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Russia’s only aircraft carrier catches fire again

Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier (Russian Ministry of Defence,
December 23, 2022

A fire broke out on the Russian navy’s only aircraft carrier on Thursday, just three years after another deadly fire broke out on board.

The fire came as the ship, the Admiral Kuznetsov, was finally set to leave a dry dock after a troubled, years-long modernization project, Naval News reported.

Local sources claimed the fire spread to a six-meter area on the ship’s deck, and that crews immediately reacted to extinguish it, Naval News reported.

The leader of the upgrade work, Alexei Rakhmanov, told state media the fire was “small” and had been extinguished, Axios reported.

“All the relevant fire systems worked normally. There was no damage and no casualties,” he said.

A photo posted on Twitter appeared to show smoke blowing over the deck of the Russian aircraft carrier.

Another photo showed the ship at a distance as smoke drafter over the deck.

Another photo posted on Twitter appeared to show a fire glowing on the ship.

The ship has faced multiple significant accidents since overhaul work started in 2017. 

In 2019, a fire broke out on the ship. Two people were killed and 11 were injured in that 2019 incident, the Associated Press reported at the time. The 2019 fire ignited during welding work and rapidly spread through the ship’s internal compartments.

In 2018, a floating dock used for the overhaul work suddenly sank. A crane crashed onto the ship’s flight deck, tearing a 16-foot gash through it, as reported by BBC.

Even prior to this latest upgrade work, the aircraft carrier had been considered practically cursed since it first launched in 1985. 

The ship frequently broke down, and in 2009, suffered another deadly fire and 300-metric-ton oil leak, as reported by Insider. During its only combat deployment, to Syria in 2016, two fighter jets were lost when the ship’s wires failed to catch them during landing.

The ship is known for belching smelly clouds of black smoke by burning a heavy fuel called Mazut, rather than the nuclear power that fuels U.S. carriers.

After previous delays, the aircraft carrier was set to return to Russia’s fleet in early 2024.