When the lead ship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva, was badly damaged earlier this week,They hit it with two missiles, which Russia denied, blaming the damage on a fire in which ammunition was stored on the ship. The Russian Defense Ministry told the Russian state news agency TASS that while towing to port it sank after becoming unstable in stormy conditions due to damage to its hull.
On Friday, a senior US defense official confirmed that the Russian cruiser was hit by two Neptune anti-ship missiles fired by the Ukrainians from ground-based launchers. Ukrainian-made Neptune can also be launched from ships or air.
Handbook of US Military Equipment Worldwide describes the Neptune as an anti-ship cruise missile with a maximum launch range of 280 kilometers, or about 174 miles. A separate defense official said the Russian ship, which is about 600 feet long, was about 60 kilometers or about 37 miles south of Odessa, which is within Neptune’s range.
According to the second official, the ship generally has nearly 500 sailors on board. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told CNN Thursday that some crew members have been evacuated. “I don’t know how many got off,” he said. “We’ve seen indications of lifeboats and some sailors getting off the ship.” The number of victims was not known.
Neptune has been in service in the Ukrainian Navy since March 2021, according to the US Army.
Military-today.com, a website that tracks military equipment, describes the Neptune as the Ukrainian version of Russia’s Kh-35 anti-ship cruise missile, differing in that it is longer, has more fuel and has more boost. The site says it was developed by Luch Design Bureau, a Ukrainian defense contractor. Luch Design’s Office Description Of Neptune says, “It is intended to defeat warships such as cruiser, frigate destroyer, cruisers, airborne ships, tank landing ships and chariots.”