The United Kingdom has announced the delivery of six autonomous lightweight underwater drones to Ukraine to hunt Russian mines on its coastlines. The UK will also provide training to Ukrainian forces to operate the drones.
The British military stocks will source three drones, while private manufacturers will provide the remaining three.
The minehunters are designed for shallow coastal waters. Each unit can deploy up to 100 meters (328 feet) deep. They are equipped with an array of sensors to detect and classify underwater mines.
Autonomous Mine-Hunter Training
The British Diving & Threat Exploitation Group and the US Navy Sixth Fleet will combine their expertise to deliver three-week training courses for future Ukrainian drone operators.
Ukrainian forces will undergo underwater drone operation training for several months, with the first training group already underway.
“The Ukrainian personnel have been fantastic, and it is a pleasure to be working with them and helping them in their struggle to defend their homeland against the aggression they are currently suffering,” Royal Navy Diving and Mine Warfare Captain Ben Vickery said.
“These incredible, motivated, and very professional sailors have thrown themselves into the task and have made incredible progress gaining an excellent level of proficiency.”
The Royal Navy will also conduct training for Ukrainian sailors to operate Sandown-class minehunters.
“Through the expert skills being taught here, our Ukrainian allies will be able to clear their own waters of mines,” First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key said.
“These weapons target shipping indiscriminately, but particularly affect civilian traffic and trade and have had a devastating impact on freedom of navigation in the Black Sea. This training is another powerful demonstration of the UK’s ongoing commitment to Ukraine in their fight to defend their country and repel Russian aggression,” Key added.
Hampered Food Supplies
Since the Russian invasion, Ukraine has encountered food supply problems due to the destruction of the country’s agriculture and the blockades of exports through the country’s Black Sea ports.
In July, the United Nations began assisting Ukraine by deploying a small number of ships for grain exports. However, most of the country’s food industry is still hindered by sea mines scattered across the coast by the Russian military.
“Russia’s cynical attempts to hold the world’s food supply to ransom must not be allowed to succeed,” UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said.
“This vital equipment and training will help Ukraine make their waters safe, helping to smooth the flow of grain to the rest of the world and supporting the Armed Forces of Ukraine as they look to defend their coastline and ports,” Wallace added.