Russian Kilo-class sub was hit in Sevastopol – conflicting reports

Reports are surfacing that a KILO class submarine under the command of the Russian Navy has potentially been targeted by Ukraine in Sevastopol, as asserted by submarine expert H I Sutton in a tweet, although confirmation remains pending at this juncture. 

Images currently in circulation indeed reveal a Ropucha Class landing ship engulfed in flames. Russian sources allude to damage to two vessels. Analytical studies done by @MT_Anderson mark the other likely casualty as a KILO class submarine, identified based on its location in an identical dry dock as the burning ship. 

Sutton has divulged, although yet to indulge in a comprehensive analysis, that the affected KILO seems to bear semblance to a Pr.636.3 Improved-KILO. He reveals that Russia commands four of these in the Black Sea, in addition to a single Pr.877 KILO, baptized as Alrosa, distinguished by its pump jet.

Russian Kilo-class sub was hit in Sevastopol - conflicting reports
Photo credit: @MT_Anderson / Twitter

An essential distinction to note is that the Enhanced KILO class submarines possess the capacity to dispatch Kalibr cruise missiles. The notion that Alrosa, another class of submarine, might have been upgraded to launch these missiles during its refit is plausible, although it lacks definitive confirmation. Consequently, this possibility is perceived with a degree of skepticism. “Must reiterate that, based on what I’ve seen, the KILO is unconfirmed,’ Sutton said. 

Russia confirms the attack

According to an official statement by the Russian Ministry of Defense, the Ukrainian Armed Forces [AFU] launched a tactical assault on the S. Ordzhonikidze ship repair plant [SRZ] in Sevastopol, employing ten potent cruise missiles in their operation. Notably, seven of these airborne threats were successfully neutralized by efficient air defense mechanisms. 

The stringent night-time defensive maneuvers of Russian forces reacted to a multi-pronged aggressor strategy. The Ukrainian forces not only targeted the ship repair plant with the arsenal of cruise missiles, but they also assaulted a Black Sea Fleet detachment during a maritime transit with three unmanned boats. 

The defense authorities relayed that the majority of the inbound missiles were strategically intercepted and neutralized. “Of the incoming barrage, seven cruise missiles were systematically shot down by air defense systems. The patrol ship Vasily Bykov, executed with precision, obliterating all unmanned boats,” elaborated the ministry. The onslaught resulted in damage to two ships under repairs. 

Previously, Sevastopol’s governor, Mikhail Razvozhaev, divulged preliminary findings on the missile attack on the city – a bold act that precipitated a fire in the South Bay area. The governor reassured citizens by stating, “Following the aggressive incident, robust operational services were activated at the Sevmorzavod’s southern site. This robust response resulted in 24 unfortunate casualties, with only four reported to be in moderate condition. The situation is under control, and there is currently no threat to the city.” 

The ‘two ships’

Multiple channels on Telegram have corroborated the reports of the Ukrainian offensive, indicating instances of maritime infrastructure damage. A transmission from the renowned Telegram outlet, SHOT, detailed that “the onslaught on Sevastopol bay inflicted damage on two vessels: The B-237 Submarine named Rostov-on-Don and the Ropucha-class landing ship christened Minsk. In addition to this structural damage, the distressing loss of two lives and injury to 26 individuals were further consequences.”

The assertions made by these channels not only substantiate reports derived from Russian media but also align with Russia’s formal declaration, affirming that a pair of their naval vessels sustained damage in the wake of the Ukrainian confrontation.

Russian KILO-class subs

Threat to NATO: Russian Kilo-class subs armed with Kalibr missiles
Photo credit: RIA Novosti

The barrage of cruise missiles Russia is deploying against Ukraine primarily originates from its arsenal of submarines located in the Black Sea. A quartet of upgraded KILO Class submarines comprises the Russian Navy’s dominant presence in the region. 

These menacing marine vessels can hold 3 to 4 Kalibr cruise missiles each, a formidable component of Russia’s strategic firepower. The SS-N-30A SAGARIS land attack variant, in particular, has been a critical tool in disrupting Ukraine’s counter-offensive efforts. 

As the last outstanding diesel-electric submarine class conceived during the Cold War era by the Soviet Union, the KILO class has maintained its relevance well beyond the USSR’s dissolution. Its enduring prevalence is a testament to its success, having become the primary Russian non-nuclear submarine class and being widely exported post-USSR collapse. It has been reported that a further half dozen were recently sold at the latest Army2023 expo hosted in Moscow. 

The Pr.877, which once boasted the leading edge of submarine design, has been outdone by its successor, the Pr.636 Improved-KILO (also known as the Pr.636.3 in the Russian Navy). The updated model signifies a pivotal shift from analog to digitized combat systems, enabling the integration of modernized weaponry, such as the Kalibr cruise missiles, and advanced sensor technology.


In an unusual configuration for a non-nuclear submarine, one of the KILO class vessels, specifically the Alrosa [B-871], is equipped with a pumpjet propulsor. Ordinarily, the usage of pump jets is optimized for submarines capable of higher underwater speeds. It can be speculated this unique addition may have been implemented for testing purposes, considering that similar pumpjets are used in some of the Russian ballistic missile submarines. 

Despite the ongoing debates on the effectiveness of the pumpjet propulsor on the Alrosa, its presence has stood the test of time, remaining intact even after the submarine underwent a recent, and notably drawn-out, refit. Interestingly, it continues to hold the distinction of being the only diesel-electric submarine fitted with a pump jet.

2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

On the 21st of February, 2022, allegations emerged from Russia, asserting that a border facility under the jurisdiction of their Federal Security Service [FSB] had been decimated due to an aggressive shelling operation purportedly executed by Ukrainian forces. According to the Russian authorities, this unexpected and violent incursion resulted in the unfortunate demise of five Ukrainian combatants.

Ukraine, however, vehemently repudiated involvement in both occurrences, categorizing them as nothing more than deceptive maneuvers, or ‘false flags’.

In a significant development on the very day, the Russian government extended formal recognition to the self-proclaimed entities of DPR and LPR. This recognition, as per Putin, was not confined merely to the territories under their de-facto control, but encompassed the entire Ukrainian Oblasts. In an ensuing move, Putin commanded the mobilization of Russian military forces, inclusive of tanks, into the said regions.

Russia fired P-270 Moskit and sank Ukrainian anti-sub corvette
Photo credit: Twitter/MoD

Aggressive invasion

In a significant geopolitical development on the 24th of February, 2022, President Vladimir Putin of Russia commanded an aggressive military invasion into Ukraine. This act of aggression was executed by Russia’s formidable Armed Forces, which had been strategically amassed along the Ukrainian border in a show of ominous intent. 

This invasion was not a random act of violence, but a meticulously planned operation, characterized by precise airstrikes that targeted key military infrastructures within the Ukrainian territory. Concurrently, an armored division of tanks rolled in from the Belarusian frontier, further intensifying the scale and impact of the offensive.

The Russian administration thus far has refrained from acknowledging the ongoing incursion into Ukraine as a “war”. This, despite the fact that the unfolding events bear all the hallmarks of a military conflict. Instead, the Kremlin insists on terming it a “special military operation”.


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