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Sinking of the Moskva: A Milestone in Naval Warfare

A senior air warrior, graduate from the Staff College and a PG in military studies. He is qualified to write on war and allied matters.



The Russian warship Moskva which was the flagship of the Russian Black Sea fleet sank like a stone when it was hit by a Neptune missile on 14th April 22. This was an exciting event in Naval Warfare and the first time in Naval history of a large ship being hit by a cruise missile and sunk.

The Moskva was a ship that displaced 10,000 tonnes and had a complement of 510 officers and seamen. It was built in 1976 and could be considered dated but it had been upgraded with the latest ECM measures to ward off missile attacks, precisely of the type that sank the warship.

The significance of this naval action is akin to the first-ever air battle between carriers at Midway(1942) when the Imperial Navy clashed with the American fleet and the fleets had no physical contact but only an air battle.

The sinking and repercussion's

One can start by saying that the 14th of April dawned as a normal day but it turned out to be a very exciting day. There was a big development as the flagship of the Russian Black Sea fleet the Moskva was hit by missiles and reportedly sank.

As far as the Russian Navy is concerned the Moskva was one of the bigger warships. The Russian navy doesn't have big warships like the ones the Americans have. They have supercarriers that displace over100,000 tonnes with a crew of over 3000 personnel. For the Russian navy, a ship of about 10 000 tons is a pretty big ship.

The ship was however very important as apart from being the flagship it was coordinating naval operations in the Black Sea against Ukraine. The ship sank into the ocean. The Russians are claiming that the ship did not sink because of missile hits but had an internal explosion. Independent observers have however concluded due to satellite imagery that the ship sank after being hit by the Ukrainian manufactured Neptune missile.

The Neptune is a copy of the Russian missile that Ukraine had. The loss of the ship is a tremendous blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion. The sinking of the ship is not a very good sign for the Russian offensive.

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However, we must remember that sinking one ship doesn't mean that Ukraine has won the war. A map published by the Institute for the study of war as broadcast by the BBC reveals that a large area in eastern Ukraine is occupied by Russia and that includes Crimea. In total, it means about 20% of Ukrainian territory remains under Russian control.

The question is what happens next? The Russians have been surprised that they lost the ship but then this sinking opened up a new vista in naval warfare. It should be taken as a warning that all the big ships on the high seas including the American super-carriers are vulnerable. No amount of ECM and other measures can ward off ALL the missiles and even if one missile escapes the shield and hits the ship, the result can be catastrophic.

How did the Russian warship sink? there are two opinions. The first is that the ship did not have the adequate super technology to defend itself against the missile attack. This appears a little unlikely but the more likely chance is that the Russians were complacent. Putin and the Russian generals took Ukraine very lightly. They could have at least taken a lesson out of the American invasion of Iraq. The Americans had bombed Iraq for 70 days and after that only they went in for the land invasion.

In contrast, the Russians did nothing similar and just massed their tanks and artillery and moved in like it would be a cakewalk. The result is there for all to see. Experts doubt any planning for the navy offensive took place other than a rudimentary appreciation.

The result is that the Russians are now having the dubious stigma of losing the second biggest ship in 75 years since the end of WW II. The biggest was the Argentina cruiser with 900 men on board, which was sunk by a British submarine in the Falklands war.

The loss of the Moskva is a body blow to Russian operations in the Black Sea. The ship which was guiding the entire operations in the black sea doesn't exist. Russian power is greatly crippled.

Putin wants total victory but that is now harder to achieve. To top it Turkey has closed the Strait of Bosphorus to the entry of warships into the Black Sea, further endangering the present fleet. The Russians will have to put in a much better performance than what they have done right now. I think Putin greatly overestimated his military and that is a lesson that the Americans could learn.

What happens to their big warships of a hundred thousand tons floating around in the Eastern Pacific. What's going to happen to them? Supercarriers alone cannot win the war for which you need the Infantry soldier to hold the ground. This is the American Achilles heel in the pacific against China and Ukraine as well.


The Russians have suffered a setback but they have ground troops in Ukraine and that is their strong point. With no American troops in a position to face them, I see no possibility of a Ukrainian victory. That is the bottom line and what Field Marshal Montgomery has written in his History of warfare is very true; in any war, you need the infantry soldier to hold the ground; until NATO has that capability, it will remain a toothless tiger. The sinking of the Warship Moskva is good to cheer but does not mean victory.

© 2022 MG Singh emge

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