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New Russian Aircraft Carrier To Be Teased At IMDS

May 23, 2015
Indian Navy INS Vikramaditya

Wait a minute. Pictured above is a promotional image of the INS Vikramaditya, an ex-Soviet missile cruiser converted into a carrier for the Indian Navy.

Earlier this month, IHS Jane’s published the capabilities of an upcoming aircraft carrier for the Russian Navy. The details were reported by Nikolai Novichkov, a correspondent based in Moscow. According to the report, the program is called Project 23000E. It’s a long-term plan by the Krylov State Research Centre (KRSC) to build a 100,000 ton carrier to replace the aging Admiral Kuznetsov currently in use.

The new Russian carrier, code named Storm, will have dimensions comparable to the US Nimitz-class. Whether it uses nuclear or conventional power is a question mark. Its aircraft complement is large too, with a runway and hangar capable of supporting up to 90 fixed and rotary-wing aircraft.

Unfortunately, Project 23000E hasn’t begun yet. Novichkov, who quoted an official from KRSC, did reveal that a scale model is going to be shown at the upcoming International Maritime Defense Show (IMDS) in St. Petersburg. IMDS is a naval arms exhibition held every two years at the spacious Lenexpo building. This 2015 it’s from July 1 to 5.

21st Century Asian Arms Race is a media partner for IMDS.

Although aircraft carriers are considered the pinnacle of any country’s naval power, building and maintaining one is a serious challenge. To date, aircraft carriers are monopolized by the US, whose navy deploys 10 of them as foreign policy tools. The next dozen countries with aircraft carriers have little use for the massive warships.

Even China, which acquired a Soviet-era hull from Ukraine for its own carrier program, won’t have a full carrier battle group until the 2020s. The much publicized Liaoning, despite its amenities and J-15 fighters, serves as a test platform unfit for real missions.

Russia, on the other hand, has gone the way of Argentina and Brazil. The navy’s token carrier is old and vulnerable, being too expensive to maintain and no longer suited for combat. This is the Admiral Kuznetsov. But for the past 15 years Moscow has slowly been funding new projects for the navy, developing next-generation surface vessels, submarines, and missiles. Project 23000E appears to be a signaller for the Russian Navy’s return as an ocean-going force.

But analysts and commenters are sceptical about a resurrected carrier program in Russia, citing a lack of physical infrastructure and expertise in building these class of ships. This means until Russian media begin publicizing its arrival, the existence of Project 23000E is in doubt.

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