B-871, a Kilo class submarine, has an interesting history. This continues our series of unusual Soviet/Russian submarines. Following on from many classes of Soviet attack boats, the Kilo design (NATO designation for these) was a leap forward in capability, with the first boat commissioned in 1980. Kilos had a very different overall hull shape from earlier diesel-electric boats, such as the Tango and Foxtrot classes. With the same armament of six 533mm torpedo tubes and naval mines, they were smaller and harder to detect than Tangos, and were clad in the same sound-absorbing anechoic rubber tiles. More than forty original Project 877 Paltus (the Russian designation) boats were built at five shipyards. Several units were exported to India, China, Iran, Romania, Poland, and Myanmar. Thirty more boats of the “Improved Kilo” or Project 636 Varshavyanka class have also joined the fleets of Russia, Algeria, China, and Vietnam, with more updated boats still under construction.
B-871, built at Gorky shipyard, transited the Volga and Don River/canal systems to its new homeport of Sevastopol, the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet (BSF), to be commissioned Dec. 1990. It has spent most of its career in Sevastopol, and has now served three navies: The Navy of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian Navy, and the Russian Navy.
Upon the dissolution of the USSR, in late December 1991, the crew in Sevastopol voted to join the newly-independent Ukraine, in a process we described in our post on the Ukrainian Navy: The Only Easy Day was Never. This new attack boat would have been one of the most able of a small force of mostly abysmal submarines handed over to Ukraine. It would have been a good running mate to the other functional boat, the older foxtrot class submarine Zaporizhzhia.
The Russian official version of this is different, with a crew uprising reported as suppressed immediately and no acknowledgement of Ukrainian Naval service. The submarine was frequently non-operational during the mid-1990s, as the Ukrainian Navy did not have the inventory of parts or the spare batteries to safely operate the sub.
B-871 was back in Russian service by 1997. According to the contemporary edition of Jane’s Fighting Ships, it was extensively modified during 1998. It was fitted with an enormous pump-jet propulsor in place of the usual screw, and received the unique Russian designation of Project 877V. At the time, this was cutting-edge technology for a Russian military submarine. Western powers, such as Britain, had built pump-jet propelled submarines. Adapting the proven Kilo design was a sensible way to trial the technology. Sometime during the early millennium the sub was named “Alrosa,” reflecting its’ sponsorship by this group of diamond-mining corporations.
By the 2010s, after years of uneventful service, Alrosa was supposed to have left Sevastopol to join the Baltic Fleet (though the boat should be close to retirement). The BSF was to upgrade to all improved Kilo type boats. This has not happened, and the current Russian War in Ukraine ensures the boat will not leave the Black Sea. Alrosa was in very lengthy refit which had just finished when Russia invaded Ukraine. The refit also has reportedly involved an enormous upgrade to the lethality of the submarine – launch tubes to be able to operate Kalibr cruise missiles.
A brief visual survey of Russian 2022 Black Sea Fleet warship losses – reality vs. false reporting
The war losses the Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSF) has suffered during the 2022 Invasion of Ukraine are historically significant. At the time of writing, they are the most severe losses sustained by a major naval service since the 1982 Falklands War.* In the Black Sea’s confined area of operations, the loss of a few major units is significant. Since the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits are closed to warships from warring navies, Russia can’t reinforce the BSF with the numerous units now present in the Mediterranean or elsewhere.** The rest of its navy- the third largest by most measurements-is effectively sidelined.***
For information about the Ukrainian Navy units lost during both the 2014 Russian Annexation of Crimea and now the 2022 Russian Invasion, please see our recent post . We also have more detailed ship listings for Ukraine and Russia. All satellite imagery below shows actual units of the BSF, home-ported at the main naval ports of Sevastopol or Novorossiysk. This post was updated as of January 2023.
The 2022 BSF casualties: 5-6 vessels, ca. 16,230 tons destroyed; 3-4 vessels, 12,800 tons damaged:
Moskva, Slava class/project 1164 Atlant missile cruiser (1983-14 April 2022). LOA 612’/186.5m TDISP 11,500 tons. Formerly the Soviet Navy’s Slava, built at Mykolaiv. Slava and the other units of the class were updates to a series of missile cruisers armed with so-called “carrier killing” anti-ship missiles. They were intended as an economical alternative to the massive nuclear-powered Kirov class. Slava, renamed Moskva after the Soviet collapse, served as the longtime flagship of the Black Sea Fleet. It was engaged in blockading the Southern Naval Base of the Ukrainian Navy at Lake Donuzlav, during the 2014 Annexation of Crimea. At the beginning of the Russian Invasion of 2022, it conspicuously participated in the attack/seizure of Snake Island on 24 February 2022. Extensively damaged by two Ukrainian Neptune Anti-ship missiles 13 April 2022, it sank the next day while efforts were underway to tow it back to Sevastopol. This is the first flagship of a major fleet lost since the Second World War, and the largest warship lost in combat since at least the Admiral Belgrano (Argentinian Navy), a veteran former USN cruiser which was sunk during the 1982 Falklands War. During late April, the Kommuna, the elderly salvage vessel, was sent to the wreck to recover equipment or human remains.
Admiral Makarov, Admiral Grigorovich class Frigate (2017). LOA 409’/124.7m TDISP 4,000 tons. Reportedly this frigate, the BSF flagship after the destruction of Moskva, was damaged during the 29 October 2022 attack by USVs and UAVs (surface and air drones). Earlier reports of damage sustained on 6 May 2022 appear to have not been accurate.
Saratov BDK-65 pennant 150 Alligator class/ Project 1171 Tapir Landing Ship (1966-24 March 2022). LOA 370’/112.8m TDISP 4,600 tons. Sunk at the port of Berdiansk, when hit by a tactical ballistic missile. Later it appeared to have been raised and salvaged, transported to Kerch. Two Ropucha II class landing ships escaped the harbour with some damage.
Caesar Kunikov (1986) and Novocherkassk (1987),Ropucha II / Project 775M class landing ships (one or both damaged 24 March 2022 when Saratov was destroyed.) LOA 369’/112.5m TDISP 4,000 tons. Though at least one ship had a fire on its foredeck, and both had sailors killed during the Ukrainian attack on occupied Berdiansk, the extent of the damage to either ship is unclear. When they fled the burning port facilities, one ship circled, seemingly out of control and “Bismarcking” South of the port.
Ivan Golubets (1973) Natya class / Project 266M minesweeper . LOA 200’/61m TDISP 870 tons. Damaged during unmanned surface drone attack on Sevastopol port, 29 Oct. 2022.
Serna class/Project 11770 landing craft (6 May 2022). LOA 85’/25.7m TDISP 61 tons. Destroyed by a Bayraktar TB-2 drone while offloading supplies at Snake Island.
Raptor class / Project 03160 Assault Boat (2 or 3 lost 21 March 2022 AND 2 May 2022). LOA 55’/16.9m TDISP 23 tons. Entered service around 2015. One unit destroyed or damaged by a soldier with a rocket launcher at Mariupol on 21 March, two units destroyed 2 May at Snake Island by a Bayraktar TB-2 drone.
The 2022 NOT LOST – Russian units erroneously reported damaged or destroyed: 3 ships, 5,780 tons tons:
Vasily Bykov / Project 22160 Large Patrol Boat (2018). LOA 308’/93.9m TDISP 1,500 tons. Involved in the attack / seizure of Snake Island 24 February 2022. Widely reported as destroyed 7 March 2022 by salvos from a Ukrainian truck-mounted rocket system, with supporting video and photo evidence online being all fabricated or depicting other events.
Admiral Essen, Admiral Grigorovich class Frigate (2016). LOA 409’/124.7m TDISP 4,000 tons. Reports about this modern frigate being hit by an anti-ship missile attack on 3 April 2022 either were not accurate or the amount of damage was insignificant, as the ship quickly reemerged in operational status.
Ataman Platov, a Dyugon class /Project 21820 large landing (ca. 2010) craft briefly reported damaged or destroyed 12 May 2022 at Snake Island. LOA 148’/ 45 m TDISP 280 tons.
*During the Falklands War, the Royal Navy lost two destroyers, two frigates, a landing ship, and a landing craft, which total to around 22,100 tons, not counting the SS Atlantic Conveyor, which was a large merchant ship engaged in military activities.
** The terms of the 1936 Montreux Convention that limits access to the Black Sea are more complicated than this, however, the result is that Russia cannot reinforce its Black Sea Fleet.
***Reports indicate some of the Caspian Sea Flotilla ships have been involved in a limited way, firing Kalibr missiles at Ukrainian targets.