Ukraine has just achieved its latest naval victory over Russia. On December 26, pilots of Ukraine’s Air Force destroyed the large Russian landing ship Novocherkassk in the port of Russian-occupied Feodosia in Crimea.
This became the 16th Russian ship that Ukraine destroyed or severely damaged since the full-blown invasion in 2022 (as per Ukraine’s Navy spokesman)– a remarkable achievement for a country without a fleet. Here we recall all the ships of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet that Ukraine has struck with domestic, foreign missiles, as well as naval drones.
Russia planned a landing on the Odesa coast but retreated from occupied Crimea
Despite lacking a full-fledged navy, Ukraine has managed to curtail the Russian Black Sea Fleet and shift the balance of power in the Black Sea using assymetrical methods.
Having no powerful surface ships or submarines, posessing only a small number of its own anti-ship missiles, American Harpoons, SCALP and Storm Shadows, as well as and developing agile surface drones, Ukraine managed to take down some of Russia’s largest flagships.
In 2022, the Russian Black Sea Fleet command entered into full-scale war with Ukraine, planning assaults, breakthroughs into the Odesa roadstead, coastal operations and flank supplies for advancing troops.
To achieve this, on the eve of the invasion in February, Russia relocated six large landing ships from the Baltic and Northern fleets, as well as missile submarines, missile cruisers, and missile frigates to the Mediterranean and Black Sea areas from its Pacific fleet.
However, delivering naval assaults on Ukraine turned out to be no walk in the park.
The Black Sea Fleet of Russia has suffered losses of ships from Ukrainian drone strikes at sea, Tochka U missile hits in Berdiansk, and the famous case of the flagship cruiser Moskva being sunk by Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles according to the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. Hits from Harpoon missiles, an underwater drone attack, and an airstrike that likely used land-attack Neptunes at the Saki airbase have also occurred.
Aviation losses include a Su-24 bomber downed while laying mines far from shore, a Su-30SM naval aviation jet shot down near Mykolaiv, and a Su-34 struck near Odesa.
While landings are now out of the question and launches of Kalibr cruise missiles have become rare, Russia’s main naval threat to Ukraine is now to slowly suffocate its economy by blocking exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, denying merchant vessels the freedom of navigation.
Ukraine acts alone, destroys Russian ships one by one
In this situation, which NATO countries chose to ignore, Ukraine saw no other option than to act alone and destroy Russian ships one by one to unblock its ports, according to Former Defense Minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk.
This strategy has led to success. Kyrylo Danylchenko, BBC’s military reviewer for Ukraine, believes that the realization that they can end physically led the Black Sea Fleet to clear routes near occupied Crimea’s Sevastopol of mines and decide to relocate ships to Russia’s Novorossiysk, leading to logistical hurdles for its missile attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure and breaking Russia’s naval blockade of Odesa.
While the threat of landings seems reduced by Neptunes and Harpoons, the main issue for Ukraine at sea is the blockade of Black Sea ports, Danylchenko said. The temporary grain corridor that Ukraine is promoting despite Russia’s wirthdrawal from a deal to allow exports of Ukrainian grain eased the fire. However, shipping insurance, war risk premiums, and “demurrage” endured by shipowners still make maritime logistics to Ukrainian ports much more expensive.
Further control of sea lanes, expanding transshipment through the Danube, preventing inspection of merchant vessels far from shore, receiving more patrol boats and mine hunters will be key for Ukraine.
- Destroyed or seriously damaged
- The small missile corvette Velikiy Ustyug was disabled, likely damaged during an attack on 7 March 2022.
- The P-342 patrol boat Oleg Shipitsin was hit by an anti-tank missile system in the Sea of Azov on 20 March.
- On 24 March, the large landing ship Saratov was destroyed by the Ukrainian armed forces in the occupied city of Berdiansk, Zaporizhzhia Oblast with a Tochka-U missile.
- The same strike damaged the large landing ship Novocherkassk in Berdiansk. Three crew members were reported dead.
- As well, it damaged the large landing ship Caesar Kunikov. The ship’s captain was reported dead.
- On 14 April, the Ukrainian military struck the Russian frigate Admiral Essen near the shore of Odesa using Grad missiles.
- Russia lost its third-largest naval vessel, the Russian flagship missile cruiser Moskva, on 13 April when Ukraine struck it with Neptune missiles. A fire broke out and the ship began to sink. The Russian Defense Ministry officially acknowledged 27 missing and 17 dead crew members.
- On 2 May, patrol corvette P-342 Yunarmeets Baltiki was sunk by a Bayraktar combat drone near Zmiinyi Island.
In the next five days, Bayraktars also hit:
- landing boat D-310
- landing boat D-144
- patrol boats P-275
- patrol boat P-276
- patrol boat P-281 “Maksym Panin.”
- On 12 May, Ukraine hit the multi-purpose auxiliary vessel Vsevolod Bobrov with a Neptune missile, after which a fire erupted. According to media reports, the ship was carrying reinforcements to Zmiinyi Island, including anti-aircraft missile systems. The damaged ship was towed to Sevastopol.
- Ukrainian defenders sunk the Russian SB-739 rescue tug Vasiliy Bekh with Harpoon missiles in the Black Sea. Although small, the tug was crucial: it brought reinforcements to Zmiinyi Island and had an anti-aircraft missile system on deck.
According to maritime expert Andriy Klymenko, this enabled Ukraine’s fire control and eventually led to the liberation of Zmiinyi Island. It from this small yet crucial island in the Black Sea that the Russians controlled shipping routes in the Black Sea. It was Zmiinyi Island’s liberation that enabled the functioning of the grain corridor, a UN-brokered deal for Ukrainian grain exports to the Global South via the Black Sea ports, Klymenko says. “There would have been no grain corridor if the Russians had stayed on Zmiinyi,”
On 29 October 2022, Ukraine carried out a surface and aeriadrone attack on the Russian Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol Bay. As a result, two ships were put out of service:
- The Admiral Makarov guard frigate fleet flagship
- The Ivan Golubets marine minesweeper
Analysts considered the attack to be of great importance, on par with the sinkage of flagship Moskva. The drone attack in October 2022 reportedly led to a decrease in the activity of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
- The Ivan Khurs medium reconnaissance ship was severely damaged in the Black Sea after a naval drone attack on 25 May 140 km away from the Bosphorous strait.
- On 4 August, the large landing ship Olenegorskiy Gornyak was hit by naval drones in Novorossiysk Bay (Russia). It was reportedly the result of a joint operation by Ukraine’s Security Service and the Navy.
- The next day, a drone attacked the Russian oil tanker SIG in the Black Sea, which carried fuel for the Syrian group of Russian Navy ships.
- On 3 September, Ukraine destroyed a Russian KS-701 “Tunets“ type patrol boat in the Black Sea with a Bayraktar combat drone.
- On 13 September, the large landing ship Minsk was destroyed by an attack on a ship repair plant in Sevastopol, the OSINT project Oryx confirmed analyzing visual data. The attack was presumably carried out by Ukrainian aircraft with Storm Shadow missiles.
- The B-237 submarine Rostov-on-Don was severely damaged in the same attack.
- Also on 13 September, Ukraine destroyed a Russian KS-701 “Tunets“ type patrol boat in the Black Sea.
- On 14 September, the Samum small missile hovercraft was hit by the Ukrainian drone Sea Baby.
- Also on 14 September, Ukraine’s defense forces targeted two Russian patrol ships in the southwestern part of the Black Sea. At least one of the ships, Sergey Kotov patrol corvette, suffered damage from maritime drones.
The coordinated attack of 13-14 September was part of a Ukrainian effort to destroy air defenses in Crimea. Following it, Russia relocated three landing ships to the Azov Sea.
- On 11 and 13 October, the Pavel Derzhavin patrol corvette was damaged in the Black Sea near occupied Sevastopol.
- Also on 13 October, the SB-565 rescue tug Professor Nikolai Muru was attacked by a marine drone with experimental weapons.
- The Askold small missile corvette was hit on 5 November in a Ukrainian missile strike on the Zaliv shipyard in Kerch, reportedly with SCALP missiles. The central part of the Askold corvette’s hull, where 8 vertical launch installations were located to launch Kalibr and/or P-800 Oniks cruise missiles, was hit. This destroyed the main weapon system of this ship.
- On 9-10 November, Ukrainian forces hit minimum two Serna-class amphibious assault ships, with the Russian Navy’s designation Project 11770, in occupied Crimea.
- The Novocherkassk large landing ship was destroyed in the night before December 26. The Air Force reported that the Novocherkassk large landing ship was attacked with cruise missiles from tactical aviation around 02:30 with Storm Shadow/SCALP missiles. The Novocherkassk is designed to land amphibious assaults on unequipped coastlines and transport troops and cargo by sea. It is capable of transporting various types of armored vehicles, including tanks.
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