Royal Navy Equips Ukraine With Underwater Minehunting Drones
Dozens of Ukrainian personnel are being trained by the Royal Navy to use high tech crewless vehicles to help them hunt mines.
Side-by-side with comrades from the U.S. Navy, experts from the Diving & Threat Exploitation Group are teaching Ukrainians how to operate the devices, which search large areas of seabed for mines and unexploded ordnance without putting the operators in harm’s way.
The UK is giving six of the underwater drones to Ukraine and training its personnel here in Britain to use them so they can clear their coastline of mines when they return to their homeland.
The lightweight autonomous vehicle is designed for use in shallow coastal environments, operating effectively at depths of up to 100 meters to detect, locate and identify mines using an array of sensors so the Ukrainian Navy can destroy them. Dozens of Ukrainian Navy personnel will be taught to use the drones over the coming months, with the first tranche having already begun their training.
The Royal Navy's Diving & Threat Exploitation Group is delivering three-week training courses, alongside the U.S. Navy's Sixth Fleet.
Captain Ben Vickery, Captain of Royal Navy Diving and Mine Warfare, said he was struck by the passion and commitment with which the Ukrainians had thrown themselves into learning.
“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," he 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 is also training 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,” said First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key. “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."
A small number of ships carrying grain have left Ukraine since the UN brokered a deal in July to allow food exports, but efforts to get food out of the country continue to be hampered by sea mines left by Russian forces along Ukraine’s coast.
“Russia’s cynical attempts to hold the world’s food supply to ransom must not be allowed to succeed,” 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.”
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.