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Fire On the Deck of The Admiral Kuznetsov: Sabotage, Criminal Negligence Or Corruption?

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Fire On the Deck of The Admiral Kuznetsov: Sabotage, Criminal Negligence Or Corruption?

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A fire began on the deck of the Russian navy’s only heavy aircraft carrying missile cruiser – the Admiral Kuznetsov. So far, six people (UPDATE 13:00 CET: ten people) have been injured, a spokesman for the emergency services told RIA.

“The fate of the two workers remains unknown,” the source said.

According to the head of the press service of the Zvyozdochka Shiprepair Center, Evgeny Gladyshev, the fire started at 10:16 local time in the first energy compartment during welding.

Initially it was reported that the fire reached an area 120 square meters, the employees of the Ministry of Emergency Situations are involved in the extinguishing. The governor of the region Andrey Chibis arrived at the location of the emergency.

Russian media reported that the area of the fire reached 600 square meters. In the fight against fire, the forces and means of two departments of the Russian Emergencies Ministry are involved. At the moment, there is a search for the missing workers. Firefighters are preparing to attempt and extinguish the fire with foam.

The press service of the Zvezdochka Ship Repair Center confirmed that the fire occurred during hot works at the first energy compartment of the Admiral Kuznetsov.

“We confirm that indeed in the hold of the first energy compartment there was a fire during the execution of hot work. The workers who performed the work were evacuated. At the moment, firefighters are engaged in the elimination of this fire,” the press service said.

Since September 2018, the only Russian heavy aircraft carrying missile cruiser has been undergoing scheduled repairs in a floating dock (PD-50) at the 82nd plant in the village of Roslyakovo, Murmansk. At the end of October last year, there was a failure in the electrical supply, the PD-50 tanks filled up and the dock abruptly went under water.

In addition, a fallen crane damaged part of the deck of the warship, leaving a hole four by five meters in size. The hull itself was not damaged.

The plan was to replace and repair the elements of the main power plant on the ship, to modernize the electric power system, radio-technical weapons and air defense systems, to install and modernize “means ensuring the operation of the aircraft wing.” The repairs and modernizations were estimated to cost 70 million rubles ($1.1 million).

The Admiral Kuznetsov was delivered to the 35th shipyard near Murmansk in June 2019 and was supposed to remain there for approximately a year. The warship is expected to be delivered, ready for combat duty in 2021, the head of the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) Alexei Rakhmanov told RIA in June.

The heavy aircraft carrying missile cruiser’s delivery deadlines risked a shift due to the above-mentioned accidents, and this fire will surely delay it even further.

“Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov” was commissioned in 1991, back in the USSR. After the upgrade, it will reportedly be used by the Russian fleet for another 20 years.

The Russian heavy aircraft carrying missile cruiser is has a length of 306 meters, a width of 75 meters, the displacement of the ship is 60 thousand tons, the maximum cruising range is 8417 miles (more than 15 thousand kilometers). Crew – 1,960, including 518 officers and 210 warrant officers. The regular wing of the Admiral Kuznetsov consists of carrier-based Su-33 and Su-25 aircraft, as well as Ka-27 / Ka29 helicopters. A new air group consisting of MiG-29K fighters and Ka-52K helicopters was tested on the ship.

In addition, the Admiral Kuznetsov has Granit missile system loaded with anti-ship cruise missiles (12 below-deck launchers are located at the base of the springboard), a Kinzhal anti-aircraft missile system (4 modules – 192 missiles) and Kortik missile launchers (8 modules – 256 missiles and 48 thousand shells).

In an analysis of Russia’s Maritime Doctrine in late 2018, SouthFront noted that “in order to defend its interests, the navy requires a minimum of two full-fledged aircraft carriers – one in the Arctic and the second in the Mediterranean. This says nothing of the large number of surface vessels which could be needed for other sea zones. The deployment of an aircraft carrier in the Pacific would only be possible in the distant future. So far, it appears that surface groups deployed in distant sea zones are being folded back into existing groups closer to home.”

Right now, Russia does have a signle aircraft carrier (heavy aircraft carrying missile cruiser). The Admiral Kuznetsov is a symbol of the Russian presence in the world ocean and the Russian Navy.

In these conditions, remarks that the fire on the Admiral Kuznetsov is just an unfortunate accident do not hold up against criticism. There are three logical explanations of this situation:

  • Sabotage – the goal of such actions is to deliver a devastating PR blow to the Russian Navy and Russia itself, and to delay the plans to put the Admiral Kuznetsov back into service.
  • Criminal Negligence – in this case, one of the main reasons is a poor production behavior that has become common for the modern Russia. Not so many representatives of the powerful Soviet engineering school remain in the defense industry. The Soviet system of engineering education was destroyed. The new one is not so effective .The Russian defense industry suffers from a lack of young skilled and motivated specialists.
  • Corruption – the fire occurred at the first energy compartment. This is one of the most complex and expensive parts of the warship. Millions of dollars have already been spent on the maintenance of it and other equipment of the warship. The fire accident may allow to spend even more money on the maintenance of the warship.

In any case, the December 12 incident revealed a lack of control from the government and poor management practices in the one of the key Russian defense projects. The positive side of such developments is that they do not allow to hide the real state of the events and set conditions for actions needed to start employing more effective approaches.

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  • That ship is done,they need to scrap it or just use it for training only…

    • rightiswrong rightiswrong

      Like the USS Forrestal was done after a series of massive explosions? Or the other US carriers which have suffered devastating explosions of aircraft munitions?

      One major accident is serious enough, but two suggests a more sinister explanation. The carrier is a lot newer than a lot of other carriers in service around the world, and should be finished with repairs and returned to service as a matter of urgency. Until Russia builds more carriers, they must retain competency and ability to maintain maritime air operations anywhere outside of Russia.

      • Dick Von Dast’Ard

        Absolutely disagree with you, there is absolutely zero need for a Russian aircraft carrier.

        Russia is not in the game of mirroring the USN.

        A Self-Defense Deterrence Navy is the primarily aim.

        • Jens Holm

          Actually its not mainly build as aircraft carrier – It can by the skateboard.

          As I recall it, its for transporting a lot of missiles and helicopters.

          • Dick Von Dast’Ard

            It’s certainly not a lucky ship.
            The Russian navy would have spent the roubles better constructing more frigates and modernizing the cruisers faster.

        • rightiswrong rightiswrong

          Russia would need 10 carriers to mimic the USN, nobody is suggesting that.
          Russia has allies abroad, where no Russian fighters can fly too. A small carrier fleet is necessary for aiding allies, not every nation will have airbases like Syria available to the Russian airforce.

          It’s a bit more than a prestige ship, it can serve a purpose. It’s not just the USA that has carriers.

          • Dick Von Dast’Ard

            Every country has a military airbase. (of some description)

          • rightiswrong rightiswrong

            The fact that every nation would have an airbase of some description is a given. The trick is how do you get a fighter wing to aid an ally who needs help that only a large power could offer, thousands of miles from Russia?
            The Russian navy does not yet have two in service battlecruisers, while Kuznetsov is available. The original role of Kuznetsov was to provide air cover to Russian SSBNs firing missiles from the artic zone, a mission which is still needed.

          • Dick Von Dast’Ard

            Well looking at the map, where would this ally be, where Russia would risk direct confrontation and potential war against the U.S. and her allies, 1000’s miles away from Russia’s borders by sending a highly vulnerable cruiser carrier?
            The Russian navy has two atomic cruiser, 1 in service, 1 being modernized of the 28,000 ton Kirov-class and x3 other conventional COGOG cruisers of the 12,500 ton Slava-class.
            The Russian Arctic is now defended by S-400 and why have the Kuznetsov, when the air wing (Su-27K) could be moved to Russian Arctic bases under heated HAS?

          • rightiswrong rightiswrong

            Venezuela, Cuba, and what’s vulnerable about a heavy missile carrier cruiser, it has as much firepower without it’s air-wing as a Slava cruiser.

            Russia doesn’t need to be a junior member of a Chinese dominated naval group, like Britain does for the Yanks. If Russia sends it’s fighters to the Arctic area, then the US get’s a free hand in other theatres. S400 cannot control the Arctic alone, its range is 400km while the Russian Arctic is thousands of miles long.
            Russia will never need to maintain aviation know how, if they don’t have a carrier to learn from.

          • Dick Von Dast’Ard

            All large surface combatants (not matter whose) are vulnerable to airpower and attack submarines.

            Sending a Russian cruiser carrier into USN dominated spheres of influence would be suicidal in a ‘hot’ war, or a situation that could rapidly escalate into one.

            My thoughts are sending the MiG-29K to participate in joint Russia/India/China naval operations in the Indian Ocean and Pacific and the Su-33K to be permanently based along the Northern Sea Route and Russian Arctic, principally at the enlarged Russian military base on Alexandra Island. (Nagurskoye)

          • rightiswrong rightiswrong

            And what about aiding Venezuela against non US forces? Russia doesn’t need a carrier to fight the US, but it does need to be able to deploy air forces around the globe, anywhere a Russian ally would need it. Russian airpower in Syria is not directed against US forces, and carrier operations there didn’t lead to a direct war, but aided Syria against the US proxies. Any jet taking off a land base will be seen and noted, a flight from a carrier doesn’t get spotted by terrorists until it starts dropping ordinance.
            That’s how to make new allies, not by being a subservient junior ally without military capabilities in all spheres of military matters.

          • Dick Von Dast’Ard

            Looks like Venezuela would just have to buy more air superiority fighters then…
            Russia isn’t in the same game as the U.S. of being a hegemonic power.
            What you are suggesting is Russia become another U.S. with a carrier task force intervention based doctrine, which the Russia (the Russian navy) is not set up to do.

          • rightiswrong rightiswrong

            One would not call Thailand, Brazil or India hegemonic powers, so no I’m not suggesting that.

            You are, and only you.

            The rest of us realise the difference between being proficient in all military aspects, and concentrating on hegemony.

  • Mehmet Aslanak

    Sell it to China, like the aircraft carrier Varyag before in 2001.

    • Jens Holm

      Ha ha. They might like it. They might use it as an island in the socalled Chinese Sea.

    • Dick Von Dast’Ard

      Certainly could sell it for spares.

    • rightiswrong rightiswrong

      Ukraine sold that.

  • Assad must stay (gr8rambino)

    I hope the fire is put out quickly, the 2 missing are found, the 6 injured are treated and everything returns to normal

  • swedish_viking

    To much has happened around this aircraft carries renovation not to ask whats up and why?
    Is there really such a bad shipyard where nothing works and no one takes any security measures?
    Or is the renovation being interfered by a foreign power that tries to stop the ship from ever entering service again?
    One thing is for sure the cost of the modernization has gone thru the roof.
    They really need to up the security around this shipyard with a lot of cameras and armed security.

    • Jens Holm

      Renovations sometimes is much more expensive and complicated then expected.

      To me that ship from the start has been a bad construction. My best guess is that cameras and experts see the problems but are not able to correct it.

      Its like my house being 70 years old. Even updated with bathroom and toilet facilities, something is not as effective as it should be. In the other hand it was cheep and what I could effort.

  • Dick Von Dast’Ard

    Probably would have been better to have just decommissioned it and sent it’s airwing to fixed Arctic bases and platforms.

  • Jens Holm

    600 m2 isnt much. Shit happens. Fix it and go on.

    • Dick Von Dast’Ard

      It’s what is below the 600m2 that could be the problem.

      The ship is probably uneconomic to repair.

      Corruption – the fire occurred at the first energy compartment. This is one of the most complex and expensive parts of the warship. Millions of dollars have already been spent on the maintenance of it and other equipment of the warship. The fire accident may allow to spend even more money on the maintenance of the warship.

      Criminal Negligence – in this case, one of the main reasons is a poor production behavior that has become common for the modern Russia. Not so many representatives of the powerful Soviet engineering school remain in the defense industry. The Soviet system of engineering education was destroyed. The new one is not so effective.The Russian defense industry suffers from a lack of young skilled and motivated specialists.

      • Jens Holm

        You are right. I did not think in 3 dimensions.

        And Yes, manu has told its a bad construction.

        Danes know the problems too ven we of course are small in scale. When we for several years ago saved money for the defence, the high quilified experts found other jobsin the private sector, because it was easy for them as well as they were better paid.

        We normalyy has bought at lot stuff incl. aorplanes, drones and helipcopters and it was done as ususally. But we were not able to modefy and upgrade, as we used to.

        We even had to sell the canadien drones back for almost nothing.

  • frankly

    Its interesting what gets publicized and what stays in the dark. Like how many USN personnel have gone missing from aircraft carriers over the years. Had a friend on one who said during Viet Nam the carriers lost about one guy every month. Mostly tossed over board by people who did not like their attitude!

    Given the US investment in these floating coffins they can certainly put on quite a show with one. On a large scale against a competent adversary I dare say a cavalry unit could probably do more net damage than a modern carrier task force. The loss of one would be a catastrophic headline, the cost of defending, prohibitive.

    Ultimately I guess having a carrier allows the Russians to know exactly what they are up against. Shipboard fires, especially in overhaul are probably like men lost overboard, barely reported. It’s certainly within the agenda to paint the Russians with ugliness every chance the MSM gets. In that regard it seems inevitable that this ship will eventually shine. I suspect it will be for launching missiles, not aircraft.

    Is it the Saker who notes when the carriers show up he knows total war is not on the table. Their absence alarming. Ultimately carriers are an offensive weapon. It’s interesting that the US’s foreign policy is so threatened by a defensive weapon like an s-400, while Russia seems totally content to have carriers from the US sailing about. The cost of this useless hardware will certainly help finish the petro dollar.