The conflict between Ukraine and Russia has intensified in recent months, reaching new frontiers with the deployment of sea drone attacks.
In a significant development, Ukraine has been launching sea drone strikes on Russian Black Sea Fleet vessels, prompting Russia to announce its forthcoming deployment of naval drone boats by the year’s end.
Russian Marine Drone Boats
Mikhail Danilenko, the Managing Director of KMZ Holding (Kingisepp Machine-Building Plant), revealed in an interview with RIA Novosti that the Russian Ministry of Defense (RuMoD) is set to receive the first Russian marine drones by the year’s end.
“The Ministry of Defense has already agreed on the delivery of the first ten units, which we must send by the end of this year. This will be the first experimental batch that will be tested in the Northern Military District zone,” Danilenko explained.
This initial batch, comprising ten units, will undergo testing in the SVO zone.
These unmanned boats reportedly possess remarkable capabilities, capable of traversing over 200 kilometers at speeds reaching 80 kilometers per hour and carrying bombs weighing up to 600 kilograms.
Notably, the Russian military retains the freedom to select weaponry for these drone boats, with the potential to transform them into naval kamikaze drones.
🇷🇺 Serial production of the first Russian naval drones for the Russian armed forces is planned to begin in 2024, Mikhail Danilenko, the managing director of Kingisepp Machine-Building Plant (KMZ), told Sputnik. pic.twitter.com/iKMB530lgG
— Sputnik (@SputnikInt) November 28, 2023
Testing and Potential Production
According to reports, the potential for serial production hinges on the outcomes of the testing phase.
KMZ Holding, specializing in boat production for Russian law enforcement, showcased its multifunctional unmanned surface vehicle (USV) based on the “Vizir” platform at the Army Forum 2023 in August.
“For the tasks of a crewless strike boat, it is possible to make a version with an electric drive, including the main engine and batteries, making it possible to move slowly, saving energy,” Danilenko noted at the forum, adding that it will utilize a “hybrid engine.”
“As a weapon against, for example, drones, it can be equipped with a large-caliber machine gun and light missiles,” he added.
Danilenko also highlighted the adaptability of these USVs, indicating configurations with electric drives for energy conservation and diverse armament possibilities.
— tobimono2 (@tobimono2) November 28, 2023
Concerns and Ukrainian Response
While Russia advances its drone boat capabilities, concerns have arisen within Ukraine.
The introduction of these marine drones poses a significant threat, particularly due to their potential for mass production compared to larger Russian battleships.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky emphasized the need for enhanced air defenses to safeguard vital grain export routes and regions bordering Russia, anticipating further challenges with Russia’s imminent deployment.
Ukraine’s Utilization of Sea Drones
Ukraine has employed sea drones as a strategic tool against the Russian Black Sea Fleet, effectively countering the naval superiority of its adversary.
These unmanned maritime drones, combined with a growing arsenal of long-range anti-ship missiles and crucial surveillance support from Western allies, have severely disrupted Russian naval operations.
The use of “kamikaze” unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) has been pivotal, maneuvering across long distances to inflict targeted explosive damage on Russian vessels.
Ukraine’s military intelligence posts footage of naval drones hitting two Russian Black Sea Fleet Serna-class landing craft in Crimea, which it says were used to provide layered air defenses to bigger warships. There are only two Serna ships in the BSF, according to open sources. pic.twitter.com/7YwlYDGnaN
— Yaroslav Trofimov (@yarotrof) November 10, 2023
Notable attacks include an assault on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet facility in Sevastopol and incidents targeting Russian merchant vessels and patrol boats.
These attacks, while not resulting in vessel sinkings, prompted Russia to bolster defensive measures in Crimean ports and restrict the movement of warships outside protected areas.
The UK Defense Ministry highlighted the evolving significance of USVs in modern naval warfare, especially in targeting vulnerable aspects of Russia’s sea supply lanes.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 09 August 2023.
Find out more about Defence Intelligence's use of language: https://t.co/IogZ2lVJHB
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) August 9, 2023
Recent Strikes and Implications
Recent strikes have intensified, with Ukrainian sea drones sinking two ships belonging to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
While these attacks haven’t completely diminished Russia’s naval might, they’ve forced strategic withdrawals to shield ships from potential drone attacks.
Ukrainian officials assert that these strikes aim to deny Russia control of the Black Sea and reclaim critical shipping routes.
With Russia gearing up to introduce marine drone boats, the current tactical edge enjoyed by Ukrainian forces may diminish.
The introduction of similar capabilities in the region could significantly alter the dynamics of the conflict, posing challenges to Ukraine’s defensive strategies.
In this escalating conflict, the strategic use of sea drones has become a critical factor.
As the conflict expands into the realm of unmanned naval warfare, both Ukraine and Russia face shifting dynamics and an evolving battlefield.
The introduction of marine drone boats by Russia threatens to further intensify an already volatile situation.
In conclusion, the conflict between Ukraine and Russia has transcended traditional warfare into the domain of cutting-edge technology and unmanned warfare.
The imminent deployment of Russian marine drone boats and Ukraine’s adept use of sea drones underscore the evolving nature of conflict and the strategic significance of technological advancements in modern warfare.
As both nations navigate these developments, the balance of power in the region remains at stake, with potential consequences reverberating far beyond the Black Sea.
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