On the day that the world was in awe due to Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton, Russia’s navy flotilla reached the shores of Syria. The timing of the flotilla’s arrival might have very well been made a reaction to Hillary’s possible election to office.
Russian minister of Defence Sergej Shoigu on the 21st of September that Russia’s Aircraft Carrier Admiral Kuzentsov will move towards Syria, arriving there in the middle of November.(1) It was announced that the Carrier would be accompanied by at least 5 ships and several support vessels.
Two months later it has became clear that the Naval group consists of the aircraft carring missile cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov, the nuclear battle cruiser Pyot Velikij, Two Udaloy class destroyers (Severomorsk, Vice-Admiral Kulakov) and the Admiral Grigorovich corvet (Project 11356P/M) and several support ships. It is been assumed though not confirmed that several attack submarines will also accompany the flotila. A further two destroyers, an Additional Udaloy class and a Sovremeny class destroyer of the passific fleet might join with the task force on a later date.(2)
The concision of the arrival of the fleet with the elections should not be deemed an accident. Many analysts agreed that Hillary Clinton would indeed win the presidential elections in the United States. Both Clinton’s work as Secretary of State, as well as her campaign, have made not shown many promises for cooperation with Russia over Syria to put it mildly.
With Clinton’s election, it would have become clear what the US’s foreign policy would have been in the next four years. This would allow the current (Obama) administration to already start deploying a naval taskforce to the area to start or prepare a possibly military involvement in Syria. If such a mission would be executed it might well prove a repetition of the campaign in Libia, de facto destabilizing the region.
However, with the deployment of the Russian naval task force to the area such a US mission would become significantly more difficult diplomatically and militarily. In view of the timing the main reason for the naval task force her deployment therefore seems to be Anti Access / Area Denial (A2AD.)
Another important mission of the naval grouping is the usage of the carrier at all. The usage of the Kuzentsov in Syria will mark a premiere in Russian maritime history for being the first time a Russian carrier is deployed to a war zone. The experiences gained during the upcoming missions will prove useful in the development of future carrier design. Russia has very recently announced it will start designing its own supercarrier(1) and several helicopter carriers.(3)
One should not expect a Kuznetsov fighters to fly deep into Syrian territory (unless supported by aerial tankers). This is first and foremost due to Kuznetsov’s design. Since fighters take of via ramp instead of a catapult like US fighters do. Consequently, their weight must be limited forcing the fighters to limit their fuel and hence their operational range. Therefore, it is much cheaper to carry out bombing missions from the Russian airbase in Latakia. Most likely fighters will be involved in missions around Hama, possibly Aleppo.
However, aircraft will not be the only way of striking targets in Syria. It is expected that the attached submarines will also carry out strike with Kalibr-M missiles on ground targets in Syria.
In view of Clinton’s failure to win the presidential elections, the US-Russia relations over Syria might in fact calm down. If Trump holds by his word to further cooperate with the Russian Federation over Syria, the deployment of the Russian flotilla might therefore be of only limited duration. Never the less the usage of the carrier will be used to subsequently developpe future Russian carrier projects.
More info on the Admiral Kuzenetsov can be found in this article of The Duran, found in the link bellow. The article deals amongst others about claims of Kuznetsov being outdated:
Credit for Pictures:
Admiral Kuznetsov: Russian Ministry of Defence
Inforgrafic: Southfront militairy analysis.