Admiral Kuznetsov on the move – but not far!

With rumours filtering through that Project 1143.5 CVGM Admiral Kuznetsov was due to move sometime between 17 and 19 May 2022 from its “temporary” mooring position in Murmansk to a purpose built dry dock just a little further south, I set up at collection task with Capella Space to catch before and after imagery of the event.

Kuznetsov had ended up at its mooring position after floating dock PD-50, of the 85th shipyard, sank on 30 October 2018 whilst the CVGM was being floated out after a month of works. During the accident, a crane that was part of the dock fell onto the flight deck causing considerable damage.

That wasn’t the end of the woes for the already delayed refit Kuznetsov was undertaking – originally planned to start in 2017 and already a year late. On 12 December 2019 the ship suffered from a major fire that the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) estimated would cost 350 million roubles ($4.7 million/£3.7 million at the time) to repair.

An agreement was made with the Russian MoD that two dry docks of the 35th shipyard in Murmansk would be redesigned and knocked through into one large dry dock that could take Kuznetsov and other large Russian navy ships and submarines.

Work commenced on the new dry dock mid to late 2019 and was due to be completed in early 2021 for Kuznetsov to enter and complete the overhaul. Currently, the 35th Shipyard are restricted to works that can take place alongside.

However, the dry dock is still under construction due to several delays in the construction process. This hasn’t deterred the Russian navy from getting Kuznetsov into the dock.

On 20 May 2022, Kuznetsov made the 1.5 km journey with the assistance of tugs rather than under its own power.

Telegram poster, Arctic Observer – Murmansk (Арктический обозреватель – Мурманск) was the first to post imagery of Kuznetsov on the move on 20 May.

They then posted further imagery a little later.

Capella Imagery

The collection request was made to Capella to cover 17 – 20 May. Typically there wasn’t a collection slot available on the 20th, but the request was extended to the next available on the 22nd.

Low resolution EO imagery on Sentinel was only available for 15 May. After this, the region was 100% cloud covered, making further collections of EO imagery impossible. This is where SAR collections from Capella excel – being able to see, no matter the weather.

Sentinel imagery dated 15/5/22 showing Kuznetsov and the “new” dry dock to the south
The dry dock on 17 May 2022. Working is taking place at the entrance. At least two floating cranes are present.
18 May 2022. Work continues on the dry dock.
19 May 2022. Work appears to have been paused at the dry dock and the entrance cleared.
19 May 2022. At Kuznetsov, a possible tug or floating crane is present. No such activity was taking place on the previous days collections.
22 May 2022. Kuznetsov in the dry dock at 35th Shipyard.

FleetMon S-AIS data

The move used at least four tugs according to S-AIS data from FleetMon. These were – Bizon, Grumant, Helius and Kapitan Shebalkin.

FleetMon AIS data shows Tug Bizon alongside Kuznetsov on 20 May 2022.
FleetMon AIS data shows Tug Grumant alongside Kuznetsov on 20 May 2022.
FleetMon track history for Tug Grumant clearly shows it helped with the Kuznetsov move. All the other tugs mentioned also showed similar tracks to this.
FleetMon AIS data shows Tug Helius working at the dry dock on 20 May 2022.
FleetMon AIS data shows Tug Kapitan Shebalkin alongside Kuznetsov and at the dry dock on 20 May 2022.

Since 20 May, further imagery has been published that shows Kuznetsov in the dry dock. bmpd on LiveJournal has some particularly good ones which showed some of the work being carried out.

Imagery posted on bmpd LiveJournal – courtesy of Pavel Lvov / RIA Novosti.

A couple of the images are interesting as they show potential changes to the weapons systems. Below, it can be seen that the RBU-12000 ASW rocket launchers (designed specifically for Kuznetsov) have been retained (central, far left of image) but the AK-630M on the deck balcony below has been removed.

Imagery posted on bmpd LiveJournal – credited to Alexander Loginov, Anna Savicheva, Svyatoslav Ivanov / severpost.ru

The same has taken place on the starboard side of the ship.

Imagery posted on bmpd LiveJournal

A further image on RIA Novosti credited to Pavel Lvov, taken from above also shows the removal of the AK-630Ms along with the eight Kortik/Kashtan CADS-N-1A each fitted with twin AO-18K (6K30GM) 30 mm rotary cannon and eight SA‐N‐11 (9M311) ‘Grison’ missiles.

Imagery from RIA Novosti credited to Pavel Lvov

The Kashtan is likely to be replaced by Pantsir‐M/Pantsir‐SM CIWS hence their removal.

The image above also shows a lot of surface oil. Whether it is from Kuznetsov or the tugs is anyone’s guess – but I have a feeling I know which one it is

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