Ukraine’s Neptune Cruise Missile Upgrades Put Putin’s Black Sea Fleet in Crosshairs

Ukraine will increase the production of its Neptune missile “tenfold” this year while upping the range of the homegrown missile, as Kyiv contends with maintaining stockpiles of its long-range missiles and the tempo of repeated strikes on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

Ukraine will “increase tenfold” the number of Neptune missiles it is manufacturing in 2024, said Jane Harman, Mara Rudman and Roger Zakheim, who sit on the U.S. Congress’ National Defense Strategy Commission. The Commission analyzes the U.S. military and defense postures and the world’s security situation.

“In the coming year, the Neptune will increase its range up to 1,000 kilometers [621 miles], opening the way for targets deep inside Russia,” they added in a report published in Real Clear Politics.

The Neptune missile stands on display. Ukraine will up the production of such missiles “tenfold” this year while increasing the range of the homegrown missile, according to a new report. Telegram

Ukraine’s Neptune missiles are most famously credited with the sinking of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet flagship, the Moskva, back in April 2022. It is based on Russia’s Kh-35 subsonic cruise anti-ship missile, and has been compared to the U.S. military’s Harpoon missile.

Upping the production of a long-range missile capable of striking into Russian territory would boost Ukraine’s ability to hit key Russian assets. Kyiv has received Storm Shadow and SCALP air-launched long-range cruise missiles, from the U.K. and France, as well as the U.S.-made Army Tactical Missile System. But these missile stockpiles are scarce.

More of the homegrown Neptune missiles “will allow Ukraine to hit Russian ships at further distances,” one open-source intelligence account posted to X, formerly Twitter.

Ukrainian Navy spokesperson, Dmytro Pletenchuk, said in late March 2024 that Kyiv struck the Konstantin Olshansky—a former Ukrainian landing ship seized by Russia when it annexed Crimea a decade ago—with a Neptune missile. “This ship was supposed to be used by Ukraine, therefore, a decision was made to destroy this unit with our Neptune,” Pletenchuk said in remarks reported by Ukrainian media.

Kyiv has also teased a land-attack version of the Neptune. Oleksiy Danilov, the former secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said a “new, completely modern” missile had worked “flawlessly” to take out a Russian air-defense system in western Crimea in late August 2023.

Ukraine used a revamped version of its Neptune missile, an anonymous Ukrainian defense official told The War Zone at the time. The attack “was 100 percent carried out by a modified Neptune,” the unnamed official added.

“In a perfect world, land-attack missions are not the best use for modern anti-ship missiles, which are specially designed to sink heavily armored warships at sea,” missile expert Ian Williams told Newsweek in early September 2023. “But Ukraine is facing a real deficit in deep strike systems.”

In June 2023, then-defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said Ukraine had approved a missile program that was likely to produce domestically-made missiles with a range of more than 1,000 kilometers [621 miles]. Reznikov did not specify whether this would apply to the Neptune.

Back in mid-2021, reports said that a 1,000-kilometer missile was being discussed, and described as likely a variant of the Neptune.

Senior Ukrainian military official, Lieutenant General Ivan Gavrylyuk, said in December 2023 that “work is underway to create the so-called long ‘Neptune.'” The missile is an adaptation of the Neptune missile, upping the range of the missile, Gavrylyuk said, but did not offer further details.

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