Social media posts out of Murmansk on 12 December revealed that the Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s sole aircraft carrier, had caught fire. This was later confirmed by official news coverage. The Admiral Kuznetsov was undergoing repair and overhaul work at the Zvyozdochka Ship Repairing Center near Murmansk after being damaged in the sinking of the PD-50 dry dock serving it in October 2018.
According to the press service of the Zvyozdochka Ship Repairing Center, the fire began in the engine compartment of the Admiral Kuznetsov. Emergency services contacted by TASS state that the area on fire had expanded to 120 square meters. The estimate of the area affected by the fire was later updated to 500 square meters. Given the location of the fire, it is highly likely that the vertical launch tubes of the Admiral Kuznetsov have been affected by the fire. It was planned for the tubes to be replaced by new ones capable of launching Kalibr long-range cruise missiles and Oniks anti-ship cruise missiles.
All personnel aboard the Admiral Kuznetsov were evacuated after the fire broke out. TASS’ emergency source claims that twelve people have been injured, with a majority of injuries due to smoke inhalation. One of the injured is assessed as being severely injured. The Russian Northern Fleet has reported to Interfax that two servicemen were killed in the fire, with one of them being the commander of the ship’s emergency response unit according to Baza.
TASS‘ emergency service source reports that the fire was extinguished around 5AM in the morning of 13 December. According to the source, firefighting efforts were complicated by dense smoke and high temperatures in the affected areas. The affected compartments are now being drained of water.
The cause of the fire remains unknown, although it is believed that a violation of safety protocols during welding work was responsible. Interfax reports that the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation is to launch a criminal inquiry as to whether safety regulations were breached during the repair and overhaul work.
The Admiral Kuznetsov has been slated for deep overhaul work following its sole combat deployment to the Mediterranean in late 2016, in support of the Syrian regime’s Aleppo offensive. The much-publicised deployment soon gave way to mockery as the carrier and its air wing became beset by mishap after mishap, culminating in the rebasing of its air wing to Khmeimim Air Base in Latakia, Syria following two aircraft being lost due to broken arrestor wires.
Work on combining two dry docks into a single dry dock capable of holding the Admiral Kuznetsov at Shipyard No. 35 at Roslyakovo, near Murmansk city, continues. However, the fire raises further questions as to whether the Admiral Kuznetsov will ever enter dry dock.