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Ukraine’s Naval Drones Score Major Successes Against Russia’s Black Sea Fleet

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1 July, 2024- Drones are transforming naval warfare in much the same way unmanned aerial vehicles have reshaped air combat. These drones are cost-effective, elusive, and difficult to counter, enabling smaller and less affluent countries to challenge larger and more powerful fleets. Before the conflict, most experts believed that Ukraine’s almost nonexistent navy would be no match for Russia’s extensive fleet.

Nevertheless, Kyiv has used explosive drones to injure or destroy about twenty Russian ships of different sizes. The commander of the British Armed Forces, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, stated in February that 25% of Russia’s Black Sea fleet had been wrecked or damaged by Ukraine.

By March, UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps stated that Russia’s Black Sea Fleet was now “functionally inactive” due to “Putin’s ongoing occupation of Ukraine.” These drones have also caused significant damage to a key bridge from Russia to Crimea. In addition, Ukraine has targeted Russian ships and port facilities with Western-supplied missiles.

In response to these attacks, Russia has relocated most of its Black Sea fleet away from Sevastopol. This dispersal has resulted in longer missile travel times to reach their targets in Ukraine, giving air-defense crews more time to intercept them. To counter Ukraine’s sea drones, Russia has moved its military aircraft and electronic jamming systems away from the front lines, reducing the pressure on Ukraine’s ground forces. Unable to build a conventional navy due to limited resources, Ukraine is developing squads of 10 to 20 drones, each with specific functions.

These drones can essentially mimic the capabilities of a single battleship since they are made to cooperate in coordinated missions. Through this strategy, Ukraine aims to create a versatile and cost-effective naval force to address maritime challenges and enhance its defense capabilities despite budgetary constraints. Despite these setbacks, Russia is striving to enhance its navy.

On June 27, President Vladimir Putin announced significant progress, with the Navy set to receive over 40 new ships and boats this year, surpassing the 33 and 24 vessels received in 2023 and 2022, respectively. Putin emphasized that these naval upgrades are part of a broader plan to modernize the navy’s ships, aircraft, coastal components, and base infrastructure. These improvements aim to bolster Russia’s strategic positions globally and significantly enhance its combat capabilities.

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