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Russian Navy to upgrade Kuznetsov

26 April 2018
The Russian Navy aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov in the North Sea in October 2016. The ship's announced refit is likely to leave Russia without an aircraft carrier until at least 2021. Source: Norwegian MoD

Key Points

  • A contract has reportedly been signed to upgrade Admiral Kuznetsov : Russia's sole aircraft carrier
  • However, only a limited upgrade is envisaged

A contract has been signed for a modernisation of the Russian Navy’s sole aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov , Russian news sources have reported.

The project will cost between RUB55 billion and RUB62 billion (USD887 million and USD1 billion) and will involve more than 1,000 engineers and technicians. The sum is described by Russian defence industry sources as “more than modest”, but also not sufficient enough to carry out a serious modernisation of the ship.

The modernisation work is to be carried out by the 35th Ship Repair Plant in Murmansk, which is a satellite facility of the Zvezdochki Ship Repair Centre in Severodvinsk. Russia’s deputy defence minister for procurement, Yuri Borisov, stated in April that the entire re-fit would be complete by the end of 2020 and the ship back in service in 2021.

The most basic area of the ship’s design to be addressed is its power plant. The current engines were built in Ukraine and replacements could only be sourced from there or the United States – both politically untenable – so the ship’s eight boilers will instead be replaced with more modern and reliable ones.

Secondly, the carrier will receive a new suite of onboard electronic systems. Kuznetsov is currently fitted with the Mars-Passat (NATO codename ‘Sky Watch’) radar system: a first-generation, phased-array system based on Soviet-era passive array developments. However, the Mars-Passat system has never functioned to specifications – not even in Soviet times – and is completely outdated today. The ship will thus receive a current-generation Almaz-Antei Poliment-Redut radar system, which operates with the relatively new S-350 Vityaz naval surface-to-air missile variant.

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