Russian Black Sea Fleet facing conundrums as Ukrainian sea drones keep attacking

Russia and its Black Sea Fleet were still reeling at the loss of the large landing ship Olenegorsky Gornyak when Ukraine struck another blow, sending another sea attack drone to attack a Russian oil tanker, the SIG, near the Crimean Bridge on Aug. 5.

Andriy Kramarov, a military expert and reserve officer of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, in an exclusive interview with Radio NV on Aug. 5 shed light on the details of these special operations and the drones utilized to neutralize the Russian fleet.

“We must understand that the Ukrainian maritime drone program is well-established, and it is already yielding results. After hitting the Crimean Bridge, we’ve had two maritime targets within just two days. And I must emphasize that these are not just ordinary targets; they are significant, large vessels.

The tanker in question is one of the largest in the Russian fleet, serving as a fuel supplier for the Russian millitary’s operations in Syria. Furthermore, due to the damage to the Crimean Bridge, it has been tasked with supporting the supply of fuel and lubricants for the Russian forces stationed in the southern regions and Crimea.

However, this logistical route has now been disrupted, Kramarov said.

“As for the heavy landing ship that was recently disabled, based on the photographs I’ve seen, it is safe to say that the Russians won’t be able to restore it anytime soon, not even in the coming years,” the expert said.

“It was also being used as a ferry to transport essential supplies from the territory of Novorossiysk, as they were hesitant to fully rely on the railway tracks of the bridge, especially for heavy equipment. This incident clearly indicates the highly effective work of Ukrainian maritime UAVs.

“While it is likely that Russia doesn’t possess an extensive number of large tankers, we should remain vigilant. The ongoing developments underscore the exceptional efficiency of Ukrainian maritime drones. I was intrigued to know if, after the destruction of the Kerch Bridge, we had accumulated sufficient resources, and it seems the (SBU) Security Service of Ukraine, in conjunction with the Naval Forces, conducted this raid. It’s evident that this endeavor will have a systematic nature, which pleases me greatly. We have essentially acquired a new means of targeting maritime surface assets. For the Russians, this presents a significant challenge, as they must now carefully reconsider the safety of any of their vessels at sea.

“We can disable vessels of this size and level. The Russian Black Sea Fleet must consider its escape routes.

“(The Magura maritime drones) were showcased at a military armaments exhibition in Turkey about two weeks ago.”

The Russian tanker SIG, which was struck bya Ukrainian Magura sea attack drone overnight on Aug. 5, is one of the largest in the Russia fleet, had been supplying fuel to the Russian military operation in Syria.

Furthermore, it had been utilized for fuel and lubricant deliveries to the Russian forces stationed in the southern regions and Crimea after the Crimean Bridge suffered damage. However, this supply line has now been disrupted due to the successful drone attacks.

Moreover, the heavy landing ship recently disabled in operations around Sevastopol is unlikely to be restored anytime soon. It was being utilized as a ferry for transporting much-needed military supplies from Novorossiysk, as the Russians were wary of relying solely on the Kerch railway bridge for transporting heavy equipment.

The highly effective Ukrainian maritime UAVs were indeed responsible for these impactful operations, Kramarov said.

He highlighted two crucial specifications of the Magura drone. Firstly, its combat payload weighs a substantial 450 kilograms, equivalent to the payload of a Storm Shadow cruise missile and even surpassing the payload capacity of Russia’s Kalibr cruise missile. The specific type of combat payload was not disclosed, but given the significant damage inflicted on large vessels, it is likely to involve sophisticated technologies, possibly akin to torpedo warheads.

Secondly, the drone boasts a remarkable range, varying from 830 to 960 kilometers, depending on the assigned mission. Being a maritime UAV, its range should not be assessed solely in a straight line since its stealth capabilities allow for adept maneuvering, easily bypassing the coastal defense systems of the adversary.

The expert speculated that these drones are likely launched from a base of the Ukrainian Naval Forces located somewhere near Odesa. From there, they skirt around the coast Crimea and reach destinations such as Novorossiysk and the Kerch Strait.

“It stands to reason that the entire Black Sea waters surrounding Crimea are now within the striking range of this maritime drone, rendering it a formidable threat to the Russian fleet,” Kramarov said.

“The impressive capabilities demonstrated by these UAVs warrant serious consideration for the Russian Black Sea Fleet, (which will have) to find suitable escape routes.”