Staunton, Dec. 8 – As Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the ill-fated Admiral Kuznetsov sits waiting for refitting with its return to service a minimum of two years from now, the debate over whether Russia should build a new one, build smaller alternatives, or not build an aircraft carrier at all is heating up in Moscow.
The navy and the military construction industry very much want to see one or more new carriers built in the next decade, and some security analysts argue that Russia cannot afford to do without carriers given that the Americans have so many. But the enormous cost of such ships – up to five billion US dollars – has sparked opposition to the entire idea.
Moscow military expert Konstantin Sivkov argues that Russia has no choice but to build aircraft carriers. The only question in his mind is whether there should be a small number of Nimitz class vessels or a much larger number of smaller ships. Such vessels are needed for a variety of tasks (svpressa.ru/war21/article/318741/).
In the Syrian campaign, even the aging Kuznetsov showed what a carrier can do in wartime. But aircraft carriers are even more essential in protecting sea lanes and other Russian vessels. If Russia doesn’t launch a new carrier or two, he says, its vaunted submarine fleet will be at risk given new weapons the Americans have.
Having at least one new carrier is “the minimum requirement,” Sivkov says. “It would be better to have two given that one will be under repair” much of the time. However, to meet all of Moscow’s defense needs, the country should have “a minimum” of six or eight carriers, although most of these can be smaller in size.
Viktor Litovkin, another Russian military analyst, also favors building new carriers, “not for a show of force” as the Americans use them “but for the defense of international commercial sea lanes.” Exactly how many carriers and what sizes they should be are things that should be discussed now given the long lead time to produce such vessels.
But Aleksandr Khamchikhin of the Moscow Institute for Political and Military Analysis argues that the age of aircraft carriers is passing, that Russia doesn’t need them to meet its national security needs. The only reason that people in Moscow keep talking about them is that admirals and senior officials love gigantic projects for the corruption they make possible.