Admiral Kuznetsov – Russia’s Cursed Aircraft Carrier Has Finally Left Drydock Earlier this month, Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov had finally left drydock. It was a major milestone for the Russian Navy’s sole aircraft carrier, which has been undergoing a refit since 2018.
However, as reported by Naval News last week, the warship’s maintenance will continue throughout this year and it won’t be until at least some time in the first half of 2024 that the vessel is ready to begin her sea trials.
At this point, it is likely that Admiral Kuznetsov could reenter service by the end of next year – provided it avoids any further mishaps.
Admiral Kuznetsov: Completion of Major Repairs?
The operation to move the carrier out of drydock was able to be carried out following the completion of repairs to the ship’s hull’s underwater section.
Images of the aircraft cruiser leaving the specially-built drydock facilities in Murmansk were shared on social media, where the vessel was the subject of much mockery.
It is very much true that the vessel has had anything but a stellar service record. She notoriously and routinely belched black smoke, and on more than one occasion spilled hundreds of tons of fuel into the sea while refueling.
The flagship of the Russian Navy, she rarely headed to sea before her most recent deployments and more than once had to be towed back to port.
At best, the flattop’s endurance was a mere 45 days, and Russia has few ports where the aircraft cruiser could operate year-round.
She was also designed with a bow ski ramp to launch fighters, even as Russian fighter designs are ill-suited to the task.
On one deployment, the United States Navy expressed serious concerns the carrier might flounder in rough seas, while in her most recent deployment which ended in 2017, she experienced two embarrassing onboard plane crashes. As she entered service in 1991, Admiral Kuznetsov is widely considered “morally and technically obsolete,” but Moscow has neither the funds nor shipbuilding capabilities to start from scratch – and opted instead for what has become an odyssey-length refit.
Originally, the overhaul was meant to last just two years, which would have extended the service life of the ship by a decade. Things went bad almost immediately, however, when in October 2018, a power outage at the floating drydock’s pumps, resulted in a catastrophic accident where a 70-ton crane fell on the warship’s flight deck.
One worker was killed, and the carrier suffered significant damage.
Even worse was the fact that the 330-meter-long PD-50 drydock sank – seriously impacting the overhaul’s completion date.
Just weeks later, a fire broke out on the ship, killing two and injuring 14 others. That required Admiral Kuznetsov to be towed to Severomorsk’s 35th Repair Shipyard, a subsidiary of the Severodvinsk-based “Zwiezdochka” Repair Center.
It now appears that after years of delays and several notable mishaps, efforts to complete the refit are finally moving forward.
Of course, the question might be asked whether it was ever worth the effort in the first place.
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.