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    Russia’s Sole Carrier Admiral Kuznetsov: A Tortuous Journey of Mishaps and Delays

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    The Russian Navy’s only aircraft carrier, Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov, has a storied past and an uncertain future, characterized by mishaps, delays, and mechanical failures that continue to cast doubt on its operational readiness.

    This flagship vessel, designed as a symbol of Russian naval pride, has been entangled in an odyssey of refurbishment since July 2018, with completion dates continually pushed back.

    Originally set for a mere two-year overhaul to extend its service life by a decade, Kuznetsov’s refit has turned into a prolonged saga.

    The carrier’s troubled journey commenced with a severe accident in October 2018, when a power outage at the floating drydock’s pumps resulted in the sinking of the dock and a 70-ton crane crashing onto the ship’s flight deck, causing substantial damage and the tragic loss of a worker’s life.

    The ensuing months only compounded the vessel’s woes, with a fire outbreak causing additional casualties and delaying the refit process.

    Despite finally leaving drydock, Kuznetsov’s tale of misfortune doesn’t end there. The ship’s reputation for trailing plumes of black smoke—indicative of its less-than-stellar engine performance—has made it the subject of mockery, further emphasizing its role as a relic of Cold War ambitions rather than a modern naval asset.

    The presence of the oceangoing tug Nikolai Chiker, accompanying the ship to counter its notorious unreliability, underscores the carrier’s precarious state.

    Throughout its service, Admiral Kuznetsov has seen limited action, the most recent being a deployment to Syria in 2016, marred by the loss of two aircraft due to what is believed to be the carrier’s inadequate condition.

    With an air wing comprising aging Su-33, MiG-29K, and Su-25 jets, the carrier’s capability to project power is increasingly questioned in light of technological advancements by Western navies.

    The financial burden of sustaining such a vessel is nontrivial. The Russian government, having allocated only half of the original $866 million budget for the refit, faces a conundrum.

    Even as officials tout a possible return to service by 2024, the daunting financial and technical challenges suggest otherwise.

    Indeed, the ambitious Project 23000E, or Shtorm, a proposed supercarrier to surpass Kuznetsov’s capabilities, remains an elusive dream, with no concrete steps taken towards its realization amid Russia’s strained economic circumstances and growing anti-ship threats.

    As the Russian Navy grapples with the future of its carrier fleet, the Admiral Kuznetsov’s fate hangs in the balance, emblematic of the broader struggles to modernize and maintain a potent maritime force.

    It is a story of a vessel that, despite its historical significance, has become a potent symbol of thwarted aspirations and maritime misadventure.

    With the carrier’s operational viability in question, the Russian Navy’s ambition to maintain a blue-water presence remains as uncertain as the future of its sole aircraft carrier.

    Relevant articles:
    Russia’s Last Aircraft Carrier Is in Such Bad Shape It Can’t Sail Anywhere, The National Interest
    Admiral Kuznetsov: Russia’s Last Aircraft Carrier May Never Sail Again, The National Interest
    Russian aircraft carrier that cut through English Channel is in ‘very poor condition’, Daily Mail
    Admiral Kuznetsov: Is Russia’s Only Aircraft Carrier Cursed?, Popular Mechanics

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