Espreso. Global

Cyclone missile carrier destruction: number of combat-ready ships in Russian Black Sea Fleet decreases. Column by Serhiy Zgurets

22 May, 2024 Wednesday

The Cyclone is the newest ship commissioned into the Russian Black Sea Fleet two years ago. It was the only ship in Sevastopol capable of carrying Kalibr cruise missiles


On the hit of the Russian ship Cyclone

On May 21, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces confirmed that on May 19, a small missile ship Cyclone was hit in Sevastopol Bay. Most likely by American ATACMS tactical missiles.

Let me recall the intrigue there. At first, the Ukrainian Navy reported that the Russian Black Sea Fleet minesweeper Kovrovets, which was 50 years was destroyed in Sevastopol Bay. But this story was continued, because next to the Kovrovets was a new missile ship, the Cyclone. Satellite images showed two ships standing side by side, and later new images appeared showing neither of these ships. So we waited for two days for confirmation, and now Ukraine's General Staff has informed us that the Cyclone has been hit. The word "hit" doesn't mean complete destruction, but the trend is clear. That is, the number of combat-capable ships in the Russian Black Sea Fleet is getting smaller and smaller.

The Cyclone missile ship of the Karakurt project is actually the newest piece, commissioned into the Russian Black Sea Fleet 2 years ago and built 4 years ago. It costs about $100 million and was the only ship in Sevastopol capable of carrying Kalibr cruise missiles.

Consequently, in two years, the Ukrainian Defense Forces have managed to destroy or disable about a third of the 80 ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. About two dozen Russian ships were sunk, and the rest were hit by Ukrainian missiles, including Neptunes, which destroyed the cruiser Moskva. Then there were the British Storm Shadow missiles that hit the Rostov-na-Donu submarine. And a certain number of Russian ships were eliminated with the help of Ukrainian naval drones. And now, for the first time, ships have been hit by American ATACMS missiles. Ukraine needs more of these weapons to hit targets both in the temporarily occupied Crimea and on Russian territory.

On Ramstein meeting results

So, to strike Russian territory with ATACMS... there is again an intrigue here, which is that the United States does not allow the use of Western weapons, or rather American weapons, to strike Russian territory. The US Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were asked whether Ukraine could use ATACMS or Patriot to strike Russian territory, to destroy air targets in Russian airspace. Both Austin and Brown's answers were similar. They talked about the US hope that Ukraine will use the provided weapons against targets in Ukraine. In my opinion, this means that the US continues to adhere to certain restrictive conditions with the provision of its assistance. Although this is contrary to military rules and even the logic of warfare because it gives a certain advantage to the aggressor compared to the defending country.

But at the same time, Ramstein demonstrated that there is significant support from the United States and European countries. As we know, the United States has approved a package of assistance to Ukraine worth about $61 billion, as well as the use of Pentagon stockpiles, which includes more than $12 billion, which actually makes it possible to allocate a package of up to $1 billion to Ukraine every month. With this $1 billion, weapons from the US Defense Department stockpiles can be taken quite quickly, which allows Ukraine to stabilize the situation on the front line if it manages to balance this with the means of both mobilization and fortifications.

Ramstein also demonstrated that there is support from other European countries. In particular, Germany once again spoke about its air defense initiative. About 1 billion euros have been raised, some of these funds have been donated by powerful countries, and some countries will supply certain air defense equipment to Ukraine.

The Netherlands also announced that they are transferring a certain batch of YPR armored vehicles to Ukraine. This is a Dutch modification of the American M-113 armored personnel carrier, which has proven itself quite well on the battlefield. Previously, the Netherlands had handed over about 200 of these vehicles. It is not known how many are in the new batch, but the Netherlands had 500 of these vehicles in total, so I think it is not less than what has been transferred so far.

Spain announced the transfer of a certain number of Leopard tanks. There are actually not many of them, two batches of 10 tanks will be delivered in June and September. Spain also announced that it would transfer a certain number of missiles for the Patriot system and 155 mm ammunition.

We know that the issue of ammunition was raised by the President of Ukraine when he mentioned that there were more shells on the battlefield. But now there are nuances, particularly with the Czech initiative. In an interview, the Czech president said that the process is ongoing, 180,000 pieces of ammunition have been contracted, but because the process has been announced, Russia is trying to influence and interfere with contracting or other components, which makes it difficult to fulfill these contracts.

On the expansion of ammunition production

It is no coincidence that I focused on ammunition and armored vehicles because now we will be able to assess this situation with Vladyslav Belbas, CEO of Ukrainian Armor Company. Let me remind you that Ukrainian Armor is the largest private company that manufactures both armored vehicles and ammunition, and also supplies both mortars and ammunition to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

The CEO of Ukrainian Armor said that the ammunition market is currently experiencing a kind of competition, primarily for procurement opportunities, and that production capacity is also being expanded. In addition, there is competition for Ukraine's procurement efforts in parallel with all these international ammunition initiatives.

The situation there is not the best in terms of the availability of this ammunition and the timing of its delivery, but it is even more difficult to find this ammunition in stock. The Czech initiative is good because they are looking for ammunition and promise to organize supplies from countries that do not directly support Ukraine. And these countries have it in stock.

Belbas noted that the military assistance Ukraine receives from its Western partners, although shipped from warehouses, is replaced by the same amount of new ammunition from Ukraine's own producers to the warehouses of the ministries that provide the army with this or that weapon. Therefore, the quantity is limited. For example, we know that 1 million rounds of ammunition were not delivered to Ukraine last year. This suggests that there is probably a problem that is not related to money, but rather to the ability of industries to deploy production. It is in this regard that the Czech initiative is an effective and short-term tool.

Vladyslav added that Ukrainian Armor organizes the supply of ammunition both by import and through production cooperation. The company is constantly working to improve the level of localization and processing of ammunition. The volumes that the company produces now are much higher, for example than in early 2024. The volumes currently declared are the minimum volumes that can be guaranteed. It is planned to develop beyond these volumes. However, the criteria that pose obstacles to scaling up production include the low involvement of financial instruments, i.e. business lending, power outages at enterprises, not very quick decisions on the adoption of new designs, and the booking of production workers.

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