Drone warfare has monopolized Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine since February 2022. Both Kyiv and Moscow have acquired, developed, and deployed a range of lethal unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to aid their respective strategies in the war.
While Russian forces have relied heavily on an influx of Iranian-designed drones to supplement their aerial arsenal, Ukrainian forces have used a variety of domestic and Western-delivered UAVs by the U.S. and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies.
As Kyiv’s counter-offensive has heated up in recent months, new and improved drones are coming to the surface.
A Look at Ukraine’s New Underwater Drone
This week, a video depicting a Ukrainian drone submarine has circulated widely on social media. According to reports, Kyiv is currently conducting sea trials of its new Marichka underwater drone, which is designed to target enemy ships and other maritime infrastructure. While some smaller and less lethal UAVs are extremely inexpensive to develop and purchase, this new underwater drone apparently costs nearly half a million dollars. The volunteer group Ammo Ukraine created the new vessel, which has a range of roughly 600 miles and can perform attack, transport, and reconnaissance missions. If this range is accurate, that means the Marickha can travel to virtually any point in the Black Sea from ports in western Ukraine, which should be a big concern for Moscow.
In the short video shared by Ukrainian Front on Twitter, the Marichka is seen being lowered into the water. Unidentified personnel are then seen climbing on top of the drone submarine, which eventually starts moving via its own propulsion system.
As detailed by The Drive, “Unsurprisingly, AMMO Ukraine has presented Marichka as a potential explosive-filled kamikaze weapon that could be used to attack ships and littoral infrastructure, including bridges. For a year now, Ukrainian forces have been making increasingly good use of an expanding arsenal of drone boats to launch attacks on Russian Navy ships at sea and in port, as well as other targets like the Kerch Strait Bridge.”
Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is in Trouble
Earlier this summer, Kyiv successfully used an experimental sea drone to target Russia’s bridge to annexed Crimea. The Russian-occupied Peninsula has subsequently faced additional attacks as Kyiv’s efforts to recapture territories have ramped up. When the “Sea Baby” drone was launched, it caused damage to the road lanes of the Kerch Bridge and killed two civilians. Since the bridge is Moscow’s only independent link to the peninsula, the attack was significant.
Last week, Ukrainian forces launched a missile barrage in Crimea, targeting the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in the port of Sevastopol. According to Kyiv, 33 Russian officers, including the commander of the Black Sea Fleet Admiral Viktor Sokolov, were killed in the attack. However, recent images released by Russia’s defense ministry indicate Sokolov is still alive although this has not been confirmed. Regardless of Sokolov’s real fate, Ukraine is undeniably ramping up attacks on the Crimean peninsula and obliterating more of Russia’s already dwindling weapons stockpiles. The addition of the new Marchika underwater drone will only enhance Ukraine’s sea-based offensive abilities.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.
From the Vault