The Ukrainian navy has just received its first new anti-ship battery. The prototype of the Neptune missile system, which the Kiev State Design Bureau handed over on Monday, signals a large-scale effort to harden the Ukrainian coast against Russian attacks.
Defense Minister Andrei Taran was on hand – presumably in Kiev – to accept the Neptune system. “Thanks to the joint work of the Ministry of Defense and state-owned enterprises, it has been possible to manufacture weapons of a new generation and increase the potential for deterrence and increase Ukraine’s influence at sea” , said Taran. noted.
In addition to the Neptune, the navy also acquires new attack vehicles armed with missiles and oceanic corvettes. The ships will help expand sensor coverage in the Black Sea and the adjacent Sea of Azov. But anti-ship batteries on land could be the real killers in case the Russian Black Sea Fleet launches another attack on Ukraine.
“Our (…) task is to include the Neptune system, the missiles and the patrol boats, as well as the corvettes, in a single defense system capable of repelling the enemy from the sea,” Taran said.
When Russian troops invaded Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, they quickly invaded Ukrainian Navy port facilities and captured many aging ships from the Soviet fleet.
After annexation was completed, Ukraine was left with only one large warship, the 404-foot-long frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy-more a few dozen small boats. The fleet stood no chance against the Russian Black Sea Fleet with its cruiser, destroyer, five frigates, seven submarines and two dozen patrol boats.
Kiev has launched an emergency program to buy new ships. The acquisition of 20 local buildings Gyurza-M Class gunboats, each 75 feet long and armed with two 30-millimeter guns, sank in 2018 when Russian forces seized two of the new ships following an incident along the Russian-controlled Kerch Strait.
Moscow finally returned the boats. But by 2021, Ukraine had only completed seven of the Gyurza-Ms. Meanwhile, Kiev has accepted a donation of two lightly armed 110-foot cutters from the US Coast Guard.
Other ships are arriving, potentially including more cutters as well as American patrol boats Mk.VI. A British company agreed to build for the Ukrainians eight 150-foot missile boats, paid for by $ 1.6 billion in loans from London. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has also cleared a Turkish design for a 327-foot corvette.
But all of these ships could end up playing a primarily supporting role in any future clash with the Russian fleet. Boats and corvettes would help spot targets for mobile Neptune batteries while adding their own relatively meager missile loadings to land-based barrages.
The stealthy, radar-guided Neptune can strike ships up to 175 miles, meaning Ukraine could endanger, from its own territory, about half of the Black Sea.
It is not known 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 hit farther and harder than any gunboat, they are also unsinkable.