Ukraine update: Stunning news as Ukraine reportedly sinks Russia’s Black Sea Fleet flagship

Ukraine update: Stunning news as Ukraine reportedly sinks Russia’s Black Sea Fleet flagship

(I’m basing this report on early information. The fog of war is thick. So approach everything with appropriate hesitation and skepticism.)

The day’s big war news is … it’s big. Ukraine has sunk the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the guided missile cruiser Moskva—the very ship Ukrainians told to go fuck themselves on the first day of the war. 

The Russian MoD is claiming that ammunition exploded on the Black Sea Fleet’s flagship, the Moskva Project 1164 missile cruiser, and that it has sustained serious damage.

— Rob Lee (@RALee85) April 13, 2022

Further reports say the ship has sunk, with Russia evacuating “some” of the ship’s sailors. While it’s doubtful we get a truthful account of casualties from the Russians, this is likely the largest mass-casualty event for the invaders this entire war, while losing a ship likely costing in the hundreds of millions of dollars. (An American guided missile cruiser costs around $1 billion.)

Piecing together reports from the Open Source Intelligence Community and Russian reports, we’re getting a picture of how the operation played out. (And note, there is a lot of misinformation floating around, like this, so I’ve been very careful piecing this together.)

First of all, there’s this bit of news that emerged today: 

BREAKING: The Biden administration will share intelligence with Ukraine that will help them hit targets in Crimea and the occupied territories of Donbas, WSJ reports citing Pentagon sources.

— Faytuks News Δ (@Faaytuks) April 13, 2022

No one will confirm, for a long time, whether targeting was aided by American intelligence, but Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) sources who track aircraft flights claim that all NATO intelligence planes had cleared out of the Black Sea prior to the attack (or at least turned off their transponders, making them go dark). 

According to a supposed Russian intercept (consider information unconfirmed), Ukraine flew a TB2 Bayraktar around Mykolaiv, grabbing the Moskva’s attention, which has apparently been providing anti-air radar and missile services during the war. A translation by a random Twitter user translated the gist of the intercept (full of military slang that stymied a lot of people):

A “trojan horse” aircraft was flying between Voznesensk and Mykolaiv, around Kryviy Rih. Moskva was providing long range air defense for them and got distracted long enough, with the target AND poor weather as well, to have two Neptunes stick their tridents through the hull.

Thus, focused on the drone on the Ukrainian mainland, the Neptunes flew in under cover of distraction and stormy seas to hit the ship. Another Russian report, posted multiple times by several credible OSINT people, reported a similar sequence of events (running it through Google Translate):

According to preliminary information, the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet cruiser “Moscow” sank.

The official information of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, which appeared only at 2 o’clock in the morning, states that as a result of the fire there was a partial detonation of ammunition, and part of the crew was evacuated.

According to information from Ukraine, which appeared long before the statement of the Russian Defense Ministry, the cruiser “Moscow” was destroyed by the RCC “Neptune”.

According to our preliminary information, the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the cruiser Moscow, was indeed attacked by the Neptune RCC from the coastline between Odessa and Nikolaev. The ship’s forces were also diverted to counter the Bayraktar TB-2 UAV. The blow hit the port side, as a result of which the ship took a strong roll. After the threat of detonation of ammunition, the crew of about ~ 500 people was evacuated. The buoyancy of the cruiser was complicated by marine weather conditions. As a result of all aggregate factors, according to preliminary information, and unfortunately, the cruiser joined the underwater satellite group “Roskomos”.

Roskomos is the Russian NASA. Someone else can try and figure out the reference, but it’s clearly some kind of cultural slang. I was going to make a joke about how Russian ships can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, but apparently that’s actually true. After some digging, turns out that the Moskva could only track a single target at a time. And for some crazy reason, there was no other anti-missile defense capability on board. On their expensive flagship!

The once-proud flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva guided missile cruiser.

Did we just learn that the Russian navy is as hollow as its army?

What took so long for Ukraine to deploy its Neptune anti-ship missiles? The Neptune project was first announced in 2015 and slated for deployment last year. Yet none had appeared, while Ukraine asked NATO for anti-ship capabilities. Maybe they had never been delivered. Weapons systems famously suffer from schedule delays. 

Turns out Ukraine did have them. But if Ukraine only had a handful of these, their value would’ve been immeasurable during a contested amphibious assault on Odesa. Better to sink a landing ship with 1,000 naval infantry aboard than to fight them on land. With the threat of any assault on Odesa long gone, and Russia’s navy now complacent, the Moskva—named after Russia’s capitalwas an irresistible target.

The missile has a known range of 100 kilometers (62 mi), so it might’ve just been a question of waiting for the right opportunity: For the ship to sail within range, for the weather to be right, for the ship’s radar to “paint” the drone attempting to distract it, and any number of other intangibles we can’t even begin to guess at. The rain and rough seas certainly helped mask the missiles’ approach and, just as importantly, any rescue and salvage efforts. 

This is a military victory. Russia has just lost an anti-aircraft radar and missile system that could see deep into Ukraine. Survivability of Ukrainian air assets just improved. It is also a dramatic propaganda victory, yet another blow to Russian pride and morale, while dramatically increasing the cost of the war for Russia. 

And Russia can’t blame NATO for this attack! The missiles taking down the Moskva were an all-Ukrainian production. Simply brilliant. 

Meanwhile, Ukraine is taking a page from its Belgorod attack and cheekily pretending it had nothing to do with it. Check out Oleksiy Arestovych, military advisor to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy:

What specifically Arestovych said about ‘Mosvka’ in a livestream today #672

— Dmitri 🇺🇦 (@mdmitri91) April 13, 2022

“Who, us? It was probably a couple of cigarettes!” Freakin’ brilliant! Ukraine has really mastered the art of gloating without gloating. Oh, if only we could be a fly in the wall as Vladimir Putin got the news!

“This is a Russian warship. I propose you lay down arms and surrender to avoid bloodshed & unnecessary victims. Otherwise, you’ll be bombed.” Zmiinyi defenders: “Russian warship, go fuck yourself.”

— Woofers (@NotWoofers) February 24, 2022

Russian warship went and fucked itself.

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Thursday, Apr 14, 2022 · 3:02:04 AM +00:00 · kos

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that there had to be an American/NATO electronic surveillance plane in the Black Sea, transponder off, tracking what ship was painting the TB2 decoy with radar. There’s nothing on the Ukrainian side that could do that. It’s very advanced surveillance electronics. 

What’s shocking to me, once again, is how incapable Russian military is of talking to each other. A fleet exists for a reason. They work together. This one is listening for submarines, that one is looking out for mines, and hey, let’s keep an eye out in the sky. And if they know that a ship is exposed when doing its job, another ship fills the gap. Yet Russia 

Thursday, Apr 14, 2022 · 3:24:28 AM +00:00 · kos

This guy is an expert on the Russian nave: 

Second, Osas are bad at intercepting and disabling subsonic, sea-skimming targets. On April 16, 1987, an anti-air / missile interception exercise ended in disaster when Musson, a Nanuchka-class small missile boat got hit by an RM-15M target practice missile.

— Granger (@GrangerE04117) April 14, 2022

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