Russia’s state-run TASS news agency recently announced that Russia’s sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, will deploy to the Mediterranean from October 2016 to January 2017 to fly sorties against the enemies of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
“The General Staff has prepared a plan for involvement of the deck aircraft in delivering strikes on terrorist groups in the Syrian Arab Republic, where the crews will practice taking off the carrier to deliver strikes on ground targets,” the source told TASS.
This deployment will mark only the fifth deployment of the Kuznetsov since it’s launch in 1985. All previous deployments only lasted a few months were also in the Mediterranean.
Additionally, the Kuznetsov only displaces about 55,000 tons and can support about 30 aircraft. It’s ski-jump platform and lack of catapults mean that planes launched from the Kuznetsov have a reduced maximum takeoff weight, and can therefore carry less fuel and strike within shorter ranges, meaning the carrier will have to float closer to the shore.
The Kuznetsov is further limited by mechanical issues and the fact that it has to be refueled every 45 days or so.
In comparison, US aircraft carriers are nuclear powered and can stay at sea for extended periods. Currently the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower is stationed in the Mediterranean in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led mission to destroy ISIS.
- U.S. Navy
“The aircraft carrier will come to the Mediterranean Sea roughly before end of January – early February, after that it will return home and in February-March it will undergo maintenance and modernization in Severodvinsk, supposedly at Sevmash,” the source told TASS.
The Russian media outlet reported that “about 15 fighters Su-33 and MiG-29K/KUB and more than ten helicopters Ka-52K, Ka-27 and Ka-31,” would carry out strikes from the ship, while regular land-based operations from Hymemim Air Base in Syria continue.