The flagship of the Russian Navy, the aircraft cruiser Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov – Moscow’s sole operational carrier – began to depart from her specialized and modernized drydock at the Zvyozdochka shipyard in the Barents Sea port city of Murmansk on Wednesday, ahead of planned sea trials that were expected to begin by the end next year. However, the warship will likely remain in port yet again after a “minor fire” had reportedly broken out.
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Alexei Rakhmanov, head of the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC), which is currently overseeing the renovation of the vessel, told RIA Novosti that the incident occurred during repair work. Firefighters quickly rushed to the shipyard on Thursday morning local time. According to the reports from state media, about 20 people had been evacuated, while the fire was quickly extinguished. There were no casualties.
Images of the firefighters at the drydock have been widely shared on social media.
The extent of the damage aboard Admiral Kuznetsov isn’t known, nor is the cause of the fire.
Fires remain a major concern aboard all vessels, and it is seen as a constant danger on warships. A fire incident aboard the United States Navy’s Nimtiz-class supercarrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) resulted in injuries to nine sailors, including six who suffered from dehydration. The cause of that fire is still under investigation.
Russia’s Cursed Aircraft Carrier
This is just the latest in a series of mishaps involving Admiral Kuznetsov since she entered drydock in early 2017. In November 2018, as the aircraft cruiser was leaving the floating PD-50 dock she was damaged when a 70-ton floating crane fell on her flight deck, which tragically killed one worker and injured four more.
It was two years ago, in December 2019 that an earlier fire broke out in the engine room during a welding accident – resulting in the death of two, while 14 more suffered injuries from fire and smoke inhalation. Fire-related damage from that incident was estimated at $8 million. In addition, the actual drydock, which was vital to the repairs, was also damaged during a subsequent power outage, further delaying the refit.
It is unlikely that the most recent fire was the result of the ship being moved out of drydock, an effort that was expected to take a month. It was just last month that Rakhmanov said the “obstructions” were found in separate sections of the ship but added that “work is on schedule.”
Given the latest mishap, it is unclear if the 43,000-tonne, 1,000-foot-long warship will ever actually return to service. The renovation is expected to provide the carrier with new combat potential and to extend her operational lifespan for another 10 to 15 years.
The question still remains whether those renovations can ever be completed. For now, Admiral Kuznetsov is more a stain on the Russian Navy than a symbol of pride.
Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.