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    Russia’s Troubled Admiral Kuznetsov: A Symbol of Naval Decline?

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

    Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov, the nation’s sole aircraft carrier and a potent symbol of its maritime capabilities, is shrouded in doubt and beset by a legacy of mishaps.

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

    Plagued by outdated technology, catastrophic mishaps, and underwhelming performance, the vessel has become emblematic of Russia’s waning naval power.

    Admiral Kuznetsov” by ermaleksandr is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    The Admiral Kuznetsov, once a source of national pride, has not sailed in seven years, raising questions about its future.

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

    As a metric of national fortune, carriers are complex and costly, reflecting the financial and technological prowess of a nation.

    File:Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov during a military exercise.jpg” by Photo by the Presidential Press Service is licensed under CC BY 4.0

    While the US boasts eleven supercarriers, Russia’s solitary carrier stands in stark contrast — a paper tiger that may never sail again.

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

    Built on outdated petrochemical Mazut, the Kuznetsov is hindered by its limited capabilities and black-smoke byproduct that clings to sailors’ clothing and skin.

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

    Its power is inferior to nuclear alternatives, offering just 45 days of operation without refueling, a far cry from the indefinite operations of nuclear-powered counterparts.

    MM170005” by ermaleksandr is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    The carrier has been through a litany of troubles. Robert Beckhusen reported, “Admiral Kuznetsov has a problematic history. One seaman died when the carrier caught fire during a 2009 deployment to the med. During the same cruise, the flattop spilled hundreds of tons of fuel into the sea while refueling. Her steam turbines are so bad the ship has to be escorted by tugs in case she breaks down.”

    MM170005” by ermaleksandr is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    Moreover, the carrier’s limited aircraft launch capability further diminishes its strategic value. It relies on a bow ramp instead of steam catapults, restricting the weight planes can carry and therefore their patrol time and offensive range.

    File:Kuznetsov-Murmansk.jpg” by Art Navsegda is licensed under CC BY 2.5

    Despite Russian officials maintaining that the Kuznetsov is undergoing modernization to extend its life by 25 years, the process has been marred by setbacks.

    MilitarySportsHoliday2017-04” by Сергей Федюнин is licensed under CC BY 4.0

    In 2018, a drydock incident left a 200 square foot hole in the deck, and the subsequent years have witnessed fires and further damage to the carrier. Repair work was even halted due to heavy fog, and in 2023, operations were years behind schedule.

    NorthFleet287Old-06” by Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation is licensed under CC BY 4.0

    Russia’s protracted war with Ukraine has strained its military resources, casting further doubt on the Kuznetsov’s place in future naval strategy.

    MilitarySportsHoliday2017-03” by Сергей Федюнин is licensed under CC BY 4.0

    Ironically, the Kuznetsov’s singular deployment to the Syrian coast further highlighted its inadequacies — significant aircraft losses and mechanical failures during the operation have stained its operational history. Despite the Kremlin’s claims that the carrier will re-enter service this year, the prospects appear dim.

    MilitarySportsHoliday2017-01” by Сергей Федюнин is licensed under CC BY 4.0

    The Kuznetsov’s checkered past includes not just operational failings, but also the tragic loss of lives due to accidents and mishaps.

    Russian Ships – passing Dungeness UK” by Rupert Spencer is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The Russian Navy faces a decision: whether to proceed with renovating the Admiral Kuznetsov or opt for constructing a new carrier, a project estimated to require a minimum of one billion dollars and a decade of work.

    Relevant articles:
    Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov Aircraft Carrier May Get Scrapped for Good, The National Interest
    Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov Aircraft Carrier Is Clearly A Rusty Failure, The National Interest
    Admiral Kuznetsov: Why Russia Should Scrap Its Last Aircraft Carrier, 19FortyFive
    Admiral Kuznetsov: Is Russia’s Only Aircraft Carrier Cursed?, Popular Mechanics

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