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CVN NEWCON - New Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carrier

At present, Russia has only one operational aircraft carrier, the Nikolai Kuznetsov, which was commissioned in the early 1990s and has recently re-entered service after a prolonged overhaul. On 14 October 2008 President Dmitry Medvedev said that Russia would launch large-scale construction of aircraft carriers within the next two years. "We need new aircraft carrying warships, this is a very important direction for the development of the Navy," he said on board Russia's only aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov. He added that the first aircraft carrier should be built by 2013-2015. "We have lost much ground in the 1990s, when we did not build any warships. Now we have to restore an [industrial] basis for aircraft carrier construction and for the Navy as a whole."

On 11 October 2008 Russia's President Dimitry Medvedev said he had instructed the Defense Ministry to develop a program with the aim of starting to build aircraft carriers within two years. "We need to build new aircraft carriers, this is a very important direction for the Navy's development," the president said. "All great countries with powerful navies develop in this way." Prior to these statements, the first new aircraft carrier was not expected until around the year 2020.

The program of building new aircraft carrying cruiser ships that Russia is adopting after President Medvedev's announcement was not born recently. The first Russian cruiser ships with aircraft carrying capability were built in the 1980s and 1990s. However, a lack of money prevented this programme from its natural course and finally it was abandoned, only to be restored in full and with a vengeance in 2008. It is due to be completed in 2015. A US aircraft carrier is a floating flight deck with hangars for the aircraft and barracks for pilots and marines. A Russian aircraft-carrying cruiser is a slightly smaller ship with fewer aircraft on board but heavily armed with missiles, both operational and tactical, plus a strong anti-aircraft capability. The result is that a US carrier cannot travel without its support group, while a Russian cruiser is capable of conducting combat operations alone.

On 15 May 2005 the navy's commander Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov told Interfax that the Russian Navy was undertaking a project to develop a new aircraft carrier. "We are beginning work to develop a new aircraft carrier in 2005. Construction is to begin after 2010," Kuroyedov said. "We are launching this development project and will involve leading experts to find out which materials and weapons we'll need and how many aircraft carriers should be built," he said. Kuroyedov earlier told journalists that the navy is planning to put the new carrier into service in the Northern Fleet by 2016-17. Another carrier will be built for the Pacific Fleet, he said. "Deck aviation has a good future. A new multi-purpose aircraft will be created in a few years," Kuroyedov said.

In July 2006 it was reported that Vladislav Putilin, the deputy chairman of the Military-Industrial Commission, stated that the Russian State Armaments Program for 2007-2015 did not cover the development of a number of weapons systems in Russia. In particular, no aircraft carriers are planned for construction. "The issue of our naval air carrier fleet will be decided upon after 2009. I cannot say how many will we have after 2015," Putilin said. Production of Su-33 naval fighters is not planned for the same reason.

In early 2007 the Russian government announced plans to build in Russia a complex for training deck aircraft pilots. The full-fledged training complex of the type NITKA stayed at Saki town on the Crimean in Ukraine after the disintegration of the USSR. The new one will be constructed over two to three years, and enter service by 2010. Russia, Ukraine and India signed an agreement on the joint using NITKA operated by the Ukrainian Air Force. The Russian Navy does plan on paying a lot of money to the Ukraine for leasing NITKA.

On 12 June 2007 ShipbuildingRu reported that former Secretary of the Security Council and member of the Duma [Russian parliament] Andrei Kokoshin spoke in favor of new aircraft carriers. Kokoshin stated that the new building program could start with a series of small aircraft carriers. Before, when he was the First Deputy Minister of Defense he personally supervised deliveries of the deck aviation to the Russia's existing aircraft carrier "Admiral Kuznetsov".

Admiral of the Fleet Vladimir Masorin, head of Russia's navy, said on 09 July 2007 that the construction of another aircraft carrier for the Russian military fleet would take time. "It is a very expensive operation; therefore, it will be performed in stages: The first stage is the maintenance of the aircraft carrier we have to that we don't lose the airmen, don't lose the skills and, in general, don't lose the aircraft carrier school," Masorin said. "By the end of this year we are supposed to define with industry, with science and the institutes, what kind of aircraft carrier we want to see, and of course, it is supposed to be not huge, not like the Americans, it is supposed to be sufficiently inexpensive, for those airplanes we have and are developing, and after this its design will begin. ... Further, we are hoping, but this is already beyond 2015 somewhere, construction of this ship will begin, but at least, there is a lot to do today."

Admiral Masorin, announced that within 20 to 30 years, there will be two aircraft carrying strike groups in Russia's navy, each of them including three aircraft carrying ships. "We plan in this time to create two strike aircraft carrying groups in the North and the Far East ... One will be at sea, a second will be getting ready to replace it, and the third will be at anchor " V. Masorin said. ... Today the U.S. Navy plants to have 13 aircraft carriers, the leading "gendarmes" in the world, in it military, We don't need so many."

While Masorin predicted the first new aircraft carrier could be in service by 2015, the whole carrier program would take 20 to 30 years, the Russian newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda reported.

According to a report in The New York Times on 06 September 2007, Admiral Masorin had said in July 2007 that that the Navy planned to acquire six new aircraft carriers with nuclear propulsion over the coming 20 years. Masorin stated that three of these carriers and their naval escorts would be assigned to the Pacific Fleet, while the other three would serve in European waters with the Northern Fleet. But the shipyard in Nikolayev, Ukraine that built the Soviet Union's five aircraft carriers is politically unavailable to Russia. Russia does not have an existing shipyard with a dock that can construct a s the size of an aircraft carrier.

Adm. Masorin indicated that the new Russian aircraft carrier will not compete in size with the American ships. It will be a nuclear aircraft carrier with the displacement of about 50,000 tons with around 30 planes and helicopters. Before the aircraft carriers are built, Russian shipyards will have to build enough support ships to go with them: rocket cruiser, several destroyers, frigates, submarines, and maintenance ships.

On 17 September 2007, President Vladimir Putin relieved Adm. Masorin as the commander of Russia's navy, the fourth top commander dismissed the appointed of the new Defence Minister, Anatoly Serdyukov. Masorin had reached the age of 60, at which military officers are required to tender their resignation. Putin could have, but did not, extend Masorin's term of service until he was 65. Masorin was replaced by Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky, the commander of Russia's Northern Fleet.

Reports in mid-2007 had suggested that the new carrier would be on the order of 40,000 tons of full water displacement, smaller than the 50,000 suggested by Adm. Masorin. Russia's one active carrier, the "Admiral Kuznetsov" has a full displacement of nearly 59,000 tons. One analysis assumed that the main reason for this smaller displacement was the absence of the necessary ship building facilities in Russia, which are generally in decline after the closure of the St. Peterburg Baltic Plant. Sevmash is not fully ready for the construction of aircraft carrier of great displacement.

The Su-33 is the primary aircraft used on the "Admiral Kuznetsov" aircraft carrier. The Su-33 aeroplane was been developed on the platform of the Su-27. The Su-33 is a single-seat ship-based STOBAR fighter, with upward folding wings and horizontal tail surfaces (for hangar storage); it is equipped with probe-and-drogue flight refuelling capability. The Su-33 is designed for defence of naval ships from aerial threats. In order to maintain a normal strength air group on such a smaller ship, smaller and lighter weight airplanes than the Su-33 might be needed. This suggests that the MiG-29K/KUB may be a future lightweight ship-based fighter for Russia.

The MiG-29K was initiated in 1984 as a Russian Air Force development program for a multi-role fighter, and in 1989 - 1991 the MiG-29K underwent tests aboard the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft-carrying cruiser. The MiG-29K program was revived in response to the decision of the Indian Navy to acquire the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier. This called for the provision of the ship with a multi-role ship-based arrested- landing fighter of the MiG-29K size. The ship's combat group will include 12 MiG-29K planes.

The government approved the "Basic Directions of Development of Civil Naval Equipment 2009-2016" program on 08 November 2007. It allotted 140 billion rubles over that period for the establishment of the United Shipbuilding Corporation, of which 91 billion rubles was to come from the federal budget. The director of United Shipbuilding Yury Yarov and chairman of the board Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Naryshkin were presented to the government. The USC planned to build 30-35 platforms for the exploration and production of oil and gas on the continental shelf by 2015. Subsequently, the corporation was to focus on the construction of tankers of 140,000-160,000 tons displacement, with the first of these ships to be launched in 2015. But existing wharves can handle ships of a maximum capacity of 70,000 tons displacement. Projects to build new wharves in three regions - western, northern and far-eastern - were to be chosen by VEB-Development Bank in the first half of 2008. While the formation of the United Shipbuilding Corporation and plans for new commercial ship-building facilities do not directly impact plans for aircraft carriers, there may be indirect connections between new commercial ship-building facilities and a competition to build new aircraft carriers.

Russia's Navy commander, Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky, said in July 2008 that the Navy command had decided to form in the future five or six aircraft carrier task forces to be deployed with the Northern and Pacific fleets.

On 07 September 2008 Maj. Gen. Nikolai Kuklev, the deputy commander of Russia's naval aviation, said "We are considering extending the service life of the carrier. It will stay in service until 2020 and may be even until 2025." The general also confirmed that a decision to build new aircraft carriers for the Russian Navy had been adopted. On 24 September 2008 Vyacheslav Popov, a former commander of the Northern Fleet who now sits in the upper house of parliament, said Moscow may offer Ukraine contracts to build aircraft carriers for the Russian Navy. He commented on Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov's statement on Tuesday that Russia could make several lucrative proposals to Ukraine that could convince Kiev to allow Russia's Black Sea Fleet to remain in Sevastopol after 2017, when the lease on the naval base in the Crimea expires.

"We can offer Ukraine extensive and lucrative opportunities in the sphere of shipbuilding. They have the Nikolaev shipyards that used to build aircraft carriers during Soviet times," Popov said. "These shipyards are bankrupt and abandoned at present and with mutual consent we could help reactivate them," Popov said. Russia currently lacks the capacity to build aircraft carriers and modernizing its existing shipyards would be an expensive and lengthy proposition. Popov said though that this proposal "may become a sensitive issue as Ukraine's pro-Western president, Viktor Yushchenko, is seeking NATO and EU membership for the country.

Deputy Commander of the Russian Navy Admiral Igor Kasatonov announced in March 2015 that Russia would build its first aircraft carrier although construction will begin only after 2025. This was not the first time a senior Russian military official had proposed the construction of an aircraft carrier, however, and there was some question about whether this project will actually come to fruition.

Historically, the Russian Navy had served as an auxiliary tool for the countrys powerful army. The advent of nuclear submarines in the second half of the 20th century gave the navy a strategic deterrence function, however, which grew over time. In order to protect the areas of deployment of strategic bombers and to be prepared for the possibility of active participation in numerous conflicts in the developing world, the Soviet Union began constructing cruisers that could transport helicopters in the 1960s, followed in the 1970s by cruisers that could carry heavy aircraft.

The only ship of this type ever launched was the Admiral Kuznetsov, which under the Soviet system was called a heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser, or TAVKR, from its Russian acronym. Although the Admiral Kuznetsov was designated an aircraft carrier by the US, its mission was different from that of American aircraft carriers.

American aircraft carriers are basically a floating base for airplanes and helicopters. The Admiral Kuznetsov, however, also had defensive capabilities. It carried 12 long-range missiles, and the cost of carrying these weapons was space for aircraft along with a lift to move aircraft on and off the deck. The aircraft carrier proposed by Kasatonov would be part of an ongoing modernization of the naval component of Russias Strategic Missile Forces. Currently, half a dozen Soviet-built Su-33 planes, which were intended to be based on TAVKR ships, are being retrofitted and orders exist for new MiG-29ks naval fighter aircraft. Plans for fifth-generation carrier-based aircraft are expected in the near future. While the airborne portion of Russias naval forces are far into development, their floating airfields are another story. So far, plans for a Russian aircraft carrier have only reached the prototype stage. A model was presented at the Krylov State Research Center. This aircraft carrier will be atomic-powered and will carry about 100 planes. It would have a catapult to lift planes on and off the deck along with launch jumps.

Even though the state armaments program up to 2020 does not provide for the construction of an aircraft carrier, the industry is preparing for such an order. The current conflict with the West over Ukraine has acted as a catalyst for Russias plans to develop heavy warships, including the aircraft carrier.

In his 2015 statement, Kasatonov noted that Russia would gain experience in constructing and operating of large modern ships while completing the ocean-going destroyer ship Leader, which would become the theoretical basis and the foundation for the construction of an aircraft carrier. In mid-February 2015, the chief of naval aviation of the Russian Navy, Major General Igor Kozhin said that technically everything is ready and the aircraft carrier may be built in 8-10 years.

One open question remains the construction site location for the new aircraft carrier's body, since the Nikolaev shipyard, where the Soviet TAVRK was built, is now in Ukraine. Most experts believe that the construction of a new ship of this class can begin only after the completion the reconstruction of the Sevmash factory, where a long list of orders already exist. Another possible site is the Zaliv factory in the Crimean town of Kerch, which had the largest dock in the Soviet Union. Sergei Aksyonov, the head of the Republic of Crimea, has mentioned the Zaliv factory as a possibility for aircraft carrier construction.

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