Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press Writer
MOSCOW (AP) -- A Russian news agency reported Tuesday that the country plans to build five or six aircraft carriers as part of efforts to rebuild its once-formidable navy.
The Interfax news agency quoted an unidentified Russian navy official as saying construction of the ships should start in 2012-2013.
The official was quoted as saying that plans to build the carriers are a top priority for the military, and they will not be derailed by the financial crisis.
The statement appears to contradict comments by Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov earlier this year that the navy should focus on smaller ships, no bigger than frigates or corvettes. Ivanov's statement indicated that the Kremlin was revising its lavish expansion plans under the impact of the financial crisis, which drained government coffers.
A military official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said that the navy remains committed to building aircraft carriers, but added that terms of their construction will depend on availability of funds. The official, who was not authorized to speak to the media on the record, said that it was too early to say yet when the construction of carriers could begin.
Russia now only has one Soviet-built carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, which is much smaller than U.S. carriers and has been plagued by mechanical problems and accidents.
The navy had to scrap numerous relatively new warships for lack of funds and could not properly maintain many others in the 1990s, leaving only a handful of big surface ships in seaworthy condition.