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Russia's Naval Modernization: Blowing the United States Out of the Water?

Caleb Larson

In an effort to make up for the Russian Navy’s abysmal performance deficiencies, Russian President Vladimir Putin recently confirmed the prioritization of equipping some ocean-going vessels with hypersonic missiles—missiles that travel faster and have a greater range than their American counterparts. In the event of conflict at sea, Russia may have an insurmountable advantage. Here’s why.

The Sad State of the Russian Navy

Russia’s Navy is woefully inadequate. Most ships are legacy Soviet vessels that are rusting and unreliable. Russia’s lone aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, is indicative of the Russian Navy as a whole.

The Admiral Kuznetsov was originally laid down in 1982 and commissioned in 1990. It has been plagued by technical problems. In 2016, the Russian aircraft carrier sailed through the English channel on its way to support the Russian effort in Syria. It was widely derided on social media and in the news. It belched huge plumes of black smoke during its transit and was accompanied for the entire duration of its journey by a tugboat in case of a breakdown. During a visit to Turkey in 2009, an electrical fire broke out on the aircraft carrier, resulting in the death of one sailor. Ill-designed pipes freeze during the winter, so water is shut off to most of the ship to prevent ruptures. Only half of the ship’s fifty latrines work—for a crew of about 1,900. After the Kuznetsov’s only dry dock sank in 2018, the vessel’s support infrastructure became virtually nonexistent.

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