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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Why the Russian Navy Has Vanished From the War in Ukraine

Russian Navy Kirov-class
Kirov-class Battlecruiser. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Why Isn’t the Russian Navy Waging War on Ukraine? The war in Ukraine is about to enter its seventh month, but the Russian military continues to search for some success on the ground, air, or sea.

One common thread throughout the war has been the Russian forces’ failure to establish superiority in any of the three major warfighting domains.

On land, the Russian military is on the defensive, having lost the strategic initiative during the summer.

In the air, the Russian Aerospace Forces have failed to achieve air superiority despite a numerical and technological superiority.

And on the seas, the Russian Black Sea Fleet has largely retreated into a defensive role after repeated failures.

The Moskva Incident 

The Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet hasn’t fared that well in the conflict so far. In what has been one of the war’s biggest surprises—and also an indication of how the war would go for the Russian military—the Ukrainians managed to strike and sink the Russian guided-missile cruiser Moskva in April.

The loss of the flagship of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea fleet was a heavy blow indeed for the Russian naval forces in the region.

Since then, the Russian Navy has largely avoided direct confrontation with the Ukrainian forces even though the Ukrainian naval forces are almost non-existent.

Russian Black Sea Fleet and Submarines

The Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south has brought the Russian military installations in annexed Crimea within range.

The Ukrainians have already attacked Russian forces on the peninsula, with the most prominent example the special operation against a Russian naval air base in August that destroyed around 12 aircraft.

As the Ukrainian military edges closer to Kherson, the Russian military presence in Crimea gets closer to within range of more Ukrainian weapon systems. As a result, the Russian military has most likely begun to relocate major or important units from the peninsula to other locations in an attempt to protect them from further Ukrainian attacks.

“The command of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has almost certainly relocated its KILO-class submarines from their home port of Sevastopol in Crimea to Novorossiysk in Krasnodar Krai, southern Russia,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in its latest update on the Ukrainian conflict.

The Russian Navy has used its submarines to launch cruise missiles on Ukrainian urban centers.

“This is highly likely due to the recent change in the local security threat level in the face of increased Ukrainian long-range strike capability. In the last two months, the fleet headquarters and its main naval aviation airfield have been attacked,” the British Ministry of Defense added.

Moskva from Russian Navy

“Moskva” (“Moscow”) (ex-“Slava”, which means “Glory”) is the lead ship of the Project 1164 Atlant class of guided missile cruisers in the Russian Navy. This warship was used in the 2008 Russia-Georgia War. The Black Sea. Sevastopol bay. This photo was taken from a boat.

“Guaranteeing the Black Sea Fleet’s Crimea basing was likely one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motivations for annexing the peninsula in 2014. Base security has now been directly undermined by Russia’s continued aggression against Ukraine,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.

Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.



  1. xheavy

    September 20, 2022 at 6:43 pm

    Their little Black Sea fleet has been a liability.

    A few ships sunk in near real time when RT shows up and crows about how the mighty RU Ships have started the process to liberate Odessa etc while revealing exactly where the thing is. So stupid.

    When another video came out from that port after one was sunk and the other was fleeing with absolute white water under the bows and stern, navigation and speed limits be damned it wants out. Fleeing.

    The Moskva got deleted. Another modern frigate also got deleted two weeks after. The best they can do is take pot shots with the Kalibers and so on. A battle fleet they are not. Badly hamfisted and mismanaged.

    Why UKR did not take down the Kerch Strait Bridges to Crimea I dont know. Leaving both of those standing to supply the RU war in the south below Zapro to Crimean Border only gets thousands of their people killed.

    When you fight a war against another Nation or are invaded by one, you make sure you hurt them. Dropping the bridges and sinking their rubber duck navy is a good start.

    I also recall UKR had a couple of pretty decent Frigates. They could at least left port and sunk something. Put all that investment to some use in actual war. But what does UKR do? Scuttle them.

    Might as well not do anything if you are not going to use every tool in your Nation’s toolbox.

  2. Jacksonian Libertarian

    September 21, 2022 at 5:36 am

    The “mature precision strike regime” is here to stay, adapt or die.

    Smart weapons have made many common weapon systems obsolete. Surface ships, Tanks and other heavy armored vehicles, dumb artillery, and non-stealthy combat aircraft, are some of the weapons that are obsolete and lack the combat power to dominate the battlefield as they once did.

    Combat Power rule of thumb: 1 smart weapon = 500 dumb weapons

    Despite Ukraine being armed similarly to Russia, they have not been defeated because of a few thousand smart weapons provided by the West. It is these smart weapons that have had a huge footprint on the war, hundreds of times greater than their numbers would indicate.

    The fact is that if Ukraine had none of the obsolete weapon systems, and was only armed with Western smart weapons, the war would have been over with a Ukrainian victory months ago.

  3. mawendt

    September 21, 2022 at 11:11 am

    Ships are expensive, take years and lots of treasure to replace, and are long range force projection assets.

    In a close battle, when within range of coastal defense, ships become large targets, not much more. The Black Seas isn’t a large maneuver area, and doesn’t provide a lot of space to ‘hide’; get to close to land and the Ukrainians will sink you. Stay in port and risk getting slapped. So… unless you want to blow your naval budget for the next thirty years, and get horrible world wide propaganda regarding your naval incompetence… you move.

    The bridges were left up allowing the Russians to waste supplies and reinforcements that bled off Russian strength from the north. They can be dropped at any time, and probably will be when Ukraine makes a real push in that zone. Until then, it’s a path to deliver fresh targets.

    The key factor in this conflict was not weapons (though the bigger battalion do help), but rather the moral/morale factor. The Russians didn’t have the heart or belief to win this war, while the Ukrainians were fanatically driven to believe they were “on God’s side”, and would win against the Russian invader, no matter what weapons it had or how long it took. The Ukrainians were hot and united against the invaders, while the invaders never understood why they were fighting and dying in a country they thought were friendly cousins to Russia. Partial activation will only aggravate the anti-war sentiment in Russia, and contribute to further morale erosion.

    Ukraine has (almost) destroyed Russian’s will to fight. When that happens… the army, the government, and the common people turn against Putin and his supporters.

    And Putin joins the dustbin of history.

  4. Todd

    September 21, 2022 at 11:53 am

    Their navy has ALWAYS been the thinnest portion of the paper-tiger that the Russian military has been since the mid-50’s.

    They have been excessively trumped-up to instill fear and support defense budgets throughout the *West*.

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