The United Kingdom launched their largest warship ever constructed earlier this week, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, an aircraft carrier slated to carry a fleet of U.S. Marine Corps F-35 Joint Strike Fighters until Britain takes possession of their own shipment of jets in 2023. The launch was celebrated with great fanfare in the UK, but Russian officials aren’t as impressed.
Russia’s sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, is similar in size to the Queen, but is significantly behind in terms of technology employed on board, and even reliability. The Admiral rarely makes any trip without an ocean-going tugboat in its cadre, intended to prevent the old ship from becoming stranded in the event of another breakdown, as occurred in 2012.
UK Defense Minister Michael Fallon has had harsh words for the Russians, and their carrier in the past. In January, the Admiral Kuznetsov passed through the English Channel accompanied by the nuclear-powered battle cruiser, the Pyotr Velikiy, and its requisite tug boat. Fallon, at the time, ordered the British Navy to “keep a close eye” on the ship and its escorts.
“We will keep a close eye on the Admiral Kuznetsov as it skulks back to Russia; [it’s] a ship of shame whose mission has only extended the suffering of the Syrian people,” Fallon said in an official statement. “We are man-marking these vessels every step of the way around the U.K. as part of our steadfast commitment to keep Britain safe.”
Soon after the launch of the HMS Queen Elizabeth on Monday, Fallon once again referenced Russia’s aging carrier, suggesting that the Russians may be looking on with “a bit of envy,” because their own ship is “old and dilapidated.”
“We will take every precaution to make sure that they don’t get too close, but I think they will be admiring her,” he said.