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Russia’s Only Aircraft Carrier: Officially a Piece of Junk?

Russia Aircraft Carrier
Image: Creative Commons.

Russia has just one aircraft carrier, the cursed Admiral Kuznetsov. It seems that this old warship has all sorts of problems and may never sail again. Why is this and what does this mean for the Russian Navy overall. We asked a top expert to explain: Those who expected to see the only Russian aircraft carrier on the seas soon are in for a surprise as the vessel is still plagued by issues.

Admiral Kuznetsov is still at least a year out before rejoining the Russian combat fleet, according to Russian military sources who talked to Russian state media. The vessel is currently undergoing repairs and modernization work that seeks to extend its life for an additional 10 to 15 years.

Where’s the Russian Aircraft Carrier? 

For years, the sole Russian aircraft carrier has been plagued by mechanical breakdowns and maintenance woes. The U.S. and Western sanctions imposed on Russia are certainly to delay the work on the Admiral Kuznetsov even further.

“The transfer of the Admiral Kuznetsov cruiser to the fleet after modernization and all subsequent state tests will take place no earlier than in 2024,” the Russian state media TASS reported.

The Russian Navy is designating Admiral Kuznetsov as a heavy aircraft carrier cruiser, and the vessel can carry approximately 24 fighter jets and 12 helicopters; the Russian aircraft carrier is also packing 12 P-700 anti-ship cruise missiles and almost 200 3K95 “Kinzhal” surface-to-air missiles.

The sole Russian aircraft carrier is a Short Take-Off, Barrier Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) flattop that uses a ski-jump, an upward curving ramp at the front of the warship, to assist aircraft in taking off for its deck.

In addition to STOBAR flattops, there are Catapult Assisted Take-Off Barrier Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) aircraft carriers, which have a flat deck and use a catapult to launch and recover aircraft. All of the U.S. Navy’s flattops are CATOBAR.

Laid down in 1982 and launched three years later in 1985, the Admiral Kuznetsov is the Russian Navy’s flagship. However, from the start, the sole Russian aircraft carrier was hamstrung by its design. In order to make it more efficient and cheaper, the Russian Navy opted to power the aircraft carrier with Mazut, an oil byproduct that produces thick, toxic smoke. But that very smoke makes the ship visible from miles, increasingly its vulnerability.

The Russian Navy 

The Russian Navy comprises four fleets: Pacific Fleet, Northern Fleet, Baltic Fleet, Black Sea Fleet (which has been in the news a lot lately because of the war in Ukraine), and one flotilla, the Caspian Sea Flotilla.

The Russian Navy has two primary mission sets: strategic deterrence through its nuclear capabilities and homeland defense. And although it has the capability to conduct global deployments, it can do so at a much smaller scale than the U.S. Navy.

Before the war in Ukraine started, the Russian Navy had approximately 130,000 personnel and about 32 major surface vessels, including Admiral Kuznetsov, two battlecruisers, one cruiser, 12 destroyers, and 11 frigates. But now, these forces have been somewhat depleted, especially after the sinking of the missile-guided cruiser The Moskva by the Ukrainians.

In addition to those major surface combatants, the Russian Navy can deploy a larger number of smaller vessels, including corvettes, minesweepers, and patrol boats.

Furthermore, the Russian Navy can field 70 submarines of various ages and capabilities.

1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.



  1. Bill in Houston

    June 29, 2022 at 5:08 pm

    It’ll never sail again. Might as well turn it into Putin’s casino.

  2. James K Webster

    June 30, 2022 at 4:42 am

    Stupid article as Russia has never embarked to control. It has however for defense an that’s why it has embarked on submarines. A high powered torpedo can sink a billion dollar carrier not to mention a missile. I think carriers are obsolete today. Sure they are bad against 3rd world countries but against a country with modern day military techology , toast. WW2 proves it. Yes we won but then we nearly lost and militaries were very close. Today modern navies are equal just not tried, hope they dont.

  3. Joseph Lister

    June 30, 2022 at 2:45 pm

    Being ex UK forces my thinking is as long as it is floating and you can take off and land on her decks,she is still a massive problem to Ukraine and the rest of the world. To disregard this ship would be a very bad mistake for everyone. Until it is taken out or sunk, it has to be a threat. Mechanical repairs can be carried out as can electrical problems to make it a threat. As I sea it,it has to be destroyed 100% by any means available

  4. photobug

    June 30, 2022 at 7:34 pm

    Given such a high percentage of Putin’s military budget that ends up his pocket and that of friends, I’m surprised that they didn’t, to save money on fuel, design it to burn cheap coal or even wood.

  5. jeff

    July 1, 2022 at 12:29 pm

    Admiral Kutnutzoff

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