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Russiα’s Sole Aircraft Carrier Set to Return to Sea in 2022 After Extensive Refurbishment – Reports

The Russiαn Navy is reportedly planning to recommence operations with its sole aircraft carrier in 2022, with local media outlets quoting sources in the country’s shipbuilding industry on progress with the ship’s refit. The warship saw its only combat operation in 2016 when it entered the Mediterranean as part of a sizeable strike group both as a show of force aimed a NATO and to conduct air strikes at Islamist insurgents on the ground. Russiα’s lack of experience with carrier operations, however, was reflected in the loss two fighters – which fell overboard due to problems with arresting gear. The Admiral Kuznetsov’s powerful sensor suite and its air wing of Su-33 and MiG-29K fighter jets still played an important role in the air campaign, with the aircraft’s lack of sensors suited for precision strikes compensated for by use of surveillance drones  by the Air Force.

The Kuznetsov entered a period of refurbishment shortly after its return from the Mediterranean, but was met with problems including a collapsing crane, a collapsing drydock and a minor fire onboard. Furthermore, in 2020 the director of the shipyard servicing the carrier was arrested for embezzling close to $500,000 which had been allocated to clean the ship’s fuel tanks. Refurbishment is expected to provide carrier with new electronic warfare, communications, and networking systems, new boilers and pumps, new Pantsir close in weαpσns system, and perhaps most importantly new flight systems to aid in launching and recovering aircraft.

Russiαn Carrier Admiral Kuznetsov in Dry Dock

The Admiral Kuznetsov was one of three Kuznetsov Class aircraft carrying cruisers laid down in the Soviet Union – a mid range carrier class which would have complemented four lighter Kiev Class carriers and two planned Ulyanovsk Class supercarriers in service. The Soviet collapse led to all four Kiev Class ships being sold off either for scrap, to serve as civilian attractions, or in one case to be converted for use by the Indian Navy, while the Ulyanovsk Class program was cancelled with the first ship already having been laid down. The Admiral Kuznetsov was the only ship of its class to have been completed – with the second ship the Varyag sold partially completed to China and the third cancelled entirely.

The Russiαn carrier is set to be joined by two lighter amphibious carriers which are expected to displace around 35,000 tons each, and which will deploy Ka-52 attack helicopters and possibly special vertical landing capable fighter jets for offensive roles. It remains uncertain whether the assault carriers, which were laid down in 2020, will replace the Kuznetsov, or whether a larger carrier or even a supercarrier will be built for this purpose with multiple proposals having been made. The possibility that the Admiral Kuznetsov could reprise its role as an aircraft carrying cruiser and be re-equipped with cruise missiles has also been highlighted.