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The US Navy used its new marine surveillance aircraft to provide accurate targeting data to Ukrainian forces to sink the Russian Black Sea flag ship Moskva on April 13.
Ukraine claimed it fired two Neptun missiles at the Russian warship which was patrolling south of Odesa.
Russia initially claimed the vessel, which had more than 500 crew on board had blown up after a fire onboard.
Later, the Kremlin was forced to admit the vessel – named in honour of the Russian capital – had been taken out by hostile action.
The US Navy deployed one of its Boeing Poseidon P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft on the Black Sea coast over Romania in the hours before the Ukrainian attack on the Moskva
The Moskva sank shortly after this image was taken following the missile strike on the cruiser
According to The Times, a US marine surveillance P-8 Poseidon aircraft, was tracking Moskva in the hours before it was attacked before supplying its location to the Ukrainian military.
The Boeing-made aircraft is based upon the Boeing 737-800 jet – which is widely used by airlines such as Ryanair.
However, instead of passengers, the Poseidon is packed with state-of-the-art surveillance equipment which can track surface vessels and submarines at ranges of more than 100 miles.
According to The Times, the P-8 took off from Italy and took up station on the Romanian Black Sea coast where it attempted to locate the position of the Russian Black Sea fleet.
Since the invasion of Ukraine, a range of NATO surveillance platforms and drones have been monitoring Russian movements from the Polish coast, along the Ukrainian border and down to the Black Sea.
The Moskva, pictured leaving Sevastopol on April 10, was the main air defence asset in the Black Sea Fleet and served as its flagship
Moskva was the Russian Black Sea fleet’s main radar platform, equipped with S-300 surface to air missiles to protect from air attack.
The vessel sank as tugs attempted to tow the crippled warship back to Crimea for repairs.
The Neptun is an anti-ship missile that was recently developed by Ukraine and based on an earlier Soviet design. The launchers are mounted on trucks stationed near the coast, and, according to the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, the missiles can hit targets up to 175 miles away. That would have put the Moskva within range, based on where the fire began.
According to The Times, the P-8 left US Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily on April 13, hours before the attack.
Before reaching the Black Sea coastline, the Poseidon turned off its trackers, so it could no longer be followed online.
The aircraft was ‘hidden’ for almost three hours before it returned to Flight Radar 24.
Aviation data analysis Amelia Smith told The Times that there were slightly more US aircraft covering the Black Sea coast on the day of the attack.
However, the US Navy refused to confirm if they assisted Ukraine with the attack by providing intelligence data.
A Defence source added: ‘In keeping with our support to Nato’s eastern flank, we have been conducting some limited air patrols off the coast of Romania. But we will not speak to the details of operational matters.’