Sea Drones Attack Russian Landing Craft In Crimean Port

Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR) said it destroyed two Russian landing craft docked in Crimea via explosive-laden uncrewed surface vehicles (USV). The attack took place at a Russian Navy base in Chornomorske, in western Crimea, GUR spokesman Andrii Yusov tells The War Zone.

The GUR on Friday released satellite imagery it says shows the vessels have been sunk, which you can see below.

Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR) said it has sunk two Russian landing craft with uncrewed surface vessels. (GUR image)

“The ships were carrying a crew and loaded armored vehicles, including BTR-82,” the GUR said on Telegram. The War Zone cannot independently verify that claim. The Russian Defense Ministry (MoD) has yet to comment.

Earlier on Friday, the GUR released a video of the incident.

The grainy 55-second video, set to stirring music, opens up with a USV view of the approach to one of the two Russian landing craft that were in close proximity to each other. The USV turns slightly to the right, then at the 26-second mark, appears to hit the Russian vessel on the aft quarter of the starboard side. A bright ball of flame erupts. The video then cuts to what appears to be a second USV approaching and hitting the same vessel at about the 48-second mark. The video ends with the view from a third USV showing the burning Russian ships in the distance.

The GUR said initially said the two landing craft damaged were Project 11770 class Sernas. However, they later revised that to say one was a Serna and the other was a a Project 1176 class Akula (NATO designation Ondatra) landing craft.

“As a result of the attack, both ships of the Russians went to the bottom,” the GUR stated on Telegram. The Akula was sunk “immediately,” the GUR claimed. The Serna “unsuccessfully fought for survivability, but also sank.”

The War Zone cannot independently verify those claims.

The new identification from GUR came after the Ukrainian Militarnyi website and several well-regarded open source accounts and naval observers said the vessel that was hit in the video was a Project 1176 class Akula (NATO designation Ondatra) landing craft.

The man behind the @Capt_Navy, a former Russian Navy officer living in Sevastopol, tells us that Chornomorske is a small Black Sea Fleet (BSF) base for corvettes and other ships. That base is more than 110 miles from Ukrainian-held territory.

The vessels attacked were located at a small Black Sea Fleet base in Chornomorske, Crimea. (Google Earth image)

The loss of either of these ships represents another blow to the BSF and Russian forces in general, said Yusov. Not only do they carry troops and equipment, but they also have carried air defense systems.

“The Russians placed Tor-M2 anti-aircraft missile complexes on board the boats for mobile cover of their group on the island and in our Black Sea,” he said. “Now this idea of ​​the Russians has been destroyed!”

The Project 11770 Sernas have an air cavity hull, creating an artificial air gap with overpressure under its bottom as it moves. That helps reduce friction and allows the vessel to travel at a speed of 30 knots with reduced fuel consumption. The 25.6-meter long boats can carry one main battle tank or 50 tons of cargo and are typically armed with four 7.62mm PKMB machine guns and four Igla man-portable air defense systems.

A Project 11770 Serna class landing ship. (Russian Defense Export photo)

At the time of the invasion, the Russians had two Project 11770 landing craft in the Black Sea, according to Militarnyi. However, one of them was badly damaged in May by a TB-2 Bayraktar drone while trying to resupply Snake Island. You can read more about that in our story here and see a video of that incident below.

The Project 1176 Akula-class landing ships, with conventional hulls, can carry the same amount of cargo, but have a top speed of just 11.5 knots.

Project 1176 class Akula landing ship. (Russian Defense Export photo)

This is the latest in a string of Ukrainian USV attacks on Russian ships and infrastructure in Crimea and on the Black Sea. They began in October 2022 when USVs were used to attack Sevastopol in Crimea, home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. You can read more about that attack in our story here.

In July, the Ukrainian federal security service, known by the acronym SBU, carried out an attack on the Kerch Bridge in cooperation with the country’s navy using USVs.

In May, the Project 18280 Yuriy Ivanov class intelligence ship Ivan Khurs in the Black Sea was attacked by Ukrainian USVs about 90 miles northeast of Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait. You can see that attack in the video below.

There was a combined aerial drone and USV attack on Sevastopol in March as well.

These are just some of the high-profile uses of USVs, there have been many others.

Ukraine has also has attacked Russian vessels with air-launched cruise missiles.

On Nov. 4, the Project 22800 Karakurt class corvette Askold was severely damaged by a French-donated SCALP-EG cruise missile while berthed at the Zaliv shipyard in the Crimean port of Kerch. You can read more about that in our story here.

The Russian Navy the Ropucha class landing ship Minsk and Kilo class diesel-electric attack submarine Rostov-on-Donwere were also badly damaged in September after a reported Ukrainian cruise missile strike by either a SCALP-EG or a U.K.-donated Storm Shadow. You can see the damage to the submarine in this image below.

In its statement about the attack, GUR pointedly thanks United24, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s crowd sourcing charity to raise funds for military equipment.

The United24 Naval Drone website describes its USVs as 5.5 meter-long vessels that can travel 80 km per hour (about 50 mph) with a combat load of 200 kg (about 440 pounds) and a range of 800 km (about 500 miles). They cost $250,000 each.

We do not know for sure, however, which variant of USV Ukraine used. A much larger “Sea Baby” USV, which can carry up to 1,800 pounds of explosives, was used in the Kerch Bridge attack. You can read more about that here.

The ability to hit landing craft inside Chormorske harbor also shows that GUR is taking advantage of opportunities when they arise. As we have noted in the past, Sevastopol, home of the Black Sea Fleet, increased its defenses after repeated seaborne attacks. Russia has constructed boom obstacles across the mouth of Sevastopol harbor as part of a layered sea, land, and air defense concept. You can see that in action in this video below from the aforementioned USV attack in March.

Given Ukraine’s goal of liberating Crimea, these kinds of attacks will almost assuredly continue, as USVs represent a relatively inexpensive way of attacking ships.

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Howard Altman Avatar

Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard's work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.