A day after a Russian Su-30SM destroyed a Ukrainian speed boat, the latter’s defense industry also unveiled a new underwater drone ‘Marichka’ and its own version of the legendary Lancet kamikaze drone, the ‘Perun.’
The introduction of the systems took the asymmetric threat Russia had been facing from Ukraine to a new level, where Kyiv had introduced inventive use of cheap, commercially available drones for many tactical battlefield purposes. The uncrewed systems had proven to be a significant disruptive element in the war.
This also comes when the land war in Ukraine’s east and south continues despite its counteroffensive failing and an added naval dimension to the war in October 2022, when unmanned boats began attacking Russian naval shipping in the Black Sea and Sevastopol.
Russia has accused Ukraine of conducting these kamikaze Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV) attacks. While the attempts have increased rapidly, no Russian naval vessel has been sunk by them so far.
Russia has sunk nearly a dozen seemingly expendable boats near the Sevastopol naval base in Crimea and farther into the Black Sea. It believes the attack is meant to disrupt the grain supply from Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea, which the Black Sea Grain Initiative promised to continue uninterrupted.
Russia, Ukraine, the United Nations (UN), and Turkey are parties to the agreement. This would also be the second underwater drone Ukraine has introduced, with the implied intention of using it in the Black Sea against the Russian fleet.
Meanwhile, the emergence of a Ukrainian version of the famous Russian-made Lancet loitering munition represents a technical milestone for the Ukrainian defense industry, much of which was destroyed by Russia as a part of its stated goal to “demilitarize” Ukraine.
Naturally a significant technical derivative of the original Lancets that may have been shot down and captured by Ukraine, the UAV looks strikingly similar. Both the drones’ tactical impact remains to be seen.
New Underwater Drone Marichka
Handles on X (formerly Twitter) showed the underwater drone ‘Marichka’ being “tested,” according to the Ukrainian Front. “The drone is designed to attack warships, boats, submarines, coastal fortifications, and bridge supports. It can also transport cargo of military or civilian purpose instead of explosives and perform a reconnaissance function,” the post said.
The Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) is 6 meters long, 1 meter wide, and has a range of 1000 kilometers. The price per unit is Hryvnia 16 million (US$435,641).
⚡️According to the authors, the video shows the first footage of testing the 🇺🇦Ukrainian underwater drone "Marichka"
The drone is designed to attack warships, boats, submarines (?), coastal fortifications and bridge supports
Length – 6 m, width – 1 m
Range – 1000 km
The price… pic.twitter.com/23nihQxSI5
— 🇺🇦Ukrainian Front (@front_ukrainian) August 22, 2023
The video showed the drone being lowered into the water by a crane and traveling a few meters under the surface. The UUV has a submarine-like tubular body with two front-mounted horizontal stabilizers for hydrodynamic control.
While it is unclear what testing stage the UUV is in or when it will enter mass production, its tactical threat to the Russian fleet is immense. Interestingly, the video shows dark skies and surroundings in the background, meaning the Ukrainians deliberately wish to keep certain design features hidden.
For one, it can be used with other USV attacks to confuse the target acquisition by the Russian warship gunners. Secondly, assuming it has loitering capability, it can stay submerged for several hours, observing the Russian fleet before commencing an attack or transmitting its reconnaissance information to its operators. This is similar to the Toloka series of USVs that Ukraine introduced in April.
Ukraine’s Own Lancet Kamikaze Drone
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, was quoted in several social media posts publicizing the development of Ukraine’s version of the Lancet, the Perun.
Strikingly similar to the Russian kamikaze drone, it became the defining weapon of the war and the destroyer of a great majority of artillery guns like the US M777, the Polish KRAB Self-Propelled Gun (SPG), and dozens of air defense radars.
Many were also shot down by Ukrainian anti-aircraft fire and naturally must have been studied by Ukrainian and possibly even American engineers.
The Perun was placed on a catapult launcher on the ground and bears the same design configuration as the Lancet – an X-shaped wing configuration and a push-propeller. Its front, however, has not been photographed to judge the type of electro-optical system on the nose. The authenticity of the photo, however, could not be verified.
Its kinematic performance also remains unknown. Fedorov was, however, quoted in the post on X saying that “(they) are in the process of scaling (up production) now; there is a clear vision for timing and quantity.” The drone, therefore, might make a sudden appearance on the battlefield.
Su-30SM Fighter Destroyed Ukrainian Boat
The Heads-Up Display (HUD) footage released by the RuMoD showed what many handles claimed was a US-made Willard Sea Force boat receiving heavy tracer rounds from the Su-30SM.