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05 Mar 2024

Another Month. Another Russian Warship Blows Up On The Black Sea: Forbes

Another Month. Another Russian Warship Blows Up On The Black Sea: Forbes
Source: Ukrainian Ministry of Defence
Originally posted on Forbes - By David Axe

Ukrainian drone boats chased down the Russian missile-corvette Sergei Kotov on Tuesday.

The 308-foot, 1,700-ton Project 22160 corvette reportedly sank off of Feodosiya in southeastern Crimea. If confirmed, the sinking would extend the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s losing streak as Russia’s wider war on Ukraine grinds into its third year.

Since February 2022 the Ukrainians have blown up or sunk four Russian landing ships, a cruiser, a submarine, a supply ship, several patrol boats and small landing craft and now two missile-corvettes.

These losses amount to nearly a quarter of the Black Sea Fleet. In losing—to Ukrainian rockets, cruise missiles and drone boats—warships together displacing around 17,000 tons, the Russian navy nearly has erased the 18,000 tons of new warships it built last year.

The Project 22160s are unique to the Black Sea Fleet. The Russian navy is producing a total of six of the 80-person vessels. And the Ukrainian navy for months has been trying to sink the four Project 22160s that already are in service.

Sergei Kotov reportedly fended off an explosives-laden Magura V5 drone boat back in September. A month later, one of the 18-foot drones scored a glancing blow on sister ship Pavel Derzhavin. Five months after that, Ukraine’s drones returned for Sergei Kotov—and, reportedly, finally sank her.

Any other navy might be able to make good these losses, but the Russian shipbuilding sector collapsed with the end of the Soviet Union. It doesn’t help that what remains of the industry relies on maritime engines it imported from Ukraine—engines Ukraine no longer is willing to sell to Russia, for obvious reasons.

Today, Russian shipyards still manage to build large submarines, but they struggle to build surface warships heavier than a few thousand tons. And while the Russians might eventually be able to construct a new Project 22160 to replace Sergei Kotov, they wouldn’t be able to sail the new ship into the Black Sea.

That’s because the only major waterway in and out of the Black Sea—the Bosporus Strait—is controlled by Turkey, a NATO member. And, during wartime, Turkey doesn’t allow any warships into the Black Sea. Allied or enemy.

Russian troops may be advancing, slowly and at great cost, west of Avdiivka, a former Ukrainian stronghold just northwest of Russian-occupied Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Three hundred miles away off Crimea, however, the Russians are losing—badly.

Lately writing off warships at a rate of roughly one a month, the Black Sea Fleet has had no choice but to pull most of its ships from the most vulnerable Crimean ports—and also from Novorossiysk in southern Russia.

But a few ships still brave the western Black Sea in order to launch cruise missiles or haul supplies to the Russian garrison in southern Ukraine. Each of them must run a gauntlet of Ukrainian missiles and drones.

It’s extremely dangerous, as the crew of Sergei Kotov discovered on Tuesday. A dozen ships down, Ukrainian drone-operators must be thinking. And three dozen to go before the Russian Black Sea Fleet has as many big ships as the Ukrainian navy has: zero.

Read original article here. 

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