Russia is moving ahead with plans to develop a new aircraft carrier

Russian Aircraft carrier modelScreenshot/www.youtube.comA model of Project 23000E

In spite of sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Moscow has continued to push ahead with plans to upgrade and modernize its military. As part of this effort, Russia is planning to add a second aircraft carrier to its navy.

The new aircraft carrier, known as Project 23000E or Shtorm, is still in a very preliminary phase.

But the project has now proceeded far enough along that a scale model of the heavy carrier will be displayed at the International Maritime Defence Show in St. Petersburg from July 1 to 5, IHS Jane’s 360 reports.

“The Project 23000E multipurpose aircraft carrier is designed to conduct operations in remote and oceanic areas, engage land-based and sea-borne enemy targets, ensure the operational stability of naval forces, protect landing troops, and provide the anti-aircraft defence,” Valery Polyakov, the deputy director of Russia’s Krylovsky Research Center, the group behind the design of Shtorm, told Jane’s.

The proposed supercarrier will be able to hold an estimated 80 to 90 aircraft and will feature both ski-jump ramps and catapult launch systems, allowing planes to launch and land on the carrier in a range of possible weather scenarios. The carrier is so early in its development that it’s currently unclear whether the proposed vessel will be nuclear-powered or if it will use conventional fuel.

Either way, the introduction of a second aircraft carrier into the Russian navy will likely be a waste of resources for the country, Nicholas Varangis of the Atlantic Council argues.

As Varangis notes in a blog post, the overall cost of the supercarrier would be “astronomical” and would involve “reorientating a naval industry around producing a ship of significant size.”

And assuming Russia ever actually builds the ship, the carrier will only be of strategic value if Moscow invests heavily in the development of overseas ports in willing partner countries. After the Ukraine crisis, Russia might not have the resources or the diplomatic capital to pull that off.

Russia ship Admiral KuznetsovWikimedia CommonsRussia’s sole current aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov

A supercarrier is only worth the expense if it’s part of a coherent and feasible global foreign policy. Although Russia has increasingly aimed to increase its influence throughoutCentralandSouth America, Moscow’s direct influence is mostly limited to its neighbouring states in Eurasia. And while Russia still has close relations with places like Kazakhstan and Belarus, neither has a place to port a supercarrier. In some of the coastal areas most vital to Russian strategic interests, like Scandanavian countries in Europe, Russia is viewed as an urgent strategic threat.

If built, the vessel would be Russia’s first carrier to debut since the Admiral Kuznetsov, which launched in 1985. The Kuznetsov is Russia’s only functioning carrier.

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