There is no longer a safe haven for Russia’s ships; they were attacked by sea and air drones in the heavily secured Sevastopol Bay. But the attack was not a great triumph.

16 air and sea drones attacked ships of the Black Sea Fleet at the Sevastopol naval base in Crimea over the weekend. It is the largest drone attack that Kyiv has carried out in this war. The political importance is enormous: With the attack, Ukraine has proven that it can attack and hit Russia anywhere. And also that the Moscow leadership cannot guarantee the promised protection.

In fact, the attack is less successful and less serious than the Ukrainian drone attack on the “Moskva” – the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet at the time. The huge Slava-class missile cruiser had enormous symbolic importance and was sunk. Ukraine did not achieve a comparable success this time.

Coordinated attack by a swarm

The dimension of the attack, in which 16 coordinated drones were deployed, is militarily exciting. Nine drones are said to have attacked from the air, confusing the defenders and drawing counter fire. Russia claims to have shot down all nine airborne drones. The real threat came from the sea drones.

A few weeks ago, a boat of this type washed ashore near Sevastopol (Ukraine’s new type of drone boat threatens the Russian Black Sea Fleet). The type is not a real submarine or submersible, the drones are designed in such a way that only a very small part sticks out of the water. They are correspondingly difficult to discover. In terms of design, they are similar to the pseudo-submarines used in drug trafficking. In attack they have several advantages. The sea drones are kamikaze weapons. Your cargo consists of explosives. Your task is to approach the target at high speed and then explode. They bring a much larger explosive charge to the target than a smaller drone. On the other hand, the defense against air targets is much more advanced than against such mini-ships.

Since the boats are unmanned, there are several sensors on board. A camera and an infrared device were mounted on the mast of the stranded drone. Behind it was an antenna for control. Since the boats operate far from the Ukrainian lines, one can assume that the drone boats are controlled via the Starlink satellites. This would mean that the range of the controls is practically infinite and the operational range of the boats is only limited by the fuel supply and seaworthiness. The principle of a blast boat is by no means new. So-called branders were already used in ancient times. Small boats heading for the enemy fleet and set on fire before the collision. During World War II, explosive boats and manned torpedoes were used by Italy and Germany. Iran is now building similar drone boats.

burglary in bay

According to Russian sources, four drone boats were destroyed outside the bay, three made it inside. The “Admiral Makarov” – a frigate of the modern Admiral Grigorovich class (Project 11356R) – and a minesweeper of the Natya class (Project 266M), the “Ivan Golubets”, are said to have been damaged. The stranded drone warned Russia. That’s probably why the attack was only half a success. After the discovery of the sea drone, the fleet’s voyages near Crimea were severely restricted. The ships were moved into the bay. There, floating barriers protected them. The sea drones must have found a gap in the barriers. It is also conceivable that individual drones blew up the barriers and thus created a breakthrough point for the following ones.

Both sides blame each other for the attack. Kyiv claims Russia attacked its own base. The Russian allegations are that British specialists attested to the planning and implementation. In addition, the sea drones are said to have approached their target along the grain corridor. A water drone is said to have only started its journey in the sea. It is said to have been launched from a ship within the security zone of the grain corridor – according to Moscow.

Russian fleet imprisoned

What is remarkable about the attack is the planning of the attack and the coordination of the movements of all 16 drones with each other. However, the limits of such attacks also become apparent. Apparently, the Ukrainian drones were able to approach the base unnoticed. However, they did not attempt to carry out the actual attack in secret. It is not possible to say whether this was intentional or whether the swarm was only discovered early. Although the ships were damaged, the first attack of this kind was not a resounding success. It can be assumed that the bay will be even better protected in the future. For example, through staggered floating barriers. The real success is that the drone threat has neutralized the Russian Black Sea Fleet and rendered it largely militarily worthless. Instead of putting pressure on Ukrainian forces, the valuable ships must take shelter behind barriers.

Also read:

Novel drone boat from Ukraine threatens the Russian Black Sea Fleet

Heavy cruiser Blücher – sinking in the Oslo Fjord

China launches the first drone carrier