Russian engineers scavenge naval drone wreckage for clues to Kyiv’s secrets

Drone targets landing craft near Black Sea port of Novorossiysk
Drone targets landing craft near Black Sea port of Novorossiysk - Anonymous

Russia is trying to copy Ukraine’s sophisticated and deadly naval drones, Western and Ukrainian intelligence agencies have revealed.

Ukrainian military intelligence said that it had observed Russian forces collecting fragments of destroyed naval drones for Russian engineers to examine and attempt to reverse-engineer.

Military spokesman Andrii Yusov said: “They are working on this and are carefully collecting wreckage.

“They are trying as much as possible to collect something that will work from the remains, and try to set up production.”

Ukraine’s fleet of naval drones is regarded as one of the most advanced in the world and certainly the most battle-tested. It has been able to attack and harass Russia’s navy in harbours across the Black Sea, forcing it to retreat to increasingly distant bases.

Russia’s naval drone programme has been considered far more rudimentary, although it appears to be catching up.

Ukrainian military intelligence has said that the Kremlin has now ordered 10 advanced larger naval drones from one of its arms suppliers. These will have a top speed of 50mph, a range of about 120 miles and an explosive payload of more than half a ton.

President Vladimir Putin has realigned the Russian economy towards his military needs over the past year, rearming and rebuilding his military after nearly 22 months of tough fighting in Ukraine.

This rebuild has focused on tank and artillery shell production, as well as recruiting soldiers, and also on the Russian navy which has been battered by Ukrainian naval drones.

British Military Intelligence confirmed the Russian order for large naval drones and also said that Ukraine’s naval drones were now a “key capability” in the battle for control of the Black Sea.

It said: “The Russian defence industry is moving to close the capability gap with Ukraine in the development of one-way attack uncrewed surface vehicles.”

Ukrainian naval drones have struck the 12-mile bridge that connects occupied Crimea and mainland Russia, hit Russian ships at harbour in Sevastopol, its main Black Sea base, and also in Novorossiysk, 250 miles away.

So nervous has the Kremlin become of Ukrainian naval drone capability and reach that it has even announced plans to build a new Black Sea Fleet base in Abkhazia, a pro-Russia rebel region of Georgia that lies on the Black Sea but is 600 miles from Crimea.