Moscow – Russia sent its sole aircraft carrier along with escorting ships to Syria’s shores, the largest naval deployment since the Soviet collapse. Russia’s move raised speculation that it could use the carrier to launch a new air blitz on the besieged city of Aleppo.
The U.S. and NATO pressured Spain to deny Russian ships to call at its port on their way to Syria, but Moscow said the warships have enough supplies to fulfill their mission. If the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier launches her jets to strike targets in Syria, it would mark the debut for Russian carrier borne warplanes, which never before had been tested in combat.
Russia sent most of its fleet to accompany the carrier in a massive show of force amid the differences with the U.S. and its allies over Syria.
THE PRIDE OF THE RUSSIAN NAVY
The Admiral Kuznetsov joined the Soviet Navy in 1991, just month shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The ship spent most of the following decade in harbor amid the desperate fund shortage caused by the post-Soviet economic meltdown. When Russia’s economic fortunes reversed thanks to booming oil prices, the carrier saw more service, but continued to suffer from technical problems and needed frequent maintenance.
The big ship is underpowered, the reason for her to emit plumes of black smoke when she moves at maximum speed. Still, despite the flaws, the carrier puts Russia in a small league of countries operating aircraft carriers and allows it to project sea power worldwide. The Admiral Kuznetsov recently received advanced Su-33 and MiG-29 fighter jets, and their pilots have continued to practice their skills en route to Syria. The carrier, based in Severomorsk on the Kola Peninsula, is being accompanied by two destroyers and several support vessels of Russia’s Northern Fleet.
Several other Russian warships are already near Syria’s shores, and more are set to join them for the biggest deployment to Eastern Mediterranean since the Soviet collapse.
SHOW OF FORCE
Ever since Russia launched its air campaign in Syria in September 2015 in support of President Bashar Assad, it has used it to test its latest weapons in combat. They included cruise missiles, launched by strategic bombers and Russian warships, demonstrating Russia’s new long-range precision strike capability. Now Russia will certainly use the carrier deployment to also test it in combat for the first time.