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The Russian missile cruiser Moskva was the lead ship of the Slava (Glory) class. Her construction began in 1976 at Nikolayev, Ukraine and she was commissioned into service on 30JAN83. She was renamed Moskva (Moskow) in 1996. She was planned to be the lead ship in a class of four, but only three were completed. Like most Soviet-era warships, Moskva was inactivated and underwent several abortive refit periods after the break-up of the Soviet Union, limited by Russia’s lack of funds. She completed a refit in 2020 which was intended to extend her service life to 2040.
The Slava-class cruisers were designed to operate with a Surface Action Group (SAG) against American Aircraft Carriers. As such, she was equipped with large launch tubes for sixteen P-500 Bazal’t (NATO reporting name SS-N-12 Sandbox) anti-ship missiles. Soviet doctrine called for massed attacks of long-range missiles in an attempt to overwhelm the carriers’ escorts.
The SS-N-12 design was upgraded, the current version is known as the P-1000 Vulcan. While designed as an anti-ship cruise missile, it is also capable of striking land-based targets. There are reports of Moskva using her missiles against Ukrainian land targets earlier in the current war. The Vulcan can be fitted with a 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) conventional or nuclear warhead.
The Moskva was also outfitted with the S-300 Fort (SA-N-6 Grumble) area defense missile system. These were located in eight 8-cell launchers below decks forward of the helicopter hanger. The structure which resembles a cupcake to the right is the Top Dome radar used to control the missiles. This missile design has also been developed into a land-based version and has been continuously upgraded. The cannisters visible on the main deck along the aft superstructure are life raft containers.
During the Ukrainian War the Moskva operated from the port of Sevastopol in the Black Sea providing air defense for Russian naval units and directing aircraft. She was one of the ships which shelled Snake Island, and launched Vulcan missiles against Ukrainian targets ashore. After seven weeks of war her operating areas off the Ukrainian coast and patterns had become predicable.
On 13APR22 the Ukrainian Navy fired two Neptune anti-ship missiles at Moskva from the shore near Odessa. Moskva was operating approximately 50 nautical miles from the coast at the time. The operation was supported by drones which were intended to distract the crew. The Neptune is designed as a sea-skimmer, flying close to the water surface to avoid enemy radar. The “UFO” to the left of the photo is the cap from the missile tube.
Ukraine claims both missiles hit Moskva, and multiple other countries have confirmed the hits. Russia says the Moskva was damaged by an internal explosion and fire. This is one of two photographs which show the ship on fire and listing while other ships provide assistance. Russia claims the ship sank in a storm while under tow, but the sea appears calm in these pictures. At 12,500 tons, Moskva is the largest warship lost in combat since World War II.
The second photograph provides more details. There is damage to the hull forward of the stack which is a possible missile impact point, ironically located just below her port ADMG-630 close-in weapons system. Soot stains at multiple points along the hull are evidence of extensive fires below decks. Just visible behind the aft superstructure the masts and water cannon of a salvage ship can be seen. The life raft cannisters and ships’ boats are missing, indicating that the crew has already abandoned ship. Forward, the SS-N-12 cannisters appear intact, it is not known if Moskva had any of these missiles on board at the time.
Moskva carried a crew of between 485 and 510. Russia claims all were evacuated safely. Western media reports vary widely, with 54 said to be rescued, all lost, or 200 in hospital with burns. To prove at least some of the crew survived, the Russian MoD released photographs it claimed were of the crew parading at Sevastopol on 16APR22. Visible are an estimated 240 sailors being reviewed by Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov (left) and Moskva’s Captain Anton Kuprin (center), both of whom were claimed to have been killed in the attack.