Good news, sports fans…the Russians are deploying the most amusing warship in the world to the Med. I have been a huge fan of the Admiral Kuznetsov since it was commissioned. While serving in the Navy during the Cold War, the Kuznetsov was a reminder that the Soviets really sucked at building aircraft carriers.
Prior to the Kuznetsov (formerly Tbilisi, Leonid Brezhnev and originally Riga) being built, the Soviets had deployed two ships of the Moskva-class and four ships of the Kiev-class. The Moskva’s were the first operational Soviet carriers and their unique hull shape caused significant sea keeping problems. They weren’t “true” aircraft carriers, either, only being able to carry helicopters. But they were a significant Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) threat during the Cold War.
The Kiev’s, on the other hand, did carry fixed wing jets – the infamous YAK-38 Forger – and combined a small complement of aircraft with the missile armament of a cruiser. Although much more successful than the Moskva’s, the Kiev-class ships were still unable to do much more than ASW operations. The limitations of the YAK-38 in carrying ordinance or operating in less than ideal conditions severely limited the ship’s capabilities.
After these stellar examples of the shipbuilding art, the Soviets embarked on an ambitious program to build two dedicated aircraft carriers. The first of these, the aforementioned Kuznetsov, was “completed” in 1990 but didn’t become operational until 1995. The second ship was eventually abandoned and the hull sold to the Chinese – becoming their only operational carrier, the Liaoning, in 2012.
The Russians inherited the Kuznetsov after the fall of the Soviet Union and made little effort to keep her functioning. The ship is prone to technical failure and recurring engine problems have necessitated the inclusion of a seagoing tug whenever the Kuznetsov deploys. Observers never know when the engines will quit, the ship will cause a major oil leak or lose an aircraft over the side. The Kuznetsov is fun to watch just because you never know what will happen next.
And now, the Russians have announced that they are sending the ship to the Mediterranean Sea to support Russian attempts at terrorist suppression in Syria. The ship is expected to sail in the summer and all eyes will be on this floating pile of crap as it wheezes and lurches its way from the North Sea to the sunny Med.
Once there, the entire dozen of its Su-33 Flankers – the same fighters it was originally carrying in the 1990s – will throw their weight into the fight against ISIS. It is interesting to note that the Su-33 was so ‘successful’ that only 24 were ever built, the follow on carrier-based aircraft – the MiG-29K – has had a remarkably slow development and deployment time. Although they were supposed to have been delivered to the fleet between 2011 and 2015, the Su-33 continues to be the only carrier aircraft in the Russian arsenal.
Good luck to the crew of the Kuznetsov, hopefully this deployment will be as amusing to you as it will be to all of us watching.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.