While the Soviet Navy of the Cold War decades fielded some form of aircraft carrier its carrier fleet compared unfavorably to that of the West - in particular that of the United States Navy. The service lacked a true "Blue Water" capability for deploying aircraft so, to remedy this imbalance, it was decided to focus on a new "supercarrier" class of warship to bring the Soviet Navy on par with its enemies. This gave rise to the "Ulyanovsk" aircraft carrier was based on the earlier "Project 1153 OREL" design work. However, neither vessel saw the light in the face of cancellation - the Soviet Navy instead forced to rely on its small carrier fleet, limited surface fleet and advanced submarines force for its deep water show-of-strength.
As designed, Ulyanovsk would have displaced in the 94,000 ton (short) range with measurements made up of an overall length of 1,054 feet, a beam of 275 feet and a draught of 35 feet. Unlike many of the other available Soviet Naval vessels, Ulyanovsk would be completed with a nuclear-powered propulsion system headed by 4 x KN-3 reactors feeding 4 x steam turbines and driving 4 x shafts through 280,000 horsepower output. Maximum speed was estimated at 30 knots in ideal conditions and operational ranges essentially unlimited thanks to the nuclear propulsion scheme. The reactors held a service life of 20 to 25 years. The crew complement was to number 3,400 and local defense provided by 12 x P-700 "Granit" surface-to-surface / "Buk" surface-to-air missile systems. 8 x CADS-N-1 Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWS) would supply a "last-line-of-defense" against incoming aerial threats and be supported through 8 x AK-630 rotating anti-aircraft cannons to boot.
The heart-and-soul of the vessel was a complete collection of varied aircraft types to number sixty-eight in all. Forty-four of these would be represented by the Sukhoi Su-33 "Flanker" or Mikoyan MiG-29K "Fulcrum" fleet defense fighters - these aircraft being navalized versions of their respective land-based counterparts. Yakovlev was to supply six of its proposed Yak-44 aircraft for the Airborne Early Warning (AEW) role, decidedly similar in form and function to the American Grumman E-2 "Hawkeye" line, thought this design did not move beyond the planning stage. The carrier was to also hold support facilities for the launching and recovery of rotary-wing aircraft made up of a fleet of sixteen Kamov Ka-27 Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) helicopters and 2 x Kamov Ka-27PS types for Search and Rescue (SAR) actions.
Outwardly, the Ulyanovsk was to take on a conventional deck arrangement following more closely to the established American standard. The island superstructure would be seated near midships along the starboard side and three hangar elevators (two starboard, one port) were featured to provide access to the flight deck and lower hangar decks. Four catapults would be in play, two launching aircraft from the bow and two more launching over the portside. The bow would be completed with a "ski ramp" type lifting device to allow aircraft to become airborne in short order - a feature common to the smaller Soviet carriers of the period as well as those in service to European powers.
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