TechUkrainian drone attack sinks Russian warship: A first in naval warfare history

Ukrainian drone attack sinks Russian warship: A first in naval warfare history

Iwanowiec ship. The arrow indicates the dome hiding the Monolit radar station.
Iwanowiec ship. The arrow indicates the dome hiding the Monolit radar station.
Images source: © Bibikoff, Lic. CC0

9:39 PM EST, February 6, 2024, updated: 4:06 AM EST, March 7, 2024

In the past, Ukrainian assaults on Russian ships using small, unmanned floating units were carried out under specific conditions.

Thus far, the Ukrainians have focused their attacks on stationary units in or near ports. This doesn't downplay the considerable scale of their success, but it should be noted that Russian crews often didn't have an opportunity to mount a successful defense.

However, the sinking of the Project 12411 ship, which included the Ivanovets, alters this pattern. A warship, theoretically prepared for battle and unrestricted in its movement, which possessed the capabilities to utilize its full range of sensors, weaponry, and high-speed maneuverability, was attacked and sunk.

What led to the sinking of the Ivanovets ship?

Maximilian Dura from Defence 24 has sought to answer why the Ivanovets was unable to defend itself. Drawing upon available footage, it seems plausible that for an unknown reason, the Russians did not activate the Monolith radar station. This station, housed in a large dome on the ship's superstructure, is responsible for detecting air and surface targets.

The consequences of such inaction were immense. The operational Pechora navigational radar delivered a deficient tactical image, while another radar, the MR-123 located on the mast, is not designed to detect threats, but rather to guide weaponry toward previously detected targets. Having remained stationary during the attack, its antenna indicated that the ship did not detect any threats the MR-123 could orient towards.

This issue hindered the use of the main AK-176, a 76mm caliber gun, which remained unused during defense. Additionally, fire from the automatic 30-mm AK-630 guns were only marginally effective as Ukrainians conducted a coordinated attack with at least eight kamikaze units.

The ship also failed to exploit its speed capabilities. If the ship had attained a full 42 knots (approximately 48 mph), it may have escaped the swarm of attacking drones. Although thermographic images showed that the turbine outlets were functioning at high power, the ship failed to accelerate adequately. Furthermore, the first hit rendered any escape attempts futile.

Why the Ivanovets was sailing without an activated radar is unknown. The analysis proposes that it might be due to the Russian's disregard of the issue or the overly high morale of the crew operating the ship without preparation for action.

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