Sevastopol Burning: Ukraine’s Strategic Air Campaign

Andrew Tanner
10 min readSep 19

A ruscist submarine burning in drydock is another hit for the history books. It’s also another indicator of Putin’s astonishing weakness.

The S-400 system protecting Crimea is supposed to be the crown jewel in the orc air defense network. It’s a Patriot-class killer of missiles and jets that gives NATO planners nightmares. The S-400 and similar systems are why the US made a multi-trillion dollar bet on stealth jets that cheap drones are rapidly rendering obsolete.

There’s a good reason why last winter’s ruscist bombardment of Ukraine’s energy network involved dozens of missiles and drones hitting at once: it takes a lot of power to punch through even Soviet-era defense systems.

Yet Ukraine just managed to do it — again — by striking fortress Crimea’s S-400 system as well as the Black Sea Fleet’s main base in Sevastopol, a fortress within a fortress. Just ten Storm Shadow cruise missiles, if you believe the ruscist side, got through and took out two vital chunks of Putin’s effort to threaten Ukraine’s coast and blockade ships carrying grain to Africa.

Truth be told, it was probably fewer of these precious weapons than that. Ukrainian aircraft usually launch decoy drones along with cruise missiles, so it is entirely possible that every real weapon Ukraine’s Su-24 bombers released struck home.

Burning one of the four submarines that Putin has been using to fling cruise missiles at Ukraine is a massive achievement: no sub has been taken out in port by a precision weapon before. Usually you’ve got to hunt them down in the open sea: a difficult prospect.

But every system has its own unique vulnerabilities. Ukraine’s military effort is now focused on taking apart the systems that keep Putin’s regime intact. Knocking out the drydocks in the port of Sevastopol that repair the Black Sea Fleet is probably as big of news as the elimination of a sub and another landing ship used to ferry supplies to Crimea, which is now another step closer to isolation.

Chief among Putin’s systems is the perception of Moscow’s ability to control its territory. Another is the international outreach effort by Putin’s agents and fellow-travelers — including writers, scholars, billionaires, and other influencers you might know — meant to convince the world that Putin’s empire is eternal.

Andrew Tanner

Writes Rogue Systems Recon on Substack. Cat fanatic. Author of many books. Anti-partisan. West Coast = Only Coast :P Slava Ukraini! Heroiam Slava!