Submarines: Kilo Survives in Crimea


July 11, 2024: Russian forces still control Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and its major port of Sevastopol. That’s where the Russian Navy is hiding one of their Kilo Class submarines that was damaged during a September 2023 Ukrainian missile attack. The Ukrainians have been systematically destroying all the dry dock facilities in Sevastopol ever since to prevent repairs being made on the Kilo class sub trapped in the port. Currently the Russians are trying to keep the Kilo safe from Ukrainian attack by covertly moving it around and keeping it hidden or camouflaged. Despite that, the Kilo has suffered additional damage and is now believed to be irreparable. The Ukrainians are taking no chances, continue to attack it and will keep that up until they are sure the submarine is destroyed. The reason for this is that an operational Kilo class submarine operating out of Sevastopol could threaten Ukrainian control of the Black Sea around Crimea and the Black Sea west coast. This enables Ukraine to use their major ports to continue exporting Ukrainian goods and importing needed commercial and military items.

In 2023 the Ukrainians used locally made Sea Baby USVs (Unmanned Surface Vessel) to gain control of the waters around Crimea and the Black Sea west coast, where NATO countries like Romania occupy most of the coastal areas. Sea Baby carries 859 kg of explosives and has a range of 1,000 kilometers. These new USVs are cheap, costing $216,000 each. Ukraine used USVs for the first time in 2022 when one was used to attack ships in Crimea’s Sevastopol Bay. An optional weapon for the new Sea Baby USV is six launching tubes for RPV-16 thermobaric rockets. These rockets have a range of 600 meters. The warhead detonates when it hits a target creating a cloud 2,500 degree heat that can kill or injure personnel within 80 meters of the detonation. First used by Ukrainian ground troops, in one case an RPV-16 warhead hit the room of a single story building, detonated, and destroyed the entire building. At sea, if one of these warheads landed on the deck of a warship the damage to any nearby personnel or weapons would be catastrophic. A hit against the hull could sink the ship, or at least put it out of action because of a hole at the waterline. Thermobaric explosives don’t work underwater, only in the atmosphere.

Because of Ukrainian attacks since 2022 with USVs, UAVs, and missiles, the Russian Black Sea Fleet lost 14 ships with several others badly damaged and towed to more distant portions of the Black Sea, including the Sea of Azov extension in the northeast and the more distant naval base at Novorossiysk on the Black Sea’s eastern coast. The remaining ships of the Black Sea Fleet include six guided missile cruisers, one corvette, seven diesel attack submarines, seven landing ships and dozens of high-speed landing craft, sea-going minesweepers, anti-saboteur boats, missile boats and anti-submarine ships. These ships rarely leave their well-guarded ports, even for a few days, because of the Ukrainian USVs that might be waiting for them. Ukrainian USVs are low in the water and are difficult to detect during the day and impossible to see at night.

Ukraine has several USV models, including the original Sea Baby, Mother, Malyuk and MAGURA. Sea Baby and Mother were developed by the Ukrainian Navy with assistance from the SBU secret service organization. At the end of 2023 Ukraine revealed an updated Mother USV with a top speed of 100 kilometers an hour. Manufacture of these USVs is done in underground production facilities to avoid Russian missile and guided bomb attacks.

Malyuk was used in a mid-2023 Kerch Bridge attack, carrying 850 kg of explosives to inflict significant damage on the bridge. MAGURA carries 320 kg of explosives while Mamai carries 450 kg. These USVs are no longer used just for delivering explosives against a target, as they can also be used for reconnaissance when equipped with video cameras that broadcast what they see back to the USV operator. Some USVs have been armed with small rocket launchers. Malyuk has a range of over 700 kilometers, which means they are suitable for operations on the high seas. Endurance is about 60 hours, and top speed is over 70 kilometers an hour. MAGURA has similar characteristics. Mamai was used in the long range attack at the distant naval base at Novorossiysk on Russia’s Black Sea eastern coast, which is a thousand kilometers from Crimea.




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