Ukraine Is Hardening Its Coastline Against Russian Attack

Mar 19, 2021

David Axe Forbes Staff. I write about ships, planes, tanks, drones, missiles and satellites.

Aerospace and Defense

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The hand-over of the prototype Neptune battery on March 15, 20

The Ukrainian navy has just received its first new anti-ship battery. The prototype Neptune missile system, which the Kiev State Design Bureau handed over Monday, signals a wide-reaching effort to harden the Ukrainian coast against Russian attack.

Defense Minister Andrei Taran was on hand—presumably in Kiev—to accept the Neptune system. “Thanks to the joint work of the defense ministry and state-owned enterprises, it was possible to manufacture weapons of a new generation and increase the deterrent potential and increase Ukraine’s influence at sea,” Taran said.

In addition to the Neptune, the navy also is acquiring new missile-armed attack craft and oceangoing corvettes. The ships will help to extend sensor coverage into the Black Sea and the adjacent Sea of Azov. But the shore-based anti-ship batteries could be the real killers in the event the Russia Black Sea fleet launches another attack on Ukraine.

“Our … task is to include the Neptune system, missile and patrol boats, as well as corvettes, into a single defense system that can repel the enemy from the sea,” Taran said.

When Russian troops invaded Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, they quickly overran the Ukrainian navy’s port facilities and captured many of the fleet’s aging, Soviet-vintage ships.

After the annexation was complete, Ukraine was left with just one large warship—the 404-foot-long frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy—plus a few dozen smaller boats. The fleet stood no chance against Russia’s own Black Sea fleet with its cruiser, destroyer, five frigates, seven submarines and two dozen patrol boats.

Kiev launched a crash program to buy new vessels. The acquisition of 20 locally-built Gyurza-M class gunboats—each 75 feet long and armed with two 30-millimeter cannons—foundered in 2018 when Russian forces seized two of the new boats following an incident along the Russian-controlled Kerch Strait.

Moscow eventually returned the boats. But as of 2021, Ukraine has completed just seven of the Gyurza-Ms. In the meantime, Kiev has accepted a donation of two lightly-armed, 110-foot cutters from the U.S. Coast Guard. 

More vessels are coming, potentially including more cutters as well as American Mk.VI patrol boats. A British firm has agreed to build for the Ukrainians eight 150-foot missile boats—paid for by $1.6 billion in loans from London. The Ukrainian defense ministry also has licensed a Turkish design for a 327-foot corvette. 

But all those vessels could end up playing a mostly supporting role in any future clash with the Russian fleet. The boats and corvettes would help to spot targets for road-mobile Neptune batteries while adding their own, relatively meager missile load-outs to the shore-based barrages.

The stealthy, radar-guided Neptune can strike ships as far away as 175 miles, meaning Ukraine could hold at risk, from its own territory, roughly half of the Black Sea. 

It’s unclear how many Neptunes Kiev plans to acquire. But if the Ukrainian government is smart, it will spend more on missiles and less on boats. Not only can Neptune batteries strike farther and harder than any gunboat can do, they’re unsinkable, too.

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David Axe

I’m a journalist, author and filmmaker based in Columbia, South Carolina.

4 comments

  • Guided missiles are the cornerstone of deterrence until Ukraine has a real navy and air power. 👍

    Liked by 5 people

    • And who knows what the state of Ukraine’s SAM systems are like? Probably they need a shit load of PATRIOT M1M-104’s.

      Liked by 5 people

      • The US should assist Ukraine in building a missile-based defense strategy. Nato should not be involved in this, since certain members cannot be trusted.

        Liked by 6 people

      • They have up to 6 S-300 batteries one of which is the V1 upgrade effective against Ballistic missiles.
        6 TOR short range missiles Batteries.
        72 Buk medium batteries.
        125 OSA short range batteries.
        and a mess of others.
        All are being modernized with newer radars, digital controls and extended missiles range.
        The S-300s and Buks are the mainstay of their SAM defense.

        Liked by 2 people

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