Russia presents the model of the future nuclear aircraft carrier “Manatee”… again..

Since the first presentations of the Shtorm project in 2015, not a year has gone by without a new model of the “next Russian nuclear aircraft carrier” being presented to the public, by the Krylov design offices. And this year is no exception, with the presentation of Project 1143E Lamantin, an aircraft carrier “350 m” long and “90 to 100.000 tons”, powered by a nuclear reactor supported by gas turbines, and capable of implement around a hundred aircraft, including navalized versions of the Su57 and the S70 Okotnik combat drone.

This year, the Chief of the Naval Staff Nikolai Yevmenov, on the occasion of the St. Petersburg exhibition, announced that the Ministry of Defense had launched a study aimed at defining technical recommendations for the construction of a nuclear aircraft carrier, this however being “not in the immediate future” according to him.

The question of building a new aircraft carrier in Russia is, in fact, quite similar to this same question in France: Everyone recognizes its usefulness, everyone says it is essential, but no one wants to make the decision to launch an investment exceeding the 200 billion Rubles in Russia, or the 5 billion € in France. Because in fact the aircraft carrier suffers from several critical weak points, acting against it systematically:

  • The entry ticket is very high, especially since you have to add the embarked air group and the escort.
  • The export potential of this know-how is very limited, if not fundamentally non-existent.
  • The applicability of specific technologies and know-how is also extremely limited
  • The needs for such a building are rare, and limited to specific scenarios
  • Finally, the aircraft carrier is often presented as vulnerable, particularly to attacks by hypersonic missiles.

In a context where overall investment is constrained, which is very often the case, the decision to build one or more aircraft carriers therefore appears to be to the detriment of the acquisition of other equipment, which may be considered more useful. in a number of scenarios. In France, for example, the Air Force has become accustomed to repeatedly attacking plans to build a second aircraft carrier, using, moreover, these same arguments.

An E2 C Hawkeye ready to be catapulted onto the deck of the French nuclear aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle Defense News | Armed Forces Budgets and Defense Efforts | Military naval construction
Despite its cost and its potential vulnerability, the aircraft carrier remains today the absolute symbol of military power on a global scale with the SSBN and strategic bombers

In this context, why are certain countries, such as Great Britain, China, India, Russia and of course, the United States, ready to make these efforts to have this very expensive and vulnerable weapon? Indeed, Great Britain, whose defense investments are not far from those of France, has agreed to manufacture two 2-ton springboard aircraft carriers equipped with F60.000Bs, even if it means having to reduce its fleet by Typhoon and frigates, while China has launched the construction of a 3rd aircraft carrier, which this time will have electromagnetic catapults, and which should have at least one sister-ship before starting, by 2025, manufacturing of the first heavy nuclear-powered aircraft carrier comparable to American models.

This is because the aircraft carrier appears today as the most powerful weapon in the conventional arsenal that a state can have at its disposal. It is also not surprising to note that the States with aircraft carriers are those which have the greatest number of nuclear warheads. As such, the aircraft carrier, much more than any other weapon system, carries a discriminating message of power on a global scale.

As global tensions continue to worsen, the arms race is relaunched, and several countries prepare their populations for the possibility of war, the possession of one or more aircraft carriers appears more than decisive. in the capacity to act beyond its borders, and therefore to influence the transformation of global geopolitics. This explains why the British, Indians and Chinese agree to such efforts, and why Russia dreams of them despite its limited means. These countries want to count in the world of tomorrow.

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