Project 1143.5 Kreml class
Aircraft Carrier Cruiser
The 67,500-ton Kreml class aircraft carrier supports strategic missile carrying submarines, surface ships and maritime missile-carrying aircraft of the Russian fleet. The ship is capable of engaging surface, subsurface and airborne targets. Superficially similar to American carriers, the design is in fact "defensive" in support of SSBN bastions. The lack of catapults precludes launching aircraft with heavy strike loads, and the air superiority orientation of the air wing is apparent.
The flight deck area is 14,700 square meters and aircraft take-off is assisted by a bow ski- jump angled at 12 degrees in lieu of steam catapults. The flight deck is equipped with arrester wires. Two starboard lifts carry the aircraft from the hangar to the flight deck. The ship has the capacity to support 16 Yakovlev Yak-41M (Freestyle) and 12 Sukhoi Su-27K (Flanker) fixed wing aircraft and a range of helicopters including four Kamov Ka-27-LD (Helix), 18 Kamov Ka-27 PLO, and two Ka-27-S. The ship has a Granit anti-ship missile system equipped with 12 surface to surface missile launchers. The air defence gun and missile system includes the Klinok air defence missile system with 24 vertical launchers and 192 anti-air missiles. The system defends the ship against anti-ship missiles, aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles and surface ships. The ship is equipped with an Udav-1 integrated anti-submarine system with 60 anti-submarine rockets.
Originally designated 'Black-Com-2' class (Black Sea Combatant 2), then subsequently the 'Kremlin' class, and finally redesignated 'Kuznetsov' class, these ships were sometimes also referred to as the 'Brezhnev' class. Initially Western analysts anticipated that the ships would have a Combined Nuclear And Steam (CONAS) propulsion plant similar to the Kirov battle cruiser and the SSV-33 support/command ship. However the class was in fact conventionally propelled with oil-fired boilers.
Western intelligence first detected preparations for the construction of the first ship in late 1979. The first public view of this ship came with the leak of the "Morrison Photos," which were the first real public look at overhead satellite imagery. Another leak over a decade later was a bookend to the first, showing the dismantlement of the sister ship to the carrier in the Morrison photo.
The carrier "Tbilisi" was launched in 1985, but was subsequently renamed "Admiral Kuznetsov" (Admiral Flota Svetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov) in the mid-1990s. A variety of aircraft were tested on the carrier's deck following its completion. The first specially configured Su-25UT Frogfoot B, Su-27 Flanker, and MiG-29 Fulcrum conventional jets landed on the deck of the Tbilisi in November 1989, aided by arresting gear. In addition, the Mig-29K passed its test flights from the deck of the aircraft carrier, but was ultimately not selected for production. Political turmoil delayed the ship's formal commissioning until 1991, and it did not become fully operational until 1995.
The Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov returned from a brief Mediterranean training cruise early in 1996. At the end of 1997 she remained immobilized in a Northern Fleet shipyard, awaiting funding for major repairs that were halted when only 20% complete. In July 1998 the Admiral Kuznetsov emerged from a two-year overhaul and was declared active in the Northern Fleet on 03 November 1998. In the Fall of 2000 Admiral Kuznetsov took part in operations off the Kola Peninsula after the loss of the submarine Kursk, delaying a planned return of the Russian Navy to the Mediterranean. The sortie by a small flotilla of escorting warships was postponed until 2001 or 2002, and then cancelled.
In early 2001 there were reports that the dozen Su-33 Flanker fighters assigned to the ship were slated to be supplemented by another dozen modified to the attack role, capable of carrying air-to-ground ordnance. But the Admiral Kuznetsov did not have catapults, and its Su-33 fighters proved incapable of taking off with heavy payloads or full fuel levels. Instead, the aircraft carried primarily light air-to-air missiles. Naval officials reported that the principal reason for keeping the Admiral Kuznetsov operational was to preserve its school of deck aircraft pilots.
In 2003 150 million rubles were allocated from the budget to repair the ship. The floating dock PD-50 was used in 2003 for repairs on the Kuznetsov; however, the aircraft carrier did not finish the repair program. Murmansk Shipyard received a military order from the Russian Navy on 26 April 2004 to repair eight gas pipes on the Kuznetsov. These pipes, which were several tens meters long, serviced the steam making stations of the aircraft carrier. The civil shipyard undertook to fulfill the order in the shortest possible time - before 30 June 2004. The ship was therefore planned to finish its repairs by September 2004.
On 24 July 2004 RIA Novosti reported that the Admiral Kuznetsov would begin performing missions after it emerged from preventative maintenance, and the headquarters of the Northern Fleet stated that the ship would be released from repair on 06 August 2004. The emergence from scheduled repair coincided with the 100th anniversary of Admiral Kuznetsov's birth. Its equipment and armaments were reportedly in a good state, and after some careful preparations the Admiral Kuznetsov was approved to perform missions. The ship's carrier-based aircraft began their training shortly thereafter.
Following repairs, the ship participated in exercises in the Atlantic Ocean together with its deck based aviation and other ships. This was only the vessels's second mission in a decade. In October 2004 the Admiral Kuznetsov participated in the most ambitious naval exercise performed by the Russian Navy to date. It sailed with the Navy's flagship nuclear-powered heavy cruiser, the Pyotr Veliky, the cruiser Marshal Ustinov, the destroyer Admiral Ushakov, a tanker and two support ships. The group arrived at an area approximately 20 nautical miles off Iceland on 05 October and returned home on 01 November.
On 23 February 2005 Rear Admiral Vladimir Dobroskochenko, the Deputy Commander of the Northern Fleet, announced that the Admiral Kuznetsov would embark on a voyage around the oceans that summer.
A significant increase in funds allotted to the Russian Navy within the defense and military budgets allowed further repairs and upgrades to be initiated in 2007. At that time the ship's naval aviation component was comprised of elements of the 279th Ship borne Fighter Air Regiment. The carrier was equipped with more than 20 Su-33 fighters and 16-18 Ka-27 and Ka-31 helicopters. Upgrades in the aircraft's detection and weapons systems supposedly enhanced the ship's overall attack capabilities.
Construction of the Varyag started in December 1985 at Nikolayev, and the ship was launched in November 1988. The Varyag was intended to be the second ship of the class, but in late 1991 the Defense Ministry halted financing, and construction work was halted in January 1992. In 1994 Russia declined to resume the Varyag's construction, which was 70 percent complete. The total estimated cost of the ship was about US$ 2.4 billion, and more than US $500 million was needed to complete her construction. Further complicating matters was the fact that many of the ship's equipment systems reached their planned operational life limits by the end of 1997. The government of Ukraine decided in June 1994 to scrap the vessel, after unsuccessful attempts to sell it of Russia, China or India.
Ukraine began trying to sell the ship, and talks with Chinese and British companies were held in 1995. However, it was hard to find a customer. The sale of Varyag for US$20 million was announced on 17 March 1998 for conversion to an entertainment complex and casino. The Chinese company -- Agencia Turistica e Diversoes Chong Lot Limitada, a small company registered in Macau -- agreed that the ship would not be used for military purposes, which reflected the fact that much of its equipment had either never been installed or had been already been removed.
However, since July 2000 Turkey rejected repeated requests to let the Varyag pass through Istanbul's crowded Bosphorus strait. The coastguard was on alert, citizens were told, lest it try to "slip through". For Varyag to pass with escort tugs, the strait separating Asia and Europe might have to be closed to other traffic. In early December 2000 Turkey barred the Varyag from passing through the Bosphorus straits, saying its passage would breach the 1936 Montreux Convention, which regulates use of the waterway. As of early 2001 the Varyag was off the coast of Bulgaria, under tow by a tug manned by a Chinese crew. It remained anchored in the Black Sea for months awaiting a go-ahead. Turkey allowed the Varyag to pass through the Bosphorus in October 2001, after China pledged to pay for any damages that might result. The Varyag reached the Chinese port of Dalian in February 2001 for a refit into a floating casino and hotel, before being towed to Macau.
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