Russian Flag Ship Moskva Sank in Black Sea

Faye Higbee

The Moskva, the Russian Flag Ship, sank in the Black Sea on April 14 after reportedly being struck with two Ukrainian missiles. It was the largest Russian ship in the Black Sea and won’t be easily replaced.. How that happened is a controversy.

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From the shore in Odesa, Ukraine then launched two Neptune missiles from a mobile launcher in rapid succession directed at the broad portside of the Moskva from a distance of 40-60 miles. These were launched at night and in weather that was overcast and raining. The rain would have degraded the performance of the Moskva’s air and surface search radar reducing their range of detection of the inbound missiles which are flying only about 50 ft above the waves.  At 12 miles from the target, the two Neptunes would be skimming the waves at a height of just 3ft above the waves and their active radars would be looking to lock onto the Moskva’s signature. Moskva would respond to the detection with a hard turn into the missiles to bring herself bow on and would have dispensed chaff, radar jammers, and fired short-range surface-to-air missiles and then her close-in weapons systems cannons to try and shoot them down.  The reports that she was hit on the port side suggest she was late in detecting the missiles or reacting to them and had not completed her turn in when she was struck.  At a speed of 700 plus miles per hour for the Neptunes and a distance of 40-60 miles from the target, Moskva would have had between four and seven minutes to detect, track, target, and fire at the incoming missiles if they were immediately picked up at their launch point.

Sean Spoontz at SOFREP

On April 14, the Russian Defense Ministry stated that the Moskva had significant damage from an explosion and fire and was being towed to port in Sebastopol, Crimea. Ukraine claimed credit, saying that they hit the ship with two Neptune anti-ship missiles. The missiles have a range of around 100 miles. The ship was about 60 miles off the coast near Odesa. Russia denies that that ship was hit with missiles and said the damage was from an ammunition fire aboard.

According to SOFREP, the vessel began listing to port at around 0114 on April 14. The ship lost electrical power at around 0147. A Turkish vessel nearby took 54 crew members off the ship at 0207. At 0248, Turkish and Romanian ships reported the Moskva sank. Russia did not mention the assistance of the Turkish vessel. The Moskva was the only large Russian ship in the Black Sea, as Turkey closed the passage to it at the beginning of the war.

Pentagon Spokeman John Kirby said the US could not confirm or deny that Ukraine missiles caused the ship to sink, but US officials stated they believe that the missiles indeed caused the sinking. But for Russia, this is a major disaster both militarily and with regard to “public relations” (not that those have been particularly wonderful since the invasion began).

Screenshot from Mikhail Khodorkovsky (English) on Twitter @mbk_center

The Moskva is believed to be the largest ship in Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, and is roughly equivalent to US guided-missile cruisers. It carries 16 anti-ship missiles, over 100 S-300 and SA-N-4 Gecko anti-aircraft missiles, anti-submarine weapons, and several close-in machine-gun systems for its own defense. Moskva is larger than comparable surface combatant ships in the US military, such as US Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

Coffee or Die

“Was” is the operative word now. According to media reports, the Moskva at 600 feet long, 12,500 tons, was scheduled for a weapons upgrade in 2015, but the Russians skipped it. The fate of the crew is unknown, although Russia claimed that all 500+ crew members were evacuated. The Turkish statement that they managed to get 54 crew members off the vessel may counter that claim. The 4 or 5 ships cruising with the Moskva were relocated to about 80 miles off the shore, according to the Pentagon.


Featured screenshot of the Moskva (which means Moscow)

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