New aircraft carriers will be nuclear powered

Illustration based on photo from 333 skvadronen.

Russia’s next generation aircraft carriers will be nuclear powered according to disclosed specifications from the state-controlled United Ship-Building Corporation.


Analysis of the specifications was presented by RIA Novosti’s commentator on military issues Ilya Kramnik this week. Kramnik bases his analysis on information from naval design institutes, naval yards and officials in the Russian Navy.

In July last year BarentsObserver quoted Commander of the Russian Navy, Vladimir Vysotskii, saying Russia intends to hold five or six aircraft carriers, which are to operate from both the Northern fleet on the Kola Peninsula and at the Pacific fleet in the Far East.

Russia’s single operating aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov” is conventionally powered with steam turbines. The same goes for the other earlier operating Soviet aircraft carriers of the Kiev-class. At the very end of the Cold War, the Soviet navy started the construction of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier named “Ulyanovsk.” Her construction was halted in 1991 and scrapped the following years. 

It is not said when Russia’s first nuclear powered aircraft carrier will sail to her Northern fleet homeport Severomorsk on coast of the Kola Peninsula.

Today Russia’s Northern fleet has only one nuclear powered surface vessel in operation. The battleship “Pyotr Veliky” is currently on its way home to Severomorsk from a word-tour including Central-America, South-Africa and India as earlier reported by BarentsObserver.

Also based on the Barents Sea coast are Russia’s fleet of civilian nuclear powered icebreakers with similar reactor design as the two onboard the navy’s “Pyotr Veliky.” The reactors are of the water-cooled KLT-40 design. As BarentsObserver reported earlier this week, this is also the same reactor design to be used onboard the planned fleet of floating nuclear power plants to be used in Russia’s Arctic region.  Although, nothing is yet said about the reactor design for the new aircraft carriers, it is also likely that a modernized version of the KLT-40 design will be used. 

The construction yard for the new aircraft carriers is not yet decided. The two likely yards to compete these huge orders are Sevmash in Severodvinsk by the White Sea and the Baltisky Zavod in St. Petersburg. In February BarentsObserver reported that Semash yard is ready to employ 2500 new people.

Sevmash is currently heavily occupied with the upgrade of the Soviet-operated aircraft carrier “Admiral Gorshkov”, now to be sold to the Indian Navy if the two countries can agree on the final price-tag. 

No other shipyards in the world has built more nuclear powered vessels than Sevmash. According to the yard’s own web-site a total of 128 nuclear powered submarines are built at the yard.