‘Ukraine Is Creating World’s 1st Fleet Of Naval Drones’, Seeks Crowdfunding To Purchase 100 Kamikaze USVs

On November 11, Ukraine released fresh video footage and photographs of the tactical uncrewed surface boats, or USVs, that have been in the limelight for their involvement in an unprecedented strike on the Russian Navy’s base in Sevastopol. 

Kyiv presented pictures of the USVs on its fundraising website UNITED24 to raise money for the drone boats through crowdfunding.

Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, launched the UNITED24 project to generate funds for various products required by the country’s military and people. 

The drone boats in question are said to be capable of striking targets up to 500 miles away, among other tasks. Furthermore, the Ukrainian government hopes to gather enough money to purchase 100 USVs. 

The Twitter account of the fundraising website tweeted a video with the message, “Ukraine is creating the world’s first Fleet of Naval Drones — so, we are launching our biggest fundraiser yet. It will protect the Ukrainian waters, prevent cities from being struck by missiles, and help unlock corridors for civilian ships transporting grain.”

The plans for establishing a fleet of USVs could represent Kyiv’s attempts to advance the drone technology that has been vital in the country’s battle against Russia.

On November 11, Zelensky posted on his Telegram channel that the country needed to protect its peaceful cities and coastlines from Russian missiles fired from ships. 

He continued by saying that naval drones will also contribute to unblocking the corridor for grain-transporting civilian ships worldwide. “I am sure that millions of people will support this important area of Ukraine’s defense. Everyone has already seen how it works,” he added. 

Nonetheless, the website of UNITED24 also revealed a few specifics about the drone boat’s dimensions and price. The USVs currently being built are 18-foot-long boats with a top speed of roughly 50 mph and are believed to be capable of transporting a combat load of up to 400 pounds.

Each USV costs $250,000 and comes with a ground-based, autonomous control station, a transportation and storage system, and “a data processing center.” The Ukrainian officials, however, withheld detailed information regarding the “data processing center’s” operations due to security reasons.

Ukrainian USVs – UNITED24

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Navy has also underlined the significance of these drones for Ukrainian security. Oleksiy Neizhpapa, Vice Admiral, Commander of the Naval Forces of the Ukrainian Navy, said that such naval drones have already demonstrated their efficiency and have the potential to reshape the situation in the Black Sea.

Neizhpapa also highlighted that these USVs could participate in long-range maritime reconnaissance, coastal surveillance, convoying merchant ships, zoning in artillery fire, defending our bases, and thwarting amphibious operations.

The marine drones can also escort and support the conventional fleet.

After the Moskva cruiser was sunk and Snake Island was recaptured, he claimed that a fleet of 100 multipurpose surface devices would guarantee the Navy’s success. The USVs will also enable the country to defend the sea better, as well as the country’s entire territory.

Ukraine’s Maritime Drones (USV)

The new images released by Kyiv show the drone boats that resemble the USV used in the attack on Russia’s Black Sea fleet. The marine drones, together with UAVs, were deployed by the Ukrainian forces to attack the Russian Navy at Sevastopol on October 29. 

In that attack, three Russian Naval warships were reportedly damaged. “Ukraine’s USVs are a product of war,” says HI Sutton, an analyst specializing in submarines and sub-surface systems.

“And as the weaponization of commercial drones has shown, peacetime debates on survivability often result in over-engineered and overly expensive solutions,” he added. Images of Ukraine’s unmanned suicide drone boat configuration first appeared on the internet in late September, when one of such drones washed ashore in Crimea. 

The UNITED24 specifications for unmanned surface vessels. – UNITED24

Experts think that the drone boat’s specifications made public on Friday, provide insight into how Ukraine would have carried out a daring attack against the Russian Navy.

The USVs, according to UNITED24, have an operational radius of up to approximately 250 miles, a range of up to roughly 500 miles, and a top speed of nearly 50 miles per hour. The marine drone has a “maximum combat payload” of approximately 400 pounds.

The device can be operated by satellite navigation from a ground-based “autonomous” control center. But, in GPS-denied locations, an inertial navigation system and visual through a camera subsystem with night vision capabilities are used to guide the marine drone. 

What appears to be a 3-cylinder Rotax wave runner engine powers the drone boats. (UNITED24)

The fundraising website said that Russia had launched nearly 4,500 missiles at Ukraine, with 20% of these missiles fired from the sea. “Ukraine had nothing to oppose these ships because the Ukrainian fleet lost 80% of its vessels after the occupation of Crimea in 2014,” UNITED24 noted. 

Nevertheless, the UNITED24 platform has greatly aided Ukraine in its efforts to raise money for the purchase of new armaments. According to the website, donations from 110 nations were utilized to buy drones, a helicopter, body armor, helmets, and uniforms.