A 1,500-pound combat drone was an integral part of an operation that allowed Ukrainian forces to sink the Soviet-era missile destroyer Moskva, Russia’s Black Sea flagship, last week, according to reports.
At least one Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone operated by Ukrainian forces was involved in the operation when it was used to distract the Russian war ship’s air defenses, Forbes reported.
If true, the news is the latest development celebrating the combat drone to emerge since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The TB2 has become not only a force multiplier overhead, but also a symbol of Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion, and a source of national pride.
The ship, along with its crew of about 500, was a symbolic military target because of its role leading the naval assault on Ukraine, including soldiers stationed on Snake Island, the BBC reported.
Ukrainian officials quickly took credit for the sinking, claiming the ship was taken out by two Neptune anti-cruise missiles—a claim quickly dismissed by Russia.
The #Russian army has set a reward for each piece of destroyed #Ukrainian military equipment by its soldiers. The reward for shooting down a #Bayraktar TB2 is 50,000 rubles. pic.twitter.com/wziURJtTtb— David Moroney (@David__Moroney) April 11, 2022
“It has been confirmed that the missile cruiser ‘Moscow’ today went exactly where it was sent by our border guards on Snake Island!” Odessa Regional State Administrator Maxim Marchenko said April 13. “Neptune missiles guarding the Black Sea caused very serious damage to the Russian ship.”
Russian state news agency TASS said the ship went down during a storm while it was being towed after it had suffered damage when ammunition onboard detonated during a fire.
On Friday, a U.S. defense official confirmed the Ukrainian account, saying that the ship had been struck by the Neptune missiles, CBS News said.
Ukraine’s Navy purchased six of the TB2 drones last year as a surveillance force multiplier in the Black Sea in order to relay enemy location to ground-based assets, according to defense blog Oryx.
Reports that Ukraine effectively used a TB2 to distract the Moskva crew have also emerged unofficially from Russia, however, are likely not true, the defense blog said.
“Though it makes for a compelling tale, this narrative is almost certain to be false,” Oryx said. “Not only are the radars and their operators onboard a warship like the Moskva more than capable of detecting and tracking more than just a single target, and would in fact do so virtually automatically so long as they were operating, but if they were in fact tracking a drone then situational awareness should have been at at a higher level than if the attack had occurred out of the blue.”
The TB2 drones have played a critical role in Ukraine’s fight against the invasion of Russian ground forces. The drones are capable of carrying up to four laser-guided munitions that have a reputation for being effective against ground-based targets, such as Russian tanks and mobile air defense systems. The drones have a flight range of up to around 186 sm, and can fly up to 27 hours and at a maximum altitude of 25,000 feet. Taking off, landing, and flight control are all fully automated.
It’s the kind of threat that has prompted a Russian bounty, according to a photo circulating on social media. For every TB2 drone destroyed, Russia is said to offer a 50,000 ruble reward— worth about $626.