Ukraine’s precision attack on Russia’s Kilo Class Submarine prompts strategic shifts and morale boosts.
September 19, 2023, Kyiv, Ukraine: In a remarkable turn of events, Ukraine’s deployment of the UK-provided Storm Shadow missile has not only dealt a significant blow to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet (BSF) but has also reshaped the strategic landscape of the region. On September 13, 2023, in the 13th Ship Repair Plant shipyard in occupied Sevastopol, Ukraine successfully targeted and destroyed the Rostov-on-Don submarine and the large landing ship Minsk, marking a double victory that sent shockwaves through the maritime world.
This precise and audacious attack forced Russia to relocate most of the BSF to open waters, a strategic move aimed at reducing their vulnerability to Ukrainian missile strikes. While the loss of the Minsk was a substantial setback for Russia, the destruction of the Rostov-on-Don submarine had far-reaching consequences.
The demise of the Rostov-on-Don submarine, despite Russia’s initial intentions to repair it, appears to be irreversible. This assessment aligns with evaluations by the Oryx monitoring group and the UK’s Ministry of Defence (UKMoD). The significance of this destruction extends beyond mere military loss; it profoundly impacts morale and security dynamics.
Notably, Ukraine lacks the means to detect and eliminate submerged submarines with its existing naval assets. The opportunity presented by the Rostov-on-Don’s dry-dock positioning was one Ukraine couldn’t afford to miss. Kyiv’s intelligence agencies, leveraging special forces, Crimean-based partisans, and even disenchanted Russian personnel, meticulously planned and executed the strike.
The BSF, on paper, possesses six Kilo class submarines (now five), with some analysts suggesting that only four may be operational at any given time. Regardless, the loss of one submarine is a significant blow to the BSF. This loss impacts morale on both sides of the conflict.
For Ukrainians, the destruction of a vessel responsible for launching Kalibr cruise missiles at Ukrainian cities is a notable victory. For BSF members, it exposes their vulnerability to missile attacks and raises questions about their leadership’s decision-making.
The devastation wrought by the Storm Shadow missile attack is a result of its “fire and forget” capability, launched from modified Sukhoi Su-24M aircraft. This missile, originally designed as a “bunker buster,” employs GPS, terrain mapping, and sensors to deliver a two-stage “Bomb Royal Ordnance Augmented Charge” (BROACH) warhead.
Upon identifying its target, the warhead detonates at the optimal distance, releasing a jet of molten metal that penetrates the target’s outer surface. In the case of the Rostov-on-Don, the impact point was near the bow, where the submarine stores its torpedoes and various missiles. Presumably, these munitions had been removed during repairs, preventing a more catastrophic outcome.
Following the initial strike, a 450-kilogram high-explosive charge enters the target, determined by the time delay set and obstacles encountered. Inside the submarine, it appears to have breached multiple steel bulkheads before detonating near the diesel generators powering the adjacent electrical motors. The resulting explosion severely damaged the double-skinned hull, rendering the submarine unsalvageable, according to experts.
The UKMoD anticipates a “complex task” in removing the Minsk and Rostov-on-Don hulks from the dry dock, sidelining them for months and posing a significant challenge to BSF fleet maintenance.
In conclusion, Ukraine’s precision strike on the Rostov-on-Don submarine with the Storm Shadow missile has not only altered the balance of power in the Black Sea but also provided a morale boost for Ukrainians while exposing vulnerabilities within the Russian Black Sea Fleet. This strategic maneuver underscores the ever-evolving nature of modern warfare and the critical role of precision munitions.