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Russia launches two ships, but loses two in the Black Sea



The celebration of the “strengthening” of the Russian Black Sea Fleet was short-lived: on May 7, in fact, 2 new units were launched at the Zelenodolsk shipyards in Tatarstan (on the Volga River, engaged since 1895 in building small warships for the Black Sea and Caspian fleets).

This is the small attack corvette Tayfun, one of 18 Karakurt/Project-22800-class units under construction since 2015, 7 of which are destined for the Black Sea Fleet, and it will become operational in 2025. The second unit launched is a Project-22160 OPV, the Viktor Velikiy, whose construction started in 2016. The sanctions that followed the occupation of Crimea and the war’s aftermath first slowed down work on the six Vasilij Bykov-class patrol vessels (OPVs), exposing their vulnerabilities to the point where additional weapon systems had to be temporarily installed on the flight deck. While a second batch of 6 appears to be frozen,.

Both units belong to models optimized for littoral employment and have suffered several losses. Out of the four Project-22160s that were delivered between December 2018 and July 2022, the Pavel Derzhavin suffered significant damage in October 2023, and the Sergei Kotov, which had minor damage in 2023 as well, was sunk on March 5, 2024 by USV drones. The 94 m and 1. 700 t, 30 knots of speed, stealth design, and flight deck for helicopters and UAVs with telescopic hangar enhance its defensive capabilities. Similar to modular corvettes, it is equipped with a 76 mm AK-176MA gun, a VLS for Kalibr-NK medium-range SAMs, and ASW torpedo launchers among embarked or prearranged systems. As of summer 2022, it also has more 14.5 mm machine guns and remotely controlled grenade launchers, as well as a TOR-M2KM SAM system on the flight deck, albeit temporarily.

The twin ASKOLD, which was partially destroyed on November 4, 2023, by Storm Shadow missiles fired by Ukrainian Air Force Su-24s while in the Zalyv Shipbuilding Yard in Kerch to finish outfitting, is expected to have been joined in recent days by the Tsiklon, delivered on July 12, 2023. The Taifun corvette will also replenish a class hard hit by wartime events: a partial replacement.

Unconfirmed by Moscow or Kiev, the unofficial Russian sources claimed on May 20 that the modern corvette had been sunk the day before in an ATACMS missile attack in Sevastopol, leaving six crew members dead and eleven wounded. This made for yet another “bad day” for the Black Sea Fleet, which in two years between sunken or partially destroyed ships has seen its prewar strength reduced by 1/3, with the majority of it driven from its most advanced bases.

On May 19, the Ukrainians also claimed the sinking, perhaps in the course of the same missile attack, of the minesweeper Kovorets, although again there is no certainty. In fact, it cannot be ruled out that it is still the Tsiklon. The loss of the corvette is certainly more serious: the Kovorets is in fact an old Natya that has been in service for 50 years and would be a minor loss, while the Tsiklon is a small but sophisticated attack ship, armed with an 8-cell VLS for the valuable Kalibr-NK cruise missiles, which have proven to be one of the most dangerous weapons for Ukrainian defenses. Just 67 m long and with a displacement of 800 t, the Kaakutss (stealth-designed and capable of reaching 30 knots), lacking a flight deck but capable of accommodating RHIBs and UAVs, is also equipped with a CIWS Panttsyr-M defense system, a 76 mm AK-176MA gun, remotely controlled machine guns and grenade launchers, and state-of-the-art sensors.

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