|Arthur Dominic Villasanta |||Nov 09, 2016 09:32 PM EST|
(Photo : Russian Navy) The obsolete and rusting hulk that is the Admiral Kuznetsov.
The obsolete Soviet era Russian Navy aircraft carrier, RFS Admiral Kuznetsov (063), now in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Syria, is expected to launch its first airstrikes either today or in the next two days against anti-Assad rebel forces allied with the United States in and around the city of Aleppo.
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The Kuznetsov and its naval battle group made an uneventful three-week long voyage from their base in Severomorsk, Russia. After the arrival of the Kuznetsov and its escorts off Syria on Nov. 8, the Kremlin announced the first airstrikes from the carrier will "hit the long-range approaches to the city" but won't hit the eastern portions of Aleppo strongly held by the stubborn rebels.
The Kuznetsov carries a mix of Mikoyan MIG-29KR carrier-based multirole fighters; MIG-29KUBR trainer/attack aircraft; Sukhoi Su-33 carrier-based air superiority fighters and Kamov Ka-52K ship-borne attack helicopters armed with air-to-ground missiles.
The besieged city of Aleppo has become the focal point of the five year-long Syrian Civil War. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad said he is determined to retake the country's largest city and former commercial capital aided by Russia and its formidable air force and naval presence in his country.
Russian state-owned media said the coming naval attack on Aleppo is aimed at preventing more U.S.-allied militants from entering the city. The Russians are hardly attacking ISIS and are instead focusing the bombardments on U.S.-led rebels that are the more dangerous to Assad.
Russian media said Russia's most advanced weapons, including "Kalibr" (Caliber) cruise missiles, might be used in the naval bombardment. The missiles will probably be launched from Russian submarines in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Kuznetsov is the largest ship ever built by Russia and is the flagship of the navy's Northern Fleet. She will be retired by the 2020s after being commissioned in the 1990s.
Her escorts in this deployment to the Mediterranean are the 20 year-old Kirov-class battle cruiser RFS Pyotr Veliky (099), or Peter the Great; the 36 year-old Udaloy-class destroyer RFS Vice-Admiral Kulakov (626) and other anti-submarine Udaloy-class destroyers like the Kulakov that weren't named.
The Kuznetsov isn't a true aircraft carrier as understood in the U.S. Navy and NATO. She is more accurately described by the Russians as a "heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser," which means her primary role is to shoot down enemy aircraft with her surface-to-air missiles.
Launching aircraft from her ski jump flight deck is a secondary role.
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