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Is Russia’s Only Aircraft Carrier Ever Going to Sea Again?

Aircraft Carrier Admiral Kuznetsov
A starboard quarter view of the Russian Navy Northern Fleet aircraft carrier ADMIRAL FLOTA SOVETSKOGO SOYUZA KUSNETSOV exercising at sea.

Russia’s sole aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, is still undergoing repairs. However, apparently part of the delay in returning the warship to duty is that the dry dock of the 35th Zvyozdochka Shipyard in Murmansk needs to be overhauled and upgraded first. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has called for the efforts to repair the dry dock to be accelerated and that could involve coming up with a clear schedule.

According to a report from the Tass Russian news agency via NavalNews this month, the minister has called for an increase in the workforce but also for more machinery to be brought in to increase the pace of the work. Shoigu has been quite vocal of the United Shipbuilding Corporation’s explanations that corruption involving the first contract was at issue.

“I do not accept the explanations. We need the dock and have to overhaul and upgrade the Admiral Kuznetsov,” Shoigu was reported to have said regarding the situation.

The upgrade of the dock would reportedly make it the largest facility in the Russian Arctic. It would be able to service large-displacement ships and vessels, including nuclear-powered icebreakers, heavy missiles, and aircraft-carrying cruisers. The upgrade of the dry dock has been seen as a key factor for the timely modernization of the Admiral Kuznetsov heavy aircraft carrier.

This is not the first time that the dock facilities have been seen as an issue in completing the repairs to the Northern Fleet’s Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov.

The warship has been undergoing a refit since 2018 after a deployment off the coast of Syria. During the repairs, she has been involved in a series of accidents; including suffering extensive damage to the flight deck when a floating crane fell over in October 2018. That incident occurred as the warship was leaving the floating PD-50 dock of the 82nd Shipyard in Roslyakovo.

Just over a year later, in December 2019, a fire started during welding work in one of the engine rooms—killing two and injuring fourteen others. These accidents have been just part of the problem the warship has faced during the recent refit. This past March, Yevgeny Zudin, general director of Shipyard No. 10 in Polyarny, was arrested under suspicion of the theft of forty-five million rubles (approximately $600,000 USD) that had been allocated to the repair of the carrier.

Despite the numerous delays, the Russian Ministry of Defense has announced that Admiral Kuznetsov – currently the largest warship and the only aircraft carrier of the Russian Navy – is on schedule for a sea trial in the Barents Sea next year. When in service she can reportedly carry twenty-six aircraft and twenty-four helicopters on the flight deck and in the under-deck hangar.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.