How powerful will Russia’s only aircraft carrier be after modernization?

"The question is what to do with the engine - refurbish it so that it has a few extra years of life before it dies completely; or replace it with a completely new one, something that will require the entire ship to undergo major repairs." Photo: Aircraft cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov.

"The question is what to do with the engine - refurbish it so that it has a few extra years of life before it dies completely; or replace it with a completely new one, something that will require the entire ship to undergo major repairs." Photo: Aircraft cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov.

RIA Novosti
Forty billion rubles ($708 million) will be spent to modernize Russia's only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, after which it will not just be an aircraft carrier but will also be able to strike at the enemy using Kalibr-NK cruise missiles.

Plans to upgrade the aircraft carrier call for obsolete Granit missile systems to be replaced with 3S14 universal launch systems. At the discretion of the military, these can be outfitted with Kalibr-NK class cruise missiles, Onyx supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles, or the Zircon advanced hypersonic missiles. Also, the Admiral Kuznetsov's electrical machinery and entire engine will be overhauled.

"The take-off and landing systems will also be modernized in order to enable fighter planes to take off and land in full safety," TASS news agency reported, citing an anonymous source.

Thus, the carrier group will continue to carry MiG-29K/KUB and Su-33 ship-based fighter planes. At the end of 2016, the Admiral Kuznetsov lost two fighter planes that crashed on landing following combat flights over Syria. On both occasions the accidents were caused by broken arresting cables that deck-based fighter planes hook onto when making a carrier landing.

Repair or replace the engine?

The aircraft carrier's outdated engine presents a headache for the military, said experts.

"God only knows what ship repair crews will find during the diagnostic process. The question is what to do with the engine - refurbish it so that it has a few extra years of life before it dies completely; or replace it with a completely new one, something that will require the entire ship to undergo major repairs," said Viktor Murakhovsky, editor-in-chief of the magazine, Arsenal Otechestva.

If the second option is chosen, then the ship will disappear into dry dock for many years, and the work will cost the state vast sums. Murakhovsky also believes the country cannot afford to build the new Shtorm aircraft carrier (see our report on the Shtorm aircraft carrier).

"A Shtorm would cost 10 times as much as the repair work on the Admiral Kuznetsov, and there’s no way we can find the money at the moment, and there is no pressing need for such a ship," Murakhovsky said.

At the same time, experts are applauding the decision to equip the Admiral Kuznetsov with the 3S14 universal launchers that can accommodate Kalibr cruise missiles, Onyx supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles, and the Zircon advanced hypersonic missiles.

"Compared with the U.S., Russia has a fraction of the ships needed to form a carrier escort group and provide appropriate protection for the carrier," said TASS military analyst, Viktor Litovkin. "For this reason, it was decided to deploy these strike weapons on the aircraft carrier itself."

Read more: Why is Russia creating the biggest aircraft carrier in the world?>>>

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