The Russian Navy’s only aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, was towed from the 35th SRZ drydock in Murmansk, on the Arctic Coast of Russia, early on February 22, 2023.
“The operation to remove the Admiral Kuznetsov from the dry dock has been successfully completed,” the Zvyozdochka Ship Repair Center, part of the United Shipbuilding Corporation, told local media. “The warship has successfully left the dock.”
Zvezda News, the state-run media of the Russian Ministry of Defense, shared footage of the operation on its Telegram channel, showing the aircraft carrier being towed by a tugboat.
The flagship of Russia’s Northern Fleet is slated to return to service in early 2024.
The ill-fated overhaul of Russia’s last aircraft carrier
The aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov came into service in 1990. Capable of housing 24 aircraft, it was the only carrier of its class ever completed in the Soviet Union and the only one to remain in the Russian Navy after decommissioning of its Kiev-class aircraft carriers.
One unfinished Kuznetsov-class ship was sold to China, becoming the Liaoning, the Chinese Navy’s first aircraft carrier.
Its last deployment dates back to 2016 when it was used to support Russian operations in Syria. The following year, the ship, which had not undergone major repairs since 1997, was immobilized to receive an upgrade.
Intended to extend the ship’s service life by 25 years, the overhaul included new systems of electronic warfare, communication, propulsion, and combat. The repairs were expected to have been finished by 2020 or 2021. However, repair work was extended due to a number of reasons.
In October 2018, an incident put Admiral Kuznetsov in jeopardy. Its floating deck, unique in the world, suddenly sank, and a crane that fell on the bridge caused extensive damage.
A year later, in December 2019, welding operations on one of the aircraft carrier’s power units were ongoing when a fire broke out. Three workers perished in the fire, with an additional six injured, and the ship sustained once again significant damage.
In March 2021, the director of Shipyard No. 10 in Polyarny was arrested for allegedly embezzling $589 million wrongfully allocated to the repair of the Kuznetsov.
Another less consequential fire was reported in December 2022, when operations to extract the warship from its drydock began.