Russia has “almost certainly” moved its Black Sea Fleet Kilo-class submarines from Sevastopol, Crimea, to the Novorossiysk port in Krasnodar Krai, the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense announced in a Tuesday intelligence report.
Russia could have up to four of the diesel-electric attack boats in the Black Sea.
All of the Kilo-class are capable of launching Kalibr NK cruise missiles. Sea-launched Kalibirs have been used in attacks on Ukraine, a senior military official said during a Monday briefing.
While the United States has seen reports, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder during his Tuesday press briefing was not able to confirm that Russia is moving their submarines.
The submarine move is likely due to increased Ukrainian long-range strike capabilities that would leave the attack boats at risk at the Black Sea Fleet base in Sevastopol, according to British intelligence assessment. The Russian Navy fleet headquarters and main naval aviation airfield at Sevastapol have been attacked in the past two months, the assessment reads.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 20 September 2022
Find out more about the UK government's response: https://t.co/gmR2GIiKs1
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— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) September 20, 2022
“The command of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet as almost certainly relocated its Kilo-class submarines from their home port of Sevastopol in Crimea to Novorossiysk in Krasnodar Krai, southern Russia,” reads the assessment.
“Guaranteeing the Black Sea Fleet’s Crimea basing was likely one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motivations for annexing the peninsula in 2014. Base security has now been directly undermined by Russia’s continual aggression in Ukraine.”
Prior to the move, it was not unusual for Russia to have three of its Kilo-class submarines at the Sevastapol base and one at sea, according to a report in Naval News.
The submarines are still able to launch Kalibr-cruise missiles at Ukraine from the vicinity of Novorossiysk, according to Naval News. The Kalibirs, that mimic the capabilities of the U.S. Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, have an estimated range of 1,000 nautical miles.
The Russian Navy has taken a largely background role in the Ukrainian invasion since Ukraine sank RTS Moskva (121), the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet.
Ukrainians used Neptune missiles to hit Moskva, causing it to catch on fire in April. It sank while the Russian Navy was towing it, USNI News previously reported.