The Russian Black Sea Fleet may have lost another flagship
Ukrainian Navy for months was hunting frigates of the Russian Navy Admiral Makarov. It appears that the Ukrainians have finally fired on the 409-foot, missile-armed ship in her home port of Sevastopol, in Russian-occupied Crimea.
On Saturday, the Ukrainian government released dramatic videos apparently showing a successful nighttime attack Makarov or her sister ship Admiral Essen of at least one unmanned surface ship.
The speedboat-sized USV, likely packing hundreds of kilograms of explosives, evaded Russian helicopters and small boats and drove directly at the frigate, closing within a few feet before the video cut out.
There are still no photos or videos circulating online to confirm whether the frigate sustained any damage. At best, her crew blew up the drone boat before the drone boat exploded to them. at worst, Makarov or Essen suffered waterline damage that can quickly sink a ship. Not to mention the fires that could have been the result of the explosion.
A daring robot attack is history repeating itself. Makarov became the flagship of Russia’s depleted Black Sea Fleet in April after Ukrainian drones and land-based missile crews worked together to sink the previous flagship, a 612-foot cruiser Moscow.
Even though Makarov remains afloat – and this is a clear possibility – the Ukrainians can still count the night attack as a victory. There are reports that other Black Sea Fleet ships were damaged in the attack. And avoid the future In the event of a USV attack, the Russians will either have to devote significantly more resources to the defense of Sevastopol, or withdraw the three dozen surviving ships of the Black Sea Fleet from Crimea.
The Ukrainian Navy has been shockingly successful, given that there are no large ships left. In the early hours of the first Russian bombing on February 23, the ship’s crew Hetman Sahaidachnyflagship of the Ukrainian Navy and only large surface combatant, sank the frigate at its mooring in Odesa, Ukraine’s strategic port on the western Black Sea.
In the first two months of Russia’s wider war against Ukraine, the Russians dominated the Black Sea. Sailing and flying with impunity, they seized tiny Snake Island, 80 miles south of Odessa, and — using the island and some gas platforms they seized from Ukraine as bases for air defense and surveillance equipment — enforced a blockade of Odessa that effectively cut off vital Ukrainian exports cereals.
The Black Sea Fleet was ready to attempt an amphibious landing around Odessa. Seizing the port would complete Russia’s conquest of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast and cut the country off from the sea, permanently choking its economy.
Russian forces have since captured or dispersed the rest of the Ukrainian navy’s ships, including one amphibious assault ship and a group of armored patrol boats. When the Ukrainians retaliated, they did so with land-based missiles, drones and USVs.
The tide began to turn on March 23, when a Ukrainian Tochka ballistic missile hit a landing ship of the Black Sea Fleet Saratov while she was on the pier in the occupied port of Berdyansk. The explosion sank Saratovdamaged at least one other amphibious assault ship and underscored the danger Russian ships could face in a direct attack on Odessa.
Then, on April 13, a Ukrainian Navy anti-ship battery placed two Neptune missiles into the side of a Russian cruiser Moscow, eventually it sinks a 612-foot vessel.
In one attack, the Ukrainians deprived the Black Sea Fleet of its main anti-aircraft ship with their long-range S-300 surface-to-air missiles. They are desperate to preserve their surviving large warships – especially these two Admiral Grigorovich– class frigates including Makarov—fleet commanders pulled the larger ships 80 miles off the Ukrainian coast.
This exposed the rest of the Black Sea Fleet – especially the support ships that cannot defend themselves effectively – to attack by Ukrainian missiles and drones. “Russian supply ships receive minimal protection in western Black Sea”, UK MoD stated.
Ukraine, meanwhile, has bolstered its Neptune battery with US-made Harpoon missiles, increasing the risk to Russian ships in the western Black Sea. The missiles coordinated with drone operators flying Turkish-made TB-2 drones to capture and sink several Black Sea fleets. Raptor patrol boats and landing craft.
In early May, there were rumors that a Ukrainian rocket had hit Makarov. That turned out to be false. But the harpoon did crashes and sinks support ship Vsevolod Bobrov while on May 12 she stocked Snake Island.
Ukrainian missiles also hit at least one of the gas platforms used by the Russians for observation. Ukrainian drones, fighters and artillery bombarded Snake Island, rendering the treeless rock uninhabitable.
The Russian garrison escaped from the island on May 31. A week later, Ukrainian commandos displayed the Ukrainian flag. The liberation of Snake Island signaled to the Ukrainian merchant marine that the western Black Sea was safe for trade.
Odessa was still under blockade — and would remain so until Turkey brokered an end to the port blockade in late July — but ships could now bring grain from Ukraine through canals connecting small river ports near Romania’s border with the western Black Sea.
The river route could regain its former importance after last night’s attack on Sevastopol. The Kremlin said it was terminating an agreement with Kiev to allow large grain ships to sail from Odessa.
The Russians do not act from a position of strength. Unable to recoup the losses of the Black Sea Fleet as long as Turkey controlled the Bosphorus Strait that connects the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, Russian commanders focused on protecting what was left of the fleet. The ships hug the Crimean coast, staying within range of land-based aircraft and S-400 surface-to-air missiles.
But Ukrainian drone boats hit the Black Sea Fleet well within that protective umbrella. Between ballistic and anti-ship missiles and air and sea drones, the Ukrainian armed forces have many ways to sink Russian ships.
The Black Sea Fleet is not safe in the western Black Sea. It is not safe in Sevastopol. The only place power be sure is the only place where it is completely irrelevant to the wider war: in ports in Russia itself, docked and heavily guarded around the clock.
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