Russia halts aircraft carriers building
Moscow (UPI) Dec 10, 2010
The Russian military has conceded that it lacks the funds to deploy a powerful new armada of aircraft carriers and that no more would be built for at least 10 years.
The admission comes as a quick rebuttal to remarks by an unnamed military source cited in a string of local news reports that Russia was set to begin construction of new aircraft carriers.
The admission debunks earlier remarks, also, by Russia's navy head Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky that a technical project for an advanced aircraft carrier would be ready by the end of the year.
What's more, Russian navy experts divulged greater details of the project at the time, saying a new aircraft carrier would be nuclear powered and would have a displacement of 50,000-60,000 tons.
This week, however, an unnamed senior official in Russia's Defense Ministry told Interfax news agency that the state armament program for 2011-20 did "not envision the construction of aircraft carriers."
He said current funding plans allowed the military to consider new designs but to hold off on any construction.
"Only then -- after completing the advanced designs -- can we examine the expediency of building aircraft carriers," the official said.
Russia's predicament mirrors that of many foreign companies as China -- once Russia's top client -- starts to compete in global markets with advanced trains, power-generating equipment and other civilian products based on technology obtained from the West.
The military's embarrassing admission signaled Russia's struggle to keep up with President Dmitry Medvedev's stated commitment to modernize a Soviet-era force that has lost its eminent position on the high seas.
Pundits said that the Interfax dispatch appeared to stoke initial confusion among Russia's military brass.
"It was denied by one unnamed official and received with blanket silence by the Defense Ministry itself," the Defense News Web site reported. Then, though, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyokov accepted that it was true.
At the height of its military might, the former Soviet Union had five aircraft carriers. It now has only one -- the Admiral Kuzetsov.
For Medvedev, the navy's re-emergence as a major power marked a new military strategy that he announced two years ago.
"We are not going to spare our financial resources," Medevev said.
Those ambitions though, including the construction of six aircraft carriers, were effectively dashed since Russia entered a heated round of nuclear arms negotiations with the United States that hinged on a U.S. proposal to deploy a new missile defense shield in Europe.
From the onset of the U.S. proposal, put forth by the previous U.S. administration, Russia has feared that the systems could either be turned into an offensive weapon or expanded to neutralize the country's existing arsenal of nuclear arms.
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