CAVASSHIPS Podcast [Apr 15, ’22] Episode 44…The Battle of The Black Sea


Welcome to the CavasShips Podcast with Christopher P. Cavas and Chris Servello…a weekly podcast looking at naval and maritime events and issues of the day – in the US, across the seas and around the world. This Week…the sinking of Russia’s biggest warship in the Black Sea is one of the most significant naval events of the past forty years. With naval historian Dr Phil Weir, we’ll dive into some of the naval lessons-learned so far in this brutal war and hark back to the Falklands War of 1982, where new and old weapons took a terrible toll on ships and lives.

In this Week’s Squawk Chris Servello talks about lessons learned from the Moskva’s sinking.

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This Week’s Naval Round Up:

The Russian missile cruiser MOSKVA, flagship of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea fleet, burned and sank April 14. A Pentagon source told media April 15 that the ship was hit by two Ukrainian Neptune surface-to-surface missiles on April 13, while the MOSKVA was operating about 60 nautical miles south of Odesa. Significant fires then broke out — Russian media said the fire was in an ammunition area but did not state the cause. The ship apparently was at first abandoned but then taken under tow and, according to Russian media, sank in heavy seas on April 14. The Ukrainian government said the sinking was the result of an attack by Neptune missiles, fired at the MOSKVA while the Russians were distracted by a Ukrainian TB2 aerial drone. There are no estimates as to how many Russian sailors died in the attack or sinking or how many survived, although Russian media reported the ship’s commanding officer died on the ship. The MOSKVA was the largest and most powerful surface warship in the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet; two ships of the same type are positioned in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Chinese navy and air force on April 15 staged a large series of what China called “joint combat-readiness alert patrols” in the waters and airspace surrounding Taiwan. Forces included destroyers, frigates, maritime assault forces, bombers and fighter jets. The patrols seemed to be timed to the visit to Taiwan by a group of US lawmakers.

The US Navy for the first time used an all-electric, high-energy laser weapon to defeat an aerial target representing a subsonic cruise missile in flight. The February test, revealed on April 13, used al Lockheed Martin-built Layered Laser Defense, or LLD, weapon to track or shoot down an array of targets, including unmanned fixed-wing aerial vehicles, quadcopters and high-speed drones representing subsonic cruise missiles. The LLD, sponsored by the US Navy’s Office of Naval Research, is a demonstration system and not intended to be fielded as a weapon.

 The museum ship THE SULLIVANS began taking on water during the evening of April 13 at the Buffalo Naval Park in Buffalo, New York, and by the next day the ship was partially sunk. Engineers were pumping water out of the ship at a slightly higher rate than water was coming in, and as we record this podcast the ship seems stabilized. Long-needed repairs to the World War II Fletcher-class destroyer, named for the famous Fighting Sullivan Brothers, ironically had just begun when the leak occurred.

Servello Squawk:

This week’s sinking of the Russian Cruiser Moskva is the latest reminder that naval warfare is lethal and deadly. As we discussed in the last segment, the loss of the ship is not only significant in the context of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict…but should be mined by western Navies for lessons learned in today’s era of great power competition.

Its early, but it’s hard not to wonder about the following:

Why weren’t the Russians better prepared for such an attack? What will be the pr or information value on both sides? Why did the ship sink during the transit and what could have been done on the tug and salvage side to safely return the vessel to port.

This sinking was the first major warship sent to the bottom of the sea since the Falklands War…my guess is that it won’t be the last in this conflict or in our competition with China. 

The United States and our allies must use what they can learn from this incident to better prepare for the offensive and defensive elements of such attacks. Waiting or relearning these lessons will be measured in opportunity missed and lives lost.

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