Russia is poised to send its sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, to the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea where the ship will take part in delivering airstrikes against ISIS strongholds in Syria.
Admiral Kuznetsov is expected to head to the Mediterranean once it completes shipbuilders’ trials in the Barents Sea after undergoing repairs, Russian news agency TASS reported a military official stating that it had no official confirmation of the information.
“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 was quoted as saying by the news agency.
Once Admiral Kuznetsov reaches the Mediterranean it is likely to share the operational theater with a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Nimitz-class carrier, is already conducting strikes from the Mediterranean. Eisenhower entered the area of operations on June 13 to replace another Nimitz-class ship, the USS Harry S. Truman, which also performed operations against ISIS.
The Russian aircraft carrier is a unique ship in that it is a carrier-cruiser, meaning that it is equipped with anti-ship and surface to air missiles and carries more armament than other nations’ carriers which basically serve as floating airbases.
For the upcoming mission, the carrier will have about 15 fighters Su-33 and MiG-29K/KUB and more than ten helicopters, TASS further reported. In theory, the ship can carry up to 41 aircraft.
The 305-meter long aircraft carrier displaces 62,000 tonnes and is one of two Project 1143 ships of the Russian Navy.
In 1991, following the collapse of the USSR, Admiral Kuznetsov escaped the fate of its sister ship which remained in Ukraine and was later sold to China as a hull for approximately $20 million. Liaoning, as the Chinese named the ship, was refitted at the CSIC Dalian Shipyard and now serves as a training ship.