“Admiral Kuznetsov” Aircraft Carrier reentrance into service with RuN is farther delayed

In 2018 “Heavy Aircraft-Carrying Cruiser Admiral of the Soviet Navy Nikolay Kuznetzov” went into overhaul cum upgrade works, which were planned to be completed in 2021. After the timetable was postponed into 2023, now it won’t enter service until at least 2024. That is twice the time that was planned initially. Naturally, the time table will most probably be postponed even more until that final date.

Many smart people were saying that sinking of the “Moskva” cruiser wasn’t such a big deal: the ship was obsolete, and newer flagship is being built for the Black See Fleet. The problem is, the replacement isn’t ready, and then it will be ready, it won’t be a capital warship like the “Moskva” was. When the US Navy 6th fleet flagship entered the Black Sea, people barely took any notice. Because landing ship is not in the same class as the large and menacing missile cruiser: it has no awe-inducing weapons on board, it is practically defenseless, and it looks like a freighter rather than a warship. Landing ship might be more suitable for housing a fleet command staff, but it isn’t a flagship in a full meaning of this word.

Soviet legacy left Russia some of the most powerful warships in the world. Their air-defense was quite adequate for that time, and its anti-ship cruise missiles are still ones of the most formidable ones, installed on any warship. The Russian naval ideology was and still based around protecting its borders and adjacent seas. Mainly, the surface fleet was intended to ensure the safety of the sea “bastions”, in which nuclear ballistic missiles submarines (SSBN) operate, and from where whey would launch the retaliation nuclear strike on the enemy. Mutual assured destruction, aka MAD, is the cornerstone of the Soviet and now Russian defense doctrine against financially and industrially superior West.

There are three types of cruisers serving in the Russian Navy (RuN), all of which are of Soviet legacy: “Heavy Nuclear (-powered) Missile Cruiser project 1144 ‘Orlan’, ‘Peter the Great’”, the “Kuznetsov”, and the “Missile cruiser project 1146 ‘Atlant’”, of which there were three: “Moskva”, “Varyag” and “Marshal Ustinov”. Lately a second ship of the project 1144″ (Kirov class battlecruiser, by NATO designation) “Admiral Hakhimov” is being restored and modernized in order to enter service, after about 15 years of storage and neglect. This will be (arguably) the most powerful warship in the world, excluding aircraft carriers. “Kuznetsov” is in long-term overhaul/upgrade, and the “Moskva” is no more.

Until the end of this decade, assuming no more capital ships would be destroyed, lost to accidents or decommissioned, Russia would still have 5 cruisers, capital ships that can operate in groups and independently in the World Ocean projecting force, of serving as a nuclei for naval battle groups of ships defending Russian shores. There would be no Russian built cruisers or destroyers or aircraft-carriers for potentially decades into the future. That is why every seaworthy cruiser has great importance for Russia. Even 40 or 50 years old ships could be repaired and modernized and continue to serve almost as well as the new built ones. What is important is their systems: weapons, sensors, communications, etc. The hulls themselves are just a platform to put all of those systems on board. That is why the sentiment of “this ship was old, so it wasn’t going to stay in the fleet for long anyhow” are flawed — in the lack of ability to built new ships to replace the old ones, these old ships would stay in service as long as needed.

The delay of the “Kuznetsov” return to service is a good demonstration of this point. Russian naval industry is struggling with even smaller ships. Frigates are delayed, cancelled and being redesigned all the time. Only corvettes have achieved some resemblance of serial production and regular introduction into RuN service. But frigates can’t fight NATO aircraft-carrier battlegroups in oceans, and especially not the corvettes. They are not suitable to project force. Capital ships take many years to do major repairs and modernization. New projects of capital ships exist only on paper (or corresponding digital format), their construction (assuming all is done within Russia itself) will take probably some 15 years at best.

This is the state of the Russian surface ships industry. It should also be noted, that Russian ability to construct submarines is considerably better. Russian nuclear triad was number one priority through the 90’s and 00’s, at time when other industries have collapsed or barely managed to survive, losing a lot in the process. But submarines can’t project force, they are weapons of war, while the surface ships have a large role to play at the peace time as well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: