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Russia Destroys Ukrainian Magura Unmanned Surface Vessel with FPV Drone

Screengrab of the video footage from the quadcopter UAV seconds before it strikes the Magura V5 USV. (Image credit: Telegram).

This is possibly the first documented case of a strike with an FPV drone targeting an unmanned surface vehicle.

May 30, 2024 saw back to back Russian and Ukrainian losses in the Black Sea: Kyiv lost a Magura V5 kamikaze drone boat, then, later in the same day, other Magura USVs destroyed two Russian vessels in Crimea. But the Ukrainian loss was interesting and rare, as it was first documented destruction of a USV (Unmanned Surface Vessel) with a kamikaze UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle).

Russia has long suffered under menacing Ukrainian USV strikes in the Black Sea and around the Sevastopol naval harbor. It has managed to destroy many USVs, but at a disadvantageous cost-to-benefit ratio, as it employed larger and heavier platforms like missile boats, corvettes, Kamov Ka-27 helicopters and even strafing runs by Su-30 and MiG-29 fighters.

The introduction of the UAV implies Russia has either used one of the many quadcopter loitering attack drones its academia and private technology sector have developed over the last two years responding to demand on the frontline, or has developed a fresh one.

Unmanned Kamikaze Boat, Destroyed by Unmanned Kamikaze Aircraft

The video, that went around on several Russian and Ukrainian Telegram groups, showed what appears to be a quadcopter-type drone rapidly approaching the Magura V5 USV. “Possibly the first documented case of a strike with an FPV drone targeting an unmanned surface vehicle (USV). The strike was carried by Russian forces on a Ukrainian USV in the Black Sea area,” said ‘Status 6’.

A RuMoD update late night on May 29 said: “Around 18:30 (6:30 pm) Moscow time, naval aviation of the Black Sea Fleet in the northwestern part of the Black Sea discovered and destroyed an unmanned boat of the Ukrainian Navy heading towards the Crimean Peninsula.” However, this specifies “naval aviation,” meaning it has not been destroyed by a UAV. This probably pertains to another Magura V5 that was seen being engaged by Russian helicopter fire.

Ukraine Sinks Two Russian Boats

On May 30, Ukraine also said it destroyed two Russian KS-701 Tunets boats in the Vuzka Bay in Crimea.

United24 posted footage from the Magura’s electro-optical system showing it maneuvering the seas and receiving heavy fire from an overhead passing helicopter gunship. Large outboard weapons stubs make it appear like either a Mi-24 or a Mi-35, but this is not yet clear.

The footage then cuts to night time in a thermal mode, showing a Mi-8/Mi-17 flying overhead, and then tracer rounds flying across the naval base, indicating the Russians are defending against the Ukrainian drone boat. A large explosion is seen in the distance, suggesting a boat has been hit.

Another clip, this time from the perspective of presumably the Magura V5 itself, shows its rapidly closing distance to a parked small patrol boat near a pier, with another similar one behind it. These two explosions may account for two of the Tunets boats. Interestingly the clips of the two explosions are recorded by another USV, which implies Ukraine is using another kamikaze drone boat to video record its attacks.

It is however not known if this was the same USV seen in the first clip that was taking fire from the Russian helicopters, was destroyed by the UAV, or was one of the boats that struck the Tunets boats. Perhaps, the Magura V5 seen dodging the Russian heliborne fire could be the one the RuMoD said it destroyed with “naval aviation.”

The attack was carried out by an outfit identified as Group 13, a special unit of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine. “To repel the attacks, the Russians sent combat aircraft into the sky 32 times and chaotically fired machine guns. They were unsuccessful,” United24 added.

Magura V5

The Magura V5, developed and manufactured by FTE SPETSTECHNOEXPORT, is 5.5-meters in length, 0.5-meters in height, can carry a payload of 320-kg to a distance of 800-km. The Magura has been used previously for attacks on the warships of the BSF.

The boat first saw action on February 1, when Ukraine used it to destroy Russia’s Ivanovets missile corvette in Lake Donuzlav, saltwater lake on the western side of the Crimean peninsula, which houses a naval base. The ship was sunk after receiving “direct hits” to the hull.

Two weeks later, Russia’s Caesar Kunikov large landing craft was also struck by a Magura. A few Russian Telegram channels maintained at the time that the USV was guided and received targeting information from a NATO MQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drone.

Ukraine employs drone boats like the Magura and the Sea Baby to make up for its limited naval capabilities and obtain an asymmetric advantage over the Russian Navy. It was publicly introduced at the International Defense Industry Fair (IDEF) in Turkey in July 2023, Militarnyi reported.

About Parth Satam
Parth Satam’s career spans a decade and a half between two dailies and two defense publications. He believes war, as a human activity, has causes and results that go far beyond which missile and jet flies the fastest. He therefore loves analyzing military affairs at their intersection with foreign policy, economics, technology, society and history. The body of his work spans the entire breadth from defense aerospace, tactics, military doctrine and theory, personnel issues, West Asian, Eurasian affairs, the energy sector and Space.

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