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rec.aviation.military Frequently Asked Questions (part 2 of 5)
Section - C.13. What's happened to the former USSR's aircraft carriers?

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Both of the Moskva class helicopter carriers have been retired (_Leningrad_
in 1991, _Moskva_ in 1992).

Of the four 43000 tonne Kiev class carriers, three (_Kiev_, _Minsk_, and
_Novorossiysk_) have been retired, leaving only one (_Admiral Gorshkov_) in
service with the Northern Fleet.  The Yak-38 V/STOL strike aircraft
formerly assigned to the ships have also been retired; the _Gorshkov_ now
carries only helicopters.

_Minsk_ and _Novorossiysk_ have been stricken for scrapping; _Kiev_ is
mothballed, but will be cannibalised for parts to keep _Gorshkov_ in
service.  However, _Gorshkov_ itself is currently described as "inactive";
given the Russian government's chronic shortage of money, and the fact that
there are no shipyards in Russia capable of servicing them (the only
suitable one is in the Ukraine), it's quite possible that the entire class
may disappear in the near future.

The 67500 tonne _Admiral Kuznetsov_, the only conventional aircraft carrier
ever operated by the Soviet Navy, remains in service with the Russian
Navy's Northern Fleet.  Its sister ship, _Varyag_, remains at the Nikolayev
shipyard, not quite complete.  Its fate was decided in June 1994, when the
Ukrainian government ordered it to be scrapped, after Russia's decision not
to buy the vessel, and no success in attempts to sell it to other countries
such as China and India.

The 75000 tonne, nuclear powered _Ulyanovsk_ was never completed; the hull
has been scrapped.

The _Kuznetsov_, although nominally in active service, has so far been used
primarily for testing aircraft and operating procedures, the Russian Navy
having very little experience with fixed-wing carrier operations.  Its
primary aircraft type is the Sukhoi Su-33 single-seat multirole fighter
(production version of the Su-27K prototypes), which is currently in
low-rate production.  The Mikoyan MiG-29K was tested aboard _Kuznetsov_
alongside the Su-27K, but has not been selected for production.  A naval
training version of the Sukhoi Su-25, the Su-25UTG, is also in production
(a handful of another version, the Su-25UBP, were also built).  The
_Kuznetsov_ also carries a number of Kamov Ka-27/28/29/32 helicopters, in
various subtypes.

Two AEW aircraft were developed but cancelled.  The first was an AEW
version of the Antonov An-72 twin-turbofan STOL transport, codenamed
"Madcap" by NATO; this interesting design (the radar disc was mounted atop
a forward-swept, V-shaped set of tail fins) was cancelled in favour of
Yakovlev's Yak-44, a twin turboprop apparently very similar to the Grumman
E-2 Hawkeye.  The official reason given was that a turboprop was more
efficient for the AEW role than a jet (although your FAQ compiler suspects
that the fact that Yakovlev is a Russian company while Antonov is Ukrainian
probably had something to do with it too).  The Yak-44 has also in turn
been cancelled (although a revival is being considered), and recent reports
suggest that an AEW version of the Kamov Ka-32 helicopter is under
development.

Assuming the _Kuznetsov_ remains in service, a strike aircraft is likely to
be added to its air wing; this will almost certainly be another Su-27
variant, since the Russian air forces currently have a policy of minimising
the number of different types in service by using Su-27 derivatives
wherever possible.  Navalised strike versions of the MiG-27, Su-24, and
Su-25 were all tested on imitation flight decks on land bases, but none
were ever developed into carrier-capable naval aircraft (the naval Su-25s
are all trainers).

Both surviving carriers serve with the Northern Fleet, because current
Russian Navy policy is to concentrate all carriers, aircraft, and pilots in
one fleet.

[Much of the above is from recent magazine reports; thanks to Simon
Shpilfoygel for additional information]

[Oh, and thanks to John Iodice for pointing out to me that "Kuznetsov" is
Russian for "Smith" :-) ]

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Top Document: rec.aviation.military Frequently Asked Questions (part 2 of 5)
Previous Document: C.12. What's the composition of an aircraft carrier's air wing?
Next Document: C.14. What's an Su-35?

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