If the fleet goes to and stays in the Med, its one thing… but if they pull into The Black Sea, they can refuel and rearm at will, swap out lost planes from multiple land bases with ease, and pull an easy double duty of pounding Aleppo with one air group
while providing a second front (from the south) to any conflict in Ukraine with another air group.
If Ukraine forces their hand now, it might not end well for them.
It will be interesting to see if a) the ships hold up and b) Russia can keep them supplied. Certainly there are enough resources in Russia to do both, but the real interest to the intelligence community will be what else has to be deferred to accomplish a and b. That will give a very revealing look at just how strong the Russian military really is.
Just looking at your link they already have more ships in the vicinity of Syria (10) than are sailing (7). Russia says it’s the biggest move in northern Europe in two years; it’s not the biggest since the Cold War.
The big move is the carrier with a small escort. When you have one carrier that has implications for where it’s leaving and where it will be operating. It could be as simple as getting another air strip, that’s not exposed to ground attack, into a fight where they are mostly providing logistic and air support. It has the side effect of getting their carrier some real world experience. Of course it also shifts the naval balance in an area where the most likely next President has advocated a no-fly zone inn the second debate. That has some saber rattling implications.
I agree with rbroome that it will be interesting to see how effectively they manage the deployment.
Let’s not make the mistake of thinking of this in terms of American carriers.
“In the original project specifications, the ship should be able to carry up to 33 fixed-wing aircraft and 12 helicopters”
Reportedly, it carries all of 19 SU-33’s. They’re considered past their service life with the plan being to replace them with MIG-29’s, but that hasn’t happened yet. SU-33’s were built specifically to be carrier aircraft and they only built a total of 45 of them. Consider them low rent versions of the F-15 or FA-18, without the updated electronics ours have.
As opposed to 3 squadrons of 10-14 F/A-18’s of various configurations on a Nimitz class carrier with the ability to handle up to 130 F-18’s at peak if necessary.
Even worse than that, this carrier doesn’t have catapults to assist with takeoff. That limits the take-off weight of the SU-33 so much that it can’t even take off with a full load of fuel, let alone any significant payload. (Though I haven’t found any definitive citations of its take-off weight, besides a few people on the internet that quoted a book that said the typical carrier-launched fuel + weapon load is ~7000 kg.) As strike aircraft, they’re lightly armed and have short range.
The helicopters it carries are dedicated to anti-submarine warfare, which won’t be any use against Syrian rebels…
And the escort ships are all dedicated to defending against submarines, surface ships, and aircraft. So they’re not even useful as cruise missile launch platforms.
Just because it surprised me and may be interesting to other people herre, the Russian Navy is actually much smaller today than I thought it was. I knew it had shrunk since the 1980s when it was at its cold war peak, but I didn’t realize the Kuznetsov was their only aircraft carrier today, and that they only have 26 frigate or larger ships in service. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_active_Russian_Navy_ships
@Chimera and @Lazybratsche, I don’t think the carrier is deploying for its actual combat effectiveness, I think it’s more for saber rattling.
Kinda pathetic really. If that’s the biggest fleet the Russians can muster they should hide it rather than show it off. The French and especially British Navies’ sailors are rolling on rolling on the deck laughing at the pathetic display.
Oh, certainly. It’s just not a particularly threatening saber being rattled…
For that matter, what’s the strategic purpose of the modern Russian navy anyways? The carrier and heavy cruisers, in particular, seem like Cold War relics from when the Soviet Union was aspiring to have a navy capable of force projection.
If you don’t have a Navy, you’re not just not a Great Power, and Russia since Peter the Great is insistent on being a Great Power. If they give up that last vestige of the Cold War Navy, they’re no longer in the same league as the US and China and don’t feel that they’ll be taken seriously. I think the fact that they have a huge army, nuclear weapons, and control lots of resources Western Europe wants would be enough to keep them in the running, but there’s a long tradition of Russia maintaining a fleet for prestige even if it’s basically useless for them.