Asymmetric Warfare: Ukraine Shows Off Home-Grown Sea Drones Used to Attack Bridges, Ships

Security Service of Ukraine

Ukraine has claimed the recent drone attack on Russia’s Crimean bridge for the first time, showing off the self-developed explosive sea drones it says it has used against the bridge and Russian ships.

“Sea surface drones” created by the Security Service of Ukraine — their FBI equivalent — are responsible for a number of recent attacks against Russian interests in the Black Sea, they claimed on Wednesday.

Stating the remote-piloted floating bombs were developed without commercial involvement or Western help, the state intelligence and law enforcement body said “Sea surface drones are a unique invention of the Security Service of Ukraine… Using these drones we have conducted successful hits of the Crimean bridge in July 2023, the landing ship Olengorskiy Gornyak and the SIG oil tanker.”

Saying the security services were manufacturing the drones at an “underground facility” and they were planning further operations with them, the organisation’s spokesman said the future would be “exciting” for their Russian enemies.

While details on the drones and their operation are reasonably sparse, Ukraine has said they have operated so far with between 450 and 850kg of explosives onboard. Footage of the craft in use so far, including of the drone strike on the Cold War-era Russian heavy landing ship Olenegorsky Gornyak shows a speedboat-size craft with a single onboard engine, possibly of welded-sheet construction.

Sensor and radio provision is evident in a series of domes on the top of the craft, and a binnacle with wave deflector up forward seems to contain at least a ‘point of view’ type camera for the remote pilot. A further boxed-out area on the bow may contain a contact fuse for the explosives onboard.

Ukraine has been developing a new maritime doctrine in the Black Sea, faced as it is by Russia’s considerably larger — if mostly Cold War vintage — navy. Not unlike the 19th century Jeune École torpedo doctrine, the Ukrainians are focussing on undermining the conventional power of major sea assets with cheap, plentiful, and relatively hard-to-detect drone strikes.

As reported, some of those struck with drones have been merchant ships carrying supplies to the Russian war effort, which are perceived as Putin’s “weakest link”. Ukraine has already declared open season on all merchant ships accessing Russian and Russian-occupied ports in the Black Sea. Noting the novelty of the tactics being used, the Ukrainians boasted on Wednesday that the West were “actively learning” from the Security Service’s use of drones.


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