The Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier is a class of aircraft carrier operated by the Russian and Chinese navies. Originally designed for the Soviet Navy, the Kuznetsov-class ships use a ski-jump to launch high-performance conventional aircraft in a STOBAR configuration. The design represented a major advance in Soviet fleet aviation over the Kiev-class carriers, which could only launch VSTOL aircraft. Two ships were originally laid down at the Nikolayev South Shipyard in the Ukrainian SSR, followed by the first of the Ulyanovsk-class nuclear-powered supercarriers.
The plans were disrupted by the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Only the lead ship Admiral Kuznetsov had been commissioned when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, and the ship now serves in the Russian Navy. Her sister ship Varyag rusted away for a decade before being towed to China for use as a floating casino. Instead, the ship was eventually completed and commissioned as the Chinese Navy's first aircraft carrier, the Type 001 aircraft carrier Liaoning. A third ship is being built to a modified Type 001A design and is expected to be commissioned in 2019.
The Kuznetsov-class ships were described by their Soviet builders as Tyazholiy Avianesushchiy Kreyser (TAKR or TAVKR) – “heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser” – intended to support and defend strategic missile-carrying submarines, surface ships, and maritime missile-carrying aircraft of the Soviet fleet. In its fleet defense role, Admiral Kuznetsov's P-700 Granit (SS-N-19 NATO reporting name: Shipwreck) anti-ship cruise missiles, 3K95 Kinzhal (Gauntlet) surface-to-air missiles, and Su-33 (Flanker-D) aircraft are its main weapons. The fixed-wing aircraft on Kuznetsov are intended for air superiority operations to protect a deployed task force. The carrier also carries numerous helicopters for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and search and rescue (SAR) operations.
Kuznetsov's classification as an aircraft-carrying cruiser is very important for the purposes of international law. Under the Montreux Convention, aircraft carriers heavier than 15,000 tons may not pass through the Turkish Straits. Since Kuznetsov exceeds the displacement limit, it would have been stuck in the Black Sea if it had been classified as an aircraft carrier. However, there is no tonnage restriction on capital ships operated by Black Sea Powers. Turkey allowed Admiral Kuznetsov to pass through the Straits, and no other signatory to the Montreux Convention has objected to its designation as an aircraft cruiser.
The Chinese Navy considers its Type 001 ships to be aircraft carriers. The Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning is armed with air defense weapons, but it is not equipped with the anti-ship missiles or anti-submarine rockets that are on Kuznetsov. Instead, the hanger bay was extended to carry more aircraft.
The hull design is derived from the 1982 Kiev class, but is larger in both length and beam. The Kiev-class ships had only an angled flight deck, with surface weaponry on the foredeck. The Kuznetsov-class is the first Soviet carrier to be designed with a full-length flight deck. The ship's 12 anti-ship cruise missiles are located in launchers below the flight deck.
The aircraft carriers are of a STOBAR configuration: Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery. Short take-off is achieved by using a 12-degree ski-jump on the bow. There is also an angled deck with arresting wires, which allows aircraft to land without interfering with launching aircraft. The flight deck has a total area of 14,700 square metres (158,000 sq ft). Two aircraft elevators, on the starboard side forward and aft of the island, move aircraft between the hangar deck and the flight deck.
In the original project specifications, the ship should be able to carry up to 33 fixed-wing aircraft and 12 helicopters .
To comply with the Montreux Convention restricting the transit of aircraft carriers through the Turkish Straits, the Kuznetsov-class ships were originally designed as aircraft cruisers. Kuznetsov carries twelve launchers for P-700 Granit (SS-N-19 Shipwreck) anti-ship surface-to-surface missiles, which also form the main armament of the Kirov-class battlecruisers. The heavy surface armament makes Kuznetsov different from other countries' aircraft carriers, which carry only defensive armament and rely on their aircraft for strike power.
For long-range air defense, Kuznetsov carries 24 vertical launchers for Tor missile system (SA-N-9 Gauntlet) surface-to-air missiles with 192 missiles. For close-range air defense, the ship carries eight Kashtan Close-in weapon system (CIWS) mounts. Each mount has two launchers for 9M311 SAMs, twin GSh-30 30mm rotary cannons, and a radar/optronic director. The ship also carries six AK-630 30mm rotary cannons in single mounts. For defense against underwater attack, the ship carries the UDAV-1 ASW rocket launcher.
Kuznetsov has D/E band air and surface target acquisition radar (passive electronically scanned array), F band surface search radar, G/H band flight control radar, I band navigation radar, and four K band fire-control radars for the Kashtan CIWS.
The ship has hull-mounted medium- and low-frequency search and attack sonar. The ASW helicopters have surface search radar, dipping sonar, sonobuoys, and magnetic anomaly detectors.
Admiral Kuznetsov is conventionally powered by eight gas-fired boilers and four steam turbines, each producing 50,000 hp (37 MW), driving four shafts with fixed-pitch propellers. The maximum speed is 29 knots (54 km/h; 33 mph), and her range at maximum speed is 3,800 nautical miles (7,000 km; 4,400 mi). At 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph), her maximum economical range is 8,500 nautical miles (15,700 km; 9,800 mi).
Admiral Kuznetsov has been plagued by years of technical problems. The vessel's steam turbines and turbo-pressurised boilers have been reported to be so unreliable that the carrier is accompanied by a large ocean-going tug whenever it deploys, in case it breaks down. There are also flaws in the water piping system, which causes it to freeze during winter. To prevent pipes bursting, the water is turned off to most of the cabins, and half the latrines do not work.
The Chinese Type 001 ships are configured as aircraft carriers. The cruise missile launchers were never installed, and the launcher base was removed during the refit to incorporate a larger hanger bay. The air-defense system consists of FL-3000N surface-to-air-missiles and the Type 1130 CIWS.
Several design changes were made to the Type 001A aircraft carrier. Length, width, and displacement have been slightly increased. The island of the ship has been reduced in size to increase the size of the flight deck, and it carries a 3-D phased array radar.
|Russian Navy||Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov
(ex-Riga, ex-Leonid Brezhnev, ex-Tblisi)
|Nikolay Gerasimovich Kuznetsov||Soviet Shipyard No. 444||1 April 1982||6 December 1985||25 December 1990||In active service|
|People's Liberation Army Navy||Liaoning
|Liaoning Province||Soviet Shipyard No. 444||6 December 1985||4 December 1988||25 September 2012||In active service|
|Dalian naval shipyard (completion)|
|Type 001A subclass|
|People's Liberation Army Navy||Type 001A aircraft carrier||Dalian Shipbuilding||2013||26 April 2017||2019 est||Fitting out|
Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov was designed by the Neva Design Bureau, St. Petersburg, and built at the Nikolayev South Shipyard (Chernomorskoye Shipyard) in the Ukrainian SSR. She was launched in 1985, commissioned in 1990, and became fully operational in 1995. The vessel was named Riga, Leonid Brezhnev, and Tbilisi, before finally being named after Soviet admiral Nikolay Kuznetsov.
During the winter of 1995–1996, Admiral Kuznetsov deployed to the Mediterranean Sea to mark the 300th anniversary of the Russian Navy. In the autumn of 2000, Admiral Kuznetsov went to sea for recovery and salvage operations for the submarine Kursk. During the winter of 2007–2008, Admiral Kuznetsov again deployed to the Mediterranean. Most recently, "Admiral Kuznetsov" was deployed to the Mediterranean during the winter of 2016-2017 to support Russian operations in Syria.
Although technical and financial problems have limited operations, Admiral Kuznetsov is expected to remain in service until approximately 2025.
The second hull of the Kuznetsov class took a much more roundabout route to active service. Known first as Riga and then Varyag, she was laid down by the Nikolayev South Shipyard in 1985 and launched in 1988. Varyag had not yet been commissioned when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, and the ship was left to deteriorate in the elements. In 1998, the hull was sold by Ukraine to what was apparently a Chinese travel agency for ostensible use as a floating hotel and casino. After an eventful journey under tow, she arrived in China in February 2002 and was berthed at the Dalian naval shipyard, where she was overhauled and completed as China's first aircraft carrier.
In September 2012, the ship was commissioned in the Chinese navy as Liaoning. The ship was named after the province where the shipyard is located, and its Chinese ship class is Type 001. Today, she serves as a training carrier and its home port is Qingdao.
The second Chinese aircraft carrier was constructed according to a modified design, known as Type 001A. Satellite imagery and photos have revealed some differences from the original Kuznetsov-class design, reflecting over 30 years of technological development since the first ship in the class was laid down. The ship was laid down in 2013 at the Dalian naval shipyard and was launched on 26 April 2017. It is expected to embark on sea trials in 2019.
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