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Russia confirms severe damage to cruiser after Ukraine claims strike

Hours after Ukrainian state media claimed that the Russian capital ship Moskva (Moscow) had been hit by two missiles, the Russian state confirmed that a fire aboard the cruiser had ignited stowed ordnance inflicting “serious damage”.

While the report by Russian state media TASS did not acknowledge that an attack had taken place, the admission that “a fire and explosion of side munitions caused severe damage to the Moskva missile cruiser” some hours after Ukraine claimed an attack on the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet at least confirms that the ship suffered serious damage.

The main armament of the Cold War-era Moskva cruiser is two huge anti-ship missile banks, an unconventional design that gives the ship an easily recognizable layout above deck level. While the TASS report states: “A fire on board the Moskva missile cruiser caused an explosion of the side ammunition. The ship suffered severe damage” may imply that it was this armament that detonated, a subsequent TASS report on Thursday morning insisted that the ship’s main armament was not damaged.

In the latest statement, the Russian state claimed that “the fire…has been located and the explosions of ammunition on board have been stopped…No open flames are seen.” Russia said the vessel was still afloat and being towed to port, and the crew evacuated.

“The cruiser retained her buoyancy and her major missile systems were undamaged,” they claimed.

Photo provided by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to the public defense equipment company Ukroboronprom of a demonstration launch of the “Нептун” Neptune missile in 2021

Ukraine claimed on Wednesday night that it had hit the warship with two “Neptune” missiles (Нептун), a recent domestic development of a Cold War-era Soviet-designed anti-ship cruise missile. . Featured in Ukrainian service, the truck-launched missile is the work of Ukrainian defense company Ukroboronprom.

Ukrainian area commander Maksym Marchenko reportedly said: “Neptune missiles guarding the Black Sea caused very serious damage to the Russian ship.

If the attack on the Moskva is as described by Ukraine, the attack could deal a serious blow to Russia’s prestige and presence in the Black Sea. While the ship largely belongs to the Cold War era in naval technology and weaponry, recent photographs of the ship from the 1970s show it has a variety of anti-aircraft capabilities designed to defend it. against exactly this type of attack.

The weapon systems carried on board the Moskva would be “Close in Weapons Systems” (CIWS), a Russian equivalent of Western weapons like Phalanx or Goalkeeper, and surface-to-air missiles (SAM) like Western RIM-66 or Aster. Both could reasonably be expected to shoot down incoming subsonic anti-ship cruise missiles.

Although Russia has yet to confirm that Wednesday’s fire was the result of enemy action, it is conceivable that insisting that the ship exploded spontaneously could be more embarrassing, given the level of naval capability that would entail.

Cruisers like the Moskva are reasonably rare around the world, with only a handful of world navies deploying ships of this size and capability. For example, the US Navy uses 1980s Ticonderoga missile cruisers, which are among the largest and most powerful warships afloat.

Cruisers are distinguished from other lesser warships by the nature of their role: while destroyers are often seen as air defense specialists, frigates as anti-submarine or anti-surface, cruisers are real multi-role. Beyond attack and defense roles, cruisers will have command and control facilities making them suitable for “flag” roles.

However, politics can sometimes get in the way of these distinctions. Britain’s 1980s aircraft carriers were officially called “thru-hull cruisers” at the time, as another program of larger and more capable aircraft carriers had recently been canceled and using the name twice might have been embarrassing.

The reverse also appears to be happening: the UK last year announced the next generation of capital ships to replace its current fleet of modern warships, and although the designation certainly implies that these will be a cruiser, the ship has been described so far as a “super-destroyer”, perhaps to avoid the impression of runaway spending.


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