Russia's sole aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, in the English Channel in October 2016. (Dover-Marina.com via The New York Times)

The years have not been kind to Russia's sole, geriatric aircraft carrier.

Followed by billowing black smoke and massive tugboats wherever it goes, Admiral Kuznetsov has long been an object of derision in the defense commentary sphere.

The usual sense of levity accompanying Admiral Kuznetsov coverage turned to tragedy in 2018, when a 70-ton crane smashed into the carrier's hull. Almost as devastating as the considerable damage to the carrier itself was the loss of PD-50, Kuznetsov's floating drydock that sank from the blow's impact. The 2018 drydock disaster spawned a deluge of articles speculating as to Kuznetsov's fate, with many predicting its long-awaited decommission.

It appears, however, that the Russian Navy is refusing to throw in the towel.

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Russia's conventionally-powered Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier (Associated Press)

Russia wants to build its first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, Russian state media reported Tuesday, citing unnamed sources in the shipbuilding industry.

The carrier, a source told TASS, "will have a nuclear energy unit and displacement of about 70,000 [metric tons]," which would make it smaller than U.S. carriers but still larger than Russia's sole aircraft carrier, the steam-powered Admiral Kuznetsov, which suffered a devastating accident last fall.

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A photo taken from a Norwegian surveillance aircraft shows Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov in international waters off the coast of Northern Norway on October 17, 2016. (Reuters)

Russia is admitting it may be forced to scrap its only aircraft carrier as the troubled flagship suffered a catastrophic shipyard accident last fall.

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One of the world's largest dry docks sank at a shipyard in northwestern Russia late last month, throwing a wrench into plans to repair and modernize the country's sole aircraft carrier — the Admiral Kuznetsov.

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Flickr/Christopher Michel

Russia's only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, sustained massive damage from a 70-ton crane falling on it after an accident at a shipyard, Russian media reports.

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333 Squadron, Norwegian Royal Airforce/NTB Scanpix

For most sailors who served on the Admiral Kuznetzov, Mazut is the stuff of legends. The ultra thick, tarry black substance that powers the ship is known for being rather toxic, sticky, and not easy to get out of clothes. But why did the Soviet navy keep powering its ships with Mazut? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the fuel? Why exactly is the Kuznetsov so smoky?

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