Ukrainian forces appeared to use Turkish-built Bayraktar TB-2 drones to destroy a pair of high-speed Russian patrol boats operating in the Black Sea on Monday morning.
“Two Russian Raptor-class boats were destroyed at dawn today near Zmiinyi (Snake) Island,” Chief of the Ukrainian military’s General Staff Valeriy Zaluzhniy said in a post to Telegram, Reuters reported.
Footage shared by the Ukrainian side showed thermal imagery of the purported Russian Project 03160 “Raptor” patrol boats exploding.
The strikes on the two small Russian patrol boats comes just over two weeks after the Russian side lost a Slava-class guided-missile cruiser known as Moskva (which means Moscow). Moskva had served as the flagship missile cruiser for Russia’s Black Sea fleet.
The Russian side said Moskva was damaged after a fire on board the ship caused an ammunition detonation. The Russian military said it was towing the damaged ship but said it sank in a heavy storm.
The Ukrainian side, by contrast, claims it struck the Moskva with a pair of domestically-produced R-360 Neptune anti-ship missiles. Retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard said his sources in Ukraine told him Ukrainian forces flew a drone on the opposite side of the Russian warship to distract its crew before firing the pair of Neptune anti-ship missiles.
While some social media users claimed Russian forces destroyed all of Ukraine’s Bayraktar drones in the opening hours of their invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian side has continued to attribute successful strikes against Russian forces to still-active Bayraktar drones.
Ukraine has used a variety of drones so far in its defense against Russia’s invasion. Ukrainian troops have jerry-rigged crude systems for dropping modified grenades and bomblets from consumer-grade drones. The U.S. has also donated loitering munitions like the Switchblade and Phoenix Ghost drones, which fly above the battlefield searching for targets before dive-bombing and blowing themselves up as they impact against their targets.
So far in the nearly two-and-a-half-month-old invasion, the Ukrainian side claims it has destroyed 10 Russian surface vessels, along with 1,062 tanks, 2,567 armored personnel vehicles, 475 artillery pieces, 162 multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS), 80 anti-aircraft systems, 194 planes, 162 helicopters, 291 tactical level drones, 38 pieces of special equipment, 84 cruise missiles and 1,843 other vehicles.
The exact numbers of destroyed Russian equipment remain difficult to verify amid the ongoing fighting. The Russian side has also provided infrequent updates on its combat losses.
The organization Oryx has attempted to verify combat losses throughout the war in Ukraine by attaching photographic evidence to each piece of equipment destroyed so far. Oryx has documented 3359 Russian vehicles and weapons systems lost so far in the fighting including 1,819 destroyed, 59 damaged, 266 abandoned and 1,215 captured. Oryx has specifically documented six Russian naval vessels destroyed, including the Moskva, three Raptorclass patrol boats, a Tapir class landing ship and a damaged Ropucha class landing ship.