Home » A Busted Russian Warship May Not Have Seen an Exploding Ukrainian Drone Boat Coming, Hinting at Problems That Have Plagued Russia Throughout Its War
Global News Global News News Russia Ukraine War War

A Busted Russian Warship May Not Have Seen an Exploding Ukrainian Drone Boat Coming, Hinting at Problems That Have Plagued Russia Throughout Its War

Ukraine pulled off an attack on a Russian warship last week, and the lack of an obvious defensive response by the ship to the explosive-laden drone boat that crippled it suggests the Russian crew may not have seen it coming.

The apparent failure to detect or even attempt to fire at the incoming drone hints at problems that have plagued the Russian military throughout its war: Complacency, negligence, and a tendency to underestimate the Ukrainians, especially when it comes to reach.

Video surfaced last Friday of a naval drone — like the ones the Ukrainian military showed off and made international headlines with only days before — approaching a Russian ship and cutting out right as it detonated on impact.

The Russian ship, identified as the Project 775 Ropucha-class landing ship Olenegorsky Gornyak, was spotted listing heavily in the water in the aftermath of the attack at the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, indicating the vessel was actually hit, despite Russia’s discredited claims to have thwarted the attack.

Commenting on the video of the drone attack, prominent pro-Russian milblogger Rybar, per a CNN translation, observed that “it is interesting that the drone approached the large landing ship freely,” assessing “the crew probably did not anticipate an attack and therefore did not take any action to destroy the drone.”

Ukrainian drone boat attacks have been occurring much more frequently since they were first used last year. Just a few days before this attack, Russian vessels were fighting off drone boats in another incident. Experts told Insider it’s odd that these threats are seemingly not being given higher priority, especially considering other Black Sea Fleet losses, like the Russian flagship cruiser Moskva that was sunk after being struck by Ukraine’s shore-based anti-ship missiles.

Due to their size, design, and low profile in the water, the drone boats are hard to detect both visually and by radar, especially at night, but it’s still a known threat, making the apparent lack of a more robust defense and heightened vigilance surprising.

Since the deadly suicide bombing of the US Navy destroyer USS Cole in 2000, US ships have taken greater precautions in less-than-friendly waterways, such as extra watch standing, added surveillance, and weaponry at the ready, Bryan Clark, a former Navy officer and defense expert at the Hudson Institute, told Insider. Actions can include steps like manning topside gun crews and closely tracking radar providing targeting data for the deck guns and rotary cannons.

“You should’ve seen some of that activity. I didn’t see any of that,” he said of Russia’s Olenegorsky Gornyak, adding that “it seemed like there was really no response.”

“It just seems very strange they didn’t respond at all to the incoming drone boats,” Clark added. At the very least, crew-served weapons like machine guns might have stopped the attacking drone boat. Russia has had some reported successes repelling drone boat attacks on its corvettes and intelligence vessels.

The British defense ministry said in an intelligence update the day after the attack on the big Russian landing ship that “the 3600 tonne, 113 metre long Olenegorsky Gornyak represents the largest Russian naval vessel seriously damaged or destroyed since the sinking of the cruiser Moskva on 13 April 2022.”

The ministry added that “this is a significant blow to the [Black Sea Fleet], which previously relocated most of its units to Novorossiysk due to the high threat to Sevastopol.”

The Russian ship may have assumed it was safe in Novorossiysk, given that the port is roughly 350 miles from the Ukrainian port city of Odessa, but it shouldn’t have. The reach of Ukraine’s drone boats was hardly a secret.

Just days before the attack, Ukraine showed CNN its naval drone boats packed with nearly 1,000 pounds of explosives, revealing they have a range of roughly 500 miles. Yet the reactions of the Olenegorsky Gornyak’s crew did not look like a ship aware it was operating within the reach of Ukraine’s weapons.

Typically, the work of identifying emerging threats is done by naval intelligence officers, with fleet commanders then ordering preparations to ready their ship crews to the risk.

If the Russian warship, previously described as “one of Russia’s best,” did, in fact, fail to take necessary precautions within range of attack, it certainly wasn’t a first for the Russian military in its war in Ukraine, as it has made costly errors of this nature in the past.

At the start of the year, a few dozen, if not actually a few hundred, Russian troops were killed in a New Year’s Day strike on their barracks in Makiivka.

The Kremlin blamed complacency and cellphone usage, but Russian milbloggers argued their commanders negligently stationed Russian forces in a vulnerable position near ammunition storage within firing range of Ukraine’s US-provided HIMARS, a powerful and proven rocket artillery system.

Months later in June, more Russian service members were killed in a rocket artillery strike after reportedly being forced to stand in one spot in Kreminna for hours listening to a commander’s speech, again within range of Ukraine’s HIMARS.

And more recently, a large number of Russian troops gathered last week out in the open on a beach on Dzharylhach island, a position that also turned out to be within reach of Ukraine’s rocket artillery, and suffered significant casualties as a result. An expert told Insider’s Erin Snodgrass at the time that Russia failed “military operations 101,” and that’s been happening throughout this conflict.

Other questionable actions, for instance, involve things like storing ammunition next to medical facilities and Russian generals foolishly strutting along the front lines, moves that appear to stem from a lack of appreciation for their enemy in this fight, which may have been the case with the Olenegorsky Gornyak.

“We have seen that video,” Mark Cancian, a senior adviser with the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Insider, referring to the video footage of the drone attack.

“You don’t see any obstacles, you don’t see any nets, you don’t see any patrol boats or shooting or anything like that that would indicate an active defense.”

The video suggests the landing ship took no apparent action in response to the drone boat beyond possibly turning on a searchlight.

Cancian acknowledged that there may have been defensive actions but said that going off the video of the attack, “it certainly looks like they assumed that the Ukrainians were not able to strike at that distance.”

The Russians “were not as attentive and didn’t have the surveillance up that they should have,” Cancian said, and they paid the price. Russia also seems to have discounted Ukrainian cleverness, which is damaging Russian ships in the Black Sea even without a navy.

The thing to watch, he noted, will be whether or not Russia adapts in response to this incident.

If they do, it shows Russia learns, albeit the hard way, but if they don’t, it indicates “that not only are they sort of complacent and sloppy, but they’re not learning either.” We’ll see if they do.

Source : Insider