Navy Talks Carriers on Annual Fleet Day

MTVeterans of the Black Sea and Baltic fleets gathering to pay their respects to the victims of the 2000 Kursk nuclear-submarine disaster at a monument dedicated to their fallen comrades at the Armed Forces Museum on Ulitsa Sovetskoi Armii on Sunday, during
Russian armed forces will commission half a dozen aircraft carriers and the necessary support ships, a senior commander said Sunday during Navy Day celebrations.

Six aircraft-carrier groups would be deployed for operations with the Northern and Pacific fleets, Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky told reporters in Moscow.

"Everything should be included in the system, including aircraft carriers," Vysotsky said before a Navy Day parade in St. Petersburg. "We have designated this a maritime aircraft-carrying system."

Vysotsky said the planned systems would be different from the current aircraft-carrier groups as "they would operate in close interaction" with Russia's military-satellite system as well as Air Force and air-defense assets.

He said construction would begin sometime after 2012. The Navy has not taken delivery of an aircraft carrier since the breakup of the Soviet Union, and the shipyard that produced the carriers in Soviet times is now located in Ukraine.

The Navy currently operates one aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov. The vessel, which was initially designed to carry vertical takeoff and landing Yak fighters but was then refitted to allow it to operate heavier and longer-range Su-33 warplanes, is currently deployed with the Northern Fleet.

Over the shorter term, the Navy plans to modernize the Borey-class strategic nuclear submarines, the commander said. The Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk, in the Arkhangelsk region, is currently building three such submarines, but their completion has been delayed by test failures of the Bulava ballistic missile, its main weapon.

Vysotsky said the first three submarines would be commissioned without significant changes to the initial design, but the fourth will undergo upgrades. He said the Borey class submarines would be the mainstay of the naval component of Russia's strategic nuclear forces until 2040.

Veterans took to the streets across the country Sunday to celebrate the Navy holiday. In Moscow, some 3,000 police officers were deployed to areas popular with the celebrating sailors, many of whom drank their share before going for swims in the city's fountains.

Vysotsky and other senior commanders were on hand for a couple of parades of naval units in St. Petersburg, one on land and the second involving a line of warships on the Neva River.

Elsewhere, warships lined up for sail-bys at the ports of Vladivostok and Petrovopavlovsk-Kamchatsky. Salutes were fired in St. Petersburg, near which a major Baltic Sea fleet facility is located, and in Severomorsk, where the command of the Navy's most powerful fleet, the Northern Fleet, is located.

The country's Black Sea Fleet fired a salute in the port of Sevastopol in Crimea, which Russia leases from Ukraine, drawing an angry response from the local city administration.

The Ukrainian government has repeatedly said it will not renew Russia's lease when it expires in 2017. On Sunday, Vysotsky repeated earlier statements from the Russian side that it will seek an extension on the lease.

A number of activists from Russia's nationalist Eurasian Union of the Youth staged a rally outside the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow to protest Ukraine's resolve to end the Black Sea Fleet's stay in Crimea, Interfax reported.