Ukraine aims to deploy squads of up to 20 sea drones to do the job of a warship, commander says

  • Without a conventional navy, Ukraine has looked to innovative ways to counter Russia's sea power.

  • Ukraine's sea drones will soon work as squads to mimic a warship's capabilities, a commander said.

  • Sea drones have taken out a chunk of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, and damaged the Kerch Bridge.

Ukraine's sea drones are being marshaled into squads that can replicate the abilities of a single warship, a Ukrainian commander said.

Brig Gen Ivan Lukashevych, the mastermind behind Ukraine's fleet of naval drones, described the move in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

He said the squads, each with about 10-20 drones, will work in concert to combine multiple separate functions.

"We do have a fleet, but it's divided into smaller elements," Lukashevych told the outlet.

Lukashevych, who was appointed to lead a special unit for Ukraine's security service, said that previously naval drones were used primarily for surveillance or logistics.

"We are doing many things that no one in the world has done" with the technology, he said.

Ukraine was left without a conventional navy in 2014, after Russia's annexation of Crimea.

The move stripped Ukraine of the bulk of its ships and any control of the port of Sevastopol, the headquarters of Russia's much-feared Black Sea Fleet.

In response, and under Lukashevych's direction, Ukraine has developed several types of naval drones.

These include the Sea Baby, credited with damaging the crucial Kerch Bridge last fall, and the Magura V5, six of which hunted down the corvette Ivanovets in February.

Ukraine has also mounted a Grad multiple-launch rocket system on the back of a home-developed Sea Baby drone to hit land targets, as the Financial Times' Christopher Miller reported in May, citing an unnamed official.

The idea of a drone squad replicating the tasks of a full warship is just the latest iteration in Ukraine's rapid development of sea drone capabilities.

Under Lukashevych's direction, Ukraine has notched up a series of successful attacks using naval drones, and along with long-range anti-ship missiles they've destroyed or damaged a large portion of Russia's Black Sea Fleet.

In February, the UK said that 25% of Russia's vessels in the Black Sea had been sunk, damaged, or destroyed. Ukraine puts that number even higher.

As a result of the regular strikes, Russia's fleet has been forced to limit operations out of Sevastopol and moved many of its warships to more distant ports, such as Novorossiysk last fall.

Novorossiysk has notably poorer facilities than Sevastapol, and though the ships are still within cruise-missile striking distance of Ukraine, the time lag allows Ukraine's air defenses crucial time to react, as the Journal reported.

Read the original article on Business Insider