Kusnetsov class aircraft carriers (1985-88)

Kuznetsov, Varyag

After the Kiev and Kirov, the USSR had the technical means to build large units, using nuclear propulsion combined with conventional propulsion. Soviet doctrine had led the Admiralty to define only cruisers, possibly able to embark and operate combat aircraft, as in the case of Kiev. But the Yak-38s were poor interceptors and in that role it was not sure that the Yak-41s then under study were better. Also, it was developed a platform capable of implementing conventional take-off interceptors, but navalized, which allowed to convert the excellent Mig-29 and Su-27 to take this role, like the F14 “Tomcat “and F18” Hornet “from the US Navy. But his role remained that of a support to the Soviet SNLE and not the pivot of future task forces, contrary to the American doctrine, explained by his official name tyazholiy avianesushchiy kreyser.

Note: This is an introduction on the matter, a starter article. It will be extensively rewritten soon, with the carrer of each ship detailed, and posted on Facebook.


Project 1143.5, also called “Kremlin” or “Kreml” was defined since 1979. For NATO, it was the “Black com 2” (Black Sea fighter). It was renamed under construction, which began in 1983 in Nikolayev, under the name of Riga, then renamed Brezhnev, and launched as such in December 1985, and following the denunciation of Gorbachev, at the time of its completion, Tbilisi . It was under this new name that after January 21, 1991 he began a series of tests. The georgia then knew serious political disturbances, accompanied by violence, and after the communist fall, the carrier was named “Grand Admiral of the Russian fleet Kusnetsov”, reduced to “Kusnetsov”.

The Kusnetsov is singular in many respects: Moving 67,000 tons at full load, it is by far the largest Russian warship ever built, apart from the abortive battleships of 1939. Just 300 meters long, it also has a very large flight deck, 37.8 meters wide. In addition, its bridge, although massive, is carried on the side and relatively modest. The bridge of envo, unlike the Kiev and Moskva, mixed, is indeed whole and continuous. On the other hand, a launching pad replaces catapults. This has the effect of limiting the offensive load of the interceptors, and to limit them to a role of patrol, but in no case of support to the ground. The Russians would have tried to copy the catapults (of British origin) of the aircraft carrier Indian Vikrant, unsuccessful.


However, in the Russian designation, it is an “aircraft carrier cruiser”. Like any cruiser, it possesses a powerful clean armament, far superior to that of US aircraft carriers: it consists of 24 anti-ship silo missiles, 8 anti-aircraft missile launching ramps, and 8 short-range multirole missile batteries, but also 2 ASM rocket launchers and 6 30 mm Gatling missile guns. The onboard group consists of two squadrons, comprising a total of 12 Kamov Ka 32 “Helix” helicopters and 18 “Fulcrum” Mig-29K type aircraft (operational only in 1995), or 24 Su-27 “Flanker” heavy interceptors with 6 helicopters “Helix”. Paradoxically, the lack of catapulas did not prevent the air group from also including Sukhoi su-25UT “Frogfoot-B” navalized, in patrol roles somewhat similar to the old “Intruder” Americans. Antonov would have, on private ground, studied and proposed an embedded version of his An-72 “Madcap”, to make the counterpart to the “Hawkeye” available to Americans and French, but none has ever been accepted in service.

Rare photo of the two aircraft carriers in Severomorsk

The Kusnetsov Twin, started at Nikolayev in 1985, just after the launch of his sister-ship, was named Riga and launched under this name in December 1988. But by the time of its completion, the USSR had imploded and unrest in Latvia had motivated his name change for Varyag. However the funds for its completion were lacking (electronics and amement). The vessel was 70% complete and its complete completion would have cost $ 500 million. The Russian government studied the possibility of selling it for demolition in 1992, in order to squeeze potential buyers. Indians and Chinese seemed interested, but it was finally Ukraine that received it. Also lacking funds, she was constrained in 1994 to sell the ship for demolition because no buyer had appeared. In 1997, the equipment of the Varyag had reached their age limit: It became imperative to sell it at a low price. Finally, a Macau tour company bought it in 1998, ending it as a casino and floating hotel for only $ 20 million.

But another problem arose in 2000: The Turkish government’s systematic refusal to allow the Varyag to cross the Bosphorus Strait, in particular because of the resulting mobilization of traffic, the danger of stranding, and the violation the Montreux Treaty, which in 1920 defined maritime and especially military traffic in the Strait. Finally an agreement was reached between the Chinese buyers and the Turkish government. The Varyag, anchored off the Bulgarian coast, assisted by a Chinese tug, finally crossed the strait in October 2001, and reunited with the Chinese port of Dalian for conversion, before joining Macau in 2004.

When the Kusnetsov, whose name is a tribute to the grand admiral of the fleet which for 30 years strove to give the Soviet navy its status as a powerful ocean-going fleet, remains the only carrier of the Russian Navy , the Kiev having ceased to serve. Anchored in the Black Sea, he made various cruises in the Mediterranean, and in 1996, he was taken over for a two-year revamp. Released in 1998, he took part in Kursk’s backup operations and returned to the port for other maintenance operations. Currently its fleet includes Sukhoi Su33 “Flanker”, recognizable by their duck plans. But without catapult, they can not ship enough kerosene for armed sparroux, or enough AA missiles, or even long-range missiles. Their limited capabilities led the office to define a specific naval interceptor, but these costly studies were quickly abandoned. Its fleet is justified only to maintain the practice and training of pilots on board. Everything has been done to ensure that Kusnetsov has operating budgets. He was therefore active, and in 2004 he took part in a “friendly cruise” of a fighting group comprising around the Kusnetsov, the cruisers Petr Veliky (Cl. Kirov), Marshal Ustinov (Slava Cl), the destroyer Admiral Ushakov, two tankers and two workshop ships. A new cruise began in the fall of 2005.

Tbilissi, the first name of this aircraft carrier – Author’s illustration.


Displacement: 60,000t, 67,000t FL
Dimensions: 300 x 37.8 (72 m PE) x 11 m
Propulsion: 4 propellers, 4 VHP turbines, 200,000 hp. and 30 nodes max.
Crew: 380
Electronics: Radar 2 Palm Front, Top Sail, Top Steer, 2 Head Light, 2 Pop Group, 2 Owl Screech, 2 Bass Tilt, 1 Trap Door. 1 Sonar of bow, 1 SPV, 8 CME Side Globes, 12 Bell, 4 Rum Tub, 2×2 Lance lures.
Armament: 24 miss. SSN19, 8×4 miss. SAN9 (32), 8 LM CADS N1, 6 guns of AM 30 mm Gatling, 2 LR RBU 1200, av. 12 SU33, 6 Ka 32.

Skoryi class destroyers (1949)
Whiskey class submarines

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