Russian Navy Uses Underwater Unmanned Vehicle to Locate Mines in Black Sea

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Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna is a Defence & Aerospace analyst and is the Director of ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany with manufacturing units in Russia. He is Consulting Editor Industry and Defense at Frontier India.

A minesweeper crew from the Russian Black Sea Fleet recently used an unidentified UUV (Underwater Unmanned Vehicle) to locate mines.

The minesweeping forces of the Black Sea Fleet carried out a mine reconnaissance along the routes of active commercial shipping in the Black Sea. The threat of mines of Ukrainian mining in specific coastal and maritime regions prompted this operation, as per the Russians.

The crew of the minesweeper “Alexander Obukhov,” which is of the Alexandrite class, devised a strategy for searching for submerged objects using a hydrolocator and a remotely operated underwater vehicle as part of a unified mine countermeasures scheme.

The Project 12700 minesweeper is the cornerstone in shaping the concept of mine defence in the near-sea zone. The minesweeper “Alexander Obukhov” has a unique monolithic fibreglass hull created using vacuum infusion technology. The design and construction of this project satisfied the Russian Navy’s Main Command’s specifications for next-generation mine countermeasure vessels. The “Alexander Obukhov” minesweeper has cutting-edge mine countermeasure weapons and an automated mine action management system. It can also use typical mine-sweeping armaments.

The minesweeping vessel’s crew devised a reconnaissance search protocol for the unified mine countermeasures circuit using advanced hydroacoustic stations and a contemporary, remotely operated underwater vehicle.

The ship’s hydroacoustic station personnel initially detected the underwater object. The personnel utilised the autonomously deployed remotely operated underwater vehicle to identify an anchor mine.

The mine was subsequently annihilated as it ascended above the water’s surface after its release from the anchor via cable cutting. In addition to practising manual launching of a warning grenade launcher and the DP-64 anti-sabotage grenade launcher, the ship personnel prepared for potential threats posed by underwater saboteurs.

The Russian Black Sea Fleet has not revealed the UUV used in this mine removal mission. However, throughout the last few years, the country has created, tested, and deployed multiple UUVs for various objectives.

Hundreds of mines have been dropped in the Black Sea as part of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, endangering civilian vessels and lives.

The scale of demining efforts is still unknown, but it is expected to be large enough to pose a major hazard to any ship that encounters them.

Unlike landmines, maritime mines are not prohibited under international treaties. However, international humanitarian law establishes particular guiding principles. States may deploy them, for example, in their territorial waters to safeguard their coastlines from foreign threats.

Ukraine formally acknowledged laying sea mines in June 2022, alleging that it was doing so to exercise its right to self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter.

A total of roughly 420 sea anchor mines of the obsolete design type YM-1 were deployed by the Ukrainian Navy, according to the Russian Ministry of Defence, in 2022. Of these, 370 have been placed in the Black Sea, and 50 were deployed in the Sea of Azov.

A marine mine can be designed to detonate when it comes into contact with a ship’s hull, or it can be linked to a steel cable to remain submerged. Nevertheless, they can detach themselves during storms and be dragged by sea currents for significant distances. Modern mines can self-detonate if they are detached from their chains.

It is not just Russia working to clear the Black Sea of maritime mines; other countries are also doing so. As a result of the lack of a fleet, Ukraine has contracted out the demining and maintenance of marine safety in order to allow cargo ships to travel without restriction.

Not only are maritime mines inconvenient for Ukraine, but they have also become a significant problem. Other countries along the coast of the Black Sea, including those that are members of NATO, are also susceptible to maritime mines of a similar nature.

An agreement on a mine-clearing cooperation plan for explosives floating in the Black Sea as a result of the conflict in Ukraine was signed earlier this month by NATO allies Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria. The accord represents the culmination of months of negotiations between these three countries.

The trilateral effort on explosive ordnance disposal was launched in Istanbul when Bulgarian Deputy Defence Minister Atanas Zapryanov, Romanian counterpart Angel Tilvar, and Turkish Defence Minister Yashar Guler signed a memorandum of cooperation.

According to a Turkish Ministry of Defence representative, each country will contribute three mine-searching ships and one command control ship. In addition, Guler indicated that if the situation in Ukraine is resolved, other Black Sea governments may be invited to join the committee, which the three countries’ naval commanders-in-chief will chair.

While Guler claimed that only ships from the “three allied coastline countries” would be permitted to participate, Turkey regards the potential contribution of non-Black Sea NATO members as “valuable.”

To finalise these efforts, the defence ministers of the three Black Sea states addressed demining plans at NATO meetings in Brussels last October and Ankara in November.

Despite the lack of obvious progress in negotiations, Ankara, which has good connections with Kyiv and Moscow, is working with the UN, Ukraine, and Russia to resuscitate the Black Sea Grain Plan, which Moscow withdrew from last year.


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