Photo: Russian large landing ship “Novocherkassk” (rosSMI) Author: Danila Kramarenko
Expert: Vladimir Zablotsky
Ukrainian air forces hit the Russian large landing ship Novocherkassk in the area of occupied Feodosia. This was another blow to the fleet of the aggressor country, which had previously been forced to withdraw some of its warships away from Crimea.
Read more about the attacks on ships and how Ukrainian forces have weakened the Russian fleet in the Black Sea in the RBC-Ukraine article.
When preparing the material, we used: data from the Telegram public “Crimean Wind”, statements by Air Force Commander Nikolai Oleshchuk, other military speakers, President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky, information from Wikipedia, conclusions of OSINT analysts and comments from expert Vladimir Zablotsky.
- The death of Novocherkassk. What is known
- Not “Novocherkassk” alone. What other ships did Ukraine hit?
- How Ukraine drove the enemy fleet into Novorossiysk
- Ukraine vs Russian fleet. Forecast for 2024
The death of Novocherkassk. What is known
On the night of December 26, explosions occurred in Feodosia, and Russian public pages reported on the work of air defense. As a result, a powerful fire broke out in the port area. Occupation authorities confirmed the attack and reported at least one death.
Footage of the explosive “bavovna” also appeared online.
Air Force Commander Nikolai Oleschuk announced the destruction of the ship, emphasizing that the Russian fleet is becoming smaller.
“This time, after the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the cruiser Moskva, the large landing ship Novocherkassk is leaving,” he noted.
According to the speaker of the Southern Defense Forces, Natalia Gumenyuk, the strike on Novocherkassk led to a prolonged detonation of ammunition. Assessing the scale of the explosions, she suggested that the detonation was not simply caused by the fuel or ammunition of the ship itself. Since such large landing ships are often used to transport important cargo due to difficulties in using the Crimean Bridge, it is likely that it was completely “packed” with ammunition.
In addition, in her opinion, due to the fact that everything is close in the Feodosia port, another ship may have been damaged. But this information requires confirmation.
According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the attack was accompanied by an airborne guided missile strike. At the same time, “Novocherkassk” was allegedly damaged; destruction was not reported. It is worth noting that this is the usual formulation of the enemy in response to the successful work of Ukrainian forces. In order to somehow smooth out the news background from the loss of the large landing craft, the invaders fantasized about the destruction of supposedly two Su-24 combat aircraft 125 km northeast of Nikolaev.
The head of the Presidential Office, Andrei Ermak, reacting to the defeat of Novocherkassk, said that there would be no Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, because Crimea is Ukraine. President Vladimir Zelensky thanked the Air Force for effectively “replenishing the Russian submarine Black Sea fleet with another vessel.”
“The occupiers will not have a single quiet place in Ukraine,” he added following the results of the next meeting of the Headquarters.
The official account of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense joked by publishing a post with the caption “Ukrainian soldiers modified the Russian large landing ship Novocherkassk – now it’s a submarine.”
Ukrainian warriors modified the Russian Novocherkassk large landing ship—now it's a submarine. pic.twitter.com/CMoQDAuzdR
— Defense of Ukraine (@DefenceU) December 26, 2023
The telegram-public “Crimean Wind” reported that the attacked Novocherkassk was transporting Iranian attack drones – “shaheeds”. The Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security confirms that the ship was carrying drones that Russia is using to strike Ukraine.
The version with “martyrs” was commented on at the telethon by Air Force Speaker Yuri Ignat. He neither confirmed nor denied this data, saying that such information should be voiced by the one who owns it. At the same time, he admitted that the large-scale detonation indicates the presence of powerful ammunition. And he added that the operation was planned by the Ukrainian Armed Forces and other structures.
Naval expert and Defense Express columnist Vladimir Zablotsky believes that intelligence recorded the moment when the large landing ship arrived in Feodosia loaded with ammunition, and the Air Force “caught” it by firing at least one missile directly at the ship.
“They destroyed it to the ground: the cargo exploded, the fuel exploded, everything that was with the crew exploded. As for the “martyrs,” why not? If the landing ships carry ammunition, and the “martyrs” are launched from Cape Tarkhankut, then it’s quite it’s possible,” he told RBC-Ukraine.
Moreover, the ship itself did not come from Iran. The Russians deliver the “shaheeds” to Astrakhan, and then further on by rail. And since the enemy is limited in logistics across the Crimean Bridge, some of the drones are delivered by the BDK.
The destruction of Novocherkassk is confirmed by OSINT analysts. According to them, the ship was sunk as a result of a missile attack in the port of Feodosia. As analyst Oliver Alexander writes, there is practically nothing left of the BDK ; the entire front part was submerged and, most likely, completely destroyed. The ship is probably beyond repair. The death of the ship is also recognized by the Russian “Z-military correspondents”.
At the moment, it is not known exactly what kind of missiles hit Novocherkassk. Yuriy Ignat recalls that thanks to partners, Ukraine received long-range aircraft missiles Storm Shadow and SCALP, but there are no others. The Ukrainian side will traditionally not comment on the type of missiles for night attacks, as well as their total number in stock.
Not “Novocherkassk” alone. What other ships did Ukraine hit?
On the eve of the full-scale invasion, Russia transferred six additional large landing ships from the Northern and Baltic fleets to the Black Sea. Thus, the group of ships of this class was increased to 13 units.
The enemy planned to use the large landing craft in landing operations to capture the Odessa and Nikolaev regions. But he received a harsh rebuff from the Ukrainian Coast Guard. Today, landing ships are used for logistics purposes: the transfer of personnel, military equipment and ammunition between the ports of Russia and temporarily occupied territories.
The Ukrainian Defense Forces inflicted significant losses on Russian large landing craft.
“Saratov” was sunk on March 24, 2022 near Berdyansk by a Tochka-U missile. At the same time, Caesar Kunikov and Novocherkassk were damaged,” noted Vladimir Zablotsky.
As for the Caesar Kunikov, we know about the death of captain Alexander Chirva. In August 2023, unmanned kamikaze drones attacked the Olenegorsky Gornyak large landing ship in Novorossiysk Bay, and in September a Storm Shadow missile hit the Minsk large landing ship as a result of an attack on the docks of Sevmorzavod.
Photo: consequences of arrival on the landing ship “Minsk” in Sevastopol, September 13, 2023 (t.me/Crimeanwind)
After 21 months, Ukrainian aviation brought the Novocherkassk case to an end. Photos of a destroyed ship in Feodosia have appeared online.
Photo: BDK “Novocherkassk” after the strike on the night of December 26 (t.me/VentdeCrimee)
All of the above vessels are large landing ships of Project 775 (according to NATO codification Ropucha). They were built in Poland at the Stocznia Polnocna shipyard in Gdansk for the Soviet Navy. They are the basis of the Russian landing fleet.
They are designed for amphibious landings on unequipped coasts and transport of troops and cargo by sea. Capable of transporting various types of armored vehicles, including tanks.
Standard characteristics for the BDK Project 755:
- total displacement – more than 400 tons
- hull length – 112.5 meters
- width – 15 meters
- crew – 87 people
- landing – up to 300 people
- load capacity – up to 460 tons
The ships are armed with MS-73 launchers for the A-215 Grad-M MLRS, capable of firing at intervals of 0.5 seconds to a range of 21 km to shell coastal fortifications and destroy manpower. There are also twin 57mm AK-725 remote-guided artillery mounts. To enhance firepower and air defense systems, an artillery system with one AK-176 and two AK-630M mounts was installed on Project 775/III ships instead of two AK-725s.
“If at the beginning of the war there were 13 large landing ships in the Black Sea, now minus the Saratov, Olenegorsky Gornyak, Minsk and Novocherkassk, the Tsezar Kunikov is also damaged. So do the math. The Russians already have a complicated situation logistics due to attacks on the Crimean bridge. And now they cannot transfer ammunition in the same volumes by ship,” the expert explained.
According to the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, at least 23 Russian ships have been destroyed since the beginning of the full-scale invasion.
According to information from open sources, it all started with the damage to the small missile ship Veliky Ustyug. Then there were the patrol boat “Oleg Shipitsyn”, three large landing ships in Berdyansk, the patrol frigate “Admiral Essen”, the missile cruiser “Moscow”, patrol corvettes, landing boats, the frigate “Admiral Makarov”, reconnaissance ships, the submarine “Rostov-on-Don” ” and so on.
British Defense Minister Grant Shepps believes that the destruction of the Novocherkassk landing ship demonstrates that those who talk about the deadlock of the war in Ukraine are mistaken.
“They failed to notice that 20% of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has been destroyed over the past four months. Russia’s dominance in the Black Sea is now under threat, and a new coalition of naval forces led by Great Britain and Norway is helping to ensure Ukraine’s victory at sea,” he stressed.
How Ukraine drove the enemy fleet into Novorossiysk
Before today's events, Ukraine hit three Russian ships in November alone – the small missile corvette Askold (attacked by a SCALP missile) and two landing boats. Nevertheless, ships heading to Ukrainian ports are still in danger, and the threat of missile attacks on Ukrainian territory from the Black Sea remains. Although the danger is much less than a year earlier.
“We were able to seize the initiative from Russia in the Black Sea and created conditions that force the aggressor to flee from the eastern part of the waters and try to hide warships… I would also like to note that now, as one of the main results of our actions, Russia is not able to use the Black Sea “as a springboard for destabilizing other regions of the world ,” said Vladimir Zelensky in the fall at the summit of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation.
At the final press conference on December 19, he emphasized that the Russian fleet is deprived of total dominance in the Black Sea and is not able to impose on Ukraine what to do and what to export. According to him, by striking the fleet, Ukraine is forcing it to leave its territorial waters.
The Crimean Wind monitoring group, citing satellite images published by OSINT investigator MT Anderson, records the transfer of almost all serious ships from coastal Crimean waters to Novorossiysk.
Photo: satellite images of the port in Novorossiysk (t.me/VentdeCrimee)
In particular, there are:
- 2 of 2 frigates of the Admiral Grigorovich class
- 3 of 3 small missile ships of Project 21631 “Buyan-M”
- 4 of 4 submarines of project 636.3 “Varshavyanka”
- 1 of 3 small missile corvettes of Project 22800 “Karakurt”
- 3 Project 22160 patrol ships of the “Vasily Bykov” type
- 3 BDK project 775
- 1 BDK project “Ivan Gren”
- 3 minesweepers of project 266M “Aquamarine”
Moreover, those ships that remain in Crimea go to sea less and less.
“Now there are no ships in the Black and Azov Seas. At least as of yesterday evening. Perhaps someone went out at night, now I don’t have such data,” Vladimir Zablotsky told RBC-Ukraine.
In addition to attacks on ships, Ukrainian forces carried out Operation Crab Trap in September. As part of it, the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol was attacked by Storm Shadow missiles right during a leadership meeting. As a result, the building was partially destroyed. However, it is unlikely that the fleet command was moved further away.
“It seems to me that they are in Sevastopol. The control system and equipment there were destroyed, the building was not completely destroyed, there is a surviving wing. And in general, there is still a lot of space for admirals in Sevastopol,” the expert added.
Ukraine vs Russian fleet. Forecast for 2024
Ukraine's ability to continue to attack Russian ships depends on the availability of the necessary weapons. According to Vladimir Zablotsky, you won’t go far with Storm Shadow and SCALP missiles alone (export versions hit a distance of up to 300 km).
“These missiles are not new, they were given to us not in order to win, but because it was necessary to give at least something. They are capable of hitting only static targets. If the ship is moving at sea, they will not hit, since the “head” doesn’t see the ship,” explains the expert.
One option is the advanced Neptune anti-ship cruise missile. When it enters service, it will be possible to destroy moving targets.
“Now we are using what we have. And as we see, it’s successful, thank God,” he emphasized.
As for the fleet of surface drones, one should not exaggerate its capabilities. This is, first of all, a weapon, not a fleet, and in order for surface drones to hit something, you need to know exactly where the target is and that during the time it takes them to get from the so-called Ochakov or Odessa, this target will not escape.
“By the way, when we hit the Crimean Bridge in July, it was supposed to be attacked by five new drones. But when they were on the crossing, reconnaissance spotted the Admiral Essen frigate at sea, and the command decided to attack the frigate. Three drones chased it, but he managed to escape at a higher speed. There was no more fuel left to attack the bridge, and they self-destructed in the Yalta area. We will probably sink the frigate next time,” Zablotsky said.
Now the Russians have no other choice but to transport ammunition to the large landing ship through the Kerch Strait. Of course, they will try to repair the bridge, they will transport it to occupied Mariupol, where a new naval command has been created, as well as to Kerch and Feodosia. These are, one might say, three main directions for 2024.
“They will continue to carry, and we will continue to harm it. We’ll see what happens next. For example, we will have F-16 aircraft, most likely with their long-range missiles, which can hit moving targets. And this is a completely different philosophy of war , new tactics, which, I hope, will lead to new successes,” the expert concluded.
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