From Greece with love: Russia's aircraft carrier flight ops in the Mediterranean sea

If the Chinese aircraft carrier Varyag, serving as a testbed for the development China’s future naval aviation, is far from being a factor, Russia’s flagship Admiral Kuznetsov, a “heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser”, equipped with an air wing of Sukhoi Su-33s and a dozen long-range anti-ship missiles already plays a role in regional crisis.

Indeed, although the Russian Navy officially denied that the deployment to the Mediterranean Sea off Syria should not be seen as a show of support for the Assad regime facing an uprising, the Russian ships presence in the area comes in a period of growing tensions in the region.

The following video, dated Dec. 30, 2011, was broadcast by the Zvezda TV Channel, the Russian nationwide network run by the Russian Ministry of Defense. It shows the Su-33 of the Kuznetsov conducting flight ops in the Mediterranean sea.

Launches, recoveries (with some aircraft missing the wires too…) and aerobatics in the vicinity of the ship.

According to the latest reports, the Russian warship and its battlegroup are currently operating within the Athinai FIR (Flight Information Region).


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. and even without any external load, if you look well the Su-33s have to keep their afterburner a long time after take off… So, if loaded, what would it be?

  2. I guess the lack of offensive weapons fits the Russian (Soviet) Naval Aviation doctrine. Kuz’ was originally built to defend submarines and not really for offensive power projection in the manner of USN CVs.

  3. You must remember that the term “aircraft carrier” when applied to the Russian Navy is totally different to the US, UK, Italian etc concept of it – the Russian term the ship as an “aircraft carrying cruiser” – as mentioned in the article; the vessle is armed with Anti-ship/cruise missiles, an attack capability western types dont have. The main role of the vessle and its Su-33’s is air defence for the battle-group, with the thought being that the aircraft would protect the group from USN aircraft (arguably the main threat) and also hunt down western MPA patrols to relieve their SSN/SSBN force (their main capability ‘edge’).

    This is now changing, with an avionics upgrade to modernise the Su-33’s arsenal (the original varients barely had a ground/sea attack capability) but also in the order of the MiG-29K – thanks to Indias purchase of the typecompleting development of the type, the Russian Navy will finally have a multi-role aircraft that more fits in with the western interpretation of an aircraft carrier, co-incidently; rumors are told that the MiG-29K was originally meant to be the aircraft for the then Soviet Navy, but Shukois political clout won the order.

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