Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Ukrainian unmanned boats have become a model for the US Navy

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Jun30,2024

Ukrainian unmanned boats have become a model for the US Navy

Ukraine managed to disable at least one third of the Black Sea Fleet of Russia with the help of unmanned surface boats and now the Navy The US is studying these achievements in order to implement them

The unexpected victory of Ukraine on the Black Sea can become a landmark achievement in the annals of naval warfare. With no navy of its own, Ukraine disabled at least one-third of Russia's Black Sea fleet, broke through the Russian naval blockade, and reopened the Black Sea for grain exports. Ukraine's export volumes are approaching pre-war levels, which is a huge gain for its wartime economy. This is stated in the author's column of The Washington Post, the translation of which is offered by Foreign Ukraine.

How did Ukraine manage to accomplish this incredible feat? Part of the explanation can be found in the use of powerful anti-ship cruise missiles, in particular the domestic “Neptune”, which in 2022 sank the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet – cruiser “Moscow”. But Ukraine has also innovated brilliantly, developing its own unmanned surface ships that can hunt down Russian warships in wolf packs.

Both the Magura V5 and Sea Baby are essentially unmanned boats that can be loaded with explosives or even launch their own missiles. Equipped with cameras and satellite communications that allow remote controllers to guide them to targets, they travel fast (up to 50 miles per hour) and are made of materials that are difficult to detect by radar. The best thing is that they are cheap to manufacture and do not put Ukrainian personnel at risk. Drones costing only a few hundred thousand dollars sink warships worth several million dollars that can take years to build.

James Stavridis, a retired admiral and former NATO commander, agreed: "We are at an absolute turning point in naval warfare. Large surface ships are at high risk from aerial, surface and subsurface drones. The sooner the navies of major powers such as the US realize this, the better chance they have of surviving major battles in this turbulent 21st century. Like a number of battleships destroyed at Pearl Harbor, the aircraft carriers are at the end of their days. It is time to shift the procurement rheostat from manned warships to more numerous and less expensive unmanned vessels.

At a conceptual level, US military leaders recognize the changing nature of warfare. The US Navy has conducted extensive tests of unmanned systems in the Persian Gulf and has established two squadrons of unmanned surface ships in the Pacific Ocean. Navy commanders understand that drones, which can operate both on the surface of the sea, above and below it, could be vital in repelling any Chinese attempt to attack Taiwan.

But the US military has not yet invested the necessary resources in advanced unmanned systems, as it remains firmly tied to its manned "legacy" platforms The Replicator initiative, announced in 2023, is a positive step: a Pentagon-wide effort to bypass cumbersome procurement rules and get drones into US operational forces as soon as possible. However, the Replicator budget is only $500 million per year, and it must cover all service industries.

In contrast, the shipbuilding budget The Navy for fiscal year 2025 is $32 billion — and almost all of that money will go to manned warships, including frigates, destroyers and aircraft carriers (costing up to $13 billion apiece), which are likely to become a blot on the history of warships.

In 2022, the US Navy tried to decommission nine littoral combat ships that suffered from mechanical problems and would not stand a chance in a high-intensity conflict with China, but the US Congress ordered that five of the ships remain in service because their withdrawal from operation will cause damage. The US littoral combat ship program could ultimately cost taxpayers $100 billion without providing any useful combat power.

Despite the many accusations, the bottom line is that the US Navy remains, in essence, the fighting force of the 20th century.

"The Navy is definitely too slow to adopt drone technology. The good news is that drones are finally being recognized as having and will continue to play a role in naval warfare. The bad news is that budgets don't yet reflect that,— noted Lorin Selby, retired rear admiral of the US Navy and former head of naval research.

Brian Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute who advises the U.S. Navy on new technologies, agrees: “I really think the Navy has 'underestimated' the potential of unmanned vessels. … The Navy has been experimenting with unmanned vessels for several years, but these efforts have not helped the transition to procurement. This is disappointing.

Incidentally, Taiwan is also making little effort to integrate unmanned systems into its armed forces and continues to spend money on manned ships and planes and, even on artillery systems and tanks.

Bing West, former US Assistant Secretary of Defense wrote in a recent article for the National Review that Taiwan allocates only 1% of its military budget to drones and intends to deploy only 700 military-grade drones and 7,000 commercial-grade drones. But Ukraine, on the contrary, produces at least 1 million drones a year and loses up to 10,000 in combat every month.

West claims that Taiwan “should redistribute at least $4 billion to develop 1 million drones, ranging from simple kamikaze to predators with artificial intelligence.” If a Chinese invasion fleet of 2,000 ships (comparing to the Allied Armada on D-Day in 1944) were to head for the island, Taiwan would be able to attack each Chinese ship with 500 drones.

Philippines — another US ally facing a Chinese maritime threat and having to switch to drones to protect itself.

According to T. H. Hammes, a distinguished researcher at the National Defense University, USA, the increase in the number of unmanned systems gives the defense an advantage over the offense, which makes it difficult for the attackers to advance. This is good news from the US perspective, given that it is a status quo power that seeks to prevent China from rewriting the map of the Western Pacific in its favor. But the United States and its allies are not taking full advantage of this new technology.

The problem is that the United States and its allies can't afford to wait: At the behest of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, the Chinese military is rapidly building up its forces so that by 2027 it will be ready to conquer Taiwan if necessary. When preparing an effective defense, not a minute can be lost, and drones must be at the forefront.

Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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