Aircraft carrier (formal classification – heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser – TAVKR), Admiral Kuznetsov, the flagship of Russian Navy, is to join the battle against terrorist groups in Syria.
According to TASS news agency’s report, the ship will leave for the Mediterranean Sea in October and serve as a platform for carrying out airstrikes against terrorists until at least February 2017.
After the mission the ship will return to the Sevmash shipyards in Severodvinsk in the north of Russia to go through extensive upgrading.
Admiral (retired) Vladimir Komoedov, the head of the Russian State Duma’s Defense Committee and former commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, said, the crew will be rotated during the mission.
The Admiral Kuznetsov was launched in 1985, and became fully operational in 1995. Ten years ago the carrier lay at anchor off the port of Tartus, Syria, to mark the 300th anniversary of the Russian Navy celebrated in 1996. After that the ship has been deployed to the Mediterranean several times.
The Admiral Kuznetsov is the biggest ship ever built in the USSR or Russia, with a maximum displacement of 58,600-67,500 tons, length – 305 m (1,001 ft), beam – 72 m (236 ft) and draught – 11 m (36 ft). Her maximum speed is 29 knots (54 km/h; 33 mph), and her range at maximum speed is 3,800 nautical miles (7,000 km; 4,400 mi). At 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph), the maximum range is 8,500 nautical miles (15,700 km; 9,800 mi). The ship’s endurance is 45 days.
She uses a 12-degree ski-jump bow flight deck to launch fixed wing aircraft (the ski-jump take-off). On take-off aircraft accelerate toward and up the ski-jump using afterburners. This results in the aircraft leaving the deck at a higher angle and elevation than on a flat top with a flat deck and catapults. The flight deck is equipped with landing arrester-wires.
The Russian Navy’s sole aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is set to deploy to the Mediterranean Sea with a new air wing configuration. She will carry 15 Sukhoi Su-33 all-weather air superiority fighters and Mikoyan MiG-29K/KUB multirole fighters, and 10 Kamov Ka-52K, Ka-27, and Ka-31 helicopters. In the original project specifications, the ship should be able to carry up to 33 fixed-wing aircraft and 12 helicopters. This is the first time the new Ka-52K, a navalized derivative of the Ka-52, will be tested in combat conditions.
The main difference from the basic Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopter is the folding main rotor blades and folding half-wings. The new version will also be adapted for naval use by increased corrosion protection and an adjusted air conditioning system. Ka-52K (Hokum-B) will receive a special avionics suite to enable instrument landing on the ship’s deck.
The crew life support system will be upgraded to allow the pilots to work in immersion suits. The Ka-52K has a gyro-stabilized electro-optical station and millimeter-wave radar with a 25-km detection range. The weapons package includes a built-in 30 mm 2A42 automatic cannon unguided rockets, laser- or radio-guided antitank missiles or an air defense system.
The Ka-52K variant may serve as an upgrade for the aircraft’s basic version already being delivered to the Russian military.
Russian Helicopters currently has a contract with the Aerospace Forces for delivery of 146 Ka-52s of the type through 2020. This type was taken into service in 2011 as a reconnaissance and combat helicopter. The military’s plans call for the replacement of some of these rotorcraft with the Ka-52K variant.
The MiG-29K jet is also a special case – it has never been deployed operationally with the Russian fleet.
The MiG-29K is a much-improved variant of the original MiG-29 Fulcrum.
As a carrier-based model, it has a reinforced airframe and undercarriage to handle the shock of carrier landings. It’s also fitted with folding wings and a tailhook. The airframe also features signature reduction measures to cut the jet’s radar cross-section by a factor of four. The jet is also equipped with more powerful and fuel-efficient Klimov RD-33MK engines, which are fitted with full authority digital engine controls (FADEC). Overall, the new power plants are far more reliable and maintenance friendly than the older RD-33K. Unlike the original MiG-29, the new Fulcrum-D features a digital fly-by-wire system.
The new Fulcrums’ avionic suite is based around the Zhuk-ME pulse Doppler radar, which can track up to ten contacts while engaging four targets simultaneously.
It’s also fitted with a new multichannel infrared search and track (IRST) system. The avionics are based on the ubiquitous MIL-STD-1553B open architecture standard for easier upgrades.
The aircraft is able to carry a host of air-to-air and air-to-surface guided-weapons including the Kh-35E anti-ship missile.
The Russian military has ordered two-dozen of the new jets to eventually replace the Su-33 in Russian Navy service.
The aircraft should be delivered to the Russian fleet before the end of the year.
The ship’s cruiser role is facilitated by Admiral Kuznetsov’s complement of 12 long-range surface-to-surface anti-ship P-700 Granit (NATO classification: SS-N-19 Shipwreck) cruise missiles, unlike NATO aircraft carriers which carry little armament.
The presence of this sizable anti-ship missile capability determines its formal typing as an aircraft-carrying cruiser.
The ship carries 24 vertical launchers (192 missiles) for 3K95 Kinzhal (SA-N-9 Gauntlet) all-weather low to medium altitude, short-range surface-to-air missile system designed for engaging airplanes, helicopters, cruise missiles, precision guided munitions, unmanned aerial vehicles and short-range ballistic threats (anti-munitions).
She also carries six AK-630 30mm rotary cannons in single mounts.
The ship is equipped with an Udav-1 anti-submarine system with 60 anti-submarine rockets. It protects surface ships by diverting and destroying incoming torpedoes.
The system also provides defense against submarines and saboteur systems such as underwater vehicles. The Udav-1 has ten barrels and is capable of firing 111SG depth charge projectiles, 111SZ mine-laying projectiles and 111SO diverting projectiles. The range of the system is up to 3,000 m and the submarine engagement depth is up to 600 m.
It should be noted that Russia is the only country in the world with such a heavily armed aircraft carrier: the aircraft carriers of other countries are essentially just floating airbases. She needs escort ships, too, but not as many as US flat tops. With all the weapons mentioned above, the ship can defend itself against a wide range of threats and prevent the enemy from getting too close, whether from the air or from underwater.
The ship has a D/E band air and surface target acquisition radar (passive electronically scanned array), an F band surface search radar, a G/H band flight control radar, an I band navigation radar, and four K band fire-control radars for the Kashtan CIWS. She has a hull-mounted medium- and low-frequency search and attack sonar. The ASW helicopters have a surface search radar, a dipping sonar, sonobuoys, and magnetic anomaly detectors.
The Admiral Kuznetsov is conventionally powered by eight gas-fired boilers and four steam turbines, each producing 50,000 hp (37 MW), driving four shafts with fixed-pitch propellers.
The planned movement of Admiral Kuznetsov to the Mediterranean displays the growing power projection capabilities. Russia does not depend on the ground based tactical aviation. It has an air-capable combat ready ship to serve as a sea-going base. New fixed and rotary wing aircraft will be battle tested as they join the battle against terrorism in their first ever combat deployment.
The Russian Navy needs this experience. The plans are on the way to start construction of a new Russian aircraft carrier around 2025. «It will most likely happen by the end of 2025. We have three projects that have been proposed by the Krylov research center. Overall, they are not bad», Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov told reporters at the ongoing HeliRussia-2016 helicopter exhibition in Moscow.
Russia has achieved remarkable success in its efforts to develop advanced blue water Navy with growing arsenal of high-end warfighting capabilities. The Admiral Kuznetsov’s deployment displays the enhanced power projection potential few other navies in the world can match.