October 24, 2008:
A Russian couple were recently convicted of
trying to sell technical details of the Russian aircraft carrier Kuznetsov, to
China for $300,000. The 55 year old husband got 12 years, the 49 year old wife
got nine. They were caught with the classified data last year.
The Chinese have been refurbishing the
Varyag, one of two Kuznetsov class that Russia began building in the 1980s, for
several years now. Chinese officials
have admitted publicly, for several years now, that they have detailed plans of
the Kuznetsov class ships. The Chinese have been in touch with Russian naval
construction firms, and have purchased additional plans and technology for
equipment installed in the Kuznetsov. Thus the Russians were not interested in
what the two Russian spies had to offer.
The Varyag has been tied up in a
Chinese shipyard at Dailan since 2002. Originally the Kuznetsovs were conceived of as 90,000 ton, nuclear
powered ships, similar to American carriers (complete with steam catapults).
Instead, because of the cost, and the complexity of modern (American style)
carriers, the Russians were forced to scale back their goals, and ended up with
the 65,000 ton (full load ) ships that lacked steam catapults, and used a ski
jump type flight deck instead. Nuclear power was dropped, but the Kuznetsov
class was still a formidable design. The thousand foot long carrier normally
carries a dozen navalized Su-27s (called Su-33s), 14 Ka-27PL anti-submarine
helicopters, two electronic warfare helicopters and two search and rescue
helicopters. But the ship can carry up to 36 Su-33s and sixteen helicopters.
The ship carries 2,500 tons of aviation fuel, allowing it to generate 500-1,000
aircraft and helicopter sorties. Crew size is 2,500 (or 3,000 with a full
aircraft load.) Only two ships of this class exist; the original Kuznetsov,
which is in Russian service, and the Varyag. Currently, the Kuznetsov is spending
a lot of time at sea.