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Admiral Kuznetsov: Russia’s Only Aircraft Carrier Is On the Brink

Admiral Kuznetsov. Image Creative Commons.
Image Creative Commons.

The Admiral Kuznetsov seems to have another problem: Given the high demand and low inventory for new and even used cars in the United States, some drivers are forced to pay for ongoing repairs for their automobiles that are well past their prime. It appears that the Kremlin is facing a similar dilemma with the Russian Navy’s only aircraft carrierAdmiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov (Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov).

The cursed carrier – technically a heavy aircraft cruiser – has been undergoing a refit since 2018, and it is much like a junker that is back in the shop.

However, in its case, it has been undergoing repairs for years.

Initially scheduled to return to duty by 2020, the warship has suffered what can only be described as a series of unfortunate mishaps. Yet as recently as last month, there were reports that the Admiral Kuznetsov would finally begin sea trials in September.

Clearly, however, someone spoke too soon.

This week, it was reported that the aircraft cruiser has suffered another repair delay and won’t likely reenter service until 2024… at the earliest! A source in the Russian defense sector told state media that there have been defects in the work that has already been completed on the vessel, and as such Admiral Kuznetsov will remain in dry dock for longer than initially planned.

Admiral Kuznetsov – The Refit From Hell

Problems began almost as soon as the ship began its refit.

In November 2018, Admiral Kuznetsov was damaged when a 70-ton floating crane fell on the warship’s flight deck, killing one worker and injuring four more. Just over a year later, a fire broke out in the engine room during a welding accident, leaving two people dead, while 14 suffered injuries from fire and smoke inhalation. In addition, the actual drydock, which was vital to the repairs, was also damaged during a power outage, further delaying the refit.

Corruption has contributed to the lack of progress on the carrier’s refit. In March 2021, Yevgeny Zudin, general director of Shipyard No. 10 in Polyarny, was arrested under suspicion of the theft of 45 million rubles (approximately $600,000) that had been allocated to the repair of the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet flagship.

Ship of Shame Indeed

Even before all of the problems that began during the ongoing refit, the carrier had earned a dubious reputation. In addition to a number of unfortunate malfunctions and equipment breakages, including snapped arresting wires that resulted in multiple aircraft crash landings; the carrier was forced to be towed back to port after breaking down in a storm in late 2015.

The vessel also gained international notoriety in 2017 after the UK’s then-Defence Secretary Michael Fallon dubbed it the “ship of shame” as it passed through waters close to the English coast belching black smoke.

Russia Aircraft Carrier

Russia’s Only Aircraft Carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

“We are keeping a close eye on the Admiral Kuznetsov as it skulks back to Russia, a ship of shame whose mission has only extended the suffering of the Syrian people,” said Fallon.

While it isn’t currently blowing smoke, it has been reported that the carrier has been leaking oil for at least a year.

Admiral Kuznetsov

Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov Aircraft Carrier. Image Credit: Russian State Media.

Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.

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.