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Russia’s Black Sea fleet can’t outmaneuver Ukraine’s MAGURA naval drones

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Ukraine’s HUR military intelligence service used ten MAGURA naval drones, six of which hit their target, to sink Russia’s Ivanovets missile corvette, drone operators disclosed to CNN on Feb. 5.

This operation showcased the capabilities of Ukrainian drones, which combine compact size with extensive operational range, enabling attacks far beyond traditional weaponry’s reach.

Read also: 5 killed, 15 injured in Dnipro during Russia’s largest missile and drone attack of the war

The MAGURA V5 drones, powered by jet skis and spanning nearly six meters in length, can cover distances up to 800 kilometers (almost 500 miles), granting HUR the flexibility to launch from vast stretches of Ukraine’s coastline against targets in Crimea.

Operating MAGURA drones is like “jeweler’s work” due to the precision required in handling, with operators maintaining control through Starlink connections or pre-programmed courses for extensive Black Sea crossings. The drones, difficult to detect and target by Russian defenses, are specifically designed to evade conventional armaments equipped on warships like the Ivanovets.

“The main thing is to feel the drone,” one of the operators explained. “If you squeeze it a little, you can lose control of the drone. I would say it’s like jeweler’s work.” An operator is constantly monitoring the drone’s passage at the same time, the pilot said. The final run into the targets often controlled manually.

The drone’s 250kg (551lb) payload can be increased to 300kg (661lb), “but there is no need to do so.” The drones have proved their effectiveness against some of the toughest ships of Moscow’s Black Sea fleet.

The long MAGURA drones may make for easy pickings out of the water; but once afloat, they make a hard target for Russians.

“They are quite difficult to see, especially in the open sea,” the MAGURA operator said. “The size makes it difficult to control it because the sea is choppy, but it also makes it much harder for the enemy to hit us.”

Read also: Zelenskyy honors HUR fighters for sinking Russian missile boat Ivanovoets

The destruction of the Ivanovets, marked as a “very significant loss” by the Ukrainian Navy, underscores the strategic application of drone technology in modern warfare.

Russia’s naval capabilities in the Black Sea, previously reliant on a limited number of such corvettes, have been seriously compromised.

Ukraine’s successes on the Black Sea have also highlighted the evolving nature of maritime combat, where unmanned systems are introducing new challenges for traditional armed fleets.

The weaponry aboard Russia’s warships wasn’t designed with drones in mind, forcing targets like the Ivanovets to use cannons better suited to duels with other ships.

The video of the Ivanovets attack shows Russian rounds hitting the water as the drones home in on the Ivanovets. The ammunition failed to stop the incoming drones, which were headed straight for the side of the ship.

“No warship can be as maneuverable as these drones,” added the pilot.

With Ukraine’s manned surface fleet capabilities constrained, the effective use of naval drones has emerged as a critical asset. The sinking of the Ivanovets during the operation in Donuzlav Bay, executed by HUR’s Group 13 special unit, exemplifies the innovative tactics Ukraine uses to counter Russian maritime forces, having already significantly impacted the operational strength of the Russian Black Sea Fleet since the onset of Russia’s full-scale war.

With very limited capabilities of its own manned surface fleet, Ukraine has already destroyed at least 12 and damaged at least 16 Russian ships since Feb. 24, 2022.

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