The Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov transited the English Channel on Friday en route to Syria.
Likely envisioned as the latest display of Russian power projection, the move appears to have backfired.
Photos and videos captured by international media showed the vessel billowing large plumes of black smoke, drawing jokes on social media that the steam-powered ship was actually a 19th century relic fueled by coal.
The Russian aircraft carrier, its flagship, is making its first combat deployment, cruising to the eastern Mediterranean Sea to launch airstrikes in Syria, where Russia supports the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in the five-year-old civil war.
The U.S. has also deployed aircraft and special operations forces to the fight in Syria to support rebels who oppose Assad and militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
Naval enthusiasts on Twitter couldn’t resist commenting on what could be wrong with the Kuznetsov, with one observer, Mark Best, saying the excessive smoke could be the result of water in the fuel or partially burned fuel, among other factors.
@cdrsalamander 1. water in the fuel. 2. casing leaks in the boiler or uptakes. 3. bad or dirty atomizers 4.unburned fuel in boiler DANGER— Mark Best (@navy_nuke_lc) October 21, 2016
“One can only hope that the technicians in the plants aren’t dying of carbon monoxide poisoning,” he wrote in another Tweet.
The angled-deck ship, commissioned in 1990, was to carry about 25 fixed wing and rotary aircraft, including about 10 fighter jets such as the Sukhoi Su-33 (known as the Flanker D in NATO parlance) and Mikoyan MiG-29K/KUB twin-engine fighters and about 15 attack helicopters such as the Kamov Ka-52K, Ka-27 and Ka-31, according to previous Russian news reports.
The ship’s crew was to coordinate the airstrikes with colleagues at Russia’s Hmeymim air base in Syria south of the port city of Latakia in the eastern part of the country, according to TASS. The ship is currently undergoing trials in the Barents Sea after repairs, it reported.
Here’s a video of the smoke-filled passage by the Russian aircraft carrier: