2 Russian Carriers...2 different countries-Liaoning & Vikramaditya

Jeff Head

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Russian Varyag becomes Chinese LIaoning. Russian Gorshkov becomes Indian Vikramaditya

Old Russian carriers have been pulled out of retirement, dusted off, and completed refit into modern, STOBAR carriers for major nations.

I am speaking first of the 2nd Kuznetsov Class carrier from Russia, the Varyag, which the Chinese purchased and then themselves completely refit into the STOBAR carrier Liaoning, CV-16.

CV16-02.jpg The Chinese Navy (PLAN) Liaoning, CV-16, shown here with nine J-15 Fighters aboard.​

I am also speaking of the Kiev Class carrier, the Admiral Gorshkov, which the Indians hired the Russians to refit into a modern STOBAR carrier, the INS Vikramaditya, R33.

The Indian Vikramaditya, shown here with nin Mig-29K aircraft aboard​

In those first statements, though the end product and the way they went about it was essentially similar, ie:

1) They refit older Russin carriers
2) They produced modern STOBAR carriers for their Navy

We see two fundamental differences in what the Chinese and the Indians accomplished as well.

First, the Chinese did the work themselves. While there was some risk in that, and while the schedule could have been negatively impacted by it, the big plus to the Chinese is that they acquired all of that expertise to themselves, in house in China. The Indians had the Russians do it for them, and we all know now that the Indians did not really gain any schedule time by having had the Russians do so.

Second, the carrier the Chinese chose was the Varying, a generation newer than the Gorshkov, and a larger carrier that was designed to be a full deck STOBAR carrier from the start. The Admiral Gorshkov was the last of the Kiev class, and while it was built with the idea of preparing for the Kuznetsov class, it was really a hybrid cruiser, jump jet carrier that was not really designed to be STOBAR.

Another fundamental difference was the strike aircraft chosen by each country for their new carriers.

The Chinese chose he J-15, which they produce entirely themselves. This is a further development of the SU-33 that the Russians use, however it has been improved by the Chinese, using more composite material and being wholly integrated to the Chinese weapons systems, sensors, etc. Again, the expertise acrrues to the Chinese.

A Chinese J-15 takes off from the Ski-jump on the Liaoning​

The J-15 is a larger, heavier aircraft, and with a STOBAR design, the Chinese do pay a price in terms of the fuel and ordinance weight the aoircraft can take off with, and with how many aircraft can fit aboard the Liaoning.

The INdians purchased new Mig-29K strike fighters from the Russians. They were able to get them fairly quickly and train their personnel in their use. The aircraft can carry a very decent load, and being smaller, more aircraft can fit within a smaller area...which is good because the Vikrmaditya itself is smaller than the Liaoning.

An Indian Mig-29K takes off from the ski-jump on the Vikramaditya​

Both carriers use arresting cables to land the aircraft on deck. These are not "jump jets" like a harrier. They are full on fixed wing strike aircraft. So while these carriers do not have a catapult to help get the aircraft into the air (instead, as stated, they use a ski-jump) they do have arresting wires which allow the aircraft to land.

A Chinese J-15 about to snag a wire (arresting cble) on the Liaoning​

An Indian Mig-29K coming into to grab an arresting cable on the Vikramaditya​

This thread will continue to present the striking similarities in the Chinese and Indian programs, but also continue to point out the differences that set the two programs apart.

it will be done pictorially.

This is not a thread to dis or attack one or the other country.

Quite frankly, both have, given their own ways of going about it and their own constraints, succeeded pretty amazingly in producing two new, relevant aircraft carriers for their respective Navy.

...and both are now building theoir own indigenous carriers to follow up on this success.

Jeff Head

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Both the Chinese and the Indians have exercised their new capabilities significantly over the last several year since these carriers were commissioned.

The Chinese Liaoning, CV-16 was commissioned in September 2012.. The Indian Vikramaditya, R33, was commissioned in November 2013.

Thoiugh the Liaoning was commissioned first and began sailing, the Indians, as stated, had already received many of their aircraft so they were able to begin air operations fairly quickly.

Over these last 4 years, both nations have steadily increased both the numbers of aircraft they have and operate aboard, and the tempo rate of their training exercises.

The Liaoning, CV-16 operating with nine J-15s aboard, the most documented to date​

The Vikramaditya, R33, operating with fourteen Mig-29K aboard, the most seen to date​

The hanger spaces on the carriers differ considerably. The Liaoning hanger is larger...but it has to fit larger aircraft into it. It is however accessed by two large elevators which are both located on the edge of the deck, fore and aft of the island.

A Chinese J-15 enters the hangar deck from one of th large elevators on the side of the flight deck​

The Indian Vikramaditya also has two elevators as well. But those elevators are not on the edge of the deck and are constrained on all four sides. This makes it harder to spot and move aircraft into the hanger.

An Indian Mig-29K being lowered into the hangar from the forward elevator​

Having the elevators located like this also puts a constraint on deck movement and air operations. Part of the take off and landing crosses over part of the elevator.

Mig-29K aircraft within the Vikramaditya's hanger​

Both carriers have two launch positions located forward of the island, and another fuher back, aft of the island. The aft position allows the aircraft to get a much longer run over the ski-jump and carry more fuel and ordinance.

An Indian Mig29K taking off from the ft launch position.

Both nations are practicing their take off and landing operations regularly and qualifying more and more pilots to do so.

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A Chinese J-15 aircraft takes off over the Ski-jump at the bow.​

An Indian Mig-29K takes over the Ski-Jump at the bow of the Vikramaditya​

Both nations have been building the necessary escorts for their carrier and exercising with them in formation.

This is critical.

Any nation that is serious about carrier operations MUST have escorts that can protect those vessels from submarine attack, from air attack, and from attack by other vessels.

The Chinese have developed strong vessels, both Frigates (Type 054A) and destroyers (Type 052C and Type 052D). The destroyers in particularly must have ample stores of missiles to protect the carrier, and be able to shoot down missiles an adversary may launch at the carrier, or aircraft launched against her.

Chinese escort vessels with the Liaoning in the south China Sea.

A Type 052D DDG (to the left) and two Type 054A Frigates escort the Liaoning​

The INdians have also invested in significant new escorts for their carriers.

Their newest multi-role frigates, the Shivalik, have been built in India, as have their new ASW frigates. Their strong destroyers, the Kolkatas are also produced in India, but they have suffered from significant scheduling issues and only three have been launched. When launched their principle anti-air missiles were not ready, though that has been corrected now.

The Vikramaditya being escorted by frigates and destroyers of the Indian Navy​

Of note here, in terms of the capability and the funding and logistical resource...the Chinese have built 19 new, strong anti-air destroyers (Type 052C/D vessels) in the same time frame that the Indians have developed three.

While it seems the Indians may have addressed their logistical issues, if they continue to build the next two carriers as they envision (and in fact the second carrier, the Vikrant has already been launched) they are going to have to have more escorts available to protect them.


Both carriers have two launch positions located forward of the island, and another fuher back, aft of the island. The aft position allows the aircraft to get a much longer run over the ski-jump and carry more fuel and ordinance.
The short take off on Vikramaditya runs from abreast the island to the bow not from forward of the island. Together with the lack of jet deflectors this seriously restricts the deck area available for other purposes when aircraft are being launched.


I like to adress the issue of the Vikramaditya's hangar deck. The problems of the flight deck is already well known.

The problem of the hangar decks simply is that it can only hold 7 MiG-29 Fulcrum's. And they will have to pack them like sardines and that leaves them no place to work. The hangar deck of the Vikramaditya is smaller to begin with but what makes it worse is that fact that a lot of the space in that hangar is being eaten up by the 2 elevators and a large outcrop. If they want to work on planes in the hangar deck there canb be no more than 3 planes in the hangar at the same time. That combined with the problems of the flightdeck will seriously limits the size of the air wing on board. I would say that fitting 16 MiG-29K Fulcrum-D's will be a challenge. At most I think the air wing will be between 10 to 12 planes.

Here below you see the Vikramaditya packed with 6 MiG-29's. Look at the red line on the floor at the bottom. that's your reference point.

That same red line in this photo is past the first blue table.

This last photo will show you that past the first blue table there isn't much space left in the hangar. maybe another mig-29 could fit in there. But then what about the helicopters and where is the room to work ?

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Jeff Head

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Slight nit pick, but shouldn't it be 2 Soviet Carriers? :p
Well, they were two Soviet Carriers...but by the time they were handed over after the deals were made, they had long since become Russian carriers.

Jeff Head

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The Chinese escort vessels:

Type 054A Guided Missile Frigate (FFG). 32 VLS cells. They have 25 of these.

Type 054A.jpg

Type 052C Guided Missile destroyer (DDG). 48 VLS cells. They have six of these.


Type 052D Guided Missile Destroyer (DDG). 64 VLS cells. They have 13 of these.


The Type 054A, the Type 052C, and the Type 052D were all designed and build in China. They are all Chinese indigenous designs and they have built a lot of these vessels for their various fleets (East Sea, South Sea, and North Sea Fleets. All of them make excellent escorts for their carrier(s).

The Chinese are designing and will soon be building a new, larger vessels, the Type 055. it is really a cruiser sized vessel and will have between 112 and 128 VLS cells and large, very capable APARs.

The Indian escort vessels:

Talwar Guided Missile Frigate (FFG). 24 single arm missiles + 8 VLS cells. They have six of these and are adding three more newer, more modern ones.


Shivalik Guided Missile Frigate (FFG)). 32 VLS cells. They have six of these.


Kolkata Guided Missile Destroyer DDG. 32 + 16 (48) VLS cells.They have 3 of these and are adding four more, newer, more capable ones.


The Indians are also building a follow-on class to the Kolkata. It is called the Visakhapatnam class DDG, also with 48 VLS. They are planning 4-6 of these.

As to all of their classes, te Talwar FFGs were built by Russia for the Indians. The Shivalik were designed and built in India, and the Kolkata DDG were designed and built in India.

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Air Operations on deck

The chinse and the Indians are agressivelyy exercising and trining with their aircraft off the decks of their carriers, the Liaoning and the Vikramaditya.

Landings using the heavy landing wires to "trap" the aircraft are a very critical part of these operations.

Here a J-15 Strike Fighter lands on the Chinese Liaoning, CV-16. You can see the tail hook catching the wire in this picture..


Here a Mig-29K Strike Fighter lands on the Indian Vikramaditya, R33.


Taking off with weapons and fuel to accomplish missions ofr their respective nations are also of utmost importance. Using these aircraft to deliver weapons and ordinance against adversaries, fores and enemies is the real purpose for the carriers. it is why they exist,to be able to project either Chinese or Indian power as needed.

Here a J-15 strike fighter lines up in front of a jet blast defelctor preparing to take off from the Chinese Liaoning, CV-16:


Here a Mig-29K strike fighter lines up tpo prepare to take off rom the aft launch point aboard the Indian Vikramaditya.


Moving aircraft around the deck during flight operations is a critical and complex task. As aircraft land, they need to be moved out of the way so that the next aircraft can land unhindered...or so that other aircraft can take off forward on the vessel.

Here.a J-15 maneuvers out of the way to the side as anther J-15 lands on the Liaoning, CV-16:


...and on the Indian Vikramaditya, the same thing occurs. Here you see two Mig-29Ks having been moved to the side as another Mig-29K lands on the carrier:


Jeff Head

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During the height of air operations, numerous aircraft are located on deck. Some preparing to take off, some being fueled, some loading up with ordinance, and of course others in the flight pattern preparing to land.

it is a complex and intricate dance and weave of personnel, aircraft, equipment, and weaponry.

Two J-15s at the launch positions on the bow of the Chinese Liaoning as one akes off:


Several Mig-29K aircraft forward, in front of the island, but out of the way of air operations on the Indian Vikramaditya:


Command crew on the bridhge of the Liaoning, CV-16:


The bridge of the Indian Vikramaditya, R33:


An Indian Mig-29K strike fighter, loaded with ordinance on the deck of the Indian Vikramaditya, preparing for take off:


Numerous J-15 strike fighters spotted around the aft end of the flight deck on the Chinese Liaoning, CV-16: