Weeks after Russia’s only aircraft carrier was involved in a mishap that saw the dry dock it was being serviced in catch fire and sink, Russian officials have announced that the massive crane that collapsed onto the carrier’s flight deck has finally been removed.
“The crane was completely removed from the deck of the aircraft-carrying cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov,” the Kremlin announced via state-owned media. Now that the crane has finally been removed, work could theoretically begin on bringing the carrier back into sea-worthy shape, though that’s actually quite unlikely. In fact, chances are good that the Admiral Kuznetsov may never sail again.
The Soviet era, diesel-powered carrier was already seen by many as an embarrassment to Moscow, thanks to a number of high-profile breakdowns that led to the Kremlin’s decision to have an ocean-going tug accompany the carrier on all voyages. It had been aboard Russia’s only floating dry dock that was large enough to support a carrier of its size undergoing much-needed maintenance and updating, but budgetary issues have repeatedly delayed the ship’s planned return to service.
“We have alternatives actually for all the ships except for [the aircraft carrier] Admiral Kuznetsov,” Alexei Rakhmanov, head of the United Shipbuilding Corporation, told Russian state media. “As for the ships of the first rank … the Admiral Kuznetsov, [the loss of the PD-50 floating dock] creates certain inconveniences.”
Now, with a 200-square-foot hole in the flight deck where the 70-ton crane fell through, and no dry dock in the national inventory that can support the ship, the future of the carrier seems bleak. Moscow would need to enlist the help of a foreign nation’s dry dock in order to get the Admiral Kuznetsov the repairs it needs. Because there were already funding concerns for the maintenance of the ship, however, securing additional funding for the repairs (and potentially the rent for a dry dock) might be too much to stomach for Moscow.
However, despite the evidence to suggest that the carrier’s progress toward re-entering service has halted, Russia has continued to release statements indicating that the sinking of the dry dock and even the crane collapsing on the flight deck did not in any way hinder the ship’s maintenance schedule.
“The fallen crane, which is the property of the 82nd plant, has been removed. It did not create any special obstacles for carrying out the work on schedule. Work at Kuznetsov continues on schedule, as planned,” the Russian press service said this week.