Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov “Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov”, originally the name of the fifth Kirov-class battlecruiser) is an aircraft carrier (heavy aircraft cruiser in Russian classification) serving as the flagship of the Russian Navy. It was built by the Black Sea Shipyard, the sole manufacturer of Soviet aircraft carriers, in Nikolayev within the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR). The initial name of the ship was Riga; it was launched as Leonid Brezhnev, embarked on sea trials as Tbilisi, and finally named Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov after Admiral of the fleet of the Soviet Union Nikolay Gerasimovich Kuznetsov.
It was originally commissioned in the Soviet Navy, and was intended to be the lead ship of the two-ship Admiral Kuznetsov class. However, its sister ship Varyag was still incomplete when the Soviet Union disbanded in 1991. The second hull was eventually sold by Ukraine to China, completed in Dalian and commissioned as Liaoning.
The design of Admiral Kuznetsov class implies a mission different from that of the United States Navy’s carriers. The term used by her builders to describe the Russian ships is Tyazholyy Avianesushchiy Kreyser (TAVKR) – “heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser” – intended to support and defend strategic missile-carrying submarines, surface ships, and naval missile-carrying aircraft of the Russian Navy.
Admiral Kuznetsov’s main fixed-wing aircraft is the multi-role Sukhoi Su-33. It can perform air superiority, fleet defence, and air support missions and can also be used for direct fire support of amphibious assault, reconnaissance and placement of naval mines. The carrier also carries the Kamov Ka-27 and Kamov Ka-27S helicopters for anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue, and small transport.
For take-off of fixed wing aircraft, Admiral Kuznetsov uses a ski-jump at the end of her bow. On take-off aircraft accelerate toward and up the ski-jump using their afterburners. This results in the aircraft leaving the deck at a higher angle and elevation than on an aircraft carrier with a flat deck and catapults. The ski-jump take-off is less demanding on the pilot, since the acceleration is lower, but results in a clearance speed of only 120–140 km/h (75–87 mph) requiring an aircraft design which will not stall at those speeds. The “cruiser” role is facilitated by Admiral Kuznetsov’s complement of 12 long-range surface-to-surface anti-ship P-700 Granit (NATO reporting name: Shipwreck) cruise missiles. As a result, this armament is the basis for the ship’s Russian type designator of “heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser”.
Transiting the Turkish Straits
Admiral Kuznetsov’s designation as an aircraft-carrying cruiser is very important under the Montreux Convention, as it allows the ship to transit the Turkish Straits. The Convention prohibits countries from sending an aircraft carrier heavier than 15,000 tons through the Straits. Since the ship was built in the Ukrainian SSR, Admiral Kuznetsov would have been stuck in the Black Sea if Turkey had refused permission to pass into the Mediterranean Sea. However, the Convention does not limit the displacement of capital ships operated by Black Sea powers. Turkey allowed Admiral Kuznetsov to transit the Straits, and no signatory to the Montreux Convention ever issued a formal protest of her classification as an aircraft-carrying cruiser.
Admiral Flota Sovetskovo Soyuza Kuznetsov, constructed at Chernomorskiy Shipyard, also known as Nikolayev South Shipyard, in Nikolayev, now Mykolaiv, Ukrainian SSR, was launched in 1985, and became fully operational in 1995. An official ceremony marking the start of construction took place on 1 September 1982; in fact she was laid down in 1983. The vessel was first named Riga, then the name was changed to Leonid Brezhnev, this was followed by Tbilisi. Finally, on 4th October 1990, she was renamed Admiral Flota Sovetskovo Soyuza N.G. Kuznetsov, referred to in short as Admiral Kuznetsov. The ship was 71% complete by mid-1989. In November 1989 she undertook her first aircraft operation trials. In December 1991, she sailed from the Black Sea to join the Northern Fleet. Only from 1993 on did she receive aircraft.
From 23rd December 1995 through 22nd March 1996 Admiral Kuznetsov made her first 90-day Mediterranean deployment with 13 Su-33, 2 Su-25 UTG, and 11 helicopters aboard. The deployment of the Russian Navy’s flagship was undertaken to mark the 300th anniversary of the establishment of the Russian Navy in October 1696. The deployment was to allow the carrier, which was accompanied by a frigate, destroyer and oiler, to adapt to the Mediterranean climate and to perform continuous flight operations until 21:00 each day, as the Barents Sea only receives about one hour of sunlight during this time of year. During that period the carrier lay at anchor off the port of Tartus, Syria. Her aircraft often made flights close to the Israeli shore line and were escorted by Israeli F-16s. During the deployment, a severe water shortage occurred due to evaporators breaking down.
At the end of 1997 she remained immobilized in a Northern Fleet shipyard, awaiting funding for major repairs, which were halted when they were only 20% complete. The overhaul was completed in July 1998, and the ship returned to active service in the Northern fleet on 3rd November 1998.
Admiral Kuznetsov remained in port for two years before preparing for another Mediterranean deployment scheduled for the winter of 2000–2001. This deployment was cancelled due to the explosion and sinking of the nuclear-powered submarine Kursk. Admiral Kuznetsov participated in the Kursk rescue and salvage operations in late 2000. Plans for further operations were postponed or cancelled. In late 2003 and early 2004, Admiral Kuznetsov went to sea for inspection and trials. In October 2004, she participated in a fleet exercise of the Russian Navy in the Atlantic Ocean. During a September 2005 exercise, a Su-33 accidentally fell from the carrier into the Atlantic Ocean. On 27th September 2006, it was announced that Admiral Kuznetsov would return to service in the Northern Fleet by the year’s end, following another modernization to correct some technical issues. Admiral Vladimir Masorin, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, also stated that Su-33 fighters assigned to her would return after undergoing their own maintenance and refits.
From 5th December 2007 through 3rd February 2008 Admiral Kuznetsov made its second Mediterranean deployment. On 11th December 2007, Admiral Kuznetsov passed by Norwegian oil platforms in the North Sea, 60 nautical miles (110 km) outside Bergen, Norway. Su-33 fighters and Kamov helicopters were launched from Admiral Kuznetsov while within international waters; Norwegian helicopter services to the rigs were halted due to the collision risk with the Russian aircraft. Admiral Kuznetsov later participated in an exercise on the Mediterranean Sea, together with 11 other Russian surface ships and 47 aircraft, performing three tactical training missions using live and simulated air and surface missile launches. Admiral Kuznetsov and her escorts returned to Severomorsk on 3rd February 2008. Following maintenance, she returned to sea on 11th October 2008 for the Stability-2008 strategic exercises held in the Barents Sea. On 12th October 2008, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited the ship during the exercise.
From 5th December 2008 through 2nd March 2009, Admiral Kuznetsov made her third Mediterranean deployment. On 5th December 2008, she and several other vessels left Severomorsk for the Atlantic for a combat training tour, including joint drills with Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and visits to several Mediterranean ports. On 7th January 2009, a small fire broke out onboard Admiral Kuznetsov while anchored off Turkey. The fire, caused by a short-circuit, led to the death of one crew member by carbon monoxide poisoning. On 16th February 2009, she was involved in a large oil spill, along with other Russian naval vessels, while refuelling off the south coast of Ireland. On 2nd March 2009, Admiral Kuznetsov returned to Severomorsk, and on September 2010 she left dry dock after scheduled repairs and preparations for a training mission in the Barents Sea, later that month.
2011–2012 Mediterranean deployment
The Russian Main Navy Staff announced that Admiral Kuznetsov would begin a deployment to the Atlantic and Mediterranean in December 2011. In November 2011, it was announced that Admiral Kuznetsov would lead a squadron to Russia’s naval facility in Tartus.
A Russian naval spokesman announced via the Izvestia daily that “The call of the Russian ships in Tartus should not be seen as a gesture towards what is going on in Syria… This was planned already in 2010 when there were no such events there” noting that Admiral Kuznetsov would also be making port calls in Beirut, Genoa and Cyprus. On 29th November 2011, Army General Nikolay Makarov, Chief of the Russian General Staff, said that Russian ships in the Mediterranean were due to exercises rather than events in Syria, and noted that Admiral Kuznetsov’s size does not allow her to moor in Tartus.
On 6th December 2011, Admiral Kuznetsov and her escort ships departed the Northern Fleet homebase for a Mediterranean deployment to exercise with ships from the Russian Baltic and Black Sea Fleets. On 12th December 2011, Admiral Kuznetsov and her escorts, were spotted northeast of Orkney off the coast of northern Scotland, the first such time she had deployed near the UK. HMS York shadowed the group for a week; due to severe weather, the group took shelter in international waters in the Moray Firth, some 30 miles (48 km) from the UK coast. Admiral Kuznetsov then sailed around the top of Scotland and into the Atlantic past western Ireland, where she conducted flight operations with her Sukhoi Su-33 ‘Flanker’ jets and Kamov Ka-27 helicopters in international airspace. On 8th January 2012, Admiral Kuznetsov anchored near shore outside Tartus while other ships from her escort entered the port to use the leased Russian naval support facility to replenish their supplies, after which all ships continued their deployment on 9th January. On 17th February 2012, Admiral Kuznetsov returned to her homebase of Severomorsk.
On 1st June 2013, it was announced that the ship would return to the Mediterranean by the end of the year, and on 17th December, Admiral Kuznetsov departed her homebase for the Mediterranean. On 1st January 2014, Admiral Kuznetsov celebrated New Year’s Day while at anchor in international waters of the Moray Firth off northeast Scotland. The anchorage allowed replenishment of ship’s supplies and respite for the crew from stormy weather off the southwest coast of Norway. She then proceeded to the Mediterranean Sea, docking in Cyprus on 28th February. In May 2014, the ship and her task group: the Kirov-class nuclear-powered cruiser Petr Velikiy; tankers; Sergey Osipov, Kama and Dubna; ocean-going tug Altay and Ropucha-class landing ship Minsk (a part of the Black Sea Fleet), passed the UK while sailing for home. Despite financial and technical problems, resulting in limited operations for the ship, it is expected that Admiral Kuznetsov will remain in active service until at least 2030.
In April 2010, it was announced that by late 2012, the ship would enter Severodvinsk Sevmash shipyard for a major refit and modernization, including upgrades to obsolete electronics and sensor equipment, installation of a new anti-aircraft system (Pantsir-M) and an increase of the air wing with the removal of the P-700 Granit anti-ship missiles. Possible upgrades include exchanging the troublesome steam powerplant to gas-turbine, or even nuclear propulsion, and installation of catapults to the angled deck.
The Navy expected to acquire Mikoyan MiG-29K aircraft for Admiral Kuznetsov by 2011; this later was confirmed by a defence sub-contractor The MiG-29Ks would replace the 19 carrier-based Su-33 fighters, a resource set to expire by 2015. Producing more Su-33s is possible but not cost-effective for such small volumes; the MiG-29K is more convenient as the Indian Navy also placed an order for a total for 45, reducing development and manufacture costs. India paid $730 million for the development and delivery of 16 MiG-29Ks; 24 more for the Russian Navy would cost about $1 billion.
2016 Syrian campaign
Following ongoing maintenance, Admiral Kuznetsov set sail on 15th October 2016 from the Kola Bay for the Mediterranean, accompanied by seven other Russian Navy vessels including the nuclear-powered battlecruiser Pyotr Velikiy and two Udaloy-class destroyers. The carrier was accompanied by an ocean-going tugboat, as a precaution due to potential propulsion failure. The airwing included 6-8 Su-33 fighters, four Mig-29KR/KUBR multi-role aircraft, Ka-52K “Katran” navalised attack helicopters, Ka-31R “Helix” AEW&C helicopters and Ka-27PS “Helix-D” search and rescue helicopters. All the Su-33 aircraft had been upgraded with the Gefest SVP-24 bombsights for free-fall bombs, giving them a limited ground-attack capability. Analysts, including Mikhail Barabanov of the Moscow Defense Brief, suggested that a lack of trained pilots restricted the number of fixed-wing aircraft that could be deployed from the carrier.
On 21st October, the Admiral Kuznetsov battle group sailed through the English Channel, escorted by Royal Navy ships, while UK Defence Minister Michael Fallon speculated that the taskforce was designed to “test” the British naval response. On 26th October 2016, the ship was reported to have passed through the Strait of Gibraltar and refuelled at sea off North Africa the following day. On 3rd November 2016, the Admiral Kuznetsov battle group paused off the east coast of Crete. On 14th November 2016, a MiG-29K crashed into the sea after taking off from the carrier. The pilot ejected safely from the plane and was rescued by helicopter. According to initial reports from Russian officials, the crash was a result of technical malfunction, but it was later revealed that the plane had actually run out of fuel waiting to land while the crew was attempting to repair a broken arresting wire. The carrier commander could have diverted the aircraft to land at a nearby airbase, but hesitated in the hope that the arrestor gear would be repaired in time.
On 15th November 2016, Admiral Kuznetsov, took part in “a large-scale operation against the positions of terrorist groups Islamic State and Al-Nusra, in the provinces of Idlib and Homs” in Syria by launching Su-33 fighter strikes. This was the first time a Russian aircraft carrier would take part in combat operations. Russian Defence Ministry later reported that 30 militants had been killed as a result of those strikes, including 3 field commanders, among them Abul Baha al-Asfari, leader of Al-Nusra reserves in the provinces of Homs and Aleppo. Al-Asfari had also planned and led several insurgent attacks on the city of Aleppo itself. The Su-33s reportedly used 500 kg (1,100 lb) precision bombs. On 3rd December 2016, an Su-33 crashed into the sea after attempting to land on the carrier. The plane crashed on its second attempt to land on the aircraft carrier in good weather conditions. The pilot was safely recovered by a search and rescue helicopter. Initially it was suspected that the plane missed the wires and failed to go around, falling short of the bow of the warship, but later it was revealed that the arresting cable failed to hold the aircraft, and was damaged in the attempt. Following the two incidents, the air wing was transferred to shore at Khmeimim Air Base near Latakia, Syria to continue military operations while the carrier’s arresting gear issues were addressed.
In early January 2017, it was announced that Admiral Kuznetsov and her battlegroup would be ceasing operations in Syria and returning to Russia as part of a scaling back of Russian involvement in the conflict. During her deployment off Syria, aircraft from Admiral Kuznetsov carried out 420 combat missions, hitting 1,252 hostile targets. On 11th January 2017, Admiral Kuznetsov was conducting live-fire training exercises in the Mediterranean off the coast of Libya. The Russian defence ministry announced that on 11th January, Admiral Kuznetsov was visited by Libya′s military leader Khalifa Haftar, who had a video conference with Russian defence minister Sergey Shoygu while on board.
On 20th January, Admiral Kuznetsov was sighted passing west through the Strait of Gibraltar and six days later she was escorted back along the English Channel by three Eurofighter Typhoons of the Royal Air Force and the Type 23 frigate HMS St Albans (F83). She arrived back in Severomorsk on 9th February. On 23rd February 2017, President Vladimir Putin said that the ship′s deployment to the Mediterranean had been his personal initiative.
The carrier started an overhaul and modernisation in the first quarter of 2017. This is expected to extend its service life by 25 years. Admiral Kuznetsov is expected to undergo modernization at the 35th Ship Repair Plant in Murmansk between 2020 and 2021, upgrading the ship’s power plant and electronics systems.
On 30th October 2018, Admiral Kuznetsov was damaged when Russia’s biggest floating dry dock, PD-50, sank and one of the dock’s 70-ton cranes crashed onto the ship’s flight deck leaving behind a 200-square-foot (19 m2) hole in the flight deck. One person was reported missing and four injured as the dry dock sank in Kola Bay. Admiral Kuznetsov was in the process of being removed from the dock when the incident happened, and was towed to a nearby yard after the incident. According to Alexei Rakhmanov, the president of the United Shipbuilding Corporation, the cost for repairs of the damage was estimated to be RUB70 million (about US$1 million) and should not affect the timing of the currently underway overhaul and modernization of the ship. Although it is unclear how the overhaul and repair schedule would not be affected with the dry dock sunk.
The fallen crane was removed within two to three months. In late May 2019, seven months later, information posted on Digital Forensic Research Lab’s blog suggested that repair work of the aircraft carrier was underway. That same month it was also announced that two graving docks in Roslyakovo, Murmansk Oblast would be merged and enlarged to accommodate Admiral Kuznetsov, with work taking 1.5 years.
In December 2019, a major fire broke out on board Admiral Kuznetsov as work continued on the ship’s refit. Two people died and fourteen suffered injuries from the fire and smoke inhalation. The fire damage on the Admiral Kuznetsov is estimated at 500 million rubles.
Sukhoi Su-33 Sea Flanker D
The Sukhoi Su-33 is an all-weather carrier-based twin-engine air superiority fighter designed by Sukhoi and manufactured by Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Association, derived from the Su-27 and initially known as the Su-27K. Compared with the Su-27, the Su-33 has a strengthened undercarriage and structure, folding wings and stabilators, all for carrier operations. The Su-33 has canards and its wings are larger than the Su-27 for increased
During the 1970s, the Yakovlev Yak-38, then the Soviet Navy’s only operational carrier-based fixed-wing combat aircraft, was found to be unable to undertake its role due to limited range and payload, which severely hampered the capability of the Soviet Navy’s Project 1143 carriers. It was decided to develop a bigger and more potent carrier capable of operating STOL aircraft. During the assessment period, a number of aircraft carriers were studied; the Project 1160 carrier would have been able to operate the MiG-23s and Su-24s, but was abandoned due to budget constraints. Design efforts were then concentrated on the Project 1153 carrier, which would have accommodated the Su-25s and the proposed MiG-23Ks and Su-27Ks. Sufficient funding was not secured, and the Navy looked at the possibility of a fifth, and larger, Project 1143 carrier, modified to allow for Yak-141, MiG-29K and Su-27K operations.
To prepare for the operations of the Su-27K and the rival MiG-29K on-board the new carrier, work proceeded on the development of the steam catapult, arresting gear, optical and radio landing systems. The pilots were trained at a new establishment in Crimea, named NITKA, for Aviation Research and Training Complex. In 1981, the Soviet government ordered the abandonment of the catapult system as part of an overall downsize of Project 1143.5 carriers, which also included cancelling the fifth Project 1143 carrier and Varyag. A takeoff ramp was installed at the complex, where takeoffs would be executed to ensure that the Su-27Ks and MiG-29Ks would be able to operate from carriers. Both Sukhoi and Mikoyan modified their prototypes to validate the takeoff ramp. Three Sukhoi T10s (−3, −24 and −25), along with an Su-27UB, were used for takeoffs from the simulated ramp. The first of these tests were undertaken by Nikolai Sadovnikov on 28th August 1982. Flight tests indicated the need for a change in ramp design, and it was modified to a ski-jump profile.
Conceptual designs of the Su-27K commenced in 1978. On 18th April 1984, the Soviet government instructed Sukhoi to develop an air defence fighter; Mikoyan was ordered to build a lighter multirole fighter. Full-scale design of the Su-27K soon started as the “T-10K” under the guidance of Konstantin Marbyshev. Nikolai Sadovnikov was appointed the design bureau’s Chief Test Pilot for the programme. By November 1984, conceptual design had passed its critical design review, with the detailed design finalised in 1986. The two prototypes were constructed in conjunction with KnAAPO in 1986–1987.
The first Su-27K prototype, piloted by Viktor Pugachyov, made its maiden flight on 17th August 1987 at the NITKA facility; the second followed on 22nd December. Flight tests continued at NITKA, where Su-27Ks and MiG-29Ks demonstrated and validated the feasibility of ski-jump operations. The pilots also practised no-flare landings before making an actual landing on a carrier deck. It was another two years before Tbilisi, subsequently renamed Admiral Kuznetsov, left the shipyard.
Viktor Pugachyov, piloting the second Su-27K, became the first Russian to conventionally land aboard an aircraft carrier on 1st November 1989. It was found that the carrier’s jet blast deflectors were too close to the engine nozzles when raised at an angle of 60°; thus an improvised solution held the deflectors at 45°. However, when the aircraft was in front of it for longer than the maximum six seconds, the shield’s water pipes exploded. The pilot, Pugachyov, reduced engine throttle, accidentally causing the detents (blocks used to restrain aircraft from accelerating) to retract and the fighter to move forwards. The aircraft was quickly stopped; Pugachyov later took off without the use of blast deflectors or detents. Since then, a Kamov Ka-27PS search-and-rescue helicopter was flown close to the carrier in case of an accident.
During the following three-week period, 227 sorties were amassed, along with 35 deck landings. Flight testing continued afterwards, and on 26th September 1991, naval pilots began testing the Su-27K; by 1994, it had successfully passed the State Acceptance Trials. During 1990–1991, seven production aircraft were rolled out.
The first of two known versions of the Su-33, the twin-seat Su-33UB, made its first flight in April 1999. The aircraft, piloted by Viktor Pugachyov and Sergey Melnikov, flew for 40 minutes near Ramenskoye Airport. The Su-33UB (Initially named as Su-27KUB, “Korabelny Uchebno-Boevo”, or “carrier combat trainer”) was planned to be a trainer, but with the potential to fill other roles. Notable improvements over the Su-33 included a revised forward fuselage and leading edge slats, bigger wings and stabilators.
In 2010, Sukhoi developed an updated version of the Su-33; flight trials began in October 2010. This modernised Su-33 was to compete with a potential Chinese indigenous version of the original Su-33, and to encourage orders from the Russian Navy. Major upgrades to the aircraft included more powerful (132 kN, 29,800 lbf) AL-31-F-M1 engines and a larger weapons carriage; upgrades to the radar and weapons were not possible at the time due to funding constraints. According to military author Richard Fisher, it has been speculated that further modifications to a new production batch would include a phased-array radar, thrust-vectoring nozzles, and long-range anti-ship missiles.
To adapt the original Su-27 for naval operations, Sukhoi first incorporated a reinforced structure and undercarriage to withstand the great stress experienced upon landing, particularly quick descents and non-flare landings (landings where the aircraft does not ‘float’ and slow its descent rate just prior to touchdown). The leading edge slats, flaperons and other control surfaces are enlarged to provide increased lift and manoeuvrability at low speeds, although the wingspan remains unchanged. The wings feature double-slotted flaps and outboard drooping ailerons; in total, the refinements enlarge the wing area by 10–12%. The wings and stabilators are modified for folding to maximise the number of aircraft the carrier can accommodate and to allow ease of movement on deck. The aircraft is outfitted with more powerful turbofan engines to increase thrust-to-weight ratio, as well as an in-flight refuelling probe. The Su-33 sports canards that shorten the take-off distance and improve manoeuvrability, but have required reshaping of the leading edge root extensions (LERX). The rear radome is shortened and reshaped to prevent its striking the deck during high-Alpha (angle of attack) landings.
Compared with the rival MiG-29K, the Su-33’s maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) is 50% higher; fuel capacity is more than double, allowing it to fly 80% further at altitude (or 33% at sea level). The MiG-29K can spend as much time as the Su-33 on station by using external fuel tanks, but this limits its ordnance capacity. The Su-33 can fly at speeds as low as 240 km/h (150 mph), in comparison the MiG-29K needs to maintain a minimum of 250 km/h (160 mph) for effective control. However, the MiG-29K carries more air-to-ground munitions than the Su-33. The Su-33 is more expensive and physically larger than the MiG-29K, limiting the numbers able to be deployed on an aircraft carrier.
The Su-33 carries guided missiles such as the R-73 (four) and R-27E (six) on twelve hardpoints, supplemented by the 150-round 30 mm GSh-30-1. It can carry an assortment of unguided rockets, bombs and cluster bombs for secondary air-to-ground missions. The aircraft can be used in both night and day operations at sea. The radar used, “Slot Back”, has been speculated to have poor multi-target tracking, making the Su-33 reliant on other radar platforms and airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft like the Kamov Ka-31 early-warning helicopter. The R-27EM missiles have the capability to intercept anti-ship missiles. The infra-red search and track (IRST) system is placed to provide better downward visibility.
The Su-27K entered service in the mid-1990s. From December 1995 to March 1996, Admiral Kuznetsov set sail in the Mediterranean Sea, carrying two Su-25UTGs, nine Ka-27s, and 13 Su-27Ks. However, the aircraft officially entered service 31st August 1998 with the 279th Naval Fighter Regiment of the Northern Fleet based at Severomorsk-3, by which time it was officially designated the “Su-33”. The Russian Navy currently operates 19 Su-33s, however in the long term these need to be replaced.
With the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Russian Navy was dramatically downsized, with many shipbuilding programmes stopped. Had Varyag, Oryol and Ulyanovsk been commissioned, a total of 72 production airframes would have been built; the early-airborne warning and MiG-29K would also have proceed, instead of being abandoned. Only 24 examples were built at the time Varyag was sold to China. In 2009, the Russian Navy announced an order for 24 MiG-29Ks to replace the Su-33, to be delivered from 2011 to 2015. However, in 2015, Major-General Igor Kozhin, the Commander of the Navy’s Air and Air Defense Forces, announced that a second fighter regiment would be formed to augment the current force, with the intention that the MiG-29s be used by this new unit, with the existing Su-33s refurbished for further use. A contract for the installation of the SVP-24 targeting system on the Su-33s was signed in the spring 2016. The first modernized aircraft was delivered as of September of the same year. Deliveries of upgraded engines for Su-33 started in 2017.
Internationally, the People’s Republic of China was identified as a possible export customer. Russia’s state weapons exporter, Rosoboronexport, was previously negotiating an order of 50 aircraft totalling US$2.5 billion. China would have initially acquired two aircraft worth $100 million for testing and then have further options to acquire an additional 12–48 aircraft. The fighters were intended to be used with the fledgling Chinese aircraft carrier programme, with the former Soviet carrier Varyag as the centrepiece.
At the sixth Zhuhai Airshow in late 2006, Lieutenant General Aleksander Denisov publicly confirmed at a news conference that China had approached Russia for the possible purchase of Su-33s, and negotiations were to start in 2007. On 1 November 2006, the Xinhua News Agency published the information on its military website that China planned to introduce the Su-33. China had previously obtained a manufacturing license for Su-27 production.
Sukhoi is working on a more advanced version, the Su-33K, a development to integrate the advanced technologies of the Su-35 fighters into the older Su-33 airframe. However, worries over other Chinese intentions emerged when it was reported that China had acquired one of the T-10Ks, a Su-33 prototype, from Ukraine, potentially to study and reverse engineer a domestic version. Various aircraft are alleged to have originated partially from the Su-33, such as the Shenyang J-15. Photos of Shenyang aircraft designers posing in front of a T-10K carrier based fighter prototype strongly suggest that the J-15 is directly related to T-10K. Negotiations stagnated as the Shenyang Aircraft company sought to reduce Russian content in the aircraft, while Sukhoi wanted to ensure a level of income from future upgrades and modifications made to the J-11.
India was also viewed as another potential operator of the Su-33. The Indian Navy planned to acquire the Su-33 for its aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, the refurbished Soviet Admiral Gorshkov, which was sold to India in 2004. In the end, the rival MiG-29K was opted for, because of the Su-33’s outdated avionics. The size of the Su-33 reportedly led to concerns over potential difficulties in operating it off the Indian carriers, a constraint not shared by the smaller MiG-29K.
On 15th November 2016, Sukhoi Su-33 fighter jets began conducting combat flights over Syria from Admiral Kuznetsov’s flight deck in the ongoing Syrian civil war. On 5th December 2016, it was reported that a Su-33 had crashed into the Mediterranean Sea after it failed to land on the carrier for a second time due to an arrestor cable problem.
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LTV A-7D Corsair II 23rd TFW 75th TFS U.S.A.F EL218 England AFB 1981
The 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing moved “on paper” without people or equipment to England Air Force Base, Louisiana, 1st July 1972 and took over the assets and personnel of the 4403rd Tactical Fighter Wing. Assigned to the Ninth Air Force, the wing activated all three of its original World War II fighter units – the 74th, 75th and 76th Tactical Fighter Squadrons for the first time since 1949, and began operations with the Ling-Temco-Vought A-7D Corsair II aircraft.
Squadron markings were a blue tail stripe, later adding white stars and a “74” in 1979 for the 74 TFS; s white outlined black tail stripe, later changed to black and white checkered for the 75 TFS, and a red tail stripe with white stars and a “76” for the 76 TFS. All 23 TFW aircraft carried the “EL” tail code at England.
On 5th July 1973, the 74 TFS deployed to Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, on temporary duty with the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing (Deployed) from Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, South Carolina. The 74th replaced the 354th Tactical Fighter Squadron from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona that had completed its temporary duty. For just over a month, until the cessation of all U.S. bombing on 15th August 1973, the 74 TFS supported the air war activities in Cambodia, accounting for the destruction of 311 enemy structures, 25 ground artillery and missile sites, three bridges and 9,500 cubic meters of supplies. The 74 TFS returned to England on 28th December 1973.
On 18th May 1972, the squadron was redesignated the 75th Tactical Fighter Squadron, and on 1st July 1972 was activated at England Air Force Base, Louisiana. There the squadron began flying the A-7D Corsair II ground attack aircraft.
The 23 TFW took part in a variety of operational exercises both in the United States and overseas, including tactical bombing competitions against the Royal Air Force at RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland, during October 1977 and July 1978. In both events, A-7D teams captured the Sir John Mogg Team Trophy.
It flew the A-7D until 1981 when conversion to the A-10 Thunderbolt II was completed. It became an A-10 training unit and remained at England AFB supporting the deployments of the 74th and 76th TFS. On 2nd December 1991, the 75th Fighter Squadron was inactivated as part of the conversion to the Objective Wing and drawdown of the Air Force after the end of the Cold War.
Eight of the 23rd’s A-7Ds were transferred to the 4450th Tactical Group, based at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada in June 1981, during the transition to the A-10. The 4451st Tactical Squadron at Tonopah Test Range Airport used these aircraft to train F-117 Nighthawk pilots and to provide a cover story for F-117A development.
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Coronovirus: Flying Tigers Dispatch Information.
Due to Covid-19 there is now some disruption to service times from Parcelforce and the Royal Mail who have now suspended their service delivery time guarantees. The situation is patchy with some customers getting models next day whilst others are waiting 10 days or so. Please be patient … all carriers and postal services are working round the clock to catch up, and so are Flying Tigers.
At Flying Tigers, family and friends have always been the most important thing to us. During these unprecedented times we want to reassure you that the health and safety of our customers, employees and their families continues to be our number one priority. Now is the time for us to come together and support one another more than ever.
We will continue to follow all World Health Organisation, Government and Public Health England advice and act accordingly. Currently, our small showroom is closed to the public and we will continue to monitor the rapidly changing situation closely and respond as advised by those experts.
Whilst we’ve always been a clean and tidy bunch, we are doing everything to ensure even higher standards of hygiene and cleanliness.
We’d like to say a huge thank you to all our customers, for continuing to support us. It’s not been easy for anyone and we’re lucky to have fellow collectors that understand that in these difficult times, small family businesses such as Flying Tigers need your business and support to stay alive.
If you have supplied Flying Tigers with your mobile number and/ or your email address, Parcelforce will notify you by way of text message or email on anticipated delivery day/time.
For Royal Mail delivered parcels these can be tracked through the Royal Mail parcel tracking service. The tracking number will be emailed to you on the “Your order is completed” notification upon dispatch of your order.
If you had requested a delivery to your place of work or to a neighbour, and you would now like your Parcel delivered to your home/billing address please email us and we will make the change. If we do not receive this instruction we will continue to dispatch to your original delivery address.
We are still working hard processing and despatching orders on a daily basis.
You, our loyal customers will be the first to know in the event of any changes or updates in the coming weeks.
For more information on COVID-19 and current Government stance please follow these links below:
Coronovirus: Royal Mail and Parcelforce Update
Royal Mail have issued an update with regards to the Coronavirus…
Public Health England (PHE) has advised that people receiving parcels are not at risk of contracting the coronavirus. From experience with other coronaviruses, we know that these types of viruses don’t survive long on objects, such as letters or parcels. This complements the highly publicised guidance from PHE for people to wash their hands more often than usual using soap and hot water.
We are actively monitoring this rapidly evolving situation. We take the health and safety of our people very seriously. We have provided guidance to our people, our customers and the communities in which we operate, to help prevent the spread of any infection. We are doing so in line with preventative guidance from Public Health England.
Signing for and receiving items
In order to protect both our people and customers as much as possible, we will not be handing over our hand-held devices to customers to capture signatures. Postmen and women will instead log the name of the person accepting the item. This will apply to all deliveries that require a signature.
Additionally, for all customers (including those who are self-isolating) where we need to deliver any parcel that won’t fit through your letterbox, we will place your item at your door. Having knocked on your door, we will then step aside to a safe distance while you retrieve your item. This will ensure your item is delivered securely rather than being left outside.
In order to protect both our people and customers as much as possible, we will not be handing over our hand-held devices to customers to capture electronic signatures. Our drivers will instead log the first and last name of the person accepting the item then put ‘XP1’ in the signature field, and we will record the geolocation of the delivery. This will apply to all deliveries that normally require a signature.
If you are unable to come to the door at all we will issue a ‘Something for You’ card, advising of other ways you can arrange to get your item. For example, by getting a friend or family member to collect the parcel from our local Customer Service Point on your behalf. In this situation, and to keep your mail as secure as possible, they will need to bring along the card we left you and a form of ID in the name of the person to which the item is addressed.
For full information on our response to this global situation, please visit parcelforce.com/coronavirus
In the event we need to close one of our units, this decision would be made in line with Public Health England guidance. Royal Mail has many years’ experience of contingency planning for a number of different scenarios. We will follow the Government’s advice and work closely with the relevant authorities.
We have extensive experience in being able to quickly deploy business contingency plans so we continue to provide customers with access to our services and their mail.
Coronovirus International Shipment Updates
As you may know from the media recently, a number of countries are cancelling flights between Europe and themselves, and countries within the EU are shutting borders and some are or have gone on lockdown.
Unfortunately, this means that almost all international mail and parcels will be delayed wherever they go as many pass-through EU countries etc onto other destinations. Some freight also piggybacks onto commercial flights, like Royal Mail use BA to inject into the USA. These flights have recently been cancelled.
We will do our utmost to work with our carrier partners to ensure mail/parcels are stored safely in periods they are held and we will move the freight as quickly, safely and as smooth as possible.
Please note this may cause big breaks within the tracking where parcels haven’t been scanned and we expect we will see delays of up to 4/6 weeks to some destinations. This prediction is based on today’s activities.
Governments are making decisions on a daily basis so it is difficult to pinpoint exactly where or when delays will occur.
I would ask our customers to be mindful of this when contacting our customer services team.
We will try to keep you informed wherever possible.
Service and Parcels to USA
Parcelforce are pleased to tell you that we have been able to secure capacity to allow us to continue to operate the service to USA.
Over the last few days the number of flights to USA has reduced dramatically. This has resulted in a significant reduction in airline capacity for parcels and freight from UK to USA. We have been working very closely with our airline partners to maintain service.
You can continue to receive parcels in these countries via our globalexpress service, however there is a suspension of delivery time guarantee in place.
Services and Parcels to New Zealand and Kuwait
Due to the ongoing situation and attempts to limit the spreading of COVID-19, which has impacted airline capacity into the New Zealand and Kuwait, Parcelforce have suspended our globalpriority service to these countries with immediate effect, until further notice.
You can continue to receive parcels in these countries via our globalexpress service, however there is a suspension of delivery time guarantee in place.
Parcel deliveries in France
Our European parcel delivery partner GLS has informed us that they will not be making deliveries on Fridays in France, until further notice, due to operational issues. The services affected by this are europprioritybusiness and europriorityimport only. GLS hubs, depots and customer services will therefore be closed on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in France.
Services and Parcel deliveries to Australia, China and Canada
In the rapidly evolving situation regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19), we are continuing to work very closely with our airline partners to maintain our overseas delivery services.
We are pleased to tell you that we are able to secure capacity to operate the service to Australia, China and Canada. However, as passenger numbers reduce, the number of available flights to these destinations has also reduced significantly, impacting capacity for parcels and freight.
You can continue to receive parcels in these countries via our globalexpress service, however there is a suspension of delivery time guarantee in place.
Thank you for reading this week’s Newsletter.
Stay safe, well, and look after each other.