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The U.S. Navy Thought Russia’s Only Aircraft Carrier Might Sink

Admiral Kuznetsov
Image Creative Commons.

Roughly a decade ago, Russia’s only aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov began preparing for its fourth deployment to the Mediterranean Sea.

However, as the Kuznetsov went around Europe and headed toward the Syrian coast, the U.S. Navy worried it could sink, according to a “bizarre detail” noted by journalist Michael Weiss in a recent essay on Russia’s military expansion, per the defense website War Is Boring.

‘Problematic History’

The site went on to claim that “Admiral Kuznetsov has a problematic history. One seaman died when the carrier caught fire during a 2009 deployment to the Med. During the same cruise, the flattop spilled hundreds of tons of fuel into the sea while refueling. Her steam turbines are so bad the ship has to be escorted by tugs in case she breaks down. Not to mention the carrier is barely capable of doing what carriers are supposed to do: launch fighters. When she does, she uses a bow ramp instead of steam catapults, which forces reductions in the planes’ takeoff weight and patrol time.”

It continued: “In 2011 despite the Americans’ concerns, Admiral Kuznetsov made it home to her home port at Severomorsk near Murmansk. But she’s headed back to the Mediterranean by year’s end—without, apparently, a long-planned retrofit to her engines and flight deck. No word from the U.S. Navy as to whether it fears the decrepit flattop again might sink.”

Naval Task Force

According to an essay by U.S. Navy Capt. Thomas Fedyszyn in Proceedings, the monthly journal of the U.S. Naval Institute, Russia is aiming to “establish a permanent naval task force in the region drawn from vessels assigned to the Black Sea and Northern fleets.”

“Russia has made sizable improvements to its fleet’s size and readiness and stepped up patrols in the region, roughly coinciding with the escalation of tensions in Syria,” Fedyszyn writes.

War Is Boring added that “part of this expansion includes new and retrofitted warships and an increasing number of deployments to the Mediterranean far from home bases—and outside the Russian navy’s comfort zone. This should, in theory, result in ten ships operating on a permanent basis out at sea—potentially including Admiral Kuznetsov. But the Russian navy has limited means to resupply ships on the open ocean. This means it needs ports.”

Russia apparently has its eyes set on ports without a “disadvantageous position,” as some are known to be affected by the ongoing political turmoil in Ukraine.

“Unofficial rumors suggest Russia is considering ports in Cyprus, Montenegro, and Greece in addition to Syria,” Fedyszyn writes.

“Of these, Cyprus has gotten the most attention, owing to the close economic relations between Moscow and Nicosia,” he continues.

Sadly, any plans for using Moscow’s only carrier are on hold: the flattop has been in dock for some time and is undergoing what looks like a complete overhaul.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Written By

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV.

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