NewsUkraine's maritime drones: an unexpected powerhouse disrupting Russian forces

Ukraine's maritime drones: an unexpected powerhouse disrupting Russian forces

The fact that the Russians managed to copy the famous "Sea Baby" drone came to light last week.
The fact that the Russians managed to copy the famous "Sea Baby" drone came to light last week.
Images source: © X
4:38 PM EST, December 16, 2023

Few predicted just five years ago that drones would play such a critical role that we now see. In the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, drones are deployed wherever manned units are deemed too risky or cost-inefficient. Drone operators conduct reconnaissance, direct artillery fire, and attack Russian positions. Attacks on Russian targets are less frequent, but when they occur, they are conducted with substantial force.

Ukraine first targeted Moscow, more symbolically than for military advantages. Naval drones subsequently began pursuing Russian ships and targeted the emblem of Crimea's occupation, the bridge linking the peninsula with Russia. The sight of burning vessels and a strait shrouded in thick, black smoke imprinted itself on the minds of the world and significantly impacted Russia's military leadership, who do not possess such capabilities.

Maritime drones

Ukrainians began working on maritime drones long before the conflict. They had little other option, as they essentially did not have a navy. They needed a way to offset the significant advantage Russia held—drones were one of those methods and were found to be extremely effective.

Ukrainian surface drones routinely attack Russian ships docked at ports. As reported by the occupying authorities and Russia's Ministry of Defense, the attacks are made by "autonomous maritime drones", primarily the Mikola-3 and Magura W5, serving in the newly established 1st Fleet of Sea Drones and 73rd Maritime Special Purpose Center.

However, these aren't the only maritime machinery in Ukraine's arsenal. Their fleet also includes REMUS 100 drones, donated by the British and produced by the American company Hydroid Inc. These drones are used for detecting water routes, locating sea mines, and securing approaches to ports and other critical infrastructure.

Ukrainian forces also have "Sea Baby" drones that are currently in combat trials. These drones proved highly effective, prompting the Russians to decide to replicate them.

Russian replicas

The news that Russians have managed to replicate the renowned "Sea Baby" drone emerged last week. These drones gained fame for their attacks on the Crimean Bridge and the frigate "Admiral Essen". They failed to hit the frigate during that mission, so the operators chose to self-destruct to prevent the "Sea Babies" from falling into enemy hands. Unfortunately, one unit was not successfully destroyed.

Ukrainian Armed Maritime Forces spokesperson Cdr Dmitrij Pletenczuk confirmed that the Russians had copied the "Sea Babies".

- Such situations unfortunately occur periodically during wartime. Every side always tries to understand the enemy's weapon as much as possible,” he said.

- Russia tends to mimic every solution we come up with. We began the war with a significant lead in drones, both surveillance and combat. The Russians have poured billions into the development of their program. We have to acknowledge that they have made considerable progress since winter 2022,” he added.

"Sea Baby" drones

Drones of this kind were developed under the Army of Drones program, which equipped the Ukrainian military with an astonishing range of different drone types. Thanks to donors, soldiers received almost 3,500 maritime and aerial drones in less than a year.

The Ukrainian Security Service, responsible for the project, only indicated that the "Sea Baby" drone carries an explosive charge weighing up to 1,874 pounds. For attacks on the Crimean Bridge, the payload was reduced to 992 pounds to extend the fuel range.

Not just maritime drones

As Cdr Pletenczuk stated, Russians are copying every modern technique from Ukraine, and they're no longer hiding it. Andriej Bratenkow, the director of the Russian design firm Spektr, acknowledged that production of a drone model captured in Ukraine would begin soon. They will be manufacturing reconnaissance Czakluny drones.

The Russian firm has accepted candidates from the Novosibirsk Aviation Higher School for practical training and preparation for operating Czakluny. Russian sources claim that more than a hundred drones have already been produced.

The system was developed at the end of 2022. The compact design, with an approximately 3-foot wingspan, allows for operations at a height of around 1,640 feet.

- We occupy the middle ground between low-altitude operating quadcopters and high-flying, long-range reconnaissance aircraft. We found the unexplored niche and established ourselves there. At present, our team can produce nearly 200 such aircraft each month - Dmitry Panczenko, CEO of the Dnepropetrovsk Oblast Aircraft Modeling Federation, which develops and manufactures the Czakluny, said in an interview with Channel 11.

Journalists from Defense Express Media indicate that Russia's Czakluny precedent is not an isolated occurrence and that Russian drone production will soon primarily rely on copying models from other countries, especially Ukraine. These foreign models proved easier to manufacture and superior to Russian designs.

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