A Journalist Just Spotted Russia’s ‘Admiral Makarov’ Frigate, Intact And
David AxeForbes Staff
I write about ships, planes, tanks, drones, missiles and satellites.
May 9, 2022,05:51pm EDT
'Admiral Makarov' before the war. PHOTO VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
H.I. Sutton, an independent journalist focusing on naval warfare, has
spotted more than a dozen of the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s remaining
warships, intact and underway.
They include Admiral Makarov, one of the fleet’s three frigates and
arguably the top target for Ukraine’s drones and anti-ship missile
Sutton’s analysis of new commercial satellite imagery seems to confirm
that last week’s rumors about a successful Ukrainian attack on Admiral
Makarov were just that—rumors. The frigate survives.
But it’s worth noting where Sutton found Admiral Makarov on or before
Monday: sailing near Sevastopol in the Russian-occupied Crimean
Peninsula. In other words, close to home.
Indeed, Sutton narrowed the locations of most of the underway Black Sea
Fleet to a swathe of ocean off the west coast of Crimea. Just two
ships—a landing craft and one unidentified vessel—were near Snake
Island, the current locus of naval combat between Ukraine and Russia.
Near to Crimea, Russian ships enjoy the protection of shore-based S-400
surface-to-air missile batteries and the Russian navy’s Su-30 fighter
jets. Closer to Snake Island—which sits astride the main shipping route
to Ukraine’s strategic port Odessa, 80 miles to the north—ships are at
greater risk of coming under attack from Ukrainian TB-2 armed drones and
whatever Neptune anti-ship missiles Ukraine has left.
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Sutton’s work seems to confirm what analysts expected weeks ago after a
pair of Neptune missiles holed, and ultimately sank, the Russian cruiser
Moskva as she sailed between Snake Island and Odessa.
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Moskva was the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet with its, at the time,
two dozen or so major warships. The 612-foot cruiser with her 64
long-range S-300 surface-to-air missiles also was the fleet’s main
air-defense vessel. Her loss underscored Russian ships’ vulnerability to
anti-ship missiles and compelled Black Sea Fleet commanders to pull
bigger vessels away from Odessa.
In addition to sinking Moskva, the Ukrainians also have sunk or damaged
three Russian landing ships, five Raptor-class patrol boats and a
landing craft. Ukraine’s escalating denial campaign targeting the
110-acre Snake Island, which Russian forces led by Moskva seized the day
after the Russia-Ukraine war widened on Feb. 23, has claimed four of the
Raptors and the landing craft.
On paper, the Black Sea Fleet still is a significant force. The fleet’s
surviving ships include most of the dozen or so big landing ships it had
before the wider war plus the 409-foot Admiral Makarov and her two
sisters with their 24-apiece Buk medium-range SAMs.
But it’s clearer than ever that the Kremlin is reluctant to risk these
ships, even though the Ukrainian navy, having scuttled its flagship
frigate in Odessa, no longer has a single large vessel. No, Kyiv’s
drones and missiles are the threats. And they’re significant ones.
The inability of the Russian fleet significantly to reinforce the Black
Sea undoubtedly is a factor in the Kremlin’s naval hesitancy. For a big
ship, there’s just one way into the Black Sea—from the Mediterranean via
the Bosphorous Strait. But Turkey controls the strait and has blocked
warships from entering.
It’s possible the Russians could put fresh patrol boats into the Black
Sea by shipping them over land. But absent a profound shift in Turkey’s
response to Russian aggression, no additional frigates or landing ships
are coming. The big ships the Black Sea Fleet has left are the ships it
must fight with ... probably until the war ends.
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