At the start of the full-scale invasion, Russia wiped out Ukraine's navy. Until recently, Russian warships fired cruise missiles with impunity. But Ukraine is now deploying new types of weapons, as the drone wars expand from the skies to now the sea.
Recently, Ukraine's intelligence service revealed to the world its 18-month-in-the-making innovation named "Sea Baby."
It's a kamikaze boat designed to carry upwards of 700 pounds of explosives. Sea Baby represents an entirely new class of Ukrainian homegrown weaponry that's still in its infancy.
"Ukrainians are probably trying to see, okay, well, what gets past the goalie on the Russian side," says Oleg Vornik, CEO of DroneShield, an Australian maker of counter-drone technologies. "The Russians are figuring out what the heck they're going to use to defend [themselves]. I think it's all like very, very early stage right now."
Last month, after a Sea Baby hit a Russian military ship used to carry heavy cargo, including armored vehicles, one of its siblings successfully targeted a Russian oil tanker off the eastern coast of Crimea.
The unveiling of Sea Baby solves a mystery: How did Ukraine attack the Kerch Bridge connecting Russia to Crimea back in July?
Ukrainian intelligence claims responsibility and now credits Sea Baby with heavily damaging the vital, highly protected, Russian supply line.
These three successful missions demonstrate that Baby's got range, and is able to ride the waves to targets at least 500 nautical miles away. At such distances, suicide missions require onboard radar to assist the person who's aiming the vessel from afar.
"If you're using a boat to smash into a target, and the target is moving, radar is the only way," says Vornik. "Well, plus, a camera is the only way really to figure out where you're actually moving to smash into a target."
Ukrainian officials aren't saying how many Sea Babies they've been able to secretly build, nor how many the Russians have successfully destroyed. But the country's military intelligence chief, Kyrylo Budanov, recently said that Russia only manages to destroy 60%-70% of Ukrainian kamikaze drone boats, and mass production of them is underway.
Meanwhile, Ukraine's global crowdsourcing initiative, United 24, is raising money for a fleet of 100 state-of-the-art naval drones. Each one costs, they say, a quarter of a million dollars to build.
Beneath the surface, Ukraine's development program also includes even harder-to-detect underwater drones. A newly unveiled model, called "Marichka" has a range of 600 miles. It's unclear how Russia would counter them.
"You can put some netting up," Fornik says. "But that's not going to be reliable over larger distances."
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