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Frontline report: Ukrainian forces hit Russian Black Sea Fleet HQ in two-stage air attack

In their daring air attack on 22 September, Ukrainian forces targeted the Russian Black Sea Fleet Headquarters in occupied Sevastopol, utilizing a combination of aerial drones and missiles in a two-stage operation.
Russian black sea fleet HQ in occupied Crimea
Russian Black Sea fleet HQ in occupied Sevastopol after a missile strike. Photo: telegram Крым реалии
Frontline report: Ukrainian forces hit Russian Black Sea Fleet HQ in two-stage air attack

Day 576: 22 September

Today, there is a lot of news from the south.

Map: screenshot from the video.

As promised by the Head of Ukrainian Intelligence, the attacks on the Russian bases in Crimea continued. By conducting these operations, Ukrainians are pursuing two goals of strategic significance: undermine supplies to the front and force Russians to relocate their air defense away from the front.

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet HQ smoking in occupied Sevastopol after a Ukrainian missile strike on 22 September 2023. Screenshot: Telegram/Krymskiy Veter

Today, Ukrainians conducted a very complex strike, combining aerial drones, modified anti-ship missiles, and cruise missiles. The main target of today’s strike became the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Ukraine strikes Russian Black Sea fleet HQ in occupied Crimea

Interestingly, two days ago, we saw how Ukrainians destroyed the secondary headquarters of the Command of the Fleet, so it looks like Ukrainians wanted to make sure that the Russian Command was present in the main building during today’s strike.

Screenshot from the video.

The attack had two stages. At first, Ukrainians launched several groups of drones toward Tarkhankut and Sevastopol to overload the air defense and then tried to strike Sevastopol with Neptune missiles. Russians were waiting for and prioritizing the missiles, which is why even though some drones hit their targets, all Neptune missiles were shot down.

Map: Screenshot from the video.

But the strike continued, seamlessly flowing into the second stage. The aerial drone strikes intensified even more, and Russians could no longer ignore it. Local residents reported explosions in Feodosia, likely near the oil depots. Explosions were also reported in Chornomorske and Saky, where the drones likely targeted the airfield. Ukrainian drones were also seen close to Simferopol.

Smoke in SImferopol during a Ukrainian drone and missile attack on occupied Crimea on 22 September 2023. Screenshot: Telegram/Krymskiy Veter

All of that was done to exhaust the Russian air defense because some Russian systems, like the remaining S-400, could intercept missiles very far from the area where they are stationed.

Map: Screenshot from the video.

And it worked because when Ukrainians launched Storm Shadow missiles, they once again flew over Tarkhankut without being shot down, implying that air defense was overwhelmed. As a result, Ukrainians successfully hit the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet.

Map: Screenshot from the video.

Russian sources reported that the missile hit precisely the office of the Commander of the Black Sea Navy. Other sources noted that there were at least six casualties. Russian forces understood that there were likely more missiles to come, which is why they turned on the siren and deployed a smokescreen to conceal the navy.

And the Russians were right, because very soon, local residents managed to catch on camera the arrival of 2 more missiles.

The Russian Ministry of Defense reported that Ukrainians hit the Navy Headquarters, and as a result, one person is missing, who was likely the commander himself. Other military-affiliated sources claimed that there was no one in the building. However, dozens of ambulances suggest otherwise. In response to the strike, Russians rolled out their multiple-launch rocket systems to the shore. However, no one knows why.

Russian multiple rocket launchers on the shore in occupied Sevastopol. Screenshot from the video.

Russian military analysts got upset with the performance of the Russian air defense and expressed doubt about the characteristics of the highly-praised S-400 air defense system, as even the remaining three systems on the peninsula should have coped with the strike, especially given their integration with other systems on the peninsula.

Some Russian analysts have been asserting for already three days in a row that Ukrainians are actually using ATACMS missiles that were shipped to Ukraine discreetly. But the abundant photos and videos clearly show that Russians were struck with Strom Shadow and Scalp missiles.

Nonetheless, today, it was confirmed that the United States will send Ukraine ATACMS missiles. President Biden reportedly promised President Zelenskyy to send a small number of such missiles.

However, Ukrainians should receive not the 300 km version that can wipe out big targets but a 140 km cluster bomb variant. This is extremely good news because Ukrainians already have HIMARS systems that can be used to launch them, so no additional steps are needed (like training or modification of aircraft that Ukrainians had to introduce to Su-24 to be able to carry Storm Shadow and Scalp missiles).

Ukrainian Su-24 bomber carrying a British-supplied Storm Shadow missile. Screenshot from the video.

Judging by the dynamics inside the Russian media space, Russians are already bracing for the new wave of strikes in the deep rear.

In our daily frontline report, we pair up with the military blogger Reporting from Ukraine to keep you informed about what is happening on the battlefield in the Russo-Ukrainian war.

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