Cheap weapons that Ukraine used to raid the Crimean bridge.

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister reported on July 17 that unmanned maritime vehicles caused the Crimean bridge explosions, possibly involving SBU and navy. Western analysts view USVs as affordable, potent tools for long-range attacks.

According to Western experts, suicide boats are considered affordable and “asymmetrical” weapons that Ukraine allegedly used to target the Crimean bridge. Mykhailo Fedorov, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, recently announced on July 17 that “unmanned maritime vehicles” were responsible for explosions that damaged a section of the Crimean bridge, disrupting traffic on this vital route connecting the peninsula to the mainland.

Western media reported that sources suggested a coordinated attack on the Crimean bridge involving the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and the country’s navy, using an unmanned suicide boat (USV).

Analysts from the West speculate that the USV could be a cost-effective and potent weapon for Ukraine to carry out long-range attacks, potentially striking behind Russian defense lines, with the Crimean bridge being a primary target.

The use of unmanned maritime vehicles (USVs) has emerged as an affordable and asymmetrical weapon in modern warfare, with countries like Ukraine and the US developing these remote-controlled vehicles equipped with large explosives. In October 2022, Ukraine leveraged crowdfunded USVs to gain an advantage over Russian warships.

According to Samuel Bendett, an expert at the US Center for Marine Research, the cost-effectiveness of building and defending USVs makes them a formidable threat. Ukraine’s ability to pressure Russian defenses at a low cost and with readily available resources gives them an asymmetrical advantage in hostilities. The USVs also pose a constant threat to the highly symbolic and valuable Crimean Bridge, which Russia previously used to transport military equipment.

The October 2022 attack on the Crimean Bridge resulted in the collapse of two spans, forcing Russia to shift its transport operations to the overland corridor connecting the Crimean peninsula to the western part of the country. This raises concerns about Russia’s ability to protect the vital bridge from the ongoing threat posed by USVs. As the use of USVs continues to evolve, their affordability and effectiveness in targeting critical assets make them a significant factor in modern conflict scenarios.

According to expert Bendett, Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) have limited range and are primarily intended for operation near the operator’s location or deployment area, making them unsuitable for traveling thousands of kilometers.

To detect a mother ship deploying USVs, Russia would need to deploy a substantial number of reconnaissance vehicles, patrol the surrounding waters, and use advanced sensors to identify any unusual movements.

In order to defend against potential attacks, Russia would also have to deploy dense defense systems to intercept USVs approaching the bridge, which spans up to 19 km long. However, maintaining 24/7 protection for such a large structure proves challenging, as acknowledged by Bendett.

Although the full extent of the damage from the July 17 attack on the Crimean bridge remains uncertain, Bendett suggests that this incident could be seen as a success for Ukraine, signaling a difficult period for Russia in safeguarding the bridge.

The attack highlights Ukraine’s ability to exploit a vulnerability in the Crimean bridge’s protection system, using relatively inexpensive yet effective USVs, according to the expert’s analysis.

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