Friday night, the Russian naval base at Sevastopol in occupied Crimea was attacked by a number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and unmanned undersea vehicles (UUV). The results of the attack are unclear. The Russians admit to damage to a minesweeper but video taken during the attack and aftermath hints at more extensive damage.
This is the fourth high-profile attack on targets in Crimea, a territory Russia illegally claims as its own, in as many months. On July 31, a drone attacked the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, wounding six. On August 9, a major Russian airbase at Novofedorivka suffered catastrophic aircraft losses due to a Ukrainian missile attack; see Airbase in Russian-Occupied Crimea Hit by Devastating Ukrainian Attack. And on October 8, a truck bomb extensively damaged the Kerch Strait Bridge linking Crimea to Russia; see WATCH: Incredible Footage of Key Russian-Controlled Bridge in Crimea Being Destroyed.
The main target of the attack appears to have been the guided missile frigate, Admiral Makarov. The symbolism is important from two aspects. Admiral Makarov is one of the primary platforms for launching cruise missiles at Ukrainian infrastructure in retaliation for the bombing of the Kerch Strait Bridge. It is also the replacement for the guided missile cruiser Moskva which was sunk by Ukrainian anti-ship missiles on April 14; see BREAKING. The flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet was Hit by Ukrainian Missiles, Dead in the Water, Crew Evacuated and BREAKING. Russian Flagship Sinks While Being Towed to Port.
Planet Labs 0.5m resolution pass via Skywatch for Sevastopol harbor yesterday (October 28, 2022) at 44.62266, 33.556237 showing 🇷🇺 Russian Navy Krivak FFGs, a Bora FFL, 3x Pr. 22160 Patrol Vessels, a Sonya minesweeper & 1 other large (auxiliary?) ship. pic.twitter.com/jbQwrsvU22
— Evergreen Intel (@vcdgf555) October 29, 2022
Here is video of the attack distributed by blue checkmark and generally reputable accounts. But, of course, after yesterday’s Ligma-Johnson incident (‘Fired Twitter Employees’ Execute the Greatest Troll of the News Media I’ve Ever Seen), you are free to discount them as rubbish.
— H I Sutton (@CovertShores) October 29, 2022
Unbelievable footage from one of the marine drones used in the attack on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol.
(Via Ukrainian journalist Andriy Tsaplienko)
— James Waterhouse (@JamWaterhouse) October 29, 2022
And now stuff is on fire. Word on the street is that the frigate Admiral Makarov, the largest ship remaining in the black sea fleet, is damaged and may have lost its air defense radar. pic.twitter.com/aDCwzLLO0y
— Andrew Perpetua (@AndrewPerpetua) October 29, 2022
An even more interesting part, the video from the marine drone. 22 pic.twitter.com/rMpgH4eb40
— Angry Cossack (@auto_glam) October 29, 2022
— Liveuamap (@Liveuamap) October 29, 2022
As the Kerch Strait Bridge bombing was followed by a campaign of missile and drone attacks directed at civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, this attack also drew a response.
Russia halts participation in Ukraine grain corridor deal citing "massive drone attack" on its Black Sea Fleet https://t.co/j2GXDqk8ft
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) October 29, 2022
This is not totally unexpected as the Russians have been threatening to leave the grain deal since the Ukrainian offensives of late September and early October…and most of the money to be made from the deal is safely in some oligarch’s foreign bank account.
As always, the implications of an event are more significant than the finite action. For instance, the successful attack on the Kerch Strait Bridge has greatly complicated the Russian defense of occupied Kherson and, I think, will feature heavily in the eventual Russian evacuation of that province.
A successful attack on a heavily defended target like Sevastopol has to shake the Russian Black Sea Fleet and its command structure. An unknown number of unmanned vehicles were able to prosecute an attack in what may be a first in the history of warfare. No matter what the damage was, the fact that it happened is important. It is also important to note that Ukraine will have learned more about carrying out such an attack than Russia will have learned about preventing it. The Black Sea Fleet had a major command shake-up after the Moskva was lost; it is fairly safe to predict that it will have another one after this fiasco.
The attack shows that the Black Sea Fleet is not secure even in its home anchorage. This anchorage will become less safe as Ukraine’s technical capabilities increase.