Analysts cast doubt on Russian plans for supercarrier

The commander of the Russian Navy has announced plans for a ‘supercarrier’ exceeding 85,000 tonnes

Analysts cast doubt on Russian plans for supercarrier

Reuben F Johnson, Washington, DC – IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly

Key Points

  • The commander of the Russian Navy has announced plans for a ‘supercarrier’ exceeding 85,000 tonnes
  • Analysts from both East and West believe that Russia is unlikely to be able to build – or indeed meaningfully operate – such a ship

Russian Navy commander Admiral Viktor Chirkov’s claim that Russia will build a new, super-sized aircraft carrier exceeding 85,000 tonnes has been met with scepticism by analysts.

Many have questioned how realistic this ambition might be, given the current limitations of Russia’s shipbuilding industry in particular and defence industry in general.

The proposed supercarrier, announced by Adm Chirkov on 23 March, would be a quantum leap in capability and size over the Russian Navy’s single existing carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov , which at 43,000 tonnes is less than half the displacement of the US Navy’s Nimitz-class carriers.

The new ship, which would be designed to carry 100 aircraft, would be larger still than the 85,000-tonne class of carriers that was due to follow Kuznetsov and its sister ship, Varyag : a design that never got past the initial stages of construction due to the fall of the Soviet Union.

The only shipyards that were (and still are) capable of building carriers of this size are the Nikolayev shipyards in Ukraine, so when the Soviet empire collapsed the still-incomplete 85,000-tonne carrier designated at the time to be named Ulyanovsk was scrapped and Varyag , which was a completed ship with almost no internal systems fitted to it, was sold off to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

The design for the supercarrier was proposed by the Krylov Shipbuilding Research Institute, which calls for a ship that would be larger than any of the carriers currently in the US fleet. The carrier would also be nuclear-powered: the first carrier of its kind in the Russian arsenal should its design ever be realised.

Unlike previous Russian carriers that have used only a ski-ramp configuration for launching aircraft, the new carrier would supposedly be equipped with both a ski-ramp and the steam catapults used by the current generation of flat-top carriers in service worldwide.

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Source: Janes.

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