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Ukraine conflict: Ukrainian kamikaze USVs target Russian naval base

Ukrainian unmanned surface vessels (USVs) targeted naval units from Russia's Black Sea Fleet at Russia's naval base in Sevastopol during a ‘kamikaze' attack on 29 October.

According to video footage circulating widely on social media, a Project 1135.6 Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate and a mine countermeasures (MCM) vessel appear to have been struck during the attack.

The conflict continues to showcase Ukraine's efforts to counter Russia's dominance in the Black Sea region through the use of tactics and innovative techniques, such as modifying low-cost unmanned assets for use as weapon systems.

The USVs involved in the 29 October attack may be similar to the craft that was discovered on a beach off Sevastopol in September, which featured a low freeboard hull, a low profile curved deck structure, an electro-optical system mounted on deck midships, a structure which may house a satellite communication antenna aft, and a pair of impact detonators in the bow. The forward half of the craft could be fitted with a payload, such as explosives or modified off-the-shelf munitions. Waterjet propulsion was observed on the USV captured in September, conveying high manoeuvrability and high-top speed if coupled with a suitably powerful propulsion engine or motor. The dark grey colour scheme would help it avoid detection by visual means at night-time.

Video footage of the 29 October attack appears to show several of the USVs inside Sevastopol port manoeuvring towards targets under the cover of darkness, seemingly unopposed. One of the targets is assessed to have been a Russian minesweeper.

Another video shows one of the USVs approaching an Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate on its starboard side, again under cover of darkness, and ends when the vehicle strikes midships near the funnel. The Russian frigate was under way at the time, either heading into port, or departing from Sevastopol.

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