War is the mother of invention. Ukraine, facing a much larger and imposing conventional force, has shown itself capable of innovation and improvisation. In this David and Goliath battle, the smaller combatant has not found itself wanting. Now its latest slingshot may have broken cover.
An unidentified USV (uncrewed surface vessel) was found on a beach near Russia’s major naval base at Sevastopol today. Omega Bay is just outside the entrance to the harbor and is in an area used by the Russian Navy. It is around 150 nautical miles from Ukrainian controlled coasts.
The clear implication is that the previously unknown USV is operated by Ukraine.
The bespoke vessel is small but purposeful. It is powered by a single motor, mounted inboard, driving a steerable waterjet. This suggests relatively high performance, it is made for speed. And such a small vessel, about the size of a kayak, would likely have a very small radar signature.
There are a number of sensors along the top. The main one is a mast mounted camera and forward looking infrared (FLIR) type device. This is likely the main sensor for steering and situational awareness. There is a flat antenna behind the camera, possibly for navigation and/or communication.
There is a smaller camera or sensor at the bow which appears to be fixed forward. There are two forward facing sensors in the bow.
Possible Role: Explosive Boat
Photos do not show the interior of the device. Its curved shaping, with external reinforcing, suggests a warhead. Possibly an air launched bomb or artillery shell, pointing forward and possibly slanted downwards.
Going further, a theory is that this device is designed to ram another vessel and detonate, like a modern interpretation of an explosive boat. This also explains the cluster of sensors at the bow.
Explosive boats are not new, and they have occasionally had great successes. This design, if that’s what this is, seems inherently sensible. They were pioneered by the Italians in World War Two and are still used today. Most recently, in the Red Sea, the Iranian backed Houthi Movement has used remote controlled ones with some effect.
And it’s appearance on a Sevastopol beach, suggests that it has the range to be useful.
Naturally, caveats apply. We cannot be sure of its purpose at this stage. Every aspect could be explained differently. for example, the external ribbing may be to break waves washing over the top.
According to local reports, the device was towed out to sea and destroyed. Local media reported “The explosion in Sevastopol is the destruction of a floating drone.”
Governor Mikhail Razvozhaev was quoted as saying (translated) “A part of an unmanned vehicle was discovered, which was examined by experts. After the survey was completed, this apparatus was destroyed at sea by an explosion. No one was hurt.” This seems odd unless the Russian military is already aware of these devices in detail. Blowing it up also supports the suggestion that it was carrying explosives.