What was the first Soviet aircraft carrier

Why Russia is now relying on a nuclear aircraft carrier

More than 300 meters long and over 65 meters high. Draft almost eleven meters and a water displacement of 80,000 tons. Driven by four nuclear reactors with an output of 305 megawatts each, which should accelerate the ship to 55 kilometers per hour. At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union wanted to use this monster to restore the equilibrium in the arms race at sea. The aircraft carrier Admiral Ulyanovsk was supposed to stand up to the US nuclear aircraft carriers of the Nimitz class - named after the first carrier of this type, the USS Nimitz, which was commissioned in 1975.

But the Soviet military was late in planning. Although the warship was launched in 1988 at the shipyard in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, neither Ukraine nor Russia had any money or use for the giant of the seas. In 1992, the shipbuilders dismantled the body again, and the project landed on the rubbish heap of history.

Not quite! Because now the project is at least partially revived. According to a report by the Russian news agency Tass, the Admiral Ulyanovsk will serve as a template for a new aircraft-carrying nuclear cruiser. "The technical project and documentation according to which work on the Ulyanovsk was carried out at the Black Sea shipyard in Mykolaiv in the late 1980s / early 1990s will be used in the creation of a new Russian aircraft carrier," Tass quoted an anonymous source as saying the Russian shipbuilding industry. In addition, the experience that the significantly smaller aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov has gained in the Syria mission should also be taken into account.

Gigantic new building

The Admiral Kuznetsov is currently the only aircraft carrier in Russia. The warship, launched in 1985, has a water displacement of 60,000 tons and is much smaller than the planned new building. In addition, the Kuznetsov is only powered by conventional steam turbines and boilers - if it does run once. She has been at the shipyard since 2017 due to ongoing repair and modernization work, which will probably drag on until 2022 after a fire in December 2019.

According to the Russian media, the contract for the new building should go to the state shipyard and armaments holding OSK (USC) as early as this year. There is no official confirmation for this. The Russian Navy had earlier stated that it planned to put a nuclear aircraft carrier into service around 2030. This also corresponds to the previous statements by the Ministry of Defense, according to which the contract for the construction should be signed in 2025. The construction time is therefore five years.

However, bringing forward these armament plans would by no means be ruled out. In recent years, the Kremlin has significantly increased its foreign and security policy ambitions. In Syria, the Russian leadership has secured a naval base in the Mediterranean and is now hoping for the same in Libya. Confirmation of the reports is also not absolutely necessary. After all, defense and security spending has not been listed in detail for several years since Vladimir Putin classified this entire complex in the budget as strictly confidential. The Kremlin loves surprises. All that is known is that between 2019 and 2021, around 30 percent of budget spending will go to defense and security purposes. This is very reminiscent of the Cold War era.

New experiences

With all the love and reflection on the glorious Soviet times, the Russian armaments industry will not make the mistake of recreating the aircraft carrier true to its 30-year-old model. Calculations on the body of the ship can be used, otherwise the aircraft carrier will be built according to the latest military technology and can therefore confidently be classified as a new project.

That should also affect the drive. The fleet wants to stay with nuclear propulsion, but the constructions should be absolutely new. After all, shipyards have gained a lot of experience building nuclear icebreakers in recent years.

And when it comes to arming, Russia will pack everything it has to offer anyway. And that's a lot: the carrier should be able to accommodate around 70 aircraft and helicopters. In addition to the Su-33s in use today, there should also be space on the deck for the latest MiG-35 and Su-57 multi-purpose fighter jets, some of which are still in development. In addition, Putin's new hypersonic miracle weapons, with which he shocked the world two years ago - such as the Kinschal ("dagger") air-to-ground missile and the Zircon anti-ship guided missile - are said to be part of the arsenal. And the aircraft carrier will also be built specifically to fire medium-range missiles of the Kal type, which Russia intends to further develop on a massive scale in the next few years after Donald Trump's termination of the INF treaty.

Technically, the Russian fleet could certainly hold a candle to the competition with the new aircraft carrier. Quantitatively, however, the USA would continue to have the tip of the nose. After all, they operate ten Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. (André Ballin from Moscow, January 14th, 2020)