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Visit of hidden unmanned surface vessel base in Ukraine.

| 2023

A journalist from The Times recently visited a confidential facility of Ukraine's Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR), unveiling details about the country's new generation of naval drones and their significant role in the ongoing conflict with Russia.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Hidden along the Dnipro River, this secret base houses Ukraine's fleet of naval drones (Picture source: contextual illustration/United24)

Hidden along the Dnipro River, this secret base houses Ukraine's fleet of naval drones, including the Magura V5. The drone fleet commander "13" shared his recent successes, notably infiltrating Russian naval defenses near Chornomorsk in Crimea, bypassing anti-submarine nets, and launching dawn attacks. Despite Russian forces attempting to shoot down the low-flying drones with machine guns and heavy-caliber weapons, the drones successfully struck two Russian landing ships, "Akula" and "Serna", as well as a docked vessel, sending them to the bottom of the Black Sea.

The commander expressed immense satisfaction in sinking two Russian ships, an unprecedented feat, and is now aiming to target larger vessels. He recounted the journey of his team, which began in May, with attacks on the Russian reconnaissance ship "Ivan Khurs" and the patrol ship "Sergey Kotov", highlighting the effectiveness of these drone attacks.

These kamikaze drones have been very important in naval warfare, exposing the vulnerability of Russian ships to cost-effective, rapidly manufactured drones. The Sea Baby drones, used by other Ukrainian units including the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), have also been essential in striking strategic Russian assets like the Kerch Bridge, the "Admiral Makarov" frigate, the Sig oil tanker, and the "Olenegorsky Miner" landing ship.

The emergence of these drones, combined with special forces raids and the sinking of the "Moskva," has shifted the Russian fleet's strategy from offensive to defensive, retreating to coastlines controlled by Russian armed forces.

The SeaBaby surface drone, equipped with advanced features such as dual cameras, infrared optics, a satellite receiver, and a powerful 300 horsepower engine, can reach speeds of up to 45 knots and carry a 250-kilogram payload. The latest generation of drones, displayed alongside the commander, can lay mines in the path of unsuspecting vessels and return unharmed.

Although these drones are fully assembled in Ukraine, they benefit from Western technologies, including Starlink satellite receivers, facilitating real-time image transmission to the military intelligence unit, which maintains close ties with British and American intelligence.

Commander "13" remains determined to further disrupt Russian naval capabilities, confident in his team's ability to potentially neutralize the entire Russian Black Sea Fleet.

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