The Russian Ministry of Defence decided to give the Russian Naval Aviation’s carrier based fighters a frontline task between the cruises of the Navy’s sole aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov.
Starting this week the Northern Fleet’s Sukhoi Su-33 (“Flanker-D”) jets fly regular all-weather patrol duties of the Russian Kola peninsula, the Arctic part of mainland Russia bordering with Norway and Finland.
The roughly 12 to 16 operational jets (out of an official strength of 24) of the 279th Shipborne Fighter Aviation Regiment fly the missions mainly from Severomorsk-3, their home base 15 miles (24 km) east of the city of Murmansk; a short flight of roughly 80 miles (135 km) to the Norwegian border.
Earlier the fighter jocks that operate from the heavy aircraft carrier Kuznetsov flew training missions in between cruises.
The Russian Northern Fleet is sending five inexperienced pilots without carrier qualification together with regular staff to the Crimea. For decades the peninsula was part of Ukraine, but Russia annexed it with military force in February/March 2014. Flying out of former Ukrainian Saky Naval Aviation Base the cadets will prepare for their deployment on board the sole Russian Navy aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, according to a Northern Fleet’s press statement.
Over the course of several weeks Northern Fleet cadets and more senior flight crews will operate three Sukhoi Su-33 (“Flanker”) carrier-borne jets and three Sukhoi Su-25UTG (“Frogfoot”). The Su-25UTGs are especially adapted to train pilots in carrier operations, while using land-based simulated set-ups. A maximum number of 10 of the UTG versions are reportedly still in use with the Russian Navy.
The Northern Fleet plans to have its training deployment of a total of 70 personnel including ground crew make a total of 10 flights daily and perform practice runs on the NITKA carrier simulation range on the Crimea. No real deck landings are planned to be executed.
Although Russian forces did have an agreement with Kiev earlier to operate from Saky Naval Base and the NITKA range but the deal ended even before the Russian take-over of the Crimean facilities started. Last year a Ka-27, three Mi-14s, two AN-26s and one Beriev Be-12 of the Ukrainian Naval Aviation were seen fleeing the place under pressure, as caught on video somewhat down in our extensive Overview: Air Forces of Ukraine.
Russia’s sole fully capable aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, is moving again as of 28 March 2014. The Northern Fleet flagship has spent the past months on a long journey from its home in Murmansk.
The Kuznetsov, officially designated heavy aircraft carrying missile cruiser (tyazholyy avianesushchiy raketnyy kreyser or TAVKR), has been restocked by the tanker Sergey Osipov in the eastern Mediterranean and is now moving to an operations area south-west of the island of Cyprus, the Russian Ministry of Defence confirmed. Over the next few days naval aviators from the Northern Fleet Air Wing will practice carrier qualification and operation flights with their Sukhoi Su-33s fighter jets and Kamov Ka-27 maritime helicopters.
During the long voyage of the flagship of the Russian navy, which began on 17 December 2013, the Northern Fleet Air Wing pilots have made 300 sorties accumulating 260 hours of flight. Although new MiG-29K Fulcrums are coming into service to enlarge the combat capabilities of the Russian Navy Aviation, they were not mentioned in Moscow’s press release.
China buys 12 to 24 Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets from Russia this year, an allegedly reliable source within the military industry told Russian press agency ARMS-TASS on 14 March 2014. The contract negotiations for the purchase are supposed to be in their final stages.
One of the discussion points seems to be the copying of the Su-35 by Chinese manufacturers, like what the Chinese did earlier to the Su-30MKKs they received. Russian state production company UAC rather not want to allow Beijing to authorise such duplication, the Russian Air Force reportedly doesn’t want the Chinese to have the fighters at all.
Which is not so strange, since the Sukhoi Su-35 (Су-35) is an upgraded version of the legendary Su-27, with capabilities matching or better than today’s fighters developed in Europe and the USA. The aircraft have thrust-vectoring, to give it better maneuverability in the air, and they can engage multiple bogeys at a time.