18 Nov 2022
It appears that a Ukrainian maritime drone, similar to those using in an attack on Sevastopol, has struck Novorossiysk. This would be strategically important, showing that more of the Russian Navy is under threat. Efforts may be underway to suppress this story in Russian media.
Ukraine’s maritime drones can now reach a Russian Navy base until now regarded as safe. When the drones (USVs) were used to attack Sevastopol on October 29 they resulted in a major shift in Russian Navy operations. The threat is regarded as so serious that new defenses were added in Sevastopol. And the Russian Navy, which early in the war dominated the Black Sea, barely leaves port. Now this threat has reached another major Russian Navy base at Novorossiysk.
Local Russian sources have reported that a Ukrainian ‘naval drone’ has struck the Sheskharis oil terminal in Novorossiysk at night. This is strategically important.
Strategic Attack By Ukraine on Novorossiysk
Novorossiysk is a major naval base and oil terminal on Russia’s Black Sea coast. At 420 miles (675 km) from Odesa, it is much further from Ukrainian held territory than Sevastopol. It has until now been regarded as out of range of Ukrainian attacks.
We have not yet been able to independent verify all of the details of the attack. However, the story has been reported in multiple local sources and a video has been shared. There are also reports that a spokesperson for the Russian oil company Transneft has denied the attack. And some Russian reports have now been removed. Despite this, Naval News regards it as plausible and credible and, at this time, believes that it did occur.
Even a small attack, which does limited or no damage, could have massive consequences for Russia.
Attacking oil infrastructure makes strategic sense for Ukraine. Russia has targeted Ukrainian industry and civilian infrastructure on multiple occasions, even making it a strategy. Even without damaging the infrastructure this attack could affect Russia’s ability to export crude oil.
The navy base in Novorossiysk, close to the oil terminal which was reportedly hit, is also an important target. This is the home of many warships directly involved in the war with Ukraine. These include the Kilo Class submarines which were largely moved there from Sevastopol in September. The submarines can launch Kalibr cruise missiles and remain a daily threat to Ukraine.
Several large landing ships, which were sailed to the Black Sea in the build-up for the invasion, are also based there. Radar satellite from around early this morning shows that many of the warships were in port. It also shows only one smaller tanker at the main oil terminal pier. This may have been a factor in the limited damage reported.
The Fog Of War
Most accounts say that the attack occurred on November 18, but some sources state the night of 16-17. It is unclear whether the maritime drone used in the latest attack is the same model as used against Sevastopol. Some Russian sources state that the ‘naval drone’ belonged to the Ukrainian Armed forces.
One report states (translated), “The involvement of the Armed Forces of Ukraine was established after studying the wreckage of the drone. This is a surface unmanned vehicle used by Ukraine. Exactly the same type was involved in the attack on the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol at the end of October.”
These drones are made in Ukraine using a mix of technologies. They can be characterized as half jet ski and half canoe and can carry a small warhead. In October they were able to penetrate deep inside Sevastopol harbor.
While researching this article some of the Russian language reports began to be taken down. Naval News will endeavor to collaborate this information via other sources. However, there are efforts to control the narrative in Russia which may affect the availability of information.