Project 1143.7 Orel Ul'yanovsk class
Initial design work on a full-deck nuclear-powered aircraft began in 1973 under Project #1153 "Orel", which envisioned catapult-launched aircraft such as the MiG-23K fighter and Su-25K attack aircraft. The ship would have displaced 80,000 tons and carried as many as 70 aircraft. Following the death of Defense Minister Marshal Grechko, who had sponsored the project, the Defense Ministry was taken over by Marshal Ustinov, who did not share his predecessor's priorities. This Project 1153 effort was terminated in 1983.
Plans for a large-deck carrier were subsequently revived under Project #1143.7, which was undertaken at the Nevskoye Planning and Design Bureau beginning in 1984. The carrier was laid down in November 1988, but with the end of the Cold War the project was cancelled in November 1991. At that time construction was about 45% complete, and scrapping began in February 1992. The metal prepared for building the second ship of this class was also scrapped.
Historically, the military doctrine of the USSR practically until the early 1970s did not provide for extensive use of aircraft carriers. But after the success of the British operation in the Falkland Islands, the whole course of which was able to break the single aircraft carrier, the Soviet General Staff thought about the benefits of aircraft carriers.
Not having its own tradition of building and using such ships, the shipbuilding industry by trial and error came to a decision that was to fully satisfy the naval ambitions of the USSR and make the Russian fleet the strongest in the world. The ships of Project 1143.7, the main ship of which was to become Ulyanovsk, were to compete with the most modern American aircraft carriers of that time.
In the summer of 1972, the USSR Defense Minister Andrei Grechko, the USSR Minister of Defense, was presented with the project of the atomic strike aircraft carrier 1160 with ejection aircraft with a displacement of 80,000 tons. "Do not invent anything. Build like the Americans, "- this is the opinion held by the head of the military department of the USSR. His point of view was completely shared by the Minister of Shipbuilding Industry of the USSR Boris Butoma.
The main ship of this project could be laid in 1975, and in 1981 it would be surrendered to the fleet. By 1986, it was planned to introduce two more such aircraft carriers into the combat composition of the Soviet Navy. But intrigues began. The chief designer of heavy aircraft-carrying cruisers told the CPSU Central Committee that he was ready to solve the same problems, but for much less money. Most importantly, he was warmly supported by Dmitry Ustinov, Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU on Defense Issues. At almost the same time in 1976, proponents of the construction of "normal aircraft carriers" Andrei Grechko and Boris Butoma died. As a result, instead of the atomic strike aircraft carrier of Project 1160, the heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser 1143M Novorossiysk was laid. And in the end it turned out and not cheaper, and the combat capabilities were much less than promised.
Why was the first of a series of aircraft carriers going to be called "Ulyanovsk"? The fact is that at one time the city was an all-Union tourist and industrial center. Residents of other cities did not ask "where is this?" When they heard the phrase "I'm from Ulyanovsk." Then Ulyanovsk was not aviation, door, theatrical, pancake, kolobok, pit, landslide and other capitals, but wore the proud name "Homeland of Lenin". The new city was built according to the same architectural canons and patterns as serious science cities like Pripyat and Togliatti. And the dream of any fisherman and hunter was UAZ, and not a foreign jeep.
In the Soviet Union there was such practice as "patronage". Patronage of high school students over junior high school students, schools over the old people's home, plant over the school, etc. A whole city could take patronage over a military unit or ship, and supply them in excess of the prescribed norms with warm things, manufactured goods, food, tobacco or New Year's gifts. As a rule, draftees from the city-chief tried to send to the sponsored units and patronized ships, in order to improve communication between the bosses and sponsored, and at the same time to strengthen the relationship in the team.
Naturally, getting the help from such a strong region at that time, like the Ulyanovsk region, was very prestigious. Even more prestigious was the city to have its sponsored aircraft carrier. So it was decided to name the main ship of the project "Ulyanovsk".
The aircraft carrier, according to the project, performed the functions of not only a floating airfield, but also posed a serious threat to enemy groupings with its missile weapons. The universal anti-ship missile system Granite, with target designation via a satellite channel or radio channel from an airplane and a nuclear warhead, can arrange a local armageddon for the medium size of the grouping of ships. In addition, when several missiles are launched with a volley, the intelligent filling of missiles is able to distribute targets among several missiles, ranking them in terms of importance and danger. Such missiles "Ulyanovsk" could carry 16 pieces on itself. The aviation group was more than 70 aircraft and helicopters of various classes and purposes. Launch was provided by two steam catapults.
By 1991, that is, by the time the USSR ceased to exist, the aircraft carrier was about forty percent complete. A year after the events that collapsed the USSR, the government of the independent state of Ukraine received an offer from a certain Norwegian company with a proposal to create several large vessels in the shortest possible time. The Norwegians offered good money for them, and the Ukrainians agreed.
The problem was that the only dock in which it was possible to assemble new vessels was occupied by the unfinished Ulyanovsk. The Ukrainian side still doubted whether it was worth assembling a half-built vessel, but then they received another proposal from the United States. The steel company expressed its willingness to buy an unfinished aircraft carrier at a high price and this factor finally persuaded the Ukrainians to cut Ulyanovsk into scrap metal and sell it.
After the ship was dismantled, the American side, citing changes in market prices, refused the deal. But then another company appeared, which was ready to buy the scrap metal from the aircraft carrier, but at a much more modest price. Ukrainians had no choice but to agree to such conditions, but it should be replaced that the contract with the Norwegian company was also not implemented.
Years later, it was reported that the companies mentioned were not even going to make deals. The only purpose of this scam was to destroy a half-built aircraft carrier under the guise of a legitimate sale of metal, it is said.
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