While the community was concentrated on confirming the rumors of the missile attacks on Russia’s Admiral Makarov frigate, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence announced a TB2 drone assault on the Snake Island with footage via Twitter. According to the video, the drone targeted the Serna-class landing craft and engaged it while the craft was berthed at the port.
The video indicates that a TOR air defence system was aboard the landing craft during the bombardment, and the surface-to-air missile system was also destroyed. TB2 drones struck Strela short-range defence systems on the island on 03 May. The TOR system was likely to be transported to the island to bolster Snake Island’s air defence capabilities.
According to H. I. Sutton, a well-known OSINT analyst and regular contributor to Naval News, the smoke from the recent TB2 attack on Russian forces at Snake Island was still visible on a 09:07 UTC satellite image on 08 May. He also highlighted that two Raptor-class patrol boats had run away from the island. As Naval News reported, a TB2 Bayraktar drone destroyed two Raptor-class patrol boats a few days ago.
A few hours after this attack, another video was released showing that two Ukrainian Air Force Su-27 jets hit Russian military facilities on the “defenseless” island. The video, taken by a TB2 drone, shows that the bombardment apparently caused severe damage to the island.
TB2s’ recent attack on the Raptor-class patrol boats on 02 May 2022 marked the first successful neutralization of naval vessels by an uncrewed system. The assault on the Serna class landing craft marks the second one. In both attacks, TB2s used MAM-L smart munitions manufactured by the Turkish Roketsan company.
About MAM-L Micro Smart Munition
MAM-L has been developed for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), light attack aircraft, and air-ground missions for low payload capacity air platforms. MAM-L can engage both stationary and moving targets with high precision.
- Diameter: 160 mm
- Length: 1 m
- Weight: 22 kg
- Range: 8 km (15 km with Inertial Navigation System/Global Positioning System Option)
- Seeker: Semi-Active Laser Seeker
- Warhead Types: Tandem Effective Against Reactive Armor, High-Explosive Blast Fragmentation, Thermobaric
- Fuse: Impact, Proximity
Russia’s inability to control airspace is costing many naval casualties on the Black Sea battlefield. This applies not only to drone strikes but also to UAV reconnaissance and surveillance support. Before the outbreak of the war, many analysts and experts were convinced that Russia’s “mighty” air force would dominate the airspace, and it was estimated that no units of the Ukrainian armed forces would be able to fly. The events that the world witnessed in the last two months showed some major miscalculation.
The achievements of TB2 drones are the first signs of the impact of unmanned systems in naval warfare. Unmanned systems that provide not only ISR support but also strike operations will provide tactical flexibility to decision-makers on the naval battlefield. Because such systems can conduct missions without risking human lives, and thanks to their capabilities that are growing daily, drones will become a suitable replacement for manned systems. As a result, drone warfare will be an integral part of naval warfare in the near future.
While the single-use of drones has proven their effectiveness, more complicated applications such as battlefield cooperation between manned and unmanned assets (Also known as MUMT concept for Manned-Unmanned Teaming), the use of drone swarms, the protection from drone swarms, surface and aerial drone cooperation, etc., will determine future tactics in naval warfare in accordance with CONOPS defined with technical and tactical constraints, as well as lessons learned from their use in real-world conflicts.