A new fleet of Ukrainian ‘Sea Baby’ drones ready to hunt for the Russian navy

Ukraine is set to deploy a new fleet of the ‘world-first’ sea drones that have been used to devastating effect against Russia’s navy. The uncrewed surface vehicles have been credited with ‘radically’ changing Moscow’s presence in the strategically valuable western Black Sea region over the past 16 months. Each of the innovative drones is ‘not alone in the battle’ and represents contributions from civilians across a wide range of nations and organisations. The weapons have been used to inflict a series of blows on Russian naval forces and been a key part of Kyiv being able to reopen its Black Sea shipping corridor.

United 24 co-ordinator Yaroslava Gres told Metro.co.uk: ‘Since February 24, 2022, Russia has fired more than 7,400 missiles at Ukraine, with some launched from the sea. ‘Ukraine had no means to counter these attacks, so to protect our marine water area, we have created a world-first naval drone. A unique, classified development, the drones were developed by Ukraine and became a game-changer. Thanks to this development, Russia is increasingly losing its deadly ships and being forced to hide them away from the Ukrainian coast. Despite their small size, the drones possess the capability to incapacitate ships worth millions of dollars’

The first known attack involving Ukraine’s naval drones was a strike on Russia’s flagship Black Sea vessel, the Admiral Makarov, in the Crimean port of Sevastopol. The frigate was one of three Russian ships damaged in the operation on October 29, 2022.

The following month, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who launched United24, announced the formation of what the platform described as the world’s first naval drones fleet. As well as kamikaze attacks, they were intended for the protection of merchant ships, long-range maritime and reconnaissance operations and secret missions. A fundraiser organised by the platform, supported by individual donors and businesses from across 93 countries, raised more than $12.5 million for 50 of the ‘Magura’ sea vehicles.

They are operated as a Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) project through a special unit known as ‘Group 13’. The new Sea Baby drones have upgrades including being 10km faster with a maximum speed of 90km and an extra 200km in range, with a maximum limit of 1,000km. ‘Every funded naval drone means that Ukraine is not alone in this battle,’ Mrs Gres said. ‘Attacks by naval drones have radically changed the situation in the waters of the Black Sea – the Russian Navy no longer feels safe. ‘United24 thanks everyone who donated to the fleet that now guards Ukrainian waters, shields cities from missiles launched by Russian ships and secures a passage for civilian vessels transporting vital grain supplies globally.

Together with air, land and maritime operations, Ukraine has been able to use various types of sea drones to push Moscow’s forces back from the economically valuable Black Sea on the country’s southern coast. Twelve known marine raids were carried out up to the end of January, with 15 Russian ships damaged or sunk, according to analysis by retired British Army Intelligence Corps officer Sergio Miller.

The farthest mission was a 600-kilometre SBU attack on the Olenegorsk Miner landing ship in Novorossiysk, a port in southern Russia, his assessment on the Wavell Room defence blog shows. A deadly missile strike on the Kremlin’s naval HQ in Sevastopol and the liberation of the Snake Island outcrop have also contributed to Kyiv breaking Russia’s stranglehold on the region.

The latest fundraiser, named after the Battleship game, was aimed at raising funds for the Sea Baby-type drones. The uncrewed vehicles, which cost $221,000 each, are six meters long and two meters wide and can carry 850kg of explosives. In a video highlighting strikes on Russian naval targets, United24 said that the drones will ‘go hunting’ in the spring. The new fundraiser, which raised $8.5 million, has closed amid doubt over whether the grain corridor will be able to continue as Kyiv waits to see if a crucial $60 billion package of military aid will be delivered.

Mr Zelenskyy told CNN: ‘I think the route will be closed. To defend it, it’s also about some ammunition, some air defence and some other systems.’ The Ukrainian president spoke on Monday as Russia seized the initiative in the east of the country, which has included the capture of Avdiivka, and Kyiv’s military is frustrated by a shortage of ammunition.

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