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Aboard The Admiral Kuznetsov

On October 21, Russia's only aircraft carrier steamed through the English Channel on its way to Syria. Given the seemingly limited effectiveness of the 305-meter Admiral Kuznetsov, many analysts believe the attention that the vessel is generating is the real aim of its rare, and very public, outing.

The 305-meter Admiral Kuznetsov passing within sight of the white cliffs of Dover on October 21. The mission to the Syrian coast of the eastern Mediterranean will be the first-ever combat operation for this troubled relic of the Soviet Union.
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The 305-meter Admiral Kuznetsov passing within sight of the white cliffs of Dover on October 21. The mission to the Syrian coast of the eastern Mediterranean will be the first-ever combat operation for this troubled relic of the Soviet Union.

During the 1980s, the carrier and her sister craft, Varyag (pictured here), risked becoming stillborn projects as the U.S.S.R. neared collapse. The Varyag remained unfinished by the Soviet and Russian navies and was eventually sold to China, leaving the Kuznetsov as the sole aircraft carrier in the Russian Navy.  
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During the 1980s, the carrier and her sister craft, Varyag (pictured here), risked becoming stillborn projects as the U.S.S.R. neared collapse. The Varyag remained unfinished by the Soviet and Russian navies and was eventually sold to China, leaving the Kuznetsov as the sole aircraft carrier in the Russian Navy.
 

Firefighters aboard the Admiral Kuznetsov. During a 2008-09 deployment, a blaze killed a sailor and then a large oil spill was spotted by the Irish coast guard near the Admiral Kuznetsov. Russia admitted responsibility, but the spill mostly broke up before reaching shore.
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Firefighters aboard the Admiral Kuznetsov. During a 2008-09 deployment, a blaze killed a sailor and then a large oil spill was spotted by the Irish coast guard near the Admiral Kuznetsov. Russia admitted responsibility, but the spill mostly broke up before reaching shore.

A Sukhoi fighter landing on the deck of the Admiral Kuznetsov. In 2005, a fighter jet plummeted off the end of the carrier after an arresting cable snapped on landing. Both pilots escaped, but the plane plunged into 1-kilometer-deep water.
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A Sukhoi fighter landing on the deck of the Admiral Kuznetsov. In 2005, a fighter jet plummeted off the end of the carrier after an arresting cable snapped on landing. Both pilots escaped, but the plane plunged into 1-kilometer-deep water.

The Admiral Kuznetsov is extremely heavily armed for an aircraft carrier. Along with various heavy guns and antisubmarine missiles, it is equipped with 12 launchers capable of firing nuclear-armed missiles.  
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The Admiral Kuznetsov is extremely heavily armed for an aircraft carrier. Along with various heavy guns and antisubmarine missiles, it is equipped with 12 launchers capable of firing nuclear-armed missiles.
 

Helicopters and fighter jets on the flight deck of the Admiral Kuznetsov. The carrier is capable of deploying with 52 aircraft aboard. The vessel's air wing, however, is limited by its lack of an aircraft catapult. Most modern aircraft carriers are fitted with a steam-powered catapult that flings aircraft along the deck runway.
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Helicopters and fighter jets on the flight deck of the Admiral Kuznetsov. The carrier is capable of deploying with 52 aircraft aboard. The vessel's air wing, however, is limited by its lack of an aircraft catapult. Most modern aircraft carriers are fitted with a steam-powered catapult that flings aircraft along the deck runway.

The Admiral Kuznetsov relies on a “ski jump” runway to help lift planes skyward. The distinctive design ensures planes an upward trajectory even when the Admiral Kuznetsov heaves forward, but the lack of a catapult means the planes are limited in the amount of fuel, and weaponry, they can carry.
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The Admiral Kuznetsov relies on a “ski jump” runway to help lift planes skyward. The distinctive design ensures planes an upward trajectory even when the Admiral Kuznetsov heaves forward, but the lack of a catapult means the planes are limited in the amount of fuel, and weaponry, they can carry.

A training ground in Crimea set up to replicate the deck of the Admiral Kuznetsov.
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A training ground in Crimea set up to replicate the deck of the Admiral Kuznetsov.

A fighter coming in to land. The deck of the Admiral Kuznetsov has four arrestor cables to hook landing jets. For pilots, catching the second cable is seen as an ideal landing.
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A fighter coming in to land. The deck of the Admiral Kuznetsov has four arrestor cables to hook landing jets. For pilots, catching the second cable is seen as an ideal landing.

A radar operator aboard the Admiral Kuznetsov. Fully crewed, the vessel is home to 2,626 sailors and air crew.  No figures for crew ages are available for the Russian carrier, but the average age aboard a comparable U.S. Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is 19.  
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A radar operator aboard the Admiral Kuznetsov. Fully crewed, the vessel is home to 2,626 sailors and air crew.  No figures for crew ages are available for the Russian carrier, but the average age aboard a comparable U.S. Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is 19.
 

The Admiral Kuznetsov, billowing smoke as it passes through the English Channel on October 21, 2016. The diesel-powered carrier has attracted ridicule on Russian social media for its plume of black exhaust, but the apparent purpose of the vessel's mission to Syria is deadly serious.
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The Admiral Kuznetsov, billowing smoke as it passes through the English Channel on October 21, 2016. The diesel-powered carrier has attracted ridicule on Russian social media for its plume of black exhaust, but the apparent purpose of the vessel's mission to Syria is deadly serious.

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