Thursday, October 6, 2022

Ukraine Uses Chinese-Origin Drone To Attack Russia’s Black Sea Fleet Base; The UAV Is Available Online For Sale

Russian Black Sea naval headquarters in Sevastopol was recently attacked on August 20 by Ukrainian forces using a suicide drone. A video taken early in the morning showed smoke coming from the area in Sevastopol where the Black Sea fleet is stationed.

Soon after the attack, it was revealed that the drone was purchased from Chinese commerce giant Alibaba for just 8000 dollars. The Ukrainian Special Operation Forces (SOF) flew the UAV that had been modified with a large warhead and made a direct hit on the building’s roof.

Just as a plume of smoke ascended from the fleet’s command center, the twin-tail-boom fixed-wing drone was flying overhead. The Russian officials downplayed the attack and stated that the drone was shot down and there were no casualties on-site.

This is the second confirmed drone attack on the Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters in less than a month. A drone has at least once carried out a one-way ‘kamikaze’ strike on a Russian target hidden behind enemy lines.

At the time, a refinery in the Rostov region of Russia, close to the Ukrainian border, was hit with what looked like a modified and weaponized UAV.

A day after the Sevastopol attack, the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov said Russian air defense systems had destroyed nine Ukrainian drones and intercepted one missile fired from the Olkha multiple rocket launchers.

However, the role of these air defenses has come under the scanner after repeated Ukrainian attacks inside Russian territory. A major strike on Saky Air Base in Crimea earlier obliterated many Russian Naval fighter jets.

In addition, just a few days ago, Russia claimed to shoot down a drone at nearby Belbek Airbase.

More recently, on August 16, a Russian air base and an ammunition store on the Russian-held peninsula went up in flames.

Against these Ukrainian offensives, the pattern indicates that the Russian-occupied territory of Crimea, which was earlier out-of-bounds for Ukraine, is the new target of choice. And in the absence of long-range missiles, the Ukrainians use weaponized drones.

Weaponization Of Chinese Drones To Hit Russia

The drone called ‘Sky Eye’ employed in the most recent attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet base is significant.

It shows that Ukraine is using locally-built suicide drones against strategic targets as it did in an attack on an oil complex in Novoshakhtinsk last June, well beyond the country’s border with Russia.

The recently employed drone is a fixed-wing unmanned aircraft made in China that can transport a substantial payload over long distances, transforming it into a slow cruise missile. These commercial drones, which cost between $5,000 and $10,000, have been modified by Ukraine to work as kamikaze drones.

Drone on sale on Alibaba
Skyeye drone – Via AliExpress

Ironically, a Chinese drone was used to hit a Russian target, given the bonhomie between Beijing and Moscow. Beijing has silently backed Moscow’s muscular policy in Ukraine and has increased the volume of oil it imports from Moscow amid the pressure of sanctions.

These weaponized unmanned aircraft may simply use GPS to aim as best they can, but it’s also possible that they navigate to a target on their own before being “picked up” by a nearby man-in-the-loop operator and directed on their final attack run.

The failure of the Russian air defenses in the region to guard against the latest attack raises new concerns about their capability. The drones travel at very low speeds and altitudes, and taking them out for a country like Russia should not have been a very challenging task.

 

Modern air defense systems are designed to address these threats, as Saudi Arabia and other nations discovered to their detriment. For example, Iran and its proxies have reportedly attacked Saudi oil facilities with drones and missiles, with occasionally catastrophic repercussions.

Ukraine has overwhelmingly deployed armed drones since the initial days of the conflict, including the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones.

See @RALee85's Tweet on May 6, 2022 on Twitter / Twitter
Switchblade kamikaze drone (via Twitter)

Ukraine has also received American Switchblade kamikaze drones. The US is also dispatching 15 ScanEagle surveillance drones to assist the Ukrainians in identifying and taking precise artillery and rocket strikes.

The tiny drones are maneuverable across the battlefield and will be crucial in the anticipated effort to recapture Kherson in the south.

Earlier, it was believed that Ukraine would not be attacking Crimea for the lack of long-range weapons besides HIMARS and Harpoons that also cannot cover that distance. However, these long-range drones can be modified to act as suicide drones and can hit targets deep inside the Russian territory.

In addition, Ukraine could soon be getting Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) from the US. The weapon has a range of 300 kilometers and can quickly strike depths inside Russia. However, until that comes in, these armed drones can wreak havoc.

 

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