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. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the SU-33 operate off Kuznetsov carrying AAMs or ASMs. Makes me wonder how useful the ski-jump is with the ’33s at combat loads.

  2. My thought exactly JC. I can’t recall footage of a loaded SU taking off the deck. Is there a video showing a Sukoi taking off with weapons? Does make you wonder a little how much load you can use with ski-jump? Is it an engine limit, maybe only use wartime trust to takeoff with weapons so pilots are limited in peace time to practice without weapons?If not, how much do pilots really practice with weapons and tactics?

    Seems that there are some limitations to this carrier’s operation.

  3. Just went thru some YouTube footage, noticed a picture of a MIG29 with AAM weapons but didn’t see it takeoff. As far as I can tell, all the footage has been of Sukoi’s and MiG’s operating in clean configuration.

    • Thanks,
      much interesting since they prove that few missiles are carried by the embarked Su-33s. I wonder if we can still consider these planes multi-role, since they can hardly carry rockets, anti-ship or other advertised ordnance…

Comments are closed.