- Ukraine’s attack on the shipyard in Sevastopol last week left a Russian submarine in rough shape.
- The British Ministry of Defense recently said the vessel was “likely to have suffered catastrophic damage”.
- New photos leaked on social media suggest the submarine may be beyond repair, a maritime expert says.
New photos of a Russian submarine allegedly targeted by a Ukrainian missile attack show severe and extensive damage to its exterior and possibly its interior. A maritime expert and former submariner says the damage could leave the vessel beyond repair.
Ukrainian forces last week carried out a series of cruise missiles at a shipyard in the Black Sea port city of Sevastopol, which is located on the southwestern edge of occupied Crimea and is the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet (BSF). The attack damaged two vessels, including the Rostov-on-Don Kilo-class attack submarine, and was the latest in a series of attacks on the peninsula, which Kiev has vowed to liberate from Moscow.
Satellite images obtained by Insider after the attack showed clear damage to the shipyard and two vessels, although the extent of the destruction was not immediately clear.
However, new photos of the submarine circulating on social media on Monday appear to show the attack submarine in rough shape. The images, which Insider was unable to independently verify, were gained by the Conflict Intelligence Team, an open-source intelligence operation, and shared by other OSINT platforms such as Oryx, which maintains a database of Russian and Ukrainian equipment and weapons losses.
Bryan Clark, a former US Navy submarine officer and defense expert at the Hudson Institute, said the alleged damage looked “sufficient to make the submarine a total loss”. According to Oryx Websitewhich keeps a list of Russian ships seized by Ukraine, the Rostov-on-Don is recorded as Moscow’s first submarine in the ongoing war.
“If the hole on the side of the draft is accurately depicted, the flooding that would result should make salvaging the ship very difficult and would likely damage most of the equipment inside,” Clark told Insider in an email. “Also, it looks like the explosion pushed the hull outwards rather than inwards.
“This could be the result of a sympathetic explosion inside the ship,” he added, “indicating extensive damage inside the hull. There is also some minor damage to the superstructure that could be repaired if the ship could be salvaged.”
Clarke’s analysis follows a similar assessment by Britain’s Ministry of Defense, which it wrote on Friday news update that the submarine “likely suffered catastrophic damage” and that any effort to eventually return the vessel to service could take years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
“The loss of Rostov removes one of four BSF submarines capable of operating cruise missiles, which played a major role in striking Ukraine and projecting Russian power across the Black Sea and the eastern Mediterranean,” the British Ministry of Defense said. It also released satellite images showing the damaged Sevastopol shipyard with a zoomed-in view of the submarine.
Ukraine’s air force fired 10 cruise missiles — which observers speculated were Western-made Storm Shadow/SCALP-EG long-range missiles — in an attack on a shipyard in Sevastopol on Wednesday, and although Russia’s defense ministry said its air defense systems managed to shoot down seven missiles, those that got through managed to cause extensive damage to the facility.
In addition to Rostov-on-Don, which was undergoing repairs at the time of the attack, the amphibious assault ship Minsk was also damaged. The British Ministry of Defense cited open source evidence which suggested that Minsk was “almost certainly functionally destroyed”. A limited number of detailed pictures and videos showing the damage are circulating on social media.
The attack followed several other high-profile Ukrainian operations against strategic Russian targets in and around Crimea in recent weeks, including the destruction of prized air defense systems, naval drone strikes on a key bridge, a bold and symbolic amphibious assault and capture. oil rigs seized by Russia years ago and used for “military purposes,” according to Kyiv.
A retired U.S. Army general told Insider that all of these operations are part of Ukraine’s protracted coercion campaign to make Crimea untenable and ultimately untenable for occupying Russian forces, just one facet of Kiev’s multi-domain counteroffensive. Experts say the strikes also reflect Kiev’s effort to pry the strategic naval base and shipyard in Sevastopol from Russia’s grip by dealing a heavy blow to key equipment for Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet and its naval operations and logistics.
Western intelligence agencies seemed to agree that damaging Russian capabilities could have a lasting effect.
“There is a real possibility that the complex task of removing the debris from the dry docks will put them out of service for many months,” the British Ministry of Defense said. “This would pose a significant challenge to the BSF in maintaining the fleet maintenance.
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