Russia’s Aircraft Carrier To Visit Syrian Naval Base

Submitted by Zachary Zeck via The Diplomat,

Russia’s only aircraft carrier will visit Moscow’s small naval base in Syria later this year, BBC Monitoring reported citing a newspaper published by the Russian government.

“At the end of the year, most likely in early December, the Project 11435 heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser the Admiral Kuznetsov will set off on a long-distance sea voyage during which it will call at the Russian Federation Navy's logistical support centre located in the Syrian city of Tartus,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement, BBC Monitoring reported on Saturday, citing a Russian-language report in Rossiyskaya Gazeta, a newspaper run by the Russian government.

The article goes on to quote a Defense Ministry staffer as saying that the route of the vessel’s “long-distance sea voyage” was already set and it was therefore unlikely to be affected by the civil war in Syria. The Admiral Kuznetsov’s stopover in Tartus is “in no way connected” to the Syrian civil war Rossiyskaya Gazeta paraphrased the staffer as saying, according to BBC Monitoring.

The Admiral Kuznetsov is Russia’s only operational aircraft carrier. The article clarifies that Russia refers to the ship as an aircraft-carrying cruiser because “under international treaties aircraft carriers are banned from passing through the Bosporus and Dardanelles…. But this ban does not extend to aircraft-carrying cruisers.”

According to the article, the carrier can hold 50 airplanes and helicopters and comes equipped with “Granit antiship missiles, Kortik and Klinok surface-to-air missiles, and Udav antisubmarine warfare systems.” The article also reports that the Admiral Kuznetsov is 14,000 square meters and carries a crew of nearly 2,200 people including flight and technical personnel.

Earlier this year a Russian naval officer told Interfax that the Navy had decided to end the Admiral Kuznetsov’s scheduled maintenance early and deploy it on a mission that would include a stopover in the Mediterranean Sea, where Russia has established a permanent naval task force in response to the hostilities in the Middle East. That report did not specify whether it deployed to the Tartus military base in Syria, although speculation abounded.

As late as Friday Interfax reported that Russia’s Defense Ministry had told the newspaper that no decision had been made yet on whether the carrier would deploy to the Tartus base after it completes maintenance later this year.

The Admiral Kuznetsov previously made a port call at Tartus in January 2012 as part of a “naval carrier group” that was on a 43-day voyage in late 2011 and early 2012. After the naval carrier group returned, Russia’s defense minister at the time said the carrier group’s presence in the Mediterranean confirmed Russia’s status as a “great naval power.”

Russia has been beefing up its Mediterranean task force over the past week as the U.S. and France contemplate air strikes against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria for its suspected chemical weapon attacks against civilians.


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