The former Royal Navy chief says the naval warfare training British forces gave Ukraine could have been key to helping defeat Vladimir Putin’s Moskva prize.
Falklands War hero Admiral Lord Alan West made the statements after Russian authorities admitted the ship had been sunk in the Black Sea.
According to reports, Ukraine claims to have hit the ship with a cruise missile after using drones to distract the defenses of the 12,490-ton warships.
In an interview with The Sun Online, the 73-year-old added that the training, which is part of an ongoing “Operation Orbital” support program, gave Ukrainian forces the know-how they needed.
British specialists trained Ukrainian forces last year, covering naval warfare at the 198th Naval Forces Training Center, a diving school and a naval school.
They have also trained elite Ukrainian sailors, pilots and marines in the vital mission, according to the Defense Ministry.
The offer was part of a rotation of around 100 British Army, Navy and RAF personnel who have traveled in and out of Ukraine since 2015.
It is understood that at this time Britain trained an extraordinary 22,000 Ukrainian soldiers.
Lord West explained: “We certainly taught the Ukrainians naval warfare in detail, so that they knew how to use surface-to-surface missiles and the best way to deploy them.
“The Neptune missile needs targeted information on its initial flight path, then it moves on to its own sensors.”
The Ukrainian-made subsonic missile is based on the old Soviet Kh-35 anti-ship missile and can destroy targets over 200 MILES away.
First fielded in Ukraine last year, the entire system includes a truck-mounted mobile launcher, four missiles, a reload vehicle and a command and control vehicle.
It is designed to fly close to the surface of the water to avoid detection – so it strikes its target before it even realizes it.
The former first sea lord suggested that such training could even have changed the “tactical dimensions of the Black Sea” and thus changed the course of the conflict.
He explained: “If the Ukrainians were able to use drones and other intelligence information that they could have obtained from us and other allies, to target that at a long distance from the coast, that would change the Russian tactics.”
The Russian ship was reportedly sinking after being hit twice by missiles fired by Ukraine.
Russia, however, claims the ship sank in a storm after a fire triggered an explosion of ammunition.
According to reports, the attack killed the ship’s captain Anton Kuprin, 44, and sent around 500 crew members overboard.
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