Ships with a difficult fate: Soviet aircraft carriers

In the seventies of the last century, the Soviet Navy became one of the strongest in the world, having received the first aircraft-carrying ships.

They wanted to build aircraft carriers in the USSR even before World War II, but then things didn’t advance beyond a couple of drawings. Preference was given to the construction of battleships of the type "Soviet Union" and cruisers. As a result of the division of the German fleet, the USSR received the unfinished aircraft carrier “Count Zeppelin”, however, the naval command was not particularly happy with this gift. Firstly, the aircraft carrier needed to be completed, and secondly, the USSR did not have deck aircraft at that time. The Soviet admirals did not come up with anything smarter than using the ship as a target. In August 1947, it was sunk by air bombs and torpedoes, after which the topic of aircraft carriers was closed for almost twenty years.

In the mid-1960s, the USSR fleet became truly oceanic, and the question of creating aircraft carriers again became relevant. The fleet needed not helicopter carriers with anti-submarine helicopters, but ships armed with airplanes. Unlike the United States, England and France, the Soviet Union decided to build not classic ships operating as part of an aircraft carrier group, but heavy aircraft carriers with strong missile weapons. Their planes were only a means of further enhancing combat capabilities, a kind of “long arm” capable of reaching the enemy at a distance at which missiles could not reach him. It was such ships of project 1143 that they began to build in 1970 in Nikolaev at the Nosenko plant.


In parallel with the construction of the Kiev-carrying aircraft cruiser - the first ship of a series of four aircraft carriers - Yakovlev Design Bureau since 1968 developed the Yak-36M vertical take-off and landing aircraft, which later received the name Yak-38. Looking ahead, it is worth saying that the first "vertical pancake" came out lumpy: the car turned out unsuccessful, with a small bomb load and a small radius of action. In the event of war, its combat value would be almost zero. The Yak-38 completely lost to his English opponent Harrier. Nevertheless, the appearance in the USSR of aircraft-carrying ships with vertical take-off aircraft significantly strengthened the country's image.

“Kiev” was commissioned in 1975, the second ship of this type - “Minsk” - in 1978, the third “Novorossiysk” - in 1982, and the fourth “Baku”, later renamed the “Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov”, in 1986. The total displacement reached 40 thousand tons, length - 273 meters, width 47 meters. The ships were equipped with four steam turbines with a capacity of 200, 000 hp. and could reach a speed of 31 knots. Cruising range with a cruising speed of 18 knots was 21 720 kilometers. The aircraft armament of aircraft-carrying cruisers consisted of 12 Yak-38 aircraft and 12 Ka-27 helicopters, there were also Bazalt anti-ship missiles, Shtorm anti-aircraft missiles, an RBU-6000 anti-torpedo rocket bomb and two 533-mm torpedo tubes.


It is worth noting that project 1143 was constantly being amended, so the ships were slightly different from each other in armament, size and displacement. As "pure" aircraft carriers, Soviet aircraft carriers were inferior not only to the American, but also to the French, but they surpassed them in missile weapons. If the American Nimitz and the French Foch without escort ships were practically defenseless, then the Soviet heavy aircraft carrying cruisers could stand up for themselves.

Kiev and Admiral Gorshkov served in the Northern Fleet, based in Murmansk, while Minsk and Novorossiysk became part of the Pacific Fleet. For their time, these were quite good ships, the main disadvantage of which was weak aviation weapons. But this is not their developers who are to blame, but the Yakovlev Design Bureau, which created the extremely emergency Yak-38. Out of 231 aircraft released, 48 cars crashed as a result of various incidents and eight pilots died. A perspective supersonic Yak-141 vertical take-off plane, which made its first flight in 1987, could correct the situation, but due to the collapse of the USSR, this fighter did not manage to enter service.


In the early 1990s, the Russian leadership decided to withdraw from the fleet all four ships of Project 1143. If in the case of Kiev and Minsk this decision was partly justified in connection with the wear of the mechanisms and the costly repair required, then Novorossiysk "And" Admiral Gorshkov "was difficult to classify as obsolete ships. As a result, “Kiev” and “Minsk” were sold for a penny to China, where they made a floating hotel from the first, and a museum ship from the second.

In 1994, Novorossiysk was bought by the South Korean company Yang Distribution for $ 4.3 million and the ship was scrapped. Most fortunate was the Admiral Gorshkov, whom India became interested in. After a major overhaul by the Severodvinsk PO Sevmash in 2013, the ship under the name Vikramaditya was transferred to the Indian Navy. Unlike Admiral Gorshkov, Vikramaditya became a full-fledged aircraft carrier, designed to base the MiG-29K deck fighter wing and is more similar to Admiral Kuznetsov in its characteristics than Project 1143 ships.


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