Watch Russia’s Lone Carrier Air Wing Arrive Home After Troubled Deployment

Two jets were lost during the Admiral Kuznetsov’s shortened deployment to the Mediterranean and now with the ship going in for an extended refit, its air wing’s future is murky.

byTyler Rogoway|
Amidral Kuznetsov photo


Russia’s rickety aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, is close to being home after spending a couple months off Syria’s coast. During that short period of time, two of its aircraft plunged into the Mediterranean, and it seemed as if the carrier was acting more as a transport ship for its aircraft than as an active airbase at sea. The carrier and her core group of escort ships were ordered back to their home port of Severomorsk in early January and they have spent the last month making their way slowly there. Although fixed-wing carrier naval aviation in the US and Russia differs greatly, the homecoming for their aircrews aren’t too disparate, and coming home in one piece may even be more of a stirring realization for Russian aircrews and their families considering how dangerous operating from their less than reliable carrier with minimal shipboard training really is. 

With this in mind, check out these videos of the Admiral Kuznetsov’s air wing’s arrival in Severomorsk Friday. It will be years till the air wing deploys aboard an aircraft carrier again. The Admiral Kuznetsov is slated to go through a deep overhaul and refit that will see large portions of the ship and its systems gutted and replaced. If this actually happens as touted by Russian officials for the last half decade or so, it would help stabilize Russian carrier-borne naval aviation and possibly alleviate the stigma the Kuznetsov has garnered over the years as a smoke billowing deathtrap. 

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In the meantime, the ship’s Su-33s may have seen their last deployment, with the much more modern MiG-29KR slated to take over the role as the ship’s primary fighter. At the same time, it will be interesting to see how Russia keeps its single carrier air wing alive while Admiral Kuznetsov is ripped apart. The brain-drain of having such a small force to begin with, and with no ship to fly to for years, represents a big and expensive challenge fraught with risk for the niche community. 

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