Staunton, February 25 – With great pomp, Moscow has rolled out plans for a new aircraft carrier (lenta.ru/news/2018/02/25/avianos/ and newsru.com/russia/25feb2018/zvezdasays.html), but a Chinese expert says that “Russian pride” means that the new one will look like its Soviet predecessors rather than correspond to the standards the US has set in this field.
And a Chinese expert says that this same “pride” which “does not allow Russia to learn from others” means that not only any future aircraft carrier will lag behind those of other countries but that many of its other military and indeed civilian projects will lag behind as well (mil.news.sina.com.cn/jssd/2018-02-13/doc-ifyrpeie2568637.shtml; in Russian, at inosmi.ru/military/20180222/241533384.html).
On the one hand, the author of the Chinese Sina.com military portal says, the new Russian plans show that Moscow plans for its new carrier to have two trampolines and an electro-magnetic catapult for launching planes, real progress. But on the other, Russia lacks the capacity to develop the systems it says it will use and thus will continue to rely on old ones.
Electro-magnetic catapults are cutting edge technology, the Chinese says; and currently are found only on the Nimits and Gerald Ford class aircraft carriers of the US navy. Indeed, they were introduced only in July 2017; and at present, the Beijing writers continue, “only the US and China” have this technology. Russia doesn’t.
According to the Chinese commentator, Beijing’s “third aircraft carrier will use electro-magnetic catapults.” If that proves to be the case, he continues, “China will become the second country in the world whose aircraft carriers will have electro-magnetic catapults of domestic production.”
For Russia, developing such machinery is “a distant dream,” especially because of the disordering of the Soviet defense industry with the collapse of the USSR and because of Russia’s unwillingness, in contrast to China’s, to learn from others and use that knowledge to develop its own models.
The Chinese says he “fears that present-day Russia will not even be able to independently build an aircraft carrier with a conventional trampoline let alone one with electro-magnet catapults.” Building such a ship is something “only a great power” can do. And Russia in this sphere isn’t one.
Since 1991, he continues, “Russia has practically not produced large ships with displacements of more than 5,000 tons.” And third countries that have acquired Soviet-era aircraft carriers have been forced to refit them in order to bring them closer to present-day international standards.
The Chinese expert suggests that Russia should “concentrate its attention on restoring industry for producing aircraft carriers” rather than announcing plans for ships its industrial base cannot now support. To do that, they say, Moscow should focus on refitting its only remaining carrier, the Kuznetsov, and use that as a learning experience.
Russians have long dreams of being a great naval power, the Chinese author concludes, but “unfortunately, a Russian pride which does not permit them to learn from others keeps getting in the way. This will ruin them.”