission carried out by the Kuznetsov was in 2016, when the ship provided support to Russian troops in Syria.

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On that occasion, the vessel presented a series of operational issues, which led to its shipment, in 2017, to a shipyard in Murmansk for repairs and a modernization process.

The return of the ship to the sea was expected for the beginning of 2024, but the deadline was postponed until the end of next year due to “adjustment of plans” for the recovery of the vessel, as reported by the unnamed source. Despite this update, the new deadline is not yet final and may change, according to the Russian news agency.

Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier (RN)

The start of sea trials with the refurbished aircraft carrier is scheduled for the second quarter of 2024. “If [the vessel] is tested flawlessly, it may be transferred to the Navy in late 2024. If something goes wrong during the trials, the process will inevitably be postponed to 2025,” added the official.

The Russian agency reported that the modernization process could extend the service life of the aircraft carrier by another 20 years. The vessel will receive updates on electronic warfare, communication, propulsion and combat systems.

Soviet Union legacy

Admiral Kuznetsov is one of the last naval legacies of the former Soviet Union inherited by Russia. Construction began in 1982 and the ship was commissioned in January 1991, months before the collapse of the communist bloc.

That same year, Ukraine, already independent from the USSR, claimed ownership of the ship, which was stationed at the Sevastopol naval base, on the Crimean peninsula – territory that was later taken over by Moscow.

The flight deck of the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov (RN)

With 58,600 tons of displacement, the Admiral Kuznetsov is the largest aircraft carrier ever developed in Russia, but it has a limited military capacity due to launching aircraft by ramp.

The aircraft inventory comprises 18 Su-33 fighters, six MiG-29Ks, four Ka-31 attack helicopters and two Ka-27s.

The Soviet Union even built a second ship of the class, the Varyag, but it was not commissioned until the dissolution of the communist government. Later, China acquired the vessel and turned it into the Liaoning aircraft carrier.


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