Ukraine has launched an international appeal to crowdfund a fleet of 100 domestically built sea drones, like those used in an attack on Russian Navy ships in the Black Sea at the end of October.
On Friday, President Volodymyr Zelensky endorsed the online campaign United24 to solicit donations to build 100 naval drones, costing about $250,000 each.
“We must protect the waters of our seas and peaceful cities from Russian missiles launched from ships,” Zelenskyy wrote on the messaging app Telegram Reuters.
The drones, loaded with explosives, were used in an attack on Russian warships with guided missiles Admiral Makarov and anti-mine ship Ivan Golubets on October 29th. A video released by the drones showed an approach Makarov and another was shown dodging fire from a Russian helicopter. At the time, Ukraine neither confirmed nor denied its involvement in the attack.
After the attack, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet was mostly kept in port, USNI News reported Monday.
“During the major attack on October 29, several of the USVs entered the port. The released drone footage shows them operating near the warship docks deep inside the base. Russian reports that the drones reached Pivdenna Bay suggest they were closing in on the submarines. A single Kilo-class submarine was present at the time,” reported USNI News.
The United24 campaign outlined additional tasks for the sea drones, including guarding grain shipments from Ukraine.
“Drones can participate in long-range maritime reconnaissance and coastal surveillance, escorting and supporting traditional fleets, escorting merchant ships, phasing in artillery fire, defending our bases and countering amphibious operations,” according to the United24 website.
The United24 campaign released more details about the drones. The vehicle is 18 feet long, can carry up to 440 pounds of payload, has a range of about 500 miles and can reach speeds of up to 50 miles per hour.
The unmanned surface vehicles were first seen publicly on social media in September when one washed ashore near the Russian naval base on the Crimean peninsula.
USNI News contributor HI Sutton highlighted other features of the drone, including components of a Sea Doo pleasure craft with a repurposed Soviet-era bomb contact fuze attached to an explosive payload.
In a statement, Zelenskyy asked for international support to increase the fleet of sea drones.
“I am sure that millions of people will support this vital defense area of Ukraine,” he wrote of the naval drone fundraiser. “Everyone has already seen how it works.”