Can someone page Sean Connery’s son? Because it seems like the time to start casting a new movie about Russian submarines. Except this time the submarine’s story can probably be told in a one-minute commercial—a spectacular, flame-filled commercial.
On Tuesday evening, Ukraine launched an attack against drydocks associated with the naval port at Sevastopol in Russian-occupied Crimea. In that attack, the Rostov-on-Don, a Kilo-class submarine, was reportedly destroyed. A surface ship, reportedly a Ropucha-class landing ship that has been identified as the Minsk, was also heavily damaged and is also likely to be destroyed.
Unlike Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities, Ukraine used its long-range precision weapons to strike vital interests of the Russian military. And this single attack cost Russia assets worth well over $300 million.
At the beginning of the week, Ukrainian special forces recaptured a pair of oil rigs in the Black Sea, in a clash that reportedly included Ukrainian troops scoring a hit on a Russian fighter jet during high-speed action on small boats. These platforms were not taken as part of Vladimir Putin’s February 2022 invasion; they had actually been under Russian control since 2015, when Russia took them following its occupation of Crimea.
Russia has used the oil rigs to support military operations, including operating surveillance equipment and stockpiling helicopter munitions. Their capture by Ukraine makes it harder for Russia to operate in the western area of the Black Sea, and offers Ukraine a better position from which to observe and attack Russia’s fleet.
Early comments on Telegram and other social media outlets claimed that these platforms had been the source of the Ukrainian attack on the Sevastopol dry docks. However, more recent statements indicate that the attack was made using Storm Shadow missiles provided by the U.K., along with naval drones created by the Ukrainian military. Since the Storm Shadow has a reported range of 500 kilometers, the targets were well within range from many locations in southwestern Ukraine.
Russian state-owned media issued statements on Wednesday insisting that both the submarine boat and the surface ship will soon be returned to service. But to say that seems unlikely is being very conservative. Both vessels appear to be extremely heavily damaged, if not utterly destroyed.
The base price on a Kilo-class submarine is somewhere between $300 million and $350 million. And the Rostov-on-Don wasn’t just a Kilo-class, but one of just 11 “Improved Kilo II” subs built since 2010. This is a new, expensive boat that is—or rather, was—regarded as one of the most effective and stealthy subs in operation.
In addition to its primary role in attacking surface ships, the Kilo-class can also carry up to four Kalibr missiles. Some of the strikes against Odesa and other Ukrainian cities may well have originated from the Rostov-on-Don.
And it seems only appropriate that having turned the former flagship of the fleet into a submarine, Ukraine has now made sure that one of the submarines remains permanently on the surface. That’s how they keep the balance in the Force.
Loss of any submarine is a pretty rare thing these days. This represents the first-ever combat kill of a Kilo-class sub. Somewhere, Tom Clancy is smiling.
With the destruction of the Rostov-on-Don and the Minsk, Russia still has two more submarines and 11 surface ships left to harass commercial traffic and threaten Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea. However, it’s not clear they’ll be conducting that harassment from Crimea from here on out. Elon Musk may still be defending his asinine choice to protect Russian warships that were regularly bringing death to Ukrainian civilians, but since Ukraine has made it clear they can reach out and touch Sevastopol without Musk’s help, Russia may decide to vacate.
Earlier attacks had raised the idea of Russia moving its remaining ships to the port in actual Russian territory at Novorossiysk. That port doesn’t have either the capacity or the facilities of Sevastopol, but it is over 500 km from Ukrainian-controlled territory, and that may be the most important feature for any Russian port at the moment.
Musk may believe that Crimea belongs to Russia, but Musk is wrong. Someone might also want to explain to him a bit more about the circumstances around Pearl Harbor, because, boy …
Ukrainian FPV drone flying directly into the barrel of a Russian T-90M tank. It looks like this tank is also an honorary member of the Black Sea Fleet.
The location of this hit is near the town of Poima in Kherson oblast, about 7 km from positions on the west side of the Dnipro River. That’s a pretty long trip for this kind of drone, especially for such precise control, which may indicate additional Ukrainian positions along the left bank of the Dnipro.
Because we could all do with another image …
Ukrainian adviser Anton Gerashchenko explains why hitting those landing ships is more important than it may seem. Landing ships have been serving as back-up logistics as Russia seeks ways around Ukrainian hits on bridges and rail lines. It’s a route that could be even more important as Ukraine moves toward Tokmak.