Military Technology – global naval power projection – East vs West
I came across an interesting article recently that got my attention as to the current geopolitical balance of power between the East and the West and how we got to this point. Click here for the article. Russia is rumored to be about to deploy its only aircraft carrier to the Mediterranean Sea to support Russian operations in Syria. That’s the story. Seems straightforward enough, right? Countries project power around the world to further their political goals and ambitions, and US is no different from Russia in that regard. Some nations just try to guard their borders, others project their strengths beyond. That part is straightforward enough, but the details of this Russian projection got my attention, more specifically the ‘carrier’ involved. The Russian Admiral Kuznetsov is not really a ‘carrier’ in the Western sense – it only houses 15 aircraft and relies on aircraft propulsion alone to launch planes from an upward-angled ramp.
This alone limits the planes that can be deployed. US carriers operate high-speed fighters with relatively high stall speeds because they use catapults to accelerate the planes. Second – the Admiral Kuznetsov is not a ‘carrier’ because its official classification is a missile cruiser capable of launching planes. Russia has no true aircraft carriers, the only vessels that allow a nation to project true power globally. I then got curious about the Kuznetsov itself – what is its source of propulsion and operational parameters, such as range? We all know that US carriers are powered by nuclear reactors that boil water, and use the steam to turn turbines that generate the power to turn the actual screws in the water. The Kuznetsov is powered by gas-fired boilers – instead of nuclear fission they use big burners dumping gas that is burned and which in turn boils the water that does the same thing as the US counterparts from that point on. Here is more information from the wiki page on this ship class.
The funniest thing I noticed once I saw the propulsion system was the overall range. At max-range power settings, the Kuznetsov can manage 8,500 nautical miles. In comparison, the US Nimitz class nuclear carriers have an UNLIMITED RANGE OVER 20-25 years. The next video, clearly published by Kremlin’s PR department, calls the Kuznetsov ‘NATO’s greatest nightmare’. ))))) Yes, if it is scuttled in shipping lanes, I can see how it would be a problem for the West. ))))
The bottom line here is not to bash or make fun of the Russian navy. The point is that for hundreds of years, the measure of a nation’s military strength has been its ability to project power around the world with its navy. Since WWII, the ultimate means of projecting power on the seas has been the aircraft carrier and its attendant carrier groups. Can a nation truly be a world superpower when it lacks the ability to project power on the seas? This begs the question – is Russia an actual counter-balance to the US or is it simply used as a bogeyman to keep spending tax money in the West, even when no first-world enemy exists? Food for thought……comment below!