Russia scrambling to catch up with Ukraine in naval drone development – UK intelligence

Sea Baby above water drone
Sea Baby above water drone

Russia’s defense industry is scrambling to develop naval drones in a lagging effort to bridge the technological gap with Ukraine, the UK’s Defense Ministry reported on Dec. 1.

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The report points to a Nov. 27 comment by Mikhail Danilenko, the head of the Russian company Kingisepp Machine Building Plant (KMBP) where he announces that Russia’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) would undergo testing as part of a “special military operation” aimed at starting serial production in 2024.

While KMBP has previously manufactured various drones, their recent focus on kamikaze drones capable of carrying explosives up to 600 kg marks a strategic shift.

Russia’s unmanned aerial vehicles have been used by naval forces since World War II. However, with the presence of modern types, more akin to high-speed boats filled with explosives, they have become a key asset in the maritime domain for Ukrainian forces following Russia’s full-scale invasion.

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Russia destroys 70% of Ukraine’s maritime kamikaze drones, Ukraine’s intelligence chief, Kyrylo Budanov, said on Aug. 24. Despite this, he stressed their effectiveness as a deterrent that disrupts fleet operations.

Ukraine has already mastered “normal serial production” of maritime kamikaze drones, he said.

The Crimean Bridge was rocked with explosions for the second time on the night of July 17, leading to a complete halt in traffic until the end of 2023.

Ukraine’s SBU Security Service and Naval Forces deployed surface drones in the nighttime attack on the bridge, revealed an NV’s source in law enforcement.

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SBU Head Vasyl Maliuk confirmed Ukraine’s involvement, citing the Sea Baby drone as the result of months-long development initiated after Russia’s invasion. He had previously acknowledged Ukraine’s involvement in the first sabotage of the Crimean Bridge in October 2022.

CNN released a video on August 16 capturing the July attack, underlining the evolving role of maritime drones in modern warfare.

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