Is It Wrong?
(That I'm Stoked for Ukraine?)
According to everything I’ve read, the unmanned sea drones that Ukraine used on October 28 change everything. Sort of. Just some floating oil spill barriers are currently enough to stop them, but you can bet the Boy Scout troop of military engineers there are already working on a way around that. (For example, I can think of two things that would jump barriers without triggering. And hey - after three or four have sacrificed themselves, those barriers won’t be an issue for the rest of a swarm.)
The ironic thing is that Russians actually found one of these before the mission, and for some reason thought nothing more of it? They had to dispose of the explosive payload, you’d think that would have been a dead giveaway.
And, well. Ukraine aren’t the first to use USVs. The distinction for the first design goes to Italy, who used a speedboat with explosives to sink a UK cruiser in 1941 - here, have a bit of history and some Ukraine USV analysis on HI Sutton’s Covert Shores.
The story of that first one that the Russians found 21 Sept is there - they towed it to sea and blew it up. Safest course of action, but of course they still got very little intel that way.
Obviously a few militaries are interested, but the spec hasn’t been hard to figure out - buy a Ski-Doo drive system, some satellite and remote control gear, cameras, and a big load of explosives, and load them into an aluminium hull along with fuel and a pair of (apparently - oh the irony if true!) Russian fuses on the nose to blow shit up.
They’re semi-autonomous and can navigate to a target and destroy it - with a range of between 400 and 800km if reports are right. They can stream video back for FPV use or just surveillance, can be remotely guided. And they cost less than 20% of what a good long range air missile does.
This thing is brilliant and doesn’t really need a clean room to build, meaning almost anywhere will do. Seven of them proved that they can cause enough confusion and shock that Russia was prodded into taking defensive actions all over their sea front.
There wouldn’t be the protection of oil booms out to sea, so they effectively threaten any ship that leaves the safe harbours. And as I said, at the price point, they’re cheap enough to be thrown away in a huge swarm wave and devastate any harbour.
They could also conceivably make a significant dent in any flotilla and reach the high-value ships at the core and damage them. And there’s always the chance that Ukraine has secretly actually built a few 1000 of them and that the wave is only the first of several…
If I was a Russian Naval commander I’d be shitting bricks about now.
Plus, knowing the Ukies and their ingenuity, this is just one weapon in a whole series of new drone swarms. Imagine these wrapped around, and able to able to launch, a missile each - they’d only have to get in missile range, fire the missile, and their job is done. More expensive, of course, but there’s 5m of ship mostly empty hull to safely wrap around a missile to keep it dry, and then the last action of the USV is to launch it.
Possibly bricks AND blue lights. . .
Tell me if you think I’m right and there’ll be a few surprise variants… There’s a link to chat with me on Mastodon down below.
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