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    Soviet-Era Kiev-Class Carriers: Ambition and Obsolescence in Naval Aviation

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    In the latter half of the 20th century, during the Cold War’s twilight, the Soviet Union unveiled the Kiev-class aircraft carriers, heralding its naval ambitions.

    These hybrid vessels, a crossbreed of cruisers and carriers, were a part of the USSR’s strategy to expand its maritime capabilities to challenge the dominance of the U.S. Navy.

    The introduction of the Kiev class marked a significant step towards establishing a formidable presence beyond regional waters, demonstrating the power of Soviet naval engineering and the strategic foresight of Admiral Sergei Gorshkov, who championed their creation.

    However, the dual role of the Kiev-class carriers compromised their efficacy, constraining their performance as both missile cruisers and aircraft launch platforms.

    This inherent design limitation became more apparent post-Cold War, leading to their retirement or repurposing, except for the Baku, which was sold to India and reborn as the INS Vikramaditya, now a proud flagship of the Indian Navy.

    The Kiev-class carriers boasted substantial firepower, equipped with anti-ship missiles and a formidable array of air defenses, including the SS-N-12 “Sandbox” missiles with their formidable reach and destructive potential.

    They also featured advanced air defenses like the SA-N-3 Goblet and later the 9K330 Tor anti-air missiles.

    Close-in defense was provided by AK-630 30-millimeter Gatling guns, among other armaments.

    Yet, the aviation aspect of these carriers was no less remarkable.

    They could operate the Yak-38 “Forger” fighters, which used innovative thrust-vectoring for vertical take-offs and landings.

    Alongside these were the Ka-25 “Hormone” helicopters with multi-role capabilities.

    The Kiev-class carriers were envisioned as a bold endeavor to provide Russia with a formidable vessel capable of challenging American aircraft carriers and countering submarine threats to the Soviet territory simultaneously.

    However, due to the division of roles between two distinct functions, their effectiveness in either capacity was significantly limited.

    Vessels that combine disparate roles, such as Japan’s World War II Ise-class aircraft carrier/battleships, typically struggle to excel in both roles.

    The Kiev class was no different and faced similar challenges in fulfilling its dual roles effectively.

    Relevant articles:
    Russia’s Kiev-Class Aircraft Carriers Had Just 1 Mission, The National Interest
    Aircraft carriers aren’t the Russian navy’s only problem. It has also struggled for decades to build jets for them., Yahoo Finance Canada
    Kiev-class aircraft carrier, Military Wiki | Fandom
    Bad Idea: Russia’s Kiev-Class Tried to Combine an Aircraft Carrier and a Cruiser, 19FortyFive

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