NewsUkrainian drones force Russian navy retreat from the Black Sea

Ukrainian drones force Russian navy retreat from the Black Sea

The loss of the Russian cruiser "Moskva" was merely a prelude, indicating that the Black Sea Fleet is not safe in the Black Sea.
The loss of the Russian cruiser "Moskva" was merely a prelude, indicating that the Black Sea Fleet is not safe in the Black Sea.
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23 June 2024 09:49

Ukrainian drones have driven the surface vessels of the Black Sea Fleet out of the Black Sea. Only submarines remain, which the Ukrainians—due to a lack of appropriate weaponry—are unable to destroy.

In early June, Mikhail Razvozhayev said that Russian ships didn’t sail away; they changed their tactics. They were not in the bay because staying there would expose them to additional dangers.

In this way, the governor of annexed Sevastopol explained the absence of the Russian Black Sea Fleet's surface vessels in the waters around the city and the Black Sea in general. This "change of tactics" means that systematic losses have forced the Russians to retreat to the Sea of Azov.

Magura - a drone spreading fear

Since the start of the full-scale war, the Black Sea Fleet has been reduced by nearly one-third. The most prominent case was the destruction of the cruiser "Moskva" in the spring of 2022, which sank after being hit by Neptune missiles. Today, however, it is not Ukrainian missiles but small floating unmanned units that are the Russians’ nightmare. These Magura kamikaze drones can carry explosive charges weighing 300 kilograms. These drones have destroyed, among others, the landing ship "Cezar Kunikov," the patrol ship "Sergei Kotov," and the missile corvette "Ivanovets."

The financial metric is excellent for the Ukrainians. One floating drone costs them approximately £200,000. Meanwhile, the estimated damage inflicted on the Russians by these drones amounts to nearly £390 million.

The Russian vessels are armed with AK-630 automatic cannons, supported by the modern Bagira fire control system. Still, insufficient crew training has meant that the Russians have been unable to destroy the drones before they reach their target.

The Russians had to put on a brave face and "change tactics." They moved their surface vessels to the Sea of Azov and are now operating from the port of Novorossiysk.

Russian submarine fleet

Only Russian submarines remain in the Black Sea. The Ukrainians do not have units capable of combating them.

The 4th Independent Submarine Brigade, part of the Black Sea Fleet, currently has six Project 636.3 Varshavyanka-class submarines (two are in the Mediterranean Sea) and one Project 877B Halibut-class submarine. All "Varshavyankas" can carry four Kalibr cruise missiles and between 14 and 18 torpedoes, depending on the calibre.

The newest 636.3 units began entering service in 2014. The Central Design Bureau MT Rubin in Saint Petersburg designed them. Project 636.3 is an advancement of Project 877E, known in NATO as Kilo.

The new version features significantly better combat capabilities than its predecessors. Project 636.3 submarines have more powerful and modern diesel engines, greater underwater speed, and range. Thanks to new transmissions and propellers, the submarines operate much more quietly. They also have a new automated combat management system and a modern inertial navigation system.

These submarines displace 2,350 tonnes on the surface (4,350 tonnes underwater). Diesel-electric engines allow them to achieve a speed of 20 knots. Their autonomy is 45 days, and their range is estimated at 7,000 nautical miles at an economic speed of 7 knots.

In the Black Sea, there is no need to fully utilise their autonomy and range. The units go out to sea, take a position in a designated zone, and wait for target parameters and the order to launch Kalibr missiles. Then, they return to the base to load more missiles.

Admirals being dismissed one after another

The "change in tactics" on the water is not only due to the inability to combat kamikaze drones but also to the third change of command of the Black Sea Fleet since the start of the full-scale war.

A few weeks after the sinking of the "Moskva," Admiral Igor Osipov was dismissed. His successor, Vice Admiral Viktor Sokolov, also failed to find a way to reduce losses and met the same fate as his predecessor.

Since February, Vice Admiral Sergey Pinchuk has been in command. This choice was surprising, as he was initially responsible for maritime operations against Ukraine as the head of the planning department. However, he did not manage very well, as evidenced by the failed landing on Odesa, the loss of transports in Berdyansk, and the defeat in the Battle of Snake Island. His main task now is to maintain the frequency of submarine strikes on Ukraine.

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