At least one unmanned surface vessel was discovered on the shoreline outside the Russian Navy’s base in Sevastopol, Crimea. Sevastopol is the largest city in Crimea and a major port on the Black Sea.
One of the reasons the Russians have eyed Crimea for a long time is because of this strategic region. Sevastopol’s location and navigability to the city’s harbors would allow any Navy to deploy ships for attack or defense purposes. Sevastopol has been a critical naval base for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet since 1783. Now the question is, what is this unmanned surface vehicle (USV) doing here?
Based on the images, the boat seemed relatively small and had a shallow-draft design with what appears like a waterjet drive system. It’s also very low-profile, so there’s a possibility this is being used for stealth reconnaissance missions. There’s also a multi-camera sensor system mounted on top of the USV’s hull.
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There are two light beams or domes on its nose, which could be part of its navigation system. The dome could also be used as a sensor or navigation system. What appears to be a square-like flat object that some users have noted to be similar to a SpaceX Starlink satellite internet antenna. The top bow could also be a small, high-resolution camera.
However, what is clear is that the USV has been modified for surveillance-type missions. Based on where it landed, it appears to be of the Ukrainian Special Forces (USF). This is not the first time the USF has used smaller boats for raids or surveillance missions. The video below shows the USF navigating through Russian waters for a night raid. The body heat camera tracker monitored about five Special Forces arriving on an island. One of them stayed in the boat while the rest conducted the raid mission, bombing a supposed Russian base.
At the same time, we can also look back at the US military aid planned back in April. In Ukraine’s “wishlist” of artillery, munitions, vehicles, and more, they added “unmanned coastal defense vessels.” Though there was very little information about the type of vessel, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said, “It’s an unmanned surface vessel that can be used for a variety of purposes in coastal defense. I think I’ll just leave it at that.”
Kirby, at the time, also added that the US is willing to provide additional training on any systems (which could include this particular USV) so their military can explore a wide range of attack and defense options.
“And I don’t want to speculate right now and I don’t want to get ahead of where we are. As you saw we took advantage of some of the Ukrainians that were in the United States for some previously scheduled training to get them trained up on Switchblades. We are looking at options for additional Switchblade training and where and when that might occur and how we would do that. And certainly, one option that would be available to us would be to utilize troops that are closer to Ukraine, obviously troops that are on NATO’s eastern flank. And that still remains an open — an open option to us.”
However, there’s also a possibility that this is not a US-donated USV. The Ukrainians are known for being opportunistic when it comes to their repairs. It is possible that this USV is an anti-ship improvised USV. Users have pointed out that the domes on its nose could be contact detonators that can explode after hitting a large object. The Ukrainians can simply set a singular trajectory point and attack Russian ships without being detected. Though because of its size, we could not verify the type of possible explosive it could house.
Then, there’s also the bow. The structure could possibly imply a laser sensor that has a close firing range to help estimate the distance of the target.
As for its navigation, Navy Recognition notes that it is most likely controlled both manually using onboard TV cameras via a satellite channel.
It is clear from the markings in English that they were transferred by Western countries. The supply of unmanned maritime vehicles for the needs of the AFU was mentioned a couple of months ago, but the type of possible equipment was not named.
Before that, there was information about MANTAS T-Series Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV). Perhaps a prototype was passed over because the drone found near the coast has the same dimensions, camera location, material, and color as the MARTAC production.
This drone is not similar to those already in service with any of the NATO countries and have [sic] been presented before. It is possible that a new type of weapon will be produced specifically for the AFU.
In addition, it could be the use of existing secret designs, such as American ones. And the conflict in Ukraine is an ideal opportunity to test them in combat conditions.
For now, we do not have a confirmation of this “drone boat.” What do you think? Share your comments below.