Nikkei Asia
April 18, 2022

Turkish-made drones likely involved in Moskva sinking
Ukrainian official says Neptune missile was assisted by ‘other equipment’

Turkish-made attack Bayraktar TB2 drones were likely involved in the targeting of Russia’s Moskva missile cruiser, officials and analysts say.

Turkish-made attack drones likely had a role in the Ukrainian operation to target Russia’s Moskva missile cruiser, according to an Ukrainian official and defense industry analysts.

A senior Ukrainian official with direct access to information from the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces tacitly acknowledged the involvement of medium altitude long endurance (MALE) armed Bayraktar TB2 drones. Asked whether the drones were used in the attack, the official said: “Moskva was hit by two Neptune missiles with assistance of different equipment.”

A Telegram account with perceived links to Russian paramilitary organization Wagner Group noted in a post on April 14 that the ship’s defenses were diverted to a Bayraktar TB2 drone in the sky when the Ukrainian side opened fire using anti-ship missiles.

Analysts also suggested that the TB2 drones could have been used to spot the exact location of the cruiser in the Black Sea, enabling precision strikes against it.

The drones came under the spotlight early in the conflict when the Ukrainian military released video footage of them hitting Russian convoys and blowing up tanks and surface-to air missile defense systems. Now the TB2 has emerged again as a key tool in the war.


The sinking of the Moskva is the single-largest blow the Russians have suffered at the hands of the Ukrainians. It marks one of the largest ships to fall in combat since the end of World War II.
The Russian defense ministry has not acknowledged the missile attack, only saying that its Black Sea flagship caught fire and some ammunition exploded, and that it sunk while being towed to port.


Defense analysts have been studying the role that the Turkish-made drones may have played in assisting the strike.

“Reports that Turkish TB2 drones were involved in the attack either as a distraction for Moskva or as location spotter of Moskva are both quite possible,” said Can Kasapoglu, director of the security and defense studies program at the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM), Turkish think tank.


On April 10, a TB2 mobile ground-control station was spotted in Odesa, Mevlutoglu said.
Then on April 12, Russia’s defense ministry released a video saying a Russian frigate destroyed a Bayraktar-type of unmanned aerial vehicle near the western coast of the Crimean Peninsula, without showing the impact moment of the target. “The UAV carried out reconnaissance of the actions of Black Sea Force ships” of Russia, the posting said.

Mevlutoglu also noted that Rear Adm. Oleksiy Neizhpapa, the commander of the Ukrainian naval forces, has made past comments that imply that TB2 drones would be used together with Neptune missile batteries for target spotting.

Although the exact number of TB2 drones currently in Ukraine’s arsenal is not known, Mevlutoglu estimates it to be somewhere between 24 and 40.


Geopolitical consultant Rich Outzen, a retired U.S. military officer and State Department policy planner, told Nikkei Asia that the TB2 is “a jack-of-all-trades” weapon.

“Turkish forces have proved the TB2’s effectiveness as a strike platform in Libya and Syria, as did their Azerbaijani allies in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Outzen said. “Less well known – because less apt for video display – is the TB2’s role as a communications relay, spotter, jammer, sensor, target designator and decoy. These capabilities have been honed especially in Syria and northern Iraq operations. The Ukrainians have taken this to a new level with maritime ops, as a force multiplier, evidenced by the sinking of the Moskva.”


Before the Moskva incident, a senior Turkish defense industry source familiar with the performance of the TB2 told Nikkei Asia, that the drone “has been a combat-proven system against various air defense systems as tested in Syria, Libya and [the] Azerbaijan-Armenia war, even before the Ukraine war.

“It is much cheaper than a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone so if need be, you can even sacrifice a few to take out a much more expensive and difficult to replace missile defense systems. You can quickly produce 50 more drones but they cannot produce five new missile defense systems.”


Nikkei Asia
April 16, 2022

Turkey’s grip on Black Sea access hinders Russia after Moskva sinking
Ankara will allow no replacement ships from Moscow to pass, experts say

The dramatic sinking of Russia’s guided missile cruiser Moskva – the flagship of its Black Sea fleet – on Thursday was followed by a U.S. defense official telling reporters that Moscow immediately moved its four to five remaining ships in those waters south, farther from Ukraine.

The Moskva was 60 to 65 nautical miles south of the Ukrainian port city of Odesa. The other Russian vessels, which were operating near the flagship, are now no closer than 80 nautical miles from the coast, the American official said.


Should Russia want to send more ships into the Black Sea to replace the Moskva or withdraw its Black Sea fleet to the Mediterranean, it must persuade Turkey to open the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. These straits have been closed to warships since late February, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

…The only vessels allowed to pass, even during the blockade, are those that have been separated from their home bases and are returning.


Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the sinking of the Moskva disrupts Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war plans and raises a potential clash with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“If Putin’s plans still include an amphibious attack on Odesa or require a significant naval presence to keep pressure on Ukraine, he will need to bring additional vessels to the Black Sea, and that’s not going to happen,” Cagaptay said. “Turkey would need to violate Montreux, which it would never do, to allow extra naval vessels to come in.”