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The Sea Drone Attack on the Russian Fleet Brings Attention to the Expanded Arms of Ukraine

The little boat races toward a much bigger ship in the distance, navigating turbulent seas and evading gunfire, possibly from an above helicopter. The now-viral video of its trip concludes inconclusively, without revealing its destiny or what happened to what is believed to have been its intended target: Russia’s strategically significant Black Sea Fleet.

Unconfirmed are the original source of the footage and the provenance of the vessel from which it was captured. But military experts say they believe it is footage from a weekend remote-controlled attack on the Russian naval fleet off the Crimean port city of Sevastopol — an attack that Russia said was carried out by seven such boats accompanied by air drones, and which it has accused Ukraine of carrying out with British assistance.

Russia said that it had discovered the wreckage of maritime drones used to target its fleet in Saturday’s attack and that the strike was the reason it was suspending a crucial agreement that had permitted the delivery of grain from Ukrainian ports in an effort to relieve the world food crisis.

British authorities have denied participation, but Ukrainian, American, and other Western officials have mostly declined to comment on the video or assault. However, the strike came a few months after the United States and other NATO partners stated they were providing Ukraine with remote-controlled boats, but declining, as is uncommon, to provide specifics about this military assistance.

The United States has decided that there were explosions near Russian navy warships off the coast of Sevastopol, according to a Pentagon official who briefed reporters on Monday on the condition that he not be identified. The source refused to say more.

P.W. Singer, a 21st century warfare expert at the New America think tank in Washington, stated that it was evident from videos on social media and other public reporting that the attacks on the Russian fleet “definitely” involved multiple remote-controlled boats and aerial drones in a complex assault that “points to higher skill levels, higher competence” on the part of Ukrainian forces.

In accordance with a strategy of official ambiguity on such attacks, Ukrainian authorities have not publicly commented on Saturday’s incident. Nevertheless, if the strike is verified, it would be a fresh instance of Ukrainian troops striking important Russian targets from a distance and extending its fighting capabilities following months of rapid Western military help.

Unmanned vessels are not a novel weapon. Some were invented more than a century ago, notably by the Serbian-American scientist Nikola Tesla, and were used by the Germans during World War I.

In a battle that has the potential to revolutionise contemporary warfare, its apparent usage in Ukraine has lately captivated military strategists and specialists.

The United States and its partners, who have supplied remarkable information on the avalanche of other weapons they have delivered to Ukraine, have likewise declined to address the unmanned boats.

John Kirby, a spokesperson for the Biden administration, told reporters on April 13 that “the darn thing works,” after the United States said it would deliver an undefined number of drone boats to Ukraine.

The Russian Defense Ministry stated that one of its minesweepers, the Ivan Golubets, sustained “minimal damage” in the Saturday morning assault, which it said was carried out by nine flying drones and seven on the water.

It is unclear why the remote-controlled boats need such a high degree of secret, especially considering the openness with which the United States and its allies have discussed other weaponry transferred to Ukraine.

Some experts have characterised the most recent class of unmanned boats as still being in the experimental stage, including, according to Mr. Singer, recent test operations in the Arabian Peninsula.

Mr. Singer said that the employment of drones gave a unique element of horror to the battlefield, regardless of their origins. “There is something about drones, something about the fact that they are unmanned, that generates greater debate and dread.”

Chris Matthews
Chris Matthews
I am a Political News Journalist of The National Era
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