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    Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov: A Legacy of Failures at Sea

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    Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier” by Ministry of Defence is licensed under CC BY 4.0

    Russia’s sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, has become an emblem of the nation’s military setbacks and technological stagnation. The warship has faced a litany of mechanical and structural issues that have thwarted its operational readiness and effectiveness.

    Russian Aircraft Carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is Escorted by HMS York Near Scotland” by Defence Images is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    Notable for its absence from the Ukraine conflict, the Kuznetsov is sidelined, plagued by a history of mishaps and outdated technology that starkly contrasts with the prowess of modern military fleets.

    HMS York Shadows Russian Aircraft Carrier Admiral Kuznetsov off Scotland” by Defence Images is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    The Admiral Kuznetsov has been burdened with the ignominious reputation of a ship more accustomed to failure than success.

    HMS Liverpool Escorts Russian Carrier Admiral Kuznetsov” by Defence Images is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    Since its commissioning in the 1980s, the warship has been hobbled by everything from construction defects to severe accidents, including a notorious episode where fires broke out onboard, necessitating the evacuation of nearly 20 people while the ship was under repair in Murmansk.

    HMS Duncan escorts the Russian Aircraft Carrier Admiral Kuznetsov” by Royal Navy Media Archive is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    One of the core issues lies in its propulsion system. The Kuznetsov relies on mazut, a heavy, tar-like fuel that is not only environmentally damaging but also leaves the ship trailing a tell-tale plume of black smoke, marking it as an easy target and a relic of outdated naval engineering.

    Sukhoi Su-33 on Admiral Kuznetsov-2” by Presidential Press and Information Office is licensed under CC BY 4.0

    Unlike modern aircraft carriers that benefit from nuclear or gas turbine power, the Kuznetsov’s mazut-burning engines require frequent refueling and are less efficient, compromising the vessel’s endurance and operational range.

    Sukhoi Su-33 on Admiral Kuznetsov-1” by Presidential Press and Information Office is licensed under CC BY 4.0

    The carrier’s outdated technology extends to its launch system, which consists of a bow ramp instead of the more efficient catapult systems found on U.S. carriers.

    admiral kuznetsov russian carrier” by Christopher.Michel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    This design limitation means that aircraft taking off from the Kuznetsov must carry lighter payloads and less fuel, reducing both their firepower and patrol range. As a result, the warship falls short of its primary function—to project airpower.

    Admiral Kuznetsov, Russian Aircraft Carrier” by Christopher.Michel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Maintenance has been another Achilles’ heel for the Kuznetsov, with low-quality piping and frequent boiler failures impeding the ship’s performance.

    HMS Liverpool Escorts Russian Carrier Admiral Kuznetsov” by Defence Images is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    The vessel’s steam turbines are so unreliable that a tugboat escort has become a necessity in case of breakdowns—a striking illustration of the carrier’s compromised capabilities.

    Sukhoi Su-25UTG on board the Admiral Kuznetsov” by Russian Ministry of Defence is licensed under CC BY 4.0

    The attempt to modernize or replace the Kuznetsov has been thwarted by economic sanctions and manufacturing challenges.

    Kamov on Admiral Kuznetsov” by Presidential Press and Information Office is licensed under CC BY 4.0

    Efforts to develop two Ivan Rogov-class amphibious assault ships, which could function as light carriers, have stumbled amidst Russia’s current economic and political troubles.

    RAF Coningsby Typhoon escorts Russian aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov“” by ermaleksandr is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    As the Kuznetsov undergoes a long-delayed retrofit, skepticism abounds about its future viability.

    HMS Liverpool Escorts Russian Ship Admiral Chabanenko” by Defence Images is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    Russian state-run news has optimistically stated that “factory sea trials of the aircraft carrier should begin in the spring of 2024,” with hopes of rejoining the fleet by the end of that year or in 2025.

    MilitarySportsHoliday2017-02” by Сергей Федюнин is licensed under CC BY 4.0

    But the shadow cast by Russia’s economic woes and the ship’s checkered past looms large, leading many to question whether the Kuznetsov can ever fulfill its intended role or if it’s destined to remain a stark symbol of a bygone era of Russian naval might.

    Relevant articles:
    Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov Aircraft Carrier Nightmare Is Here To Stay, The National Interest
    Admiral Kuznetsov: 5 Reasons Russia’s Only Aircraft Carrier Might Be Doomed, nationalinterest.org

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