Ukrainian Neptune disables Russian mammoth in Black Sea

The Neptune, which Ukraine developed based on a Soviet-era missile model, is said to have been used to attack the Russian flagship.

The R-360 Neptune anti-ship missile was first unveiled by Ukraine’s Luch Design Institute at a defence exhibition in the capital Kiev not long after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. This weapon received little attention at the time, but it has now become the centre of global attention. The cruiser Moskva, the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s flagship, was heavily damaged by two Neptune anti-ship missiles, according to Maksym Marchenko, mayor of the southern Ukrainian port city of Odessa, on April 13.

The Moscow ship exploded after a fire, according to the Russian Defense Ministry, but the cause of the fire was not specified. However, the exact cause of the damage is unknown at this time.

Ukraine announced the development of the Neptune anti-ship missile before 2014, but Russia’s annexation of Crimea has hastened the process of perfecting this weapon. Ukraine developed the R-360 Neptune anti-ship missile based on the 3M24 Uran subsonic anti-ship missile, which was developed during the Soviet era and is still in use by navies around the world. Neptune is designed to destroy surface ships with a displacement of up to 5,000 tonnes, according to the manufacturer, and has significantly improved range and avionics. The Neptune projectile is more than 5 metres long, with four stabilising wings in the middle, and a total mass of 870 kilogrammes, with the warhead weighing about 150 kilogrammes. The missile has a range of 300 kilometres and can travel at subsonic speeds. Before the MS-400 turbojet engine was turned on, a solid-fuel pre-launch stage ejected the projectile from the launch tube.

A USPU-360 ammunition carrier and launcher that can carry four missiles, a TZM-360 transport and loader vehicle, an RCP-360 command vehicle, and a Mineral-U guided radar vehicle are all part of the Neptune coastal defence complex.

Many of Ukraine’s most prominent defence companies are involved in Project Neptune. In mid-2016, the first flight test prototype was built, and the first successful test flight occurred in early 2018.

During a test in the Odessa province on August 17, 2018, the Neptune missile hit a target at a distance of 100 kilometres. Indonesia was the first foreign customer to buy Neptune missiles after Ukraine signed a memorandum of understanding on the performance of a contract to supply them in December 2020. The first RK-360MC Neptune complexes were delivered to the Ukrainian navy three months later.

The sinking of the Moskovo flagship by a Neptune missile is seen as a major victory for Ukraine in terms of tactics and domestic defence industry development, despite Kiev’s reliance on Western weapons.

“If the Neptune missile sinks the cruiser Moskva, it will be a source of pride for the Ukrainians and demonstrate their ability to threaten the enemy’s overwhelming fleet,” said Mark Cancian, senior adviser at the Center for Research and Development. Officials from Ukraine said that, in addition to Indonesia, at least three other countries have expressed interest in purchasing Neptune missiles. Still, there are concerns that Ukraine lacks sufficient weapons for domestic use, let alone to meet export demands.

Last year, Oleg Korostelov, the director of the Luch Design Institute, admitted that the company was severely underfunded, with only 800 missiles available out of a total of 2,000 ordered by the Ukrainian military.

On April 15, the Russian military announced that it had launched a Kalibr cruise missile that had destroyed the Vizar Machine-Building Factory, which manufactures and repairs medium- and long-range air defence missiles as well as anti-ship missiles for the Ukrainian army.

The Vizar factory contributed significantly to the development of Neptune anti-ship missiles and Alder guided rockets, according to Ukroboronprom, Ukraine’s state arms export corporation.

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