Ukraine has hobbled Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Could it turn the tide of the war?

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Since those early days, however, Kiev has seized the initiative, as rocket attacks and mysterious explosions have devastated the Russian fleet, sunk several ships – including its flagship, the Moskva – and devastated its Crimean-based air wing in a dramatic attack this year. month.

While the Black Sea Fleet has been strong enough to keep the small Ukrainian navy at bay, it has never been the pride of the Russian Navy. The Northern Fleet, based in Severomorsk, is by far the Kremlin’s largest and most modern fighting force and had sent some of its own ships to assist just before the Russian invasion.

But the Crimean-based fleet would play a big part in holding Ukrainian forces in the south to defend against an expected amphibious assault that never came, while supporting the occupied peninsula. Although Russian submarines fire on Ukraine from time to time, the fleet has failed to live up to expectations set at the outset of the war and has positioned itself in what amounts to a defensive squat in harbor or far offshore to Prevent Ukrainian attack.

Since the spring, the problems of the Black Sea Fleet have increased, the result of poor leadership, outdated equipment and a hubris that the Ukrainians were only too happy to exploit.

The series of military disasters led to the resignation of the fleet commander, Admiral Igor Osipov.

That resistance has been fierce. Ukraine’s domestically developed Neptune anti-ship missile that sank the Moskva, and the Denmark-donated harpoon missiles that sunk a Russian supply ship this spring have forced the fleet to spend months far offshore and beyond. keep the fight.

Oleksandr Turchynov, Ukraine’s former acting president and former secretary of the country’s National Security and Defense Council who jump-started the Neptune project, told POLITICO he was proud of the missile.

“An hour after the cruiser was hit, I exchanged pleasantries with Oleg Korostylev, the general designer of the Ukrainian design bureau Luch,” he said in an interview from the Southern Front, where he is deployed as an officer. Korostylev was key to the development of the Neptune program. “We congratulated each other on the fact that this is a very serious result.”

Turchynov said a Neptune missile also hit the frigate Admiral Essen in April. But Russia was able to shoot down the second missile aimed at the ship because of the time between launches.

Ukraine took that as a lesson, firing two missiles at once in the attack on the Moskva. “They broke through the air defenses and were able to sink the target,” Turchynov said.

Both on land and at sea, “Russian forces are much more vulnerable than they thought they were,” a senior Defense Ministry official told reporters this month. This person, like others quoted in this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to talk candidly about the war.

Not only does the cruiser Moskva lie on the bottom of the Black Sea, but days of Ukrainian drone and missile strikes on Russian-occupied Snake Island in May and June damaged or destroyed several smaller landing and transport ships that the Russians had docked on the strategic island 22 miles off the southwest coast of Ukraine. The strikes also knocked out several modern air defense and radar systems, essentially ending Russian dominance of the sea and air and returning a key tract of land to Kiev.

The Battle of Snake Island showed that the Russian fleet had no response to Ukrainian attacks, and Russia’s abandonment of the island made its ships even more vulnerable to Ukrainian attacks.

“The losses to Russian amphibious ships are arguably more significant than the Moskva,” said Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute that tracks Russia’s and Ukraine’s militaries. The losses hamper Russia’s ability to move troops and equipment across Crimea by sea, and have made the Russians reluctant to use the modern landing ships it had transferred from the Northern and Baltic fleets just before the war.

The reluctance to actually use its ships as a fighting force means the fleet has become virtually impotent and “has done nothing for several months,” a second DoD official told POLITICO.

A Western diplomat agreed with that assessment, telling POLITICO: “The Russian Black Sea Fleet is broken and now used only as a defensive force with the occasional cruise missile strike.” Keeping the fleet well at sea severely limits Russia’s campaigning capabilities in southern Ukraine. The fleet itself — consisting of small missile-loaded corvettes and frigates, landing craft and six submarines — still has more than 30 ships at sea or in port, but their effectiveness and maneuverability has been severely hampered by Moskva’s air defenses and radar display. supplied by Snake Island were eliminated.

The Russian fleet is “not really doing much,” the Western official said. “Snake Island gave them a little more flexibility, and now they’ve stripped it. Losing them only further diminishes their tactical capabilities.”

The Black Sea Fleet’s aviation regiment, based at Saki Air Force Base in Crimea, was also badly hit this month during a night of air strikes that wiped out about half of the unit’s aircraft, the Western official said, confirming assessments of other officials.

Elsewhere, a drone is said to have attacked the fleet headquarters in the port city of Sevastopol in July and last week.

The attacks and the publicity they have received in the West have not gone unnoticed by Putin. The replacement of the chief admiral of the Black Sea Fleet was covered in the Russian state media, an almost unprecedented move by a regime that prioritizes the projection of power and competence, even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

“Poor preparation, apparent carelessness and a general lax attitude on the part of the Black Sea Fleet likely led to the admiral’s resignation,” Kofman said.

After a drone attack on the Black Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimea during Russia’s Naval Day celebrations, “they did not appear to change their operating procedures,” leading to a second drone attack on the building this month. Overall, the fleet leaders have “failed to adapt since the start of the war, revealing the fleet’s structural deficiencies in terms of training, professionalism, adherence to safety procedures and adaptability.”

Those same failures have plagued the Russian war effort from the start, first when elite troops and heavy armored units were repulsed in their initially disjointed pendulum swing toward Kiev, and later when troops were driven from Bucha and Irpin in the north, where they were unable to make early gains. to hold on.

Sloppy communications encryption has also led to near-constant attacks on Russian command and control and headquarters sites, resulting in the deaths of top officers, including generals.

In recent weeks, military analysts have been stunned by Russia’s push to stock up on ammunition in large depots not far from the front lines, where Ukrainians have fired US-supplied precision missiles and artillery shells, turning the depots into fireballs overnight. after night.

The Ukrainian attacks on what amounts to stationary targets on both land and sea have in a sense frozen the conflict, the Western diplomat said. After six months of fighting, the Russians and their moribund logistics and command structure have thwarted the Kremlin’s early ambitions to wage a short, sharp war.

“What they seem to be doing is just trying to limit losses, as opposed to maneuvering and impacting” on the battlefield and in the Black Sea, the diplomat said.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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