The Russian Navy plans to build an advanced aircraft carrier, a senior Russian naval official confirmed on June 28 at the 2017 International Maritime Defense Show in St. Petersburg, Russia.
“Yes, the Navy will build an aircraft carrier, for sure,” the deputy head of the Russian Navy, Vice Admiral Biktor Bursuk, said, according to TASS news agency.
The Russian defense industry has developed a number of design concepts for a next-generation aircraft carrier. As I reported in March, the Russian shipbuilding research and development institute, Krylovsky State Research Center (KRSC), has been promoting its concept for a new conventional or nuclear-powered carrier under the name Project 23000E Shtorm (Storm).
“The mockup demonstrated by the Krylov [Krylovsky] State Research Center is just a mockup. There are many of them. Different bureaus are hammering out an image of this ship,” admiral Bursuk said on June 28. The admiral did not offer additional details on the new carrier design. According to Russian defense industry sources, the new 90-100-ton warship should be capable of accommodating 80-90 aircraft and stay at sea for 90-120 days.
According to Russian defense industry estimates, construction of the carrier would take seven to ten years and cost as much as $9 billion. Despite the admiral’s affirmation that the Russian Navy will continue to pursue the carrier project, multiple hurdles would need to be overcome. Next to the obvious fiscal constraints given the stagnating Russian defense budget, technical issues abound.
“For starters, Russia has never built an aircraft carrier,” I explained previously. “All Soviet carriers were constructed in Ukraine. Russia’s shipbuilding industry currently lacks the capacity to build a supercarrier and does not even have a large enough dry dock to accommodate a vessel the size of the Shtorm.”
The Russian Navy also lacks escort ships and support vessels for a carrier strike group not to mention carrier-based long-range strike and electronic warfare aircraft. In an interview, Victor Murakhovsky, editor-in-chief of Arsenal of the Fatherland magazine, and chairman of Russia’s Military-Industrial Commission, expressed skepticism that Russia would be able to afford an entire new carrier strike group.
“Judging from the American experience, a group like that should consist of two or three cruisers and 6-7 smaller displacement vessel, plus one or two submarines,” Murakhovsky said. “To crown it all, one will need to set up special ground-based infrastructure for the aircraft carrier and accompanying ships, as well as ship crews and aviation crews. Therefore, the cost of the construction of the aircraft carrier can thus increase seven or eight times.”