In a 1v1 fight a US Navy Nimitz-Class aircraft carrier would have no problem in defeating Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov. Here’s why.

By Dario Leone
Mar 21 2023
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Assuming a Nimitz aircraft carrier and the Admiral Kuznetsov are without escort what flattop would win in 1v1?

Originally commissioned in the Soviet Navy, Admiral Kuznetsov was intended to be the lead ship of the two-ship Kuznetsov class. Varyag, Admiral Kuznetsov’s sister ship, was still incomplete when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The second hull was eventually sold by Ukraine to the People’s Republic of China, completed in Dalian and commissioned as Liaoning. Instead Admiral Kuznetsov is Russia only carrier.

By contrast the US Navy has ten nuclear-powered Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. With an overall length of 1,092 ft (333 m) and a full-load displacement of over 100,000 long tons (100,000 t), the Nimitz-class ships were the largest warships built and in service until USS Gerald R. Ford entered the fleet in 2017. (the first sample of the next generation of aircraft carrier).

These aircraft carriers are the centerpiece of America’s Naval forces – the most adaptable and survivable airfields in the world. On any given day, Sailors aboard an aircraft carrier and its air wing come to the fight trained and equipped across a full range of missions. They are ready to control the sea, conduct strikes, and maneuver across the electromagnetic spectrum and cyberspace. No other naval force fields a commensurate range and depth of combat capabilities.

Assuming a Nimitz aircraft carrier and the Admiral Kuznetsov are without escort what flattop would win in 1v1?

‘Well currently the Kuznetov cannot go to sea [the carrier was in fact badly damaged by a huge fire on Dec. 12, 2019]. But let’s just say some miracle happens and the Russians can get her underway,’ says James Shannon, Senior Chief Petty Officer BMCS (SW/AW)(E-8) at United States Navy (1995-present), on Quora.

‘On its latest deployment in 2017 Kuznetsov carried 12 P700 anti-ship missiles, 12 Su-33’s, 6 MiG-29’s and 6 helicopters.

‘A Nimitz-Class aircraft carrier normally carries 48 Super Hornets, 5 Growlers, 3 Hawkeyes, 1–2 COD’s and at least a dozen MH-60S and MH-60R.

‘The kicker for Nimitz-Class aircraft carrier’s aircraft are not just in the numbers. Nimitz-Class aircraft carrier’s Super Hornet’s can launch with full payloads due to have catapults and buddy-stores tanking systems. Kuznetsov’s aircraft are significantly limited in payload due to the need to ski-jump and they have no organic tanking ability.’

Shannon continues;

‘To sum it up the Nimitz-Class aircraft carrier can send 4 complete Strike Fighter Squadrons and 1 Electronic Attack Squadron, fully loaded with full combat radius, with full Airborne Early Warning support and Organic Tanking support.

‘The Nimitz-Class aircraft carrier’s aircraft can hit Kuznetsov from outside of the P700 range and also the range of the Su-33 and MiG-29. Kuznetsov’s surface to air missiles would not be able to reach Reagan’s airwing. Kuznetsov would need to focus its small airwing completely on fighting AAW. The problem is that all of the Nimitz-Class aircraft carrier’s aircraft coming in their vicinity will be capable of AAW, even the Growler’s will have AMRAAM’s.

‘The Nimitz-Class aircraft carrier’s airwing will peel back the Su-33’s and MiG-29’s. The Growlers will then work on electronically disabling Kuznetsov’s fire-control ability (missile guidance). They will do with jamming and decoying, then they will hit Kutnesov with AARGM anti-radiation missiles.

‘Following more slowly behind will be the subsonic anti ship missiles coming from the Super Hornets. 48 Rhino’s in the Airwing, many of them will have either SLAM-ER or LRASM. Kuznetsov probably already expended a fair amount of missile trying to shoot down AARGM’s and Decoys from the Growlers. Kuznetsov will not have much fire-control ability either way. The Nimitz-Class aircraft carrier’s airwing can easily send 50 or so SLAM-ER’s and LRASM’s. It won’t take even half that to put Kuznetsov permanently out of action. Once its disabled and unable to fight, the coup de grace would probably come from 2000 pound laser-guided bombs.’

F/A-18F Super Hornet firing an AIM-120D AMRAAM

US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet successfully executes the final shot in the Integrated Test Program of the AIM-120D SIP-3

F/A-18F Super Hornet loaded for Buddy-Stores Tanking Duty

Global F/A-18 and EA-18 fleet hits 10 million flight-hours milestone

F/A-18E Super Hornet loaded for ASuW with SLAM-ER

Here’s why a US Navy Nimitz-Class aircraft carrier would have no problem in defeating Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov in a 1v1 fight

E/A-18G Growler loaded to bead for Jamming, AAW and Anti-Radiation Missiles

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E-2D Hawkeye providing AEW support.


Shannon concludes;

‘It really wouldn’t be much of a fight.’

Photo credit: U.S. Navy and Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.
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