Ukraine is mounting pressure on Russia's navy with sea drones. What are these?

Ukrainian drone damages Russian warship at Novorossiysk

Russia Ukraine In this grab taken from video, a drone manoeuvers as it approaches the vessel claimed to be a Russian large landing ship, the Olenegorsky Gonyak, close to the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk | AP

Ukraine has stepped up its counterattack against Russia with aerial drone strikes that took the 'war home to Moscow' last week. Besides attacks on land, the Ukrainian forces have begun to target Russian assets in the Black Sea with sea drones or naval drones, which experts say could change the future of naval warfare.

A Russian warship was destroyed in an overnight Ukrainian naval drone attack on Russia's Black Sea navy base at Novorossiysk. This is the first time the Ukrainian navy has projected its power so far from the country's shores, Reuters reported. In its official statement, however, Russian Defence Ministry said that they 'repelled' the drone attack and that the two drones have been destroyed.

Multiple media agencies confirmed the damage caused to the ship at Novorossiyskm, one of Russia's largest ports that handle export of oil and oil products.

The ship was attacked with a sea drone carrying nearly 1,000 pounds of TNT, an Ukrainian source told CNN. Video footage accessed by Reuters showed the ship named Olenegorsky Gornyak being towed to the shore with a tug. Another grainy video, shot from the drone, shows the drone approaching the ship at night. The short clip ends abruptly as it strikes the ship.

In yet another development, explosions were also heard near the bridge linking Russian-occupied Crimea to the mainland early on Saturday. Ukrainian news reports said naval drones attacked a tanker vessel, identified as SIG, in the Kerch Strait. In October last year, Ukraine deployed naval drones to destroy Russia's Black Sea fleet's flagship, Admiral Makarov, which was docked in the port of Sevastopol.

These attacks come amid rising tensions in the Black Sea after Russia withdrew from the grain deal that allowed the safe export of grains from Ukrainian ports.

What are sea drones?

Sea drones are small unmanned vessels. However, unlike aerial drones, these operate on or under the water and can come equipped with cameras and explosive material to target enemy assets during war. These come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are also referred to as 'drone boats' and 'drone ships'

Sea drones are built at much cheaper cost when compared to long-range missiles, and their size and high speed make them difficult to be detected by Russian forces in the dark. They are harder to detect on radar because they travel low on the water and they make far less noise, experts said.

In an exclusive report, the CNN, which was granted access to the latest versions of Ukrainian sea drones, stated these could weigh up to 1,000 kilograms, with an explosive payload of up to 300 kilograms, a range of 800 kilometres and maximum speed of 80 kph. Completely developed in Ukraine, these sea drones are changing the game as developers claim Russia could take a long time to counter this technology.

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