What happens when your only aircraft carrier breaks down off the coast of Spain in very rough seas? Call the big tugboat that’s been shadowing you for just such an occasion and attempt a tow. The result is this well, stomach turning video that shows the Russian tug Nikolay Chiker attempting a tow operation on the Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s only aircraft carrier.
The event happened in 2012 as the Admiral Kuznetsov and its escorts were sailing through the Mediterranean towards Syria as a show of support for the embattled Assad regime in Syria. Russia kept the breakdown story under wraps, until this video was posted this week.
Still, the carrier remains a centerpiece of Russia’s Northern Fleet and is slated to serve for decades to come. Soon the ship’s air wing, long made up of aging Su-33 Flankers, will be getting MiG-29K multi-role fighters. Although smaller than their Flanker counterparts, they offer a much more modern set of combat capabilities and can be handled around the deck with much greater ease than their massive Su-33s predecessors.
Still, the Admiral Kuznetsov’s woes are a reminder of how challenged Russia remains when it comes to rebuilding a reliable “blue water” navy. Things are changing though, and funds are being steered to modernize Russia’s still largely Soviet-era fleet of ships and submarines.
A good example of this is Russia’s long laid up second Kirov Class nuclear-powered Battle Cruiser, Admiral Nakhimov, which is finally being refurbished, and it will feature an air defense system based on Russia’s feared S-400 surface-to-air missile system. It is not clear if its active sister ship, Peter the Great, will also be outfitted similarly. Still, putting the ship back into service at all is a very costly affair, but these upgrades will extend its anti-air capability out to around 150 miles with a very capable missile system.
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