Why Was the Russian Navy’s Flagship Moskva Sunk So Easily in Ukraine

Russia announced the sinking of the Moskva, the navy's Black Sea flagship.
Slava class Project 1164 Moskva 2009 G1

Slava Class cruisers are among Russia’s most advanced warships. They were built in the Soviet Union to rival the NATO fleet, and even if these ships have lost their former glory due to outdated technology, they’re still dangerous and can undoubtedly block Ukrainian harbors and wreak havoc in coastal cities.

So, are slava class cruisers easy to sink as happened with the Moskva? How many cruisers of this class still exist? Can they still be a relevant force on the seas in a time of advanced anti-ship missiles?

The Slava-Class cruisers

Slava Class cruisers are a class of guided missile cruisers built by the Soviet Navy between 1976 and 1990.

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Project 1164 Moskva 2012 G1
Slava Cruiser Moskva 2012 G1 by George Chernilevsky

The Ustinov, Varyag, and the sunken Moskva are the three Slava class cruisers ever built.

Ten of these cruisers were initially planned, but only three were eventually delivered. They were assembled before the collapse of the Soviet Union and have been partially modernized by Russia to keep them afloat.

These 11,000-ton ships have been updated in the last decades. However, most of their weapons are outdated and they aren’t the best or most advanced ships that Russia has.

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The Slava-Class cruisers are widely outperformed by the Kirov class which can carry up to 28,000 tons. But, only one Kirov class cruiser is currently active.

It should also be noted that the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is the most impressive weapon Russia has on the seas, but like the Kirov-class fleet, it’s not operational.

The Admiral Kuznetsov was expected to be ready in 2022, but taking this aircraft carrier to the seas will probably take longer since the Russian military spending during the war will be enormous, cutting the budgets of the already underfunded future projects or putting them on indefinite hold – and American sanctions won’t help either.

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Slava Class cruiser specs

Slava cruiser armament.svg
Slava cruiser armament by Silesianus
  1. ) AK-130 dual cannon
  2. ) P-500 Bazalt anti-ship missile launchers
  3. ) RBU-6000 anti-submarine rocket launcher
  4. ) AK-630 close-in weapon systems
  5. ) S-300 anti-air missile launcher
  6. ) OSA-MA anti-air missile launcher
  • Length: 186.4 meters (611 feet 7 inches)
  • Beam: 20.8 meters (68 feet 3 inches)
  • Draught: 8.4 meters (27 feet 7 inches)
  • Speed: 32 knots (59 km/h or 37 mph) 
  • Range: 3,000 nmi (3,450 miles) (5,560 kilometers) 
  • Aircraft carried: 1 Kamov Ka-25 / Kamov Ka-27 Helicopter

The sinking of the Slava Class cruiser Moskva

The Moskva was a cruiser launched in 1982. It was a Slava Class ship with a crew of almost 500 men, and given its importance to the Russian Black Sea fleet, the loss of this ship is a hard blow for Russia and its naval blockade of Ukraine.

In fact, almost two months after the invasion of Ukraine, it’s the most significant material loss so far after two Neptune missiles hit the cruiser.

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Slava cruiser Moskva sinking by Unknown

At first, the Russian Ministry of Defense informed that it was just a fire, but later it was no longer possible to hide the damage to the ship, which ended up sinking.

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Ukrainian officials say they used the Bayraktar TB-2 drone to distract the Russian sailors and destroy the missile warning systems, while they launched the Neptune missiles.

Russia’s revenge

Russia won’t forgive Ukraine for the sinking of its warship, and it will probably trigger a retaliatory strike in the next few days.

Indeed, Russia intensified its bombardments against Kyiv following the sinking of the Moskva in the Black Sea.

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The first of these attacks was against a factory of the missiles with which the Ukrainians are claiming to have sunk the Slava class Moskva.

And unfortunately, as the war continues and both sides do more damage to each other, there will also be an increase in the use of brutal tactics, including attacks on the civilian population.

One of these cruisers is already sunk but still two more remain

Russia has been deploying its cruisers to block the sea entries to Ukraine for the past month depriving Ukraine of supplies, blocking access to the sea, and eventually causing famine.

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So, in the coming months, the war will probably become bloodier and more brutal in coastal cities like Mariupol, as both sides will fight desperately and with less food and resources.


Feature image credit: Project 1164 Moskva 2009 G1 by George. Public Domain.