Leaked footage has surfaced on social media channels showing a Russian Sukhoi Su-33 fighter jet sinking into the Mediterranean Sea after a failed attempt to land on the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier.
In the video, which has been widely circulated on military-focused Telegram channels, the aircraft can be seen in the water, still attached to Admiral Kuznetsov’s arresting gear. Nearby, a helicopter is visible, indicating a rescue operation for the ejected pilot.
The incident is believed to have occurred in December 2016, when the aircraft carrier was participating in Russia’s naval operations in Syria.
According to the Daily Mail at the time, the Russian ministry blamed the sinking on “the failure of the arrester system’s cable”.
However, this incident is but one chapter in Admiral Kuznetsov’s turbulent operational history. Commissioned in 1985, the sole Russian aircraft carrier has been a focal point of both technical and operational challenges.
In addition to the Su-33 mishap, a MiG-29 also crashed during a landing attempt on the same carrier in November 2016. Russian media claimed that both wreckages were retrieved around a year after they went down.
After the naval operations in Syria, the Admiral Kuznetsov returned to Russia in early 2017 to undergo a significant repair phase which aimed to extend the aircraft carrier’s service life by 25 years, alongside updating electronic warfare, communication, propulsion and combat systems.
Though the initial predictions expected the repairs to be completed by 2020 or 2021, various factors have led to an extension of the maintenance timeline.
In 2018, during maintenance work on the Admiral Kuznetsov at a shipyard in Murmansk, a floating dry dock sank, and a crane crashed onto the deck of the aircraft carrier. This accident caused significant damage to the ship, particularly its deck.
A year later, on December 12, 2019, the warship caught fire for the first time due to malfunctioning power cables. It was later damaged by a second fire on December 22, 2022, due to unknown causes.
Finally, the return of the warship was scheduled for early 2024, but the date had to be shifted again according to Russian media “due to the problems of untimely deliveries of equipment by the cooperation enterprises and constant changes in customer requirements”.
Currently Russia’s sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov is scheduled to re-enter service at the end of 2024 or early 2025.