Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov's air wing will be strengthened and receive new capabilities, Alexey Rakhmanov, president of the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC), said in an interview Wednesday with Rossiya 24 news network.
The interview came after USC Vice President Igor Ponomarev said that the Admiral Kuznetsov will be upgraded in 2018 after returning from service. "The Zvezdochka shipyard will embark on repairs aimed at the modernization of the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier," Ponomarev said.
Rakhmanov said during his recent interview that the modernization of the air wing will "unfortunately" not lead to any fundamental or conceptual changes in the vessel.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had earlier said that the carrier had begun taking part in anti-terrorist operations as part of Russia's naval task force in Syria. Russia has been conducting airstrikes in Syria. However, the West thinks that Moscow's participation is more inclined toward helping longtime ally Syrian President Bashar Assad rather than fighting extremists like the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS.
While commenting on Admiral Kuznetsov releasing black smoke on its way to Syria, Rakhmanov explained that the carrier's boilers run on oil, which in turn "has a tendency to burn with the emission of a very large amount of soot."
This week, Shoigu confirmed that they had begun strikes they claim will wipe out ISIS from Syria.
"Today, we started a major operation to launch massive strikes on Daesh and al-Nusra Front targets in the Idlib and Homs provinces [in Syria]," Shoigu said earlier this week at a meeting with the ministry’s leadership and defense enterprises.
He added: "For the first time in the history of participation of the Russian Navy in operations, the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrying cruiser began taking part."
According to Rakhmanov, the Russian Defense Ministry will issue an open tender for the upgrade to the Admiral Kuznetsov, Sputnik News reported.
The Admiral Kuznetsov, which was constructed at the Mykolaiv South Shipyard (in present-day Ukraine) in the mid-1980s, became fully operational in 1995. The delay in operations was reportedly caused due to severe budget cutbacks to the Russian military following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The ship, designed to engage large surface targets, is capable of carrying between 41-52 fixed and rotary wing aircraft, including Su-25UTG and Su-33 fighter aircraft, as well as Ka-27 and Ka-29 anti-submarine and assault transport helicopters.