WASHINGTON – The Moskva is the pride of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, a symbol of the country’s dominance in the region and a powerful war machine used to launch precision cruise missiles deep into the seas. in Ukraine.
Despite Russian claims that a fire accidentally broke out on board the ship, US officials on Friday confirmed that two Ukrainian Neptune missiles hit the ship, killing several sailors and taking it with arsenal to the bottom of the Black Sea.
The sinking of the Moscow ship on Thursday was a heavy blow to the Russian fleet and a dramatic testament to the current era of warfare, in which shore-fired missiles can destroy even ships. biggest, strongest. It was also the most significant combat loss of any navy since 1982, when the Argentine Air Force sank a British guided-missile destroyer and other ships during the Falklands War.
Russian cruise missiles have been used to brutally attack apartment buildings in Ukrainian cities, and Moscow’s guns have fired on Ukraine’s Snake Island. The Kremlin’s most powerful missile platform cannot be replaced, and sinking it is a daring counterattack, retired military officers said.
Moscow has inspired those who see it – teeming with rockets and glimmering across the landscape – and has been the embodiment of Russian power in the region for decades.
“It’s a very impressive ship,” said Rear Admiral Samuel J. Cox, director of the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington. “With those surface-to-surface missile launchers, she really looks dangerous. But apparently, she can’t take a punch.”
The shipwreck was of symbolic, diplomatic and military importance.
US officials confirmed that the Russian ships were pushed away from Ukraine’s coast, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence assessments of the war. The rest of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet remains within range of launching cruise missiles into Ukraine but cannot support any amphibious assaults on the country’s coastal cities, according to former officials.
Naval analysts have worried for years that New generation anti-ship missile would endanger large and important ships such as the Moscow or the US aircraft carrier fleet. The sinking of the Moskva is a clear sign that the future has come.
Moscow itself was designed as a ship killer. Construction of the ship, originally called the Slava, began in 1976, and the ship entered service in 1983. Built by the Soviet Union to sink an American aircraft carrier, it was armed with missiles. capable of attacking aircraft, ships and submarines.
Upgraded several times over the years, Moscow should have had the defenses to shoot down Ukrainian missiles. The ship is equipped with a medium-range surface-to-air system that is said to be effective within seven miles, and it also has other missiles designed to destroy threats 50 miles away. In theory, its cannon could also shoot down a Neptune rocket. But none of the defenses worked.
“War is a cruel thing,” said Adm. Gary Roughead, former director of naval operations, said. “You have to invest to defeat the weapons that people will throw at you.”
It is not difficult to make or exploit anti-ship weapons. Hezbollah attack an Israeli warship during the 2006 Lebanon war. Houthi rebels in Yemen fired multiple anti-ship missiles at a US Navy destroyer in two separate attacks in 2016, prompting retaliation for the Tomahawk cruise missile attacks. While the US Navy has invested in anti-missile technology for decades, American war planners see Chinese missiles as a real threat in a conflict.
Though painfully symbolic for Russia, the loss of the Moskva also has practical implications for the ongoing war. The missiles that should have been fired at Ukraine are now at the bottom of the Black Sea, a blow to Russia’s war plans.
Moscow would play a key role in any potential amphibious assault on the Ukrainian coastal city of Odesa. While other amphibious ships will be used to bring Russian naval infantry to shore, the Moskva will protect those ships and launch missile attacks on the city.
Now, Admiral Cox said, any amphibious assault on Ukraine would be much more dangerous for Russia, with its landing craft and landing craft much more vulnerable.
The further Russian ships are from the coast, the more limited their ability to support ground attacks on Ukrainian cities will be. While the greater distance may make some attacks more difficult, it won’t keep Russia’s more powerful missiles out of range. Some of Russia’s sea-launched cruise missiles can reach 1,550 miles, while Ukraine’s Neptune has a range of about 190 kilometers.
Before the attack on Moscow, a senior Defense Ministry official said that Russia’s Black Sea Fleet operated relatively unpunished..
“They think they can run around the Black Sea and go wherever they want,” said Adm. James G. Foggo III is retired, director of the Center for Maritime Strategy at the United States Navy. “They’ve discovered otherwise.”
Preventing an attack on Odesa is a priority for the Ukrainian military, which for weeks has asked the United States and its allies to add anti-ship missiles and other so-called coastal defense weapons.
Senior Ukrainian officials have told the Pentagon they need anti-ship missiles and other weapons to open a new front and repel the Russian invasion, US officials said.
Russo-Ukrainian War: Main developments
The attack on Moscow shows that Ukraine’s claim is “very well-founded”, a senior defense ministry official said.
Admiral Foggo said that by building coastal defenses, the Ukrainians will be able to fight the Russian fleet even without a powerful navy. Missiles, smart mines and other advanced equipment will keep them away from Russian ships.
“You don’t have to have a battleship to go out and defend the coast of Ukraine” he say. “It’s easier to shoot from the shore. Defense is easier than attack. So now the Russians have a problem. ”
The United States responded to Ukraine’s request by adding coastal defense weapons to a $800 million package announced this week. Senior Pentagon officials also asked U.S. military contractors during a meeting on Wednesday to develop proposals for additional anti-ship missiles the United States could provide Ukraine or their allies.
Several US officials said they did not understand why Russia continued to claim that the Moskva was destroyed in an accident and not as a result of a Ukrainian attack. Russia still wants to make Ukraine’s military successes public. The US intelligence agency assessed that high-ranking Russian officials did not let President Vladimir V. Putin Accurate reporting of the war in Ukraineand former officials say Russian military officials most likely lied to the Kremlin about what happened to Moscow.
“Losing the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is like losing a precious jewel: a serious damage to prestige, which I believe may have affected Putin personally because he was so attached to the vision how important it is to rebuild Russia as a naval power,” said Katarzyna Zysk, professor at the Norwegian Institute of Defense Studies in Oslo.
The sinking of the Moskva, officials said, also demonstrates the strategic importance for Ukraine in expanding the battlefield from its towns to the Black Sea, where Russia’s fleet has long dominated. treat. Admiral Foggo said, and it revealed deep problems in the Russian military. Well-trained sailors, he said, were able to stop the flooding caused by the missile attacks, put out the fire and save the ship.
While some American analysts predict that the Ukrainians may have destroyed Moscow, officials say that at this point in the war, no one should be surprised by Ukraine’s capabilities.
And the sinking of the ship was one of the deadliest blows of the Ukrainian military.
“It is amazing to think about how damaging this will be to the morale of the Russian Navy, given its iconic name, its role as flagship and the fact that it is a commercial perished in combat,” said retired Adm James G. Stavridis, a former supreme allied commander in Europe. “As for the Russians losing such an important unit, yes, you have to go back to World War II.”
Julian E. Barnes reported from Washington, and James Glanz from New York. Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt and John Ismay Contribution report from Washington.