Surface drones equipped with explosive devices are considered one of the military’s most successful innovations in Ukraine. Germany is adding small reconnaissance drones to this arsenal.
The Ukraine war is the first interstate conflict in which both sides are using tens of thousands of mostly small drones. These are used for reconnaissance, swoop down on targets with explosive devices or drop grenades to attack enemy tanks or trenches. Since this year, Ukraine has been increasingly using overwater drones (Unmanned Surface Vehicles, USV’s), which can also be equipped with explosive devices. These systems are considered one of the most successful innovations of the military in Ukraine. Several ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet have already been destroyed in this way.
In September, Parliamentary State Secretary Siemtje Möller (Greens) had announced at the international meeting at Ramstein Air Base that she wanted to support Ukraine in maritime unmanned armament Accordingly, 50 surface drones were to help “repel the aggressor not only on land, but also at sea”. The systems were to come from Bundeswehr stocks and be delivered “together with industrial partners”.
During question time in the Bundestag on Wednesday, Andrej Hunko, a member of the Left Party, asked about the maritime drone donation; the Ministry of Defence then gave details for the first time. According to this, the delivery announced in Ramstein involves reconnaissance drones from the Berlin-based company Evo Logics. Their model “Sonobot 5” delivered to Ukraine is about one metre wide, is driven by an electric motor and rides on two skids. The manufacturer offers these drones for surveying, for which they are equipped with echo sounder, sonar and cameras.
The drone communicates, among other things, via WLAN or radio, but can also use “autonavigation” to approach programmed targets outside the range of the remote control. Ukraine could use the “Sonobot 5” for mine clearance, for example. Theoretically, they could also be equipped with explosive devices, but the payload of the 27-kilogram units is presumably limited.
The German Armed Forces now also have several “Sonobot 5”. Since the 1980s, the navy has also been using remote-controlled minesweepers of the “Seehund” (“Seal) type. By imitating the sound and magnetic field signatures of large ships, they are designed to detonate mines as they pass overhead.
This arsenal is now to be modernised. In a defence paper, the navy had outlined its plans until 2035. According to this, extensive investments are to be made in naval drones over the next ten years, which will then be deployed by crewed ships.
Published in German in „nd“.
Image: The sea drone “Sonobot 5” is powered by an electric motor and can use “autonavigation” to navigate to defined targets (EvoLogics).