Neptune Anti-Ship Missile May Have Been Weapon That Sank Russian 'Moskva'

A weapon designed and built in Ukraine may have been central to one of the country's most momentous victories against Russia's invasion.

Ukrainian forces last month proclaimed they had sunk the Moskva missile cruiser, Russia's flagship of its Black Sea Fleet, scoring a large symbolic and strategic victory for Ukraine against Russia's larger military. While the Kremlin has denied a missile sank the cruiser, its military has faced determined opposition from Ukrainian forces who have at times used unexpectedly advanced weaponry.

The origins of the Neptune go back to 2014, when Ukraine began developing its own anti-ship guided missile after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula, according to HistoryNet.com. Based on the Soviet Kh-35 cruise missile, the Luch Design Bureau in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv added improvements to the new weapon that debuted as the R-360 Neptune at the 2015 Arms and Security International Exhibition in Kyiv.

The land-based cruise rocket system was specifically designed to defeat warships, such as cruisers, destroyers, tank-landing ships and others, according to the Luch Design Bureau.

Moskva, flagship of Russian Black Sea Fleet
Ukrainian officials report the Neptune land-based cruise missile system helped in the sinking of the Mosvka missile cruiser, flagship of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. Above, the Moskva enters Sevastopol Bay in the south Crimean Peninsula on September 10, 2008. VASILY BATANOV/Getty Images

The Neptune is 16 feet long, weighs 1,920 pounds and has a 330-pound warhead, according to HistoryNet.com. Ukrainian designers also produced six mobile launchers for the missile that can be fired up to 16 miles from the coastline, with the the ability to dodge enemy radar by flying at altitudes of 10 to 15 meters above sea level.

"This system was designed to defend Ukraine in the Azov and the Black seas," Rear Admiral Oleksiy Neizhpapa, the navy's top commanding officer, said during the ceremony commemorating the missile's delivery on March 15, 2021, according to the according to the Kyiv Post.

Ukraine's navy added the missile system to its new coastal defense missile battalion set up to defend the country's vulnerable coastline against maritime threats from Russia, according to the Post. It was delivered in Odessa, a Ukrainian city on the Black Sea near Crimea that's currently being bombarded by Russian forces.

"This day spells the history of the navy's coastal missile defense forces," Neizhpapa added during the ceremony, calling it "Ukraine's missile shield in the sea," according to the Post.

The Neptune was put to the test on April 13, 2022, when the Moskva left its base in Crimea and took a position about 93 miles south of Odesa, launching several cruise missiles at the city, according to HistoryNet.com.

Ukrainian officials said they responded by firing two Neptune missiles that sunk the ship. Russian forces say a fire detonated ammunition on the ship; however, photographs seem to indicate a missile hit the ship's port side, according to HistoryNet.com.

"Neptune missiles guarding the Black Sea caused very serious damage to the Russian ship," Maksym Marchenko, head of Ukraine's Odessa regional administration, said on Telegram, announcing the strike. "Glory to Ukraine!"

The Moskva has special significance in the Russia-Ukraine war. Shortly after Russia began its invasion in late February, a group of 13 Ukrainian border guards on Snake Island refused to surrender, telling the Moskva to "go f**k yourself."

While Neptune is now heralded, red tape delayed its development, and it was finally produced in response to public pressure, according to the Post.

Newsweek reached out to the Ukrainian government for comment.