A Russian state-run media website recently reported that Moscow plans to build the “biggest aircraft carrier in the world” to compete with the US’s 11 full-sized Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.
The new Russian carrier concept, called the “Shtorm,” would match the size of the US’s current carriers, displacing about 100,000 tons and carrying a similar number of aircraft, despite the the site’s claim that it would be the biggest carrier in the world.
Russia currently has only one aircraft carrier, the Soviet-built Admiral Kuznetsov, which after decades in service jsut completed its first combat deployment to Syria, where it struggled to remain operational and lost at least two planes.
“On the Russian ship’s deck there were about 30 planes, while an American aircraft carrier can carry up to 90,” a Russian defence official told the site, Russia Beyond The Headlines, comparing the Kuznetsov to US carriers. “Also, the take-off speed on the Admiral Kuznetsov was a few minutes, while on an American aircraft carrier three planes can take off in one minute. Moreover, there are many tasks that the Russian ship cannot perform today. Therefore, Russia needs a new modern aircraft carrier.”
While Russia does field a “global navy” of an impressive number of ships with potent and long-range offensive capabilities, it sorely lacks the power projection provided by aircraft carriers. The Kuznetsov was built mainly for coastal defence, and without a nuclear power plant, needs considerable support to travel between theatres.
Under sanctions for Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and hounded by the low cost of oil, the site admits that Moscow would struggle to fund the carrier project, and even beyond the ship, it would need to build 90 or so planes.
While they do have carrier-based planes, like the MiG-29K, the Shtorm concept calls for T-50 planes, Russia’s proposed entry into the fifth generation of combat aircraft. The T-50’s production, like the Shtorm’s, has been plagued with underperforming results while promising big increases to Russia’s combat capability.
Critics of the T-50 have called it fifth generation “in name only” as it fails to deliver on stealth and advanced avionics like the US F-22 and F-35.
Russia previously shopped the Shtorm concept to India, which is looking for a new, larger aircraft carrier as the older Soviet carriers it fields continue to age.
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