Russia’s Black Sea Fleet may have lost another flagship

The Ukrainian Navy for months chased away russian navy frigate Admiral Makarov. It appears the Ukrainians were finally able to fire on the 409ft missile-equipped vessel in its home port of Sevastopol in Russian-occupied Crimea.

The Ukrainian government on Saturday released dramatic videos apparently depicting a successful night strike on Makarov or its sister ship Admiral Essen by at least one unmanned surface vessel.

The speedboat-sized USV, possibly containing hundreds of pounds of explosives, dodged Russian helicopters and small boats and drove straight to the frigate, closing within meters before the video stream never turns off.

There are no photos or videos circulating online yet to confirm whether the frigate suffered any damage. Best-case scenario, his crew blew up the drone boat before the drone boat exploded their. In the worst case, Makarov Where Essen sustained the kind of waterline damage that can quickly sink a ship. Not to mention the possible fires that could have resulted from the explosion.

The daring robotic raid is history repeating itself. Makarov became the flagship of the depleted Russian Black Sea Fleet in April after Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles and land-based missile crews worked together to sink the previous flagship, the 612ft cruiser Moscow.

Even though Makarov stays afloat – and this is a distinct possibility – the Ukrainians can still count the night strike as a victory. There are reports of other Black Sea Fleet ships sustaining damage in the raid. And to avoid coming USV attacks, the Russians would either have to devote significantly more resources to protecting Sevastopol or withdraw the roughly three dozen surviving ships of the Black Sea Fleet from Crimea.

The Ukrainian navy has been shockingly successful, given that it no longer has large ships. In the early hours of the first Russian bombardment on February 23, the crew of Hetman SahaidachnyFlagship of the Ukrainian Navy and only major surface combatant, scuttled the frigate at its moorings in Odessa, Ukraine’s strategic port on the western Black Sea.

For the first two months of Russia’s broader war against Ukraine, the Russians dominated the Black Sea. Sailing and flying with impunity, they captured tiny Snake Island, 80 miles south of Odessa, and – using the island as well as some gas rigs they had captured from Ukraine as defense bases aerial and surveillance equipment – imposed a blockade of Odessa that effectively cut off Ukraine’s vital grain exports.

The Black Sea Fleet was about to attempt an amphibious landing around Odessa. Capturing the port would complete Russia’s conquest of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast and cut the country off from the sea, permanently strangling its economy.

Meanwhile, Russian forces captured or dispersed the rest of the Ukrainian Navy ships, including a landing craft and a handful of armored patrol boats. When the Ukrainians retaliated, they did so with land-based missiles, UAVs and USVs.

The tide began to turn on March 23, when a Ukrainian Tochka ballistic missile hit the Black Sea Fleet landing ship Saratov while she was docked in the busy port of Berdyansk. The explosion sank Saratovdamaged at least one other landing craft and highlighted the danger Russian ships could face in a direct assault on Odessa.

Then, on April 13, a Ukrainian navy anti-ship battery placed two Neptune missiles on the side of the Russian cruiser Moscow, ends up sinking the 612 foot vessel.

In a single strike, the Ukrainians deprived the Black Sea Fleet of its main air defense vessel with its S-300 long-range surface-to-air missiles. Desperate to preserve their surviving large warships, especially the two Admiral Grigorovichclass frigates including Makarov— fleet commanders withdrew the largest ships 80 miles from the Ukrainian coast.

This exposed the rest of the Black Sea Fleet, especially the support ships which cannot defend themselves effectively, to attacks from Ukrainian missiles and drones. “Russian supply ships have minimal protection in the western Black Sea,” the UK Ministry of Defense said. declared.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has reinforced its Neptune battery with American-made Harpoon missiles, increasing the risk to Russian ships in the western Black Sea. The missile launchers coordinated with drone operators flying Turkish-made TB-2 drones to hunt down and sink several Black Sea Fleet ships. Raptor patrol boats and landing craft.

In early May, rumors swirled that a Ukrainian missile had hit Makarov. This turned out to be wrong. But a harpoon did hit and sink the support ship Vsevolod Bobrov as she made a supply run to Snake Island on 12 May.

Ukrainian missiles also hit at least one of the gas platforms the Russians used for observation. Ukrainian drones, fighters and artillery shelled Snake Island, rendering the treeless rock uninhabitable.

The Russian garrison fled the island on May 31. A week later, Ukrainian commandos hoisted a Ukrainian flag. The release of Snake Island signaled to Ukrainian merchant shipping that the western Black Sea was safe for trade.

Odessa was still under blockade – and would remain so until Turkey negotiated an end to the port blockade in late July – but ships could now smuggle grain out of Ukraine via canals linking small river ports near the Romanian border west of the Black Sea.

The river route may regain its former importance following last night’s Sevastopol raid. The Kremlin has announced that it is ending its agreement with Kyiv to allow large grain ships to leave Odessa.

The Russians are not acting from a position of strength. Unable to replace Black Sea Fleet losses as long as Turkey controls the Bosphorus Strait connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, Russian commanders have focused on protecting what is left of the fleet. The ships sail along the Crimean coast, remaining within range of ground planes and S-400 surface-to-air missiles.

But Ukrainian drones hit the Black Sea Fleet well inside this protective umbrella. Between ballistic and anti-ship missiles and airborne and maritime drones, the Ukrainian armed forces have many means to sink Russian ships.

The Black Sea Fleet is not safe in the Western Black Sea. It’s not safe in Sevastopol. The only place where he strength being safe is the only place where it has nothing to do with the war at large: in the ports of Russia proper, tied to the quay and closely guarded 24 hours a day.

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