By applying a particularly effective naval Guerrilla tactic to prevent the Russian fleet from taking control of the Black Sea, the Ukrainian Navy managed to achieve many successes, from the destruction of the cruiser Moskva in April 2022, to that of the missile patrol boat Ivanovets a few days ago.
With the help of anti-ship missiles, light and fast naval drones, and a good dose of imagination and reactivity, the Ukrainians managed to sink or damage 40% of the Black Sea fleet, preventing a landing around Odessa, and even pushing Russian ships beyond its coasts.
The effectiveness of this tactic, however, will not fail to inspire many other global players, and is likely to threaten, in the near future, much more than Russian military ships.
Naval Guerrilla at the heart of the Black Sea protest by the Ukrainian Navy
At the start of the Russian offensive against Ukraine, few specialists on the subject estimated that the Ukrainian armies would be able to resist the Russian steamroller for more than two months.
No one, on the other hand, imagined that after two years of conflict, the powerful Russian Black Sea Fleet would have lost 40% of its surface units. Especially after the Ukrainian Navy had scuttled the vast majority of its assets during the first days of the conflict.
However, through a tactic, as innovative as it is effective, of Naval Guerrilla, Kyiv managed to prevent the Russian fleet from taking control of the Black Sea, and thus from carrying out amphibious operations, for example, on the beaches close to Odessa.
Better yet, the weak Ukrainian means, using light naval drones more cobbled together than designed as a weapons system, managed to strike the naval infrastructures and the ships at the dock, in the very heart of the Sevastopol naval base, in Crimea.
If the inventiveness and determination of the Ukrainians allows them to resist the significant resources of the Russian armies on the seas, as well as on land and in the air, this new tactic will also inevitably inspire many other countries, even organizations parastatals, to challenge a superior opposing naval power, including Western ones.
The risks are therefore significant, in the near future, that Western navies will also be confronted with this type of threat, particularly in certain complex theaters, such as in the Near and Middle East or in Africa. What are the threats looming in this area today, and how can we protect ourselves against them?
The four fundamental characteristics of the Ukrainian Naval Guerrilla
The tactics used by Ukraine in this area, in fact, respond wonderfully to the classification of guerrilla warfare, since it incorporates the four main pillars.
Accessibility of the means used, a response from the weak to the strong
Firstly, this is based on very limited resources, within the reach of the low production capacities of a Ukrainian industry subject to the permanent threat of Russian forces. Impossible, under these conditions, to build military ships, and even less submarines, to challenge Russian naval superiority in the Black Sea.
Ukrainian engineers have turned to much more accessible and lightweight capabilities that can be produced with limited industrial resources, in the purest style of the weak-to-strong response that characterizes guerrilla warfare.
Thus, Ukrainian naval drones, which are reminiscent, in spirit, of the Iranian Shahed 136 attack drones, are both easy and quick to produce, effective for the missions they must carry out, and particularly discreet to surprise the opponent.
Unpredictable strikes and means designed to be as discreet as possible
Surprise is, as such, at the heart of Ukrainian naval guerrilla strategy, as it is of all guerrilla actions. For Kyiv, it is a question of striking the Russian Navy where, and when, it does not expect it.
This was the case during the operation which allowed the sinking of the cruiser Moskva, on patrol off the Ukrainian coast, without ever being fully aware of the threat targeting it before it was too late. Since then, most successful Ukrainian attacks have been characterized by the use of new systems, new tactics, and even new targets.
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