Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Admiral Kuznetsov leaves the Mediterranean

Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, has finished her operations in the Eastern Mediterranean and is heading back to her homeport of Severomorsk in Northern Russia.  The aircraft carrier entered the Mediterranean in the beginning of January to bolster the Russian Naval forces operation in front of Syria. In the 4 months that the Admiral Kuznetsov was in the Mediterranean she also executed a training program for her airwing to keep the pilots experienced enough to operate from an aircraft carrier. The question that is on everybody’s mind is how long the Admiral Kuznetsov will be out of service after her deployment.

RFS Admiral Kuzenetsov

The Admiral Kuznetsov has always been a troubled ship that spend more time in dry docks then on active combat duty. Her propulsion system consist of steam-turbines and is known to break down easily. It is for this reason that she never leaves port without the company of an ocean going tug to tow her back in case her steam-turbines break down again.
Every deployment of the Admiral Kuznetsov  is followed by a repair and maintenance period that takes several months, sometimes even over a year, to get the ship ready for a next deployment.

In 2010 it was rumored that the ship would be undergoing a long time refit from 2012 to 2017. During this long term refit several key systems would be replaced and modernized. Her steam-turbines would have been switched for more reliable  gas-turbines.  Obviously the maintenance period never started in 2012 but the plans are still hanging around.

The Admiral Kuznetsov is Russia’s only carrier and with Russia back on the rise the need for powerful ships capable of projection power on the world’s oceans and areas of Russian interests  is required to enhance Russia’s image as a powerful nation. This has Russia caught in a dilemma. On the one side it cannot afford to lose the Admiral Kuznetsov for a long period as her presence might be required in the nearby future to intervene once again on behalf of Russian interests. On the other side is the problem that the Admiral Kuznetsov is an unreliable ship, prone to breakdowns. A long term modernization is then required to give Russia a carrier capable of performing longer missions without the need for large maintenance periods between two missions.

Regardless of whether the Admiral Kuznetsov will undergo a large modernization lasting several years after her arrival from the Mediterranean Sea or not, we can be certain that the ship will not be going back to sea for the next several months. Leaving the Russian Navy once again in a period that it cannot rely on an aircraft carrier to support its operations.

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