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Russia’s sole aircraft carrier to get advanced air defense systems during upgrade

Upgrade works on Russia’s sole aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov will begin in May

ST. PETERSBURG, April 25. /TASS/. Upgrade works on Russia’s sole aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov will begin in May and the warship will get new air defense missile systems during its modernization, Russian Navy Deputy Commander-in-Chief Viktor Bursuk said on Wednesday.

"The works will begin in May this year and in 2021 the Navy expects to get it [the aircraft-carrying cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov] back," he said.

"Its air defenses will be improved and new shipborne Pantsyr [surface-to-air missile] systems will be installed on it. Besides, its power-generating equipment will be replaced by new boilers, a number of new pumps and new flight control systems: landing, surveillance, control systems and so on," Bursuk said.

As the Ship-Building Corporation announced earlier, the shipbuilders signed a contract with Russia’s Defense Ministry on the repair of the Project 11435 heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov. The warship is under repairs at the Zvyozdochka Ship-Building Center. Zvyozdochka earlier reported that all the necessary works had been carried out at the 35th Ship-Repairing Yard in Murmansk where the Admiral Kuznetsov will undergo upgrade.

The Admiral Kuznetsov

The Project 11435 heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov is designed to gain superiority at sea and in the air in the areas of the fleet’s operation to ensure the fleet’s combat sustainability, deliver air strikes against enemy objectives and support troops’ landing operations.

The warship entered service in 1990. It displaces 58,000 tonnes and has a length of 304.5 meters. The aircraft carrier has a full speed capacity of 200,000 horsepower and develops a speed of up to 30 knots. Apart from the air task force of 24-26 fighter jets and 12 helicopters, the Admiral Kuznetsov is armed with anti-ship and air defense missile systems.

The warship is equipped with a ski-jump and two aircraft elevators. It has a crew of 1,300 while the air group’s personnel numbers 660 men.

Project’s history

In the postwar period, there was no common view in the Soviet leadership on the need for aircraft carriers and possible methods of their deployment. Some politicians, industrialists and commanders spoke for the construction of large nuclear-powered aircraft carriers similar to the US Nimitz warship. Opponents, however, pointed to the high cost of the program of building aircraft carriers and emphasized the development of the submarine fleet.

As a result, there were no aircraft carriers in the Soviet Navy until the 1980s capable of carrying horizontal take-off and landing aircraft. Meanwhile, Project 1123 and Project 1143 cruisers were built for antisubmarine warfare, which was proclaimed a priority for the Soviet Navy’s surface fleet. These warships accommodated helicopters and also Yak-38 vertical take-off and landing aircraft. By their combat capabilities, these warplanes were less efficient than normal aircraft, which prompted the Navy’s command in the early 1970s to return to the plans of creating a large aircraft carrier capable of providing for aviation’s operation at a considerable distance from the fleet’s bases.

Project 11435 was developed in the early 1980s. In the process of designing, specialists gave up the idea of installing catapults on the warship: instead, the aircraft carrier was furnished with a ski-jump in its front part, which limits the takeoff weight of aircraft.

Besides, the aircraft carrier was armed with P-700 Granit missiles as powerful strike weapons. As a result, the Navy qualified the Project 11435 warship as a "heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser."

Initially, the lead warship was expected to be named the Soviet Union. In 1982, the aircraft carrier got the name of Riga. In late 1982, it was renamed into Leonid Brezhnev (in memory of the late CPSU Central Committee secretary-general). In 1987, at the beginning of perestroika and criticism of the stagnation period, the aircraft carrier was renamed into Tbilisi. Since October 1990, the warship has been called the Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov in honor of Nikolai Kuznetsov who headed the Soviet Navy in 1939-1947 and in 1951-1955.