Date: 17 December 2019

Is the Russian Navy in Serious Trouble?

Of all the branches of the Russian armed forces, the Navy is considered the most underinvested. The vast majority of Russian naval vessels, including almost all larger units, were built back in the Soviet times, which is why they need to undergo regular maintenance work. The problem is yet that recent renovations have seen a series of major mishaps. Russian vessels are more vulnerable when they remain at the dock than when they are deployed to the sea, as evidenced by the flaws of the Russian Navy’s shipbuilding industry. With delayed repairs, the Kremlin’s superpower aspirations seem to sail away while exhibiting that Moscow is lagging far behind the United States.


A floating dock with a B-380 decommissioned submarine sank in Sevastopol in the night from December 14 to December 15. The sinking could have occurred due to the technical condition of the dock, with its leaking bottom covered in rust. The Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier had caught fire two days earlier while undergoing repair in the port of Murmansk. The blaze killed two and injured twelve, recent official reports have shown. Safety rules’ violation was considered as a likely cause of the fire aboard the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier. In October 2018, it sustained massive damage while undergoing repairs after the floating dock holding it accidentally sank in what was referred to as the result of human error. In consequence, two people died. The dock was powered from the land and not from its inbuilt generators. An electric outage occurred due to heavy snowfall and the water pumps shut down, causing the tanks to flood quickly and plunging the dock into the water. This is how Russia lost its biggest floating dock in the country’s north, an incident that severely impeded the upgrade of the country’s Northern Fleet.

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Admiral Kuznetsov is the Russian navy’s largest warship and its sole aircraft carrier. And the most accident-plagued one too. Aircraft tend to crash while taking off from the carrier or when landing aboard. Also, Admiral Kuznetsov is notorious for its continuous drive system failures and has already seen many fatal incidents taking place aboard, as was the case of its latest major mission. In 2016, Moscow deployed the ship to Syria; in December that year, a pair of Admiral Kuznetsov’s fighter jets, Su-33 and MiG-29, were lost in two incidents within a couple of weeks, both while trying to land on the carrier. The vessel underwent a complete renovation shortly after it sailed home. Although Admiral Kuznetsov was scheduled for reentry into service in 2021, the date of the re-commission was postponed to 2022 after the dock incident. The hardships of Russia’s sole aircraft carrier mirror those of the entire fleet, yet it could only boast of its upgraded submarine and the larger number of its Kalibr-equipped missile brigades. Russian journalists and military experts said all vessels built for the Russian navy over the last decade are worth less than twenty luxury yachts owned by Russian oligarchs. As estimated, one of these luxury boats cost more than the upgrades to Russia’s Admiral Nakhimov heavy nuclear cruiser.

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