This week Russia claims to have destroyed the Ukrainian Navy’s production and storage facilities for naval drones, using multiple seaborne long-range precision weapons against the sites. Ukraine’s navy drone inventory first drew global attention when the navy used seven USVs (or unmanned surface vessels) packed with explosives to attack Russia’s Sevastopol Black Sea Fleet headquarters in October 2022.
In the past few weeks, Ukraine has reported a number of successful sea drone attacks, prompting global media to attribute it with a tactical advantage, altering the “balance of power in the Black Sea” (Wall Street Journal, August 11th). In the early hours of Monday July 17th morning, two Ukrainian USVs hit the concrete piers of the 12 kilometre Kerch Bridge, which links Crimea to Russia. One of the bridge’s sections was destroyed, bringing traffic to a halt, with several civilian casualties.
On August 1st, Russia’s Ministry of Defence announced that it had thwarted several attacks by Ukrainian sea drones on both Russian Navy and commercial ships in the Black Sea. The defence ministry reported that a total of three USVs had made attempts to attack the Sergei Kotov and Vasiliy Bykov patrol ships during the night of July 31st / August 1st, southwest of Sevastopol. It said that all three drones were destroyed,
Two days later, a USV carrying 450 kilograms of TNT hit the Russian Navy landing ship Olenegorsky Gornyak, which had around 100 Russian servicemen on board, disabling the vessel. One day after that, the Ukrainian Navy used a USV to attack and disable the Russian merchant tanker (MT) Sig near the Kerch Strait off Crimea, which is contracted by the Russian military to ship fuel.
We now know, via a report by CNN, that the drones used in the bridge attack were developed over the past 18 months by the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU). Named the ‘Sea Baby’, the new USV was developed by the SSU inside Ukraine without the involvement of commercial technology vendors. Piloted remotely, the Sea Baby can reportedly carry a payload of up to 850 kilograms, although the full specifications have not been disclosed.
More is known about the Security Service’s Magura V5, a smaller, sleeker 5.5 metre-long USV. The sea drone has an operational range of 800 kilometres (500 miles), a burst speed of 42 kmph and is able to carry a payload of up to 300 kg (700lb). Reports of the Magura V5’s specifications vary. It has also been reported by CNN that the Security Service has developed a faster drone with a maximum speed of 80 kph (50 mph).
So, it comes as no surprise that Russian has sought to score a quick victory over Ukraine’s sea drones, as a message that any tactical advantage earned over its military can be easily neutralised. We will only know for sure if this is the case, if Ukraine’s sea drone attacks on Russian maritime targets come to a complete halt.
by Carrington Malin