The aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, part of Russia’s Northern Fleet, has embarked on a long voyage through the north-eastern Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, the fleet’s press service announced on Saturday.
According to the announcement, the force on its way to the Syrian shore “consists of the aircraft-carrying heavy cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov, the Pyotr Velikiy battlecruiser, large anti-submarine ships Severomorsk and Vice-Admiral Kulakov and support vessels.” Once in the Mediterranean, according to the Telegraph, the Kuznetsov will take up position off the coast of Syria for four to five months, possibly using its complement of 20 MIG 29, 12 SU-33, and Kamov helicopters to carry out airstrikes.
The first announcement regarding the combat deployment of the Kuznetsov was made by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on September 21. On Oct. 10, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov announced the establishment of a permanent Russian naval base in the Syrian city of Tartus,.
According to the fleet’s statement, the goal of the Kuznetsov’s voyage is “to ensure naval presence in the important areas of the World Oceans. Special focus will be made on safeguarding security of maritime traffic and other types of maritime economic activity of Russia and also on responding to the new kinds of modern threats such as piracy and international terrorism.”
The Admiral Kuznetsov and Pyotr Velikiy’s previous voyage through the Atlantic and into the Mediterranean took place in 2014. This is the Admiral Kuznetsov’s eighth voyage.
A NATO naval source told the Telegraph that the Russian vessels could pass Britain as early as next week, claiming that the Russian move is “not catching us by surprise, we are working up what to do and we are all over it. The most likely thing is that they will go through the North Sea, down the Dover Strait and through the Channel. They might even stop off the North East coast to fly for a bit.”
The Admiral Kuznetsov is the only Russian aircraft carrier. According to world media, this 55,000-ton carrier is no match for the 100,000-ton US Nimitz-class carriers.
Russia has had a naval facility in Tartus since the mid-1980s, and it remained intact despite the collapse of the Soviet Union. “At the time, defense ministers were busy winding down the Russian presence abroad,” retired colonel-general Leonid Ivashov, head of the International Center of Geopolitical Analysis, a Moscow-based think tank, told Russia Beyonf The Headlines. “Over the past 25 years, we have lost bases in Qatar and Yemen, whereas Tartus has miraculously survived.”
According to Ivashov, the Russian naval facility in Syria currently consists of a floating workshop, which can provide only basic maintenance and repairs to ships. “It houses very basic facilities for ships passing through the Mediterranean. In Tartus, crews can replenish their food and ammunition supplies as well as carry out basic repairs of their ships,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Mount Whitney command ship of the US Navy entered the Black Sea on October 11, and the Russian Black Sea fleet and Russian missile complexes have immediately drawn a bead on it. The Command of the US Sixth Fleet is yet to reveal the goals of the Mount Whitney’s journey. According to the US military doctrine, the Black Sea is within the US operational Sixth Fleet’s area of responsibility. But international conventions dictate that foreign ships may not remain in the Black Sea for more than 21 days.