Espreso. Global

Enough explosives to ­destroy Russia’s Black Sea navy: The Times shows Ukrainian sea drones base

7 December, 2023 Thursday
20:31

A journalist from The Times visited a secret facility of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine - the base of the Ukrainian fleet of sea drones

Ukraine’s military intelligence service, GUR, told The Times about several types of drones.

These are Magura V5 naval drones. They are equipped with two cameras, infrared optics, a satellite receiver, and a 300 hp engine that propels the vessel through the waves at 45 nautical miles per hour. A 250-kilogram warhead is placed in the bow of the boat.

Another type of new generation of drones is equipped with heavier warheads that can place mines in the path of enemy vessels and then return to base unharmed. They are made entirely in Ukraine. 

On the back of the drone is a Starlink satellite receiver. It transmits images from two cameras. The drone has a 300 hp engine and can reach speeds of up to 45 miles per hour (ca. 72 km/h) during an attack, with a cruising speed of 25 miles per hour (ca. 40 km/h).

Ukraine’s naval warfare

The journalist interviewed the fleet’s commander, callsign 13, who said he had been blasting holes in some of Russia’s most advanced warships, sinking his latest two targets off Chornomorske, Crimea, on November 10.

The commander told how the drones crept into port at dawn, avoiding anti-submarine nets. The Russians saw them and fired ­machineguns at the low, narrow silhouettes. But bullets missed their targets when the drones accelerated. More ­Russian gunners opened up with heavy caliber weapons, but two of the drones struck a Shark and a Serna-class landing ships, while a third exploded ­into the dock. The ships sank, taking an armoured personnel carrier with them to the bottom of the Black Sea.

“It was my life’s goal to sink a Russian ship and we sank two of them at once. And as far as I know, no one had ever done this before anywhere. Now we have a new goal — to sink something bigger,” the commander said.

The commander’s campaign began in May, when the Russian reconnaissance ship Ivan Khurs was forced to limp back to port from the Bosphorus after being struck by mysterious explosions. In July, and again in September, the state-of-the-art Russian patrol ship Sergey Kotov suffered the same fate. The second time it was damaged, drones hit the ship by accident when they manoeuvred to avoid pursuit by enemy aircraft.

He said all these attacks were the work of the GUR team of remote operators. “These weapons are extremely effective,” the commander said. “If we just imagine roughly what it costs to build ships like the Kotov and to train the crews — it takes years to build and crew ships like that. Even if we count all the drones used in an attack on one, they are thousands of times cheaper.”

The drone operators are changing naval warfare by exposing the vulnerability of enemy vessels to cheap, rapidly produced suicide drones. “We are writing history,” he said. “And our western partners are very interested in these tools.”

Other units, including those from Ukraine’s state security service, the SBU, have used Sea Baby drones to attack the Kerch bridge, the frigate ­Admiral Makarov, a Sig oil tanker and the Olenegorskiy Gornyak, a Ropucha-class landing ship. These weapons carry a larger 450kg warhead.
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