Could The Moskva Have Been Carrying Nuclear Weapons? Possibly.
Copyright 17 April 2022 by Michael H. Maggelet
The recent sinking of the Russian Federation Navy flagship Moskva (formerly the “Slava”, i.e. Glory in Russian) has brought concerns by some in the media that the warship may have been carrying nuclear weapons.
possibility exists that the ship may have been carrying nuclear
weapons, however there are no public announcements made by NATO
countries, which likely have surveyed the area of Moskva’s sinking
in the Black Sea.
Aerial sniffer aircraft, such as the USAF WC-135W, are equipped to monitor the atmosphere for radionuclides, and media claims of Turkish and Romanian rescue ships rescuing at least 50 Russian naval personnel have yet to be verified. Losses on the Moskva may number in the hundreds.
At this time, there is no evidence that the Moskva used her defensive systems (flares, chaff) and anti-aircraft missiles and guns. Also, note that apparently two missiles hit the ship; more than two may have been fired in order to overwhelm defenses (along with other measures).
Project 1164 "Atlant" and NATO "Slava" class, now known as the "Moskva" class (source-RussianShips.info)
The location of the attack was near 45 deg 10 min N, 30 deg 55 min E. At the time of this writing, several Russian ships were in the vicinity of the sinking (as reported by naval blogger H.I. Sutton). The depth of the sinking is around 50 meters (164 feet).
It should be noted that US and NATO surface vessels do not carry nuclear weapons, while the Russian Federation still retains at least 1800 tactical nuclear weapons in its arsenal.
the fact the Moskva was heavily armed with sixteen liquid fueled
surface to surface missiles, sixty-four surface to air missiles, RPK-6 anti-submarine rockets, dozens of RBU-6000
anti-submarine rockets, and possibly depth bombs (not to mention CIWS
and cannon), a hull penetrating hit by ordnance such as the R-360 Neptune with a 330 pound warhead could have been initially
Additionally, Russian nuclear weapons are undoubtably one point safe, meaning a one point detonation of the warhead high explosive will not produce a nuclear yield.
The Moskva could carry the following Russian nuclear weapon systems-
P-1000 Vulkan (SS-N-12 Sandbox)- 350 Kt.
RPK-6 Vodopod (SS-N-16 Stallion)- 200 Kt.
Nuclear depth bombs for the Ka-27 helicopter.
for ordnance- militaryrussia.ru)
Attacks on warships using artillery and iron bombs were not uncommon during the Cold War era. During the Viet Nam war, several US warships were hit by North Vietnamese MiG-17s and shore artillery batteries, at some times leading to extensive damage and fatalities.
One case was the USS Ozbourn (DD-846), patrolling off the DMZ Viet Nam on 25 March 1967. The ship was stationary in the fog, and as morning light highlighted the ships mast, North Vietnamese shore batteries opened fire hitting the ship twice. At least one round hit the ASROC storage compartment, seriously damaging several conventional and nuclear armed ASROCs.
The most serious nuclear weapons accidents to date at sea include the loss of the USS Scorpion in 1968, loss of the Soviet submarine K-129 in 1968, K-8 submarine in 1970, K-219 in 1986, and K-278 in 1989. These accidents are covered in detail in "Broken Arrow, Volume II" by yours truly and the late James C. Oskins.