The Russian Defence Ministry has confirmed that the Russian fleet with the Admiral Kuznetsov and with the Pyotr Veliky nuclear powered battle cruiser has entered the Mediterranean.
The Zvezda Television Channel, which is connected to the Russian Defence Ministry, has published a video of aircraft taking off and landing on the carrier, in what are clearly intended to be rehearsals. Aircraft shown include SU-33K fighters, MiG-29K fighter bombers, and KA-27 helicopters. (Images below)
The London Times in a bizarre scaremongering article drawing apparently on British intelligence sources provided details of what it says is the Kuznetsov’s air group. Supposedly it consists of 10 SU-33K fighters, 4 MiG-29K fighter bombers, and 2 KA-52K helicopter gunships.
This is clearly not the whole air group since The Times does not mention the KA-27 helicopters (below) which are clearly visible in the Russian Ministry of Defence video. Presumably The Times is ignoring these because they do not have a combat role.
If The Times is reporting the make-up of the Kuznetsov’s air group correctly, then it confirms the accuracy of the Saker’s recent excellent article about it
“…..the Kuznetsov will be bringing a number of fixed and rotary wing aircraft including 15-20 Ka-27 and Ka-52K helicopters, and 15-20 SU-33K and MiG-29K (I don’t think there has been an official figure announced). What the Russians have said is that the fixed wing aircraft will be upgraded to be able to attack ground targets. Will all that make a difference? Maybe, on the margins. It will definitely help dealing with the expected influx of moderate terrorists coming from Mosul (courtesy of the US operation to flush them down to Syria), but the Russians could have simply moved more SU-25 or even SU-34 to Khmeimin or Iran at a much smaller cost. Thus in terms of its air-wing, I fully agree with Mercouris – this will be mainly a real-life training opportunity and not a game changer.”
On the assumption that The Times is right, the Kuznetsov’s air group is smaller than the Saker supposed. Instead of the 15-20 SU-33Ks and MiG-29Ks the Saker thought it might have, it turns out that it has just 14 (10 SU-33Ks and 4 MiG-29Ks).
As the Saker rightly says, the SU-33K is a pure air superiority fighter. Like all aircraft it can of course drop air to ground missiles and bombs. However it is not designed for that role and can only do it to a limited degree.
The MiG-29K’s are more modern aircraft, and unlike the SU-33K’s they have been designed to have a strike capability against ground targets. However it seems there are only four of them.
As for the KA-52K’s, they are as the Saker says “the most advanced reconnaissance and attack helicopter on the planet”. However if The Times is right, there are only two of them.
By no stretch of the imagination can this be called a force designed to do what the Saker accurately says Western and especially US aircraft carriers are designed to do
“……US, British, French aircraft carriers are a colonial rule enforcement tool. You park one or two aircraft carrier battle groups a few hundred miles from a disobedient country, and you bomb the shit out of it until it rolls over. That is, in reality, the only rationale for these immense structures. And the beauty of it is that you can threaten most of the planet and that you do not depend on allies agreeing to your mission. So, we can say that US and other western aircraft carriers are a long range power projection capability to be used against weak and poorly defended countries.”
A strike force consisting of 6 aircraft (4 fighter bombers and 2 helicopters) cannot remotely compare with this.
As the Saker correctly says, the true power of the Russian fleet that is heading towards the eastern Mediterranean is not in its capability to attack ground targets, whether in Aleppo or anywhere else.
It is in its exceptional powerful air defence and anti ship and land attack missile systems.
These include the 14 SU-33K and MiG-29K fighters of the Kuznetsov, the formidable S-300FM Mach 6 anti aircraft missiles carried by the Pyotr Veliky, and the exceptionally large and powerful supersonic Granit anti ship and land attack missiles carried by both the Pyotr Veliky and the Kuznetsov.
As I discussed recently, following the deployment by the Russians of S-400 and S-300MV Antei-2500 anti aircraft missiles to Syria, any idea of the US intervening militarily to prevent the Syrian army’s recapture of eastern Aleppo or to impose a US no fly zone on Syria has for all practical purposes been abandoned.
S-400 Advanced Anti-Aircraft Missile System
As the Saker correctly says, the deployment of the Russian fleet off the Syrian close forecloses that option finally and conclusively.