The flagship of the Russian Navy, the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, will undergo modernization in the first quarter of 2017, according to an unidentified Russian defense industry official, TASS news agency reports. The modernization of the aircraft carrier is expected to take three years.
“The works on the vessel will begin after she returns from a long-distance voyage in the Mediterranean in the first quarter of 2017 and will last for two-three years [sic],” the source said. Earlier reports indicated that the ship’s overhaul would take at least five years.
The modernization will occur in two phases. A corresponding contract will be signed soon; it is still undecided at what dry dock the ship will be overhauled. The Sevmash shipyard and Zvezdochka Ship Repair Center allegedly are among the bidders for the contract, TASS notes.
“The Defense Ministry’s contract with the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) on the aircraft carrier’s repair with modernization worth several billion rubles under the technical design of the Nevskoye Design Bureau is ready; it will be signed in June,” according to the source.
“The modernization will focus on the aircraft carrier’s flight deck, including replacement of the deck covering, tailhooks, aircraft arresting gear and other elements of the take-off system,” he added.
Captain Vladimir Tryapichnikov, head of the Russian Navy’s Shipbuilding Directorate, officially spoke of the carrier modernization plans in a radio interview back in January: “At the end of 2016 the ship will undergo modernization works, and then obtain a new air wing, new capabilities, so she will accomplish two or even three times more missions than earlier.”
The future air wing of the Admiral Kuznetsov will consist of Sukhoi Su-33 air superiority fighters, MiG-29K/KUB multirole fighter aircraft, and Kamov Ka-27, Ka-31, and Ka-52K helicopters. The aircraft carrier can accommodate approximately 41 aircraft.
The ship is currently docked at the 35th Ship Repair Plant in Murmansk for repairs and will depart for the eastern Mediterranean in late June. Russia’s sole aircraft carrier was commissioned in 1990 and has not undergone any major overhauls since a two-year refit between 1996 and 1998. It has never been deployed longer than six months and spent most of its service life in port.
It remains to be seen whether aircraft carrier’s modernization will occur within the announced timeframe. All Soviet carriers were constructed in Ukraine and Russia has lost valuable expertise and technology—particularly surface ship propulsion technology—due to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Russia, however, has recently overhauled and modernized a Kiev-class carrier-cruiser for the Indian Navy and gained valuable insights into carrier building techniques through that process. This expertise will prove helpful in overhauling the Admiral Kuznetsov.
Interestingly, the Krylovsky State Research Center (KRSC), a Russian shipbuilding research and development institute, is purportedly also working on a new supercarrier design called Project 23000E Shtorm (Storm) and there have been repeated reports that Russia intends to build a new carrier in the 2020s.
As I reported previously:
The supercarrier design has a displacement of 100,000 tons, is 330 meters long, 40 meters wide, and has a draft of 11 meters. Powered by either conventional or a nuclear propulsion, the ship can remain at sea for 120 days and sail up to 30 knots (around 55 kilometers per hour), according to information supplied by KRSC. It can accommodate a crew of up to 5,000 and can carry 80-90 deck-based aircraft.
Nevertheless, Russia for the moment does not even have a large enough dry dock to accommodate a ship the size of the Shtorm.