Ukraine's New Maritime Drone Is A Jet Ski

Ukraine's New Maritime Drone Is A Jet Ski

Flag Ukraine On July 16 2023 Ukraine attacked the main Russian naval base at Sevastopal on Crimea. Then on July 17 Ukraine attacked the Kerch Bridge which connects Crimea to Russia. Initial reports suggest that uncrewed surface vessels (USVs), popularly known as maritime drones, were used.

Video footage shared by Russian sources of one of the USV involved on the July 16 attack appears to show a modified jet ski design.

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Both Ukraine and Russia have developed 'maritime drones' (USVs - uncrewed surface vessels) with explosive charges. These one-way attack USVs, aka 'kamikaze' drones, have been used to attack ships and bridges. The initial design, first seen in September 2022, already employed jet ski parts. However the hull was bespoke. This latest USV is a minimally modified commercial jet ski.

Based on the blurred imagery, the jet ski used appears to be a Kawasaki STX type. The seats, handlebars and some unnecessary casings have been stripped off. Then some communication and control devices have been added.

At the stern is a large container. This resembles the fishing boxes sometimes attached to jet skis. It's purpose is unclear. Possibly it contains fuel for extended range. However another possibility is that it is an explosive device intended for attacking the bridge spans. Fishing boxes and related fittings are sometimes sold with jet skis, or can be added as after-market attachments. It also would not be difficult to improvise a similar attachment.

Jet Ski fishing box
Reference image of a Kawasaki jet ski with fishing cooler and related attachments. Other brands of personal watercraft have similar options.

Although very small, the jet ski has a much larger profile than the bespoke explosive USVs. This is weighed against the low cost and simplicity of modifications.

Previously Ukraine has used other brands of personal watercraft ('jet skis'). The initial batch used propulsion elements from a Sea-Doo type. It is likely that Ukraine uses different brands subject to availability and experience.

It is unclear whether the USVs used against the Kerch Bridge was the same jet ski type, or some other type. We can speculate that due to the range required and specialist warhead, a new type was employed.

Reports that a British supplied Norwegian Remus 600 underwater vehicle was employed for the Kerch attack have not been substantiated. These appear misinformation at this stage.

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