Ukraine’s actions in the Black Sea have already been called the main victory in the war with the Russian Federation in 2023. Focus I learned why it was successful and what opportunities there are for the future.
President Vladimir Zelensky compared the opening of air traffic at Boryspil airport to the Black Sea.
“Boryspil is like the Black Sea. Its opening is a victory for Ukrainian air defense. This will mean that Ukraine is winning. This is a very serious and powerful economic step,” the president said during the final press conference.
He also thanked the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense and the Navy for such an important victory in the Black Sea. At the end of November 2023, Zelensky already said that Ukraine managed to seize the initiative in the Black Sea and ensure a state that now allows maritime export corridors to operate. Zelensky made this statement during the summit of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization.
On your own
The grain corridor began its work at the end of summer, thanks to it it was possible to organize the export of grain from Ukraine after the Russian Federation refused to continue the so-called “grain deal”. Today, the grain corridor is functioning at full capacity, although not without difficulties. Military-political commentator Alexander Kovalenko recalls that this was preceded by a long, step-by-step process that made it possible to expel the Russian fleet from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk.
“Their ships and boats no longer go far out to sea and interfere with civil and commercial shipping. In addition, it is far from certain that they will not have to move further from Novorossiysk,” says the expert The focus.
Pavel Lakiychuk, head of security programs at the Center for Global Studies “Strategy XXI”, explains that the Neptune and Harpoon anti-ship missiles, the destruction of the surveillance and early warning system and the use of maritime drones allowed access to the free use of the Black Sea.
“Ukraine has anti-ship missiles, which have confirmed their effectiveness and efficiency. In the navy, these weapons are considered a kind of deterrent weapon. We managed to destroy the enemy’s surveillance system. Let me remind you that these are surveillance and control equipment that were located on the Boyko towers, Zmeiny Island, partly on cape Tarkhankut. Perhaps we already have our own “eyes” there,” he says Focus.
The expert adds that missile attacks on enemy command posts and naval bases and attacks by naval drones led to the fact that the ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet had to be dispersed in the eastern part of the Black Sea. But the threat has not been eliminated; they can still carry out their intended tasks, although the risks for this are growing.
Since the beginning of September 2023, the Defense Forces have managed to destroy or damage a fairly significant number of enemy ships. It is worth remembering the Russian missile ship Samum, attacked by a naval drone, a Serna class boat, along with its crew and armored vehicles. On September 22, a missile attack was carried out on the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol. A little later, the Zaliv shipyard in Kerch came under attack, where the small missile ship Askold, a carrier of cruise missiles of the Caliber family, was located. Against the backdrop of a summer counter-offensive that did not bring the expected results, Western analysts called Ukraine’s actions in the Black Sea a major victory in 2023.
Russia returns launch vehicles to the Black Sea
On December 20, for the first time after a long break, a Russian launch vehicle went on combat duty in the Black Sea. Until this time, they were either at home bases or at the naval base in Novorossiysk, away from the threat of Ukrainian naval drones. According to respondents Focus experts, this exit does not mean that the enemy has managed to bypass the threat of the Ukrainian naval unmanned fleet and can feel free on the high seas. According to Lakiychuk, such a step is most likely associated with a change in Russian tactics of using missile strikes on the territory of Ukraine. If earlier we observed that missile launches from ships and boats occur in combination with an attack by strategic aircraft, now the enemy has switched to the tactics of ballistic missiles and drones. The expert notes that it was not a surface ship or boat that went on duty, but a submarine.
“The Varshavyanka submarine went on combat duty. This has its pros and cons. As for the pros, the submarine is armed with four to six cruise missiles, unlike corvettes and frigates, where their number reaches 8-16 missiles The downside is that we cannot observe their entry into the positional area, and air defense forces can detect missile launches only at the moment they enter the flight path,” Lakiychuk explains.
According to him, the Russian command can also give the order to attack Ukraine from the eastern Black Sea, the operational range of cruise missiles allows this.
Prospects for the development of the Ukrainian Navy
In the new strategic concept of the Alliance, the Black Sea is almost for the first time defined as a region of geopolitical significance. At the initiative level, the Ukrainian side proposed that NATO make the Black Sea its internal one, as has already happened in the Baltic Sea. Focus I have already said that the attention of the maritime NATO member countries is gradually returning to the Black Sea region. At the end of October 2023, it became known that three NATO member countries were discussing the creation of a special unit to clear the Black Sea of mines that fall into their territorial waters due to Russian aggression against Ukraine. According to Bloomberg, we are talking about Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria. Earlier, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported that Ukraine, together with the Alliance’s partners, is preparing for mine action in the region.
Attack from the sea. Are Ukrainian kamikaze drones capable of expelling the Russian fleet from the Black Sea?
On December 13, it became known about the creation of the Maritime Coalition of Great Britain and Norway to support the Ukrainian Naval Forces, as well as gain an advantage in the Black Sea. The first step was the transfer of two Sandown minesweepers, several dozen Viking amphibians and high-speed boats. In addition, a ten-year security pact between the UK and Ukraine is expected to be signed in a few days.
Alexander Kovalenko reminds us that even before the start of the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation, we had a number of agreements with Great Britain on fleet issues. At that time there was talk of joint production of small missile boats, and the United Kingdom gave us Sandown minesweepers. Also worth mentioning is the £1.6 billion loan for the construction of eight missile boats.
“We have joint projects to train Ukrainian naval crews and naval officers, thus the Ukrainian Ukrainian Armed Forces will gradually integrate to common standards with NATO. Although Norway does not have such a powerful fleet as Great Britain, it has developed technologies in shipbuilding, naval armament and missile technology. In total, this cooperation will significantly strengthen the Ukrainian Naval Forces. But all this will happen only after the end of the war,” says Kovalenko.
Sea battle. Putin is preparing to send new missile ships to the Black Sea