Revealing New Capabilities, Ukraine Takes Out Russian Navy Flagship

Revealing New Capabilities, Ukraine Takes Out Russian Navy Flagship

Ukrainian officials claimed the Moskva was hit by a Ukrainian-built Neptune missile. 


The RTS Moskva, the flagship of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet, suffered severe damage on Tuesday after Ukrainian forces successfully attacked it with a ground-based anti-ship missile, according to a Ukrainian military spokesman.

The Russian state-run TASS and RIA Novosti news outlets quoted Russia’s Defense Ministry, which acknowledged that the Moskva had been heavily damaged after the ship’s ammunition exploded. Although the Moskva did not sink, a fire broke out on board, detonating the vessel’s ammunition and leading the crew to abandon the ship. Neither outlet reported the casualty toll to the ship’s 500-man crew from the strike.


Ukrainian officials and Ukraine-linked media celebrated the victory, adding that the missile involved in the attack had been a domestically designed Neptune ground-to-sea rocket. Maksym Marchenko, governor of Ukraine’s Odessa Oblast, shared the news on Telegram and noted that “the missile cruiser Moskva today went exactly where it was sent by our border guards on Snake Island”—a reference to the famous profanity-laced exchange between the Moskva and border guards on Ukraine’s Snake Island at the beginning of the conflict.

The Neptune missile appears to be based on the AS-20 Kayak anti-ship missile, which was first developed by the Soviet Union in the 1980s but was only completed in 2003, more than a decade after the Soviet Union’s collapse. The Kayak missile is itself based on the U.S.-made Harpoon missile, which has remained in service with the U.S. Navy since 1977.

The Moskva first entered service in the Soviet Navy in 1982 under the name Slava; it is one of three Slava-class missile cruisers, alongside the RTS Marshal Ustinov and the RFS Varyag. Both ships are currently stationed in the Mediterranean and are not allowed to pass through the Turkish Straits to enter the Black Sea, effectively locking them out of the conflict.

The successful strike on the Moskva marks the second significant attack against a Russian ship during the nearly two-month conflict. On March 24, Ukrainian forces took out the Saratov, a Russian Alligator-class landing ship, at the port of Russian-occupied Berdiansk. The explosion from the attack on the Saratov also reportedly damaged a nearby merchant ship.

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its second month, Russian ships have continued to operate with near impunity within the Black Sea, as the Ukrainian military has comparatively few anti-ship missile systems. However, Ukraine’s coast remains heavily mined, complicating Russian efforts to conduct amphibious attacks on Ukrainian port cities such as Odessa.

Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.

Image: Reuters.