2.) Based on their experience building the Indian ship, they probably know by now on 200% that Kuznetsov is utterly insufficient for bluewater navy.
And there are 2 reasons for that claim:
a) It is not nuclear powered and needs to refuel now and then.
Lack of nuclear propulsion is not a huge drawback for a carrier... most of the vessels in a Russian Carrier battlegroup right now (if you put one together) would pretty much only include Kirov class cruisers as the only surface vessels with partial nuclear propulsion anyway so the support tail of the group would need to supply fuel to all the ships in the group anyway. Making the carrier alone a nuke would just reduce the amount of fuel needed to support the group, or because you can't change the amount of fuel the fuelling ships carry in actual fact what you do is extend the operational range of the other vessels in the group.
To get the real benefits of a nuclear carrier you need every vessel in the group to be nuclear powered which means the 16knt speed refuelling vessels wont slow the group down.
b) There are no catapults. For a blue water navy you need to have logistics - air logistics as well. If you are in the middle of nowhere you need to have a transport plane being able to cover long distance to haul cargo. An equivalent of C-2 Greyhound. Somehow i cannot imagine that an aircraft like this would be able to get out ino the air by a mere skijump.
Actually the transport fixed wing aircraft are not that useful... the Ka-32 can carry a 5 ton payload and transfer it from ship to ship much faster than a fixed wing transport can transfer it from land if there is a nearby land base in the first place.
A catapult would be very useful, but mainly for launching very large heavy aircraft like AWACS that would otherwise not be able to operate from the carrier. Large heavy fixed wing AWACS can have large antenna, and large fuel tanks for long periods on station... they don't necessarily need to be manned, though two way datalinks with surface vessels will effect emcon.
It isn't affordabe right now - countries will cut their orders and that will increase the cost of the plane even more.
It is a vicious circle where it costs too much so they reduce numbers which of course increases the price etc etc. The Naval VSTOL model is the most expensive of all the F-35 models and most likely to be cut... leaving a CTOL model.
4.) New Russian carrier will not have a unique focus on fleet air defense which was the role of Kuznetsov. New ship need to have balanced roles. It needs to be able to protect the fleet from air threats as much as it needs to be able to show ground attack capability. The fact that rest of the fleet will have significant ground attack capability is not an excuse of not having ground strike airplanes aboard. The reason for that is that often your targets aren't just stationary strategic infrastructure, but also moving mobile targets. For that you need some sort of observation in the area to determine what is target and what not - a piloted plane or a drone. So either way you need a strike plane or strike drone.
The primary focus will be air defence with anti sub warfare as a secondary mission I suspect. For strike missions there might be a SKATE type UCAV, but I really don't see them putting dedicated strike aircraft on board... other than UCAVs of course. The PAK FA is multi role and should be able to perform medium strike missions, but as I have mentioned I really don't see the Russians using their carrier groups against a lot of land targets any time soon... it is just not their way. Perhaps firing a cruise missile or two, but not an air strike.
On the issue of catapults i hear they experience problems in lower Temp. which is why there not being used.
Steam cats have problems at lower temperatures with ice build up blocking the slots. Likely any cat system the Russians introduce will be EM cats.
On the issue of air transport i wonder if Russia is able to produce a light transport aircraft with a long enough range to bypass EU/NATO airspace and head to "the middle of nowhere" and return?
Makes rather more sense to use helicopters to transfer supplies and stores from nearby ships... quicker and more efficient...
Unfortunately the F-35 will enter production and will be mass produced simply because unlike the RAH-66 there is no alternative,
Probably very true but I doubt that will save the VSTOL F-35. The CTOL F-35 might make it, but I suspect the VSTOL F-35 will get the chop.
The huge irony is that the entire design of the aircraft was based around making the VSTOL version possible which meant choices were made that might not otherwise have been made to allow for those features.
and as for Navy drones i have heard nothing.
AFAIK the SKATE is pretty much just an unmanned Mig-29 with a 2 ton payload, no AB, and 2,000km range plus stealth. A two seater Mig-29K could be launched with it to send it into enemy territory, find a target and deal with it and then guide it home offering CAP for it.