Here is that article which is written by H I Sutton from Naval News.

Known properly as uncrewed surface vessels (USVs), maritime drones are not unique to Ukraine. Even Russia has a few projects. Yet while Ukraine wasn’t the first to use them, it is still a novel technology which took the naval world by surprise. The way Ukraine uses them is accelerating the inevitable rise of armed USVs worldwide. It certainly took the Russian Navy by surprise.

As a consequence Russia has built up a large array of specific defenses. And new counters are being revealed all the time.

Fortress Sevastopol

The first, and most visible, defense has been the addition physical barriers across harbor entrances. These are likely moderately effective at preventing Ukrainian USVs from penetrating the harbors, and are combined with machine guns and warships on sentry duty for a robust defense. Sevastopol has received multiple layers of nets, floating booms and even a chain of barges. Other harbors also, and most recently the Kerch Bridge. The latter was only added after Ukraine successfully damaged it with an explosive laden USV on July 17 2023.

Helicopters and Flying Boats

Beyond the harbor walls, aircraft are the main threat to Ukrainian USVs. They can be detected by Russia’s vintage Be-12 Mail flying boats which can then alert other aviation units. These have radar which was designed to find the periscope of a submarine, so the small USV is likely detectable. The flying boats will be used to alert helicopters which can fly out to engage the USVs.

Russia has formed dedicated units with Mi-8 Hip and Ka-27 Helix helicopters. These fly from Crimea and engage the USVs with unguided rockets and machine guns. Currently the USVs appear defenseless against this, except for speed and attempts to maneuver. Several incidents have been documented, but there are likely more.

Flanker fighter jets, which are ordinarily patrolling the Black Sea against air threats and as a deterrent against NATO aircraft, have also been used. On at least one occasion a Flanker has strafed a USV with cannon fire. It is unclear how effective this is.

The Unseen Threat – Electromagnetic Warfare

A major way that Russia attempts to thwart the USV attacks is unseen. Russian ships and shore facilities blast them with Electromagnetic noise to jam their communications. This appears moderately effective . Like for the battlefield drones used in the trenches, it likely is a significant factor in some losses.

Escorting Ships

Russia’s high-value ships, such as the weapons transports Ursa Major and Sparta-IV and government connected tankers, are now escorted across the Black Sea. This is normally done by patrol ships and frigates. The ships also turn off their AIS (automated identification system) to avoid being tracked by open sources. These efforts are only partly effective.

These convoys have been targeted by USVs on several occasions, with the escorts facing the brunt of the attacks. Two of these high-value ships recently crossed the Black Sea and are now in the Mediterranean. Ursa Major and the tanker Yaz, sistership of Sig which was hit hard by a USV on August 5, will make the perilous return tourney in the coming weeks.

Russia’s New Ideas to take out the Maritime Drones

One recent anti-USV counter is to use a small drone flown from a patrol boat. This is the first time an FPV (first person view) drone has been used in this way. It has been demonstrated for the cameras using against a dumb target, but has yet to been reported in real operations.

Russian boatbuilder KMZ also recently revealed their Dandelion USV which is itself quite similar to Ukraine’s. It is expected to be tested in the Black Sea, most likely in the counter-USV role.

Ukraine Map-1

Ukraine’s maritime drones continue to have a disproportionate influence on the war in the Black Sea. They are shaping the Russian Navy’s ability to operate. How seriously Russia takes them is shown by the multitude of ways it is trying to destroy them. It continues to surprise many just how powerful the USVs have been. On paper, these small maritime drones shouldn’t have been as successful as they have.

Russia could have implemented some defenses much earlier, even before the first attacks. Yet these are the realities of war. What we have learned however is that Ukraine has maintained the initiative. Russian defenses are reactionary, so the next major development is more likely Ukrainian than Russian.

Source: Naval News