Russia aircraft carrier tow creates speculation about Moscow’s next move

Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov has been towed from its dry dock in Murmansk on the Arctic Coast, earlier than anticipated. This has created speculation amongst military observers about Russia’s next move in its conflict with Ukraine and western allies.

The surprise Russia aircraft carrier tow took place on February 21, around one year ahead of schedule, according to Naval News expert, Tomasz Grotnik.

The operation took place at night and was made possible by the completion of repairs to the aircraft carrier’s hull’s underwater section,” said Grotnik.

In 2016, Russian state media announced the carrier would undergo an $866 million four-year refit, beginning in 2017, that would expand the lifespan of the vessel by 10-15 years.

However, that planned four-year refit, this year entered its sixth year and has been plagued with problems.

About the Admiral Kuznetsov

Weighing 58,000 tons and spanning and with a length of 1,000 feet, the Admiral Kuznetsov is an enormous vessel, but relative to U.S. aircraft carriers it’s significantly smaller.

It can facilitate the operations of 24 fighter jets and six military helicopters, this is around half the capacity of the U.S. Navy’s Ford-class carriers.

For defence, it is equipped with 12 anti-ship missiles.

Why the Russian aircraft carrier is on the move?

Military experts have speculated planned refurbishments an upgrades have been halted or cancelled, in order to rush the carrier back into service amid the continuing Russia – Ukraine conflict.

However, the images of the Russia aircraft carried under tow from the dock, and not sailing using its own power, have many doubting its ability to engage in full-scale military operations in the near future.

Currently, satellite imagery shows the ship sitting just around 1400 meters to the north of the dock off the Arctic Coast, close to where Russia has been conducting military exercises recently.

It hasn’t moved any significant distances in the past week.