Ukraine to Get Undersea Minehunter Drones as Black Sea Battle Continues
Ukraine is to be equipped with undersea minehunter drones in order to help the country clear its coastline amid the ongoing war with Russia in the Black Sea.
The U.K. Ministry of Defence (MOD) made the announcement in a statement on Saturday and also noted that Ukrainian personnel would be trained in the use of the minehunters.
The news comes as the Russian invasion of Ukraine has entered its sixth month and President Vladimir Putin’s forces have suffered a series of setbacks in the Black Sea, including losing control of the strategically important Snake Island in June.
“Six autonomous minehunting vehicles will be sent to the country [Ukraine] to help detect Russian mines in the waters off its coast,” the British defense ministry said on Saturday. “Three of these will be provided from U.K. stocks, with a further three to be purchased from industry.”
“The lightweight autonomous vehicles are designed for use in shallow coastal environments, operating effectively at depths of up to 100m to detect, locate and identify mines using an array of sensors so the Ukrainian Navy can destroy them,” the ministry said.
Sky News reported on Saturday that Ukrainian personnel had already started a three-week training course in how to use the drones a facility in southern England, with the commander of that unit had speaking to the network on condition of anonymity.
The commander reportedly said the drones “will be very useful for us to clear the sea area, especially in a very critical region close to Odesa.”
Lord Admiral Alan West, a Former First Sea Lord – the U.K.’s top naval officer – told Sky News the minehunters would be a “game changer” for the navy in Ukraine.
“They should be able to clear a main route out of their ports very quickly,” the admiral set, pointing to the need to transport much-needed grain out of the region as well as other produce.
Exports from the Black Sea ports resumed in August after Russia lifted its blockade but there is still a threat from undersea mines and progress on exports has been slow.
The U.K.’s defense ministry said Russia had been “weaponizing food by destroying Ukrainian agriculture and blockading the country’s Black Sea ports to prevent exports, with devastating consequences for the world’s poorest people as food prices rise.”
The ministry said that “efforts to get food out of the country continue to be hampered by sea mines left by Russian forces along Ukraine’s coast.”
Newsweek has asked the Russian and Ukrainian government for comment.
The minehunter drones are likely to add pressure to Russia, which has already suffered a number of setbacks during the war, including in the Black Sea.
In April, the Russian flagship Moskva was lost after Ukraine claimed to have struck the vessel with Neptune missiles. The Russian government claimed the ship, which had an estimated value of $750 million, sank after a fire onboard.
Up to 250 Russian sailors may have died in the loss of the Moskva.
Ukraine claimed to have driven Russian forces from the strategically and symbolically important Snake Island in the Black Sea in June. Russia claimed they had withdrawn voluntarily.