Russia's sole aircraft carrier damaged after crane crashes into it

Touted as a symbol of power by Moscow, the 'Admiral Kuznetsov' had been deployed to the Mediterranean to take part in the Syrian conflict.

Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov in international waters off the coast of Northern Norway on October 17, 2016 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov in international waters off the coast of Northern Norway on October 17, 2016
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Russia’s sole aircraft carrier was severely damaged when a crane crashed onto its deck during repairs last week, Russian media reported.
The Admiral Kuznetsov was undergoing a refitting overhaul at the 82nd Repair Shipyard in Murmansk in northern Russia, when a 70-ton crane collapsed into the carrier, leaving a four-by-five meter hole above the ship’s waterline.
Sputnik news quoted Alexei Rakhamnov, the head of Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation, as saying the crane collapsed after the PD-50, a floating dry dock that was holding the carrier, started sinking after a power outage caused pumps to break down.
According to a report by the Tass Russian News Agency, the operation to recover the floating dock – one of the largest floating dry docks in the region, measuring 330 meters long and weighing over 80,000 tons – could take between six months and one year.
Following the incident, which occurred during a planned float-out, the carrier was towed to the nearby 35th ship repair plant to continue the refitting that began in April 2018 and which is expected to be completed by 2021.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov said on Tuesday that the Russian Navy will set up a commission to investigate the sinking of the dock and decide if it should be lifted from the seabed.
“Instructions have already been given to set up a commission that would carefully look into the causes, calculate damages and outline response measures. Of course, the situation is unpleasant, but no one is ensured against them,” he was quoted by TASS as saying.
The Admiral Kuznetsov was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea two years ago to take part in staging strikes in Syria. The ship returned in May for refitting and repairs.
The vessel can carry 15 aircraft onboard, including Su-33 fighter jets, Su-25UTG ground attack aircraft, MiG-29 KUB two-seater multi-role fighters and Ka-52K attack helicopters.
While touted by Russia as a symbol of power, the ship is considered relatively outdated compared to modern aircraft carriers in other navies. It also lost two of its aircraft to crashes during its deployment to the Mediterranean.
Russia intervened in the Syrian war in 2015, turning the tide of the conflict in favor of President Bashar Assad. 
In September, a Russian military reconnaissance plane was shot down by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile, killing 15 servicemen.
Moscow has laid the blame for that incident solely on Israel, saying Israel Air Force jets used the plane to shield themselves from Syrian anti-aircraft systems, and that Jerusalem failed to notify Moscow of its aerial movements by the agreed deconfliction mechanism.
Following the downing of the plane, Russia deployed its advanced S-300 batteries to Masyaf in northwestern Syria, and said it would impose electronic countermeasures over Syria’s coastline. Those countermeasures would suppress satellite navigation, onboard radar systems and communications of warplanes attacking targets on Syrian territory.
On Tuesday, Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who is also co-chair of the Russia-Israel Intergovernmental Commission, told TASS that the systems would be targeted if Syrians use the S-300s to bring down Israeli planes.
“Considering the mess that is going on in the Syrian Army, shipping S-300s might lead to destabilization of the situation. The Syrians, if they ever want to, might use [these systems] to down an Israeli military or commercial plane over Israeli territory,” he said.
“Usually, Israel reacts to attacks on its territory and its aircrafts not through international démarches, but with practical actions. Actions would undoubtedly take place, should [an attack] occur, against the launchers used to attack Israeli territory or Israeli planes,” Elkin added, and said Russia bears “partial responsibility” for the use of the system.