The Russian Navy was desperate for this: a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier


Obviously, the Russian army is considered and prides itself – at least until Ukraine – to be a ground power. And yet, the Russian navy is one of the most formidable. Even though they have powerful warships and submarines, Moscow only aspires to one thing: a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier: Currently, the only aircraft carrier of the Russian Navy, Admiral Kuznetsov, is in drydock and is unlikely to return to active service before the end of next year – and that is at the earliest. The carrier has been met many problems while undergoing a refit, but Russia remained determined to see it returned to service.

One reason is that cash-strapped Moscow simply ran out of money to build a new carrier, and the situation is unlikely to improve as the country has been hit by international sanctions on the following its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine last month.

The dream of the Russian nuclear-powered aircraft carrier

That’s not to say the Kremlin wouldn’t like a newer, more powerful aircraft carrier — even a nuclear-powered one. In May 2019, Russian state media reported that its Defense Ministry was considering starting construction of a planned carrier of 70,000 tons. Construction was due to begin in 2023. However, few details have been announced since, and it might be safe to assume that the nuclear-powered carrier is essentially “dead in the water”.

However, this was not the first time that military minds in Moscow had sought to develop a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier on the scale of those in service with the US Navy. The Kremlin ordered the construction of a new supercarrier in the 1980s that would be on par with those of its likely opponents and turned to the canceled previous one Project 1153 Orel (Eagle), which never got beyond the project stage.

With a displacement of 85,000 tons, the Soviet super aircraft carrier would have been larger than that of the US Navy. Forrestalclass aircraft carrier, but still smaller than the then-contemporary Nimitz -to classify. Much like the planned Russian aircraft carrier, the Soviet Union’s super aircraft carrier was also to feature a nuclear-powered propulsion system comprising four KN-3 reactors powering four steam turbines and driving as many shafts of one horsepower of 280,000 horsepower. The ship’s top speed was estimated at 30 knots in ideal conditions, and like the US Navy’s super carriers, the range was virtually unlimited. The reactors would have a lifespan of twenty to twenty-five years before the required mid-life refueling of the ship.

A Soviet Nimitz-class aircraft carrier?

The new warship – which was originally to be named Kremlin before being renamed Ulyanovsk in honor of the birthplace of Vladimir Lenin – was to represent a major advance over the Kuznetsov-class, which used a ski jump to launch an airplane. This would have included a flight deck fitted with two steam-powered catapults that could launch fully loaded aircraft, but the design still featured a ski jump to enable rapid launching of its contemporary fighters. Three suspended elevators, two to starboard and one to port, would provide access to the lower hangar decks.

The Soviet Union had clearly paid attention to the evolution of the United States Navy aircraft carrier, but the aircraft carrier would still have been a warship of the motherland. The configuration of the planned aircraft carrier would have been similar to that of the US Navy Nimitz-class, but with the addition of a dozen surface-to-surface P-700 “Granit” and surface-to-air “Buk” missile systems, as well as eight CADS-N-1 close-in weapons systems (CIWS) and eight AK-630 rotary anti-aircraft guns to deal with incoming air threats.

The air wing of the Soviet aircraft carrier was to include more than sixty-eight aircraft, including a combination of Sukhoi Su-33 / Su-27K and Mikoyan MiG-29K fighters, Yakovlev Yak-44 RLD airborne early warning aircraft , Kamov Ka-27 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters and Ka-27PS air-sea rescue helicopters.

The aircraft carrier ordered but never delivered

Officially commissioned on June 11, 1986, the keel of the Ulyanovsk was laid on November 25, 1988 at the Nikolayev 444 shipyard in the Black Sea. The planned launch date was to be sometime in 1995 and would have made the Soviet Union only the second country to launch a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

However, the collapse and dissolution of the Soviet Union put an end to the program when Ulyanovsk was only twenty percent complete. Even before the official dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, construction had been halted for long periods due to a lack of funding. Unlike other Soviet carriers that were completed or sold, the unfinished carrier was sold for scrap in 1992, ending the Soviet Navy’s only attempt to build a nuclear-powered super carrier. . Russian efforts to build a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier fared little better. Maybe he should stop until he’s no longer late.

Today’s editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He writes regularly on military hardware and is the author of several books on military headgear, including A gallery of military hairstyles, which is available on Amazon.com. Peter is also a Contributing author for Forbes.

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