Russia Wants a Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier: Report

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Russia wants its future aircraft carrier to be nuclear-powered, according to a report by the state-run TASS news agency.

Here’s what a source from United Shipbuilding Corp. told the organization:

“The project of a future Russian aircraft carrier, or as it is sometimes referred to as naval aircraft carrying complex, is in the design phase. Research conducted by the Nevskoye Design Bureau indicates that the sole way of meeting the Navy’s requirements, such as power generation, sea endurance and voyage range is to equip the ship with a nuclear power plant,” the source said.

The bureau — the oldest institution for naval architecture in Russia and the primary designer of large surface vessels such as heavy aircraft carriers and large-landing ships, according to the Federation of American Scientists — has worked on the project since 2007, the article states.

It has even proposed an image of the carrier and its air wing, though they weren’t immediately available, and identified the shipyard where the vessel could be built, as well as an estimated cost and delivery date, it states.

While there is no funding to actually begin work on the carrier, the bureau’s chief executive officer, Sergey Vlasov, said officials are researching two possible projects: a nuclear-powered ship with a nuclear-powered ship capable of carrying 70 aircraft on board; and a non-nuclear aircraft carrier capable of carrying 50-55 aircraft, according to the article. The vessel might be completed before 2030.

Russia has one operational aircraft carrier (shown above), the Soviet-era Admiral Kuznetsov, which is designed to defend strategic missile-carrying submarines and surface ships and carry such aircraft as the Sukhoi Su-33 multi-role fighter and Kamov Ka-27 helicopter.

News of Russia’s plans to develop a nuclear aircraft carrier came just weeks after France reached an agreement to cancel the $1.3 billion sale of two Mistral warships to Russia — reportedly the largest arms sale ever by a NATO member to the country — over Russia’s annexation of Crimea from the Ukraine.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • blight_

    My first guess of shipyard would have been Nikolayev…but they’re in Ukraine.

    St. Petersburg is second, and as the only warm water port it’s a great place to start, but is close to the other Baltic states.

    • BlackOwl18E

      What makes you think it being Ukraine would stop them? Nikolayev could soon become part of Russia.

    • jbizz

      The Russians will build an aircraft carrier and it will be double hull and be nuclear powered. It is just a matter of time. I suspect they will be twin sister ships. Will they deploy them overseas? Yes but it will be to boost sales of arms.

  • Paul Fi

    When Russia says nuclear powered ship all I see are all those rusting hulks of their old nuclear powered subs. It’s just wonderful having an irresponsible country and leader with nuclear technology.

    • John

      Russia, BTW possess by biggest nuclear icebreakers’ modern fleet already. No other country have nuclear powered icebreakers.

    • gerry

      Don’t let what you see fool you-they’ve fooled us before-never put it past them!

  • Lance

    The SU-33 are being retired in favor of MiG-29Ks. The maintenance for them was too expensive. As for a new carrier well what they want and what they could afford are two different things.

    • Larry Goulet

      Agree wholeheartedly, Lance! The Russkies have monumental cash-flow problems, starting with how devalued the ruble is. People forget that one of the major reasons (but certainly not the only one) the Soviet Union went boom, was because it spent itself out of existence trying to keep up with U.S. shipbuilding. They have NEVER built a “real” carrier before! The Ulyanovsk, an aircraft-carrying cruiser, was scrapped shortly after her hull was laid. The Varyag, also an aircraft-carrying cruiser, was sold to the Chinese. The Russians don’t have any idea what they’re getting into! Carrier-centric fleet operations are difficult and costly! It’s not JUST a carrier - it’s all the support and screening vessels that make-up a Carrier Group! Hell, the Russians don’t even have any “true” carrier-based types of aircraft yet! The Russians have a lot more to worry about then getting into the carrier business! Priorities! Priorities! Priorities!

      • dave77W

        Good point, but I could see the Russians building a carrier even though it’s not properly supported by other vessels. Sure, the carrier would be much less operationally useful, but it would still be a good show piece to exhibit Russia’s strength. (Much of the impact of such a show of strength may only be on a domestic audience, but that is something that Putin would still find useful as it would further prop him up.)

        It’s not like the Russians really need a large, effective carrier group to fight battles half-way around the world (as we do); instead they’re more focused on bullying/invading their weaker neighbors.

        • Larry Goulet

          Well, you may be right, Dave, BUT… Carriers, by themselves, are very vulnerable entities. That’s why we surround them with ships that can provide a solid ASW wall to protect the “heart-and-soul” of a Battle Group - the carrier! That’s why these “screening vessels” are loaded with anti-ship and anti-aircraft weapons (such as CIWS, Harpoon, Aegis, etc.) to provide a defensive shield for the carrier. And even though a carrier has some defensive weapons, its primary mission is to strike the enemy before they can get you - IE: launch, attack & recover. It’s a very symbiotic relationship which is slicker than snot when it works; and disastrous when it doesn’t. Believe me! I served on 3 carriers, 2 DD’s, 1 DE & 1 FF! I’ve been there! Have a great Navy day! Senior Chief Petty Officer, USN (ret)

    • andrewkiwelu

      russia could as well sell nuclear technology and get hell of money to modernise its navy

  • miles

    Has the Kuznetsov been sent for its major overhaul yet I heard some rumors a few years ago Russia was planing one?

  • YankeeFifth

    I see russia going with more of a catamaran design based on lashing a deck onto a couple of old subs together with some conex containers. may as wwll make it submersible since that is where it is going to end up anyway,

    • Joe Sovereign

      Unless Putin is paying for this out of his own pocket with the billions he has siphoned out of the Russian economy it is never ever going to happen.

      • Berzrkr50

        Maybe he can get a loan from Obama. He took a massive bribe from the Iranians to lift all sanctions.

        • duker

          No truth to that.
          The last time the Mullahs bribed any government was to get US aircraft spares in Reagans day. The money was to used in Nicaragua, you know interfering in a neighbouring countrys war just like Putin.

      • Ccc

        Lol I love that idea

    • Larry Goulet

      The Chinese were considering going the “catamaran” route a few years back, but decided to scrap the plan when they found out how unstable their design was in rough seas. As I understand, when they purchased the Varyag (which isn’t a Nuke) from the Russians it was going to be the prototype for the Chinese Navy (PLAN) of the future. But they have run into a myriad of problems (plus their budgetary woes) that have sort of put the whole program in limbo. Building a carrier-centric Navy is difficult and VERY expensive. The U.S. launched its first carrier, USS Langley, in 1920 - and anyone who has served in one will tell you the learning curve (as well as the price tag) is very steep! Fair winds and following seas! MMCS(SW), USN (ret)

  • Allen

    Russia doesn’t even have a dry dock big enough to build a super carrier. It will be along time before they even have the capacity to do it.

    • duker

      Severodinsk on the White Sea. Expanding a dock is a small problem

      • blight_asdfljsadf

        If it was big enough to service the Gorshkov…

        You’re correct in that having a dock to scale up helps, versus having no expertise at all.

    • Argospete

      The problem with the West is they always underestimate their oponent, if its the case, there is no problem in extending a dry dock another few feet to accomodate the largest of the fleet.
      Simples while laying the keel, can start the extension.
      Hitler made the same mistake. He forgot the other half of the vast Country……!

      • blight_asdfljsadf

        “the other half of the vast Country” was good for twenty Siberian divisions, hastily redeployed due to Sorge’s intel (or perhaps, real desperation).

  • Joe Sovereign

    These Russian military announcements are paid for by US defense contractors. Russia can’t afford any of this. However we have US politicians and defense contractors ready and willing to spend the U.S. into oblivion to counter the Russian and Chinese ghost armies.

  • Robbie

    A carrier and its air wing don’t go anywhere alone. They are screened by 4-6 undersea warfare and air defense vessels and usually an attack sub, too. The carrier strike group also requires frequent visits by underway replenishment vessels to restock fuel, food and other consumables so they can stay at sea. All told, a carrier strike group costs roughly $30B to acquire and around $2B a year to maintain. I’d love to see Russia invest (waste) that sort of money on acquiring limited sea power instead of modernizing their ground forces which are the true threat to their neighbors.

    • robert132

      ADM Kuznetsov has proven to be reliable enough that occasionally he makes day sails without the usual ocean going tug in company. Rarely does that ship complete an exercise or transit without spending an appreciable amount of time on the wrong end of a tow line.__In other words, the Pride of the Northern Fleet is an engineering nightmare as are many of Russia’s other major warships.__Their nuclear power program has issues of it’s own including surface ships suffering at least one reactor meltdown (icebreaker, don’t recall which one.)

  • James Asbury

    Russia doesn’t have the cash to pay for a nuclear powered aircraft carrier. The days of global influence are over for Russia, in 25 years it will be a privately held estate owned by Putin and his cronies.

    • Lev

      If US will keep oil <$50 and all the existing suctions, Russia will not be able to build anything costly. And another critical issue: Russia lost it's technical and engineering stuff during the first 20 years of "democracy".

  • blight_asdf

    They could fall for the “spent money on ships but have no money for planes” schtick that the UK may fall into…

  • stephen russell

    Enter text right here! Or use spies to see how we built our carriers

  • stephen russell

    Use spies to see how we built our carriers & examine our history IE USS Enterprise CVN 65 alone data from history books

    • blight_asdfljsadf

      You’re kidding me? A history book to make an aircraft carrier?

  • Brian B. Mulholland

    No one’s going to try to recreate the Enterprise, a one-of-a-kind hull. No doubt there are many interested eyes trying to see the details of the Ford class. And I agree completely with Robbie that the Russian Army’s development makes it far more of a threat to the world.

  • blight_

    If they have the Ulyanovsk plans, it’d be a good place to start.

  • Charles

    Russia wants lots of things but their economy is in the tank b/c the sanctions are killing them, and their energy customers are all moving away from what Russia has to sell.

    This excludes the fact that getting the Crimea back on its feet is costing far more than they thought it would, and the Ukrainians have quickly become a far more difficult and resourceful opponent.

    Hence - all the new tanks, aircraft, ships, etc., that Russia talks about are just talk, until they can figure out how to pay for it. And now their ship building program is halted because the engines they wanted to use were all built in Ukraine, and Ukraine isn’t willing to sell them anymore. It’ll take years for them to get around that problem, providing they can find a way to generate some income.

    Putin really screwed up, and its only a matter of time before the Russian people demand better answers than “its all the west’s fault…”.

  • OldFedVet1941

    We can always sell them one of our Carriers that we are retiring (Smile)!

  • omegatalon

    Russia wants an aircraft carrier that bigger and more powerful than CVN-21 USS Gerald R Ford; but it’s Mission Impossible given their shipyards have not even attempted to build a ship half the size of the Ford in 20 years time and had difficulty making their Admiral Gorshkov sea worthy for the Indian government to become INS Vikramaditya and with the price of Oil trading for $43.08 on Tuesday’s closing, one has to wonder where Russia would get the $20Billion for such a program.

  • Michael

    Russia is not a weak and vulnerable country without money to undertake such an adventure or without suitable port as is being suggested by many posting here.
    Russia is still by far the largest country on this planet. Ukranians 80% consider themselves Russian. Quite right Russia defends the Crimea territory as they do not want to lose this and it is not a place anyone wants the US or NATO to put missiles.
    Russia and China are very much peacekeepers of the world and the USA are warmongers. If the trade sanctions were really crippling Russia to such an extent then both Russia and China would sell oil in Rubels and Yuen and prevent the PetroDollar that keeps the USA barely afloat. The US economy has gigantic debt as do all countries of Europe, this can be seen as the world is currently afraid after Chine cut the value of it’s Yuen twice in once week, nearly 4% wiping 34 billion GBP value from the world stock exchange! Do not under estimate these giants who together can easily handle the USA. We are supposed to be one world working together anyway, the division is due to propoganda so we consider them an enemy and such fear tactics cause us to accept huge taxation cost to build more weapons… it is rediculouse. The Rothschilds backed the English against Napolean and Napoleon against the English, cashing in big time and nearly collapsed the British stock exhange at the time. They were behind King George’s war in America, again backingg both sides, they cause debt in economies, modern day slavery is debt. They keep playing us for fools and stiring up the rivalry, it is all propoganda.

    • Mischa

      Why is it I hear a Russian accent in my head when I read your post?

      • Michael

        I am very English, all my family heritage is English and Welsh.
        However, thank you for the compliment Mischa.
        I have travelled the world extensively, worked for NATO and as such see things in a different light.

        • Bob

          “I am very English” sounds very “rediculouse”, tavarisch Michael. Why dont you learn how to use “spell check” first…

          • Michael

            I was just sharing my thoughts Bob, quite right if I made spelling mistakes, I do usually try hard to get spelling correct. However I might add that I am quite good at spelling despite slight dyslexia. I do not believe that this should be cause for distract from the points of topic. We are surely civilised human beings as despite our spelling mistakes should be able to have a civilised discussion on topic. I appreciate other peoples opinions as i’m sure you do also.

    • blight_adsfas

      “Russia and China are very much peacekeepers of the world”

      Why yes, peacekeeping in Chechenya…twice. And Ingushetia, and Georgia…the list of peacekeeping missions those Russians have been on is pretty impressive.

      • Michael

        And the US, UK have quite another level of peacekeeping, US has been at war for the last 100 years!
        most recently - Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya etc…

        Isn’t it time that we stopped bombing peace into countries and instead work together - oh yes that is not the agenda of the giant arms companies is it!!

        Russia is not perfect, sure… but it and China have prevented what could have been world war 3 on a number of occassions in the last decade! ie: Iran and Syria.

        It is a global arms game where large percentage of countries GDP is poured into arms as a preventative measure using fear to substantiate it all, these arms companies grow massive and exert political pressure at all levels.

    • Brian

      There is no pravda in Pravda, there is no isvestia in Isvestia.
      You mention wars in Afghanistan: they (al qaeda) attacked us. Taliban joined. That was not us warmongering, that was Islam warmongering.
      Libya and Iraq were run by truly evil men, we found out when they were removed that there was a large population of more evil men fighting over the corpses of those two countries.
      We went into Iraq on false intelligence fed to us via Irani and Iraqi sources.
      The Libyans overthrew Gaddafi, we helped AFTER they started.
      Painting Russia good and us evil is facile.

    • extreme_one

      I couldn’t agree more. Well written !

  • Michael

    re Al Qaeda attacking the US (911), it is absolutely clear should you wish to review the evidence that 911 was done by the US government. See EngineersFor911, building 7 also collapsed in freefall on that day and it was not hit, absolutely impossible, it was all a rigged demolition. Also the plane that supposedly hit the pentagon, absolutely impossible, also no wings hit it, did not hit the ground. I dare you to review the evidence, something that the US government will not allow properly in public enquiry, they have even hid all the video evidence. Believe the propoganda if you will, or review the evidence and likely you will join the millions who are enlightened to what is going on.

  • Rob C.

    Another report on the Russian Aircraft Carrier effort. They certainly need one, but can they finally pull it off. Their shipyard industry is a mess, they barely getting anything built never mind maintaining what they have.

    They’ll also need a descent escort vessels to go with it, like what Kirov was. Their slowly dying off due to age and maintenance concerns. I remember few years ago it was announced they were going build entirely new generation of ships for the Russian Navy. Nothing happened. With their SSBN program producing ships finally after couple decades, it could be means to for them get a carrier.

    • broderick pendleton

      Wow, all the talk about Russia building ONE nuclear carrier. We have TEN, and building.

      And all the while, we are $19 trillion in debt, and growing.

      Gosh, I wonder how we got that way?