Military Review

US maritime drones are a direct and clear threat to Russia

US maritime drones are a direct and clear threat to Russia

New fleet architecture

In the plans of the US military command, control over the maritime sphere is the highest priority for the coming years. According to the Pentagon bosses, the sky has long been American, it's time to descend on the water surface and dive deeper. Concept and purpose of the future fleet marine drones Australian Navy Rear Admiral Peter Quinn described it very simply:

“Due to its modular and multi-purpose nature, our adversaries will have to assume that their every movement in the maritime sphere is under our supervision and that each drone is capable of applying a wide range of effects, including lethal ones.”

Despite the fact that Quinn represents the interests of the Australian Navy, his words are completely in tune with the point of view of the Pentagon. This is a new reality in the understanding of the Americans, and the Russian fleet will have to reckon with it.

sea ​​hunter. Source:

Americans are gradually moving from words to deeds. In 2021, the fleet conducted the first exercises with the wide use of sea and air drones. True, it is a stretch to call it an exercise; rather, it was a test of the interaction of a small group of drones. The role of Big Mom was played by the well-known Zumwalt-class destroyer USS Michael Monsoor, who coordinated the work of the Sea Hunter and Sea Hawk drones on the water and the MQ-8B Fire Scout and MQ-9 Sea Guardian in the air. The maneuvers, as is usually said in such cases, went well and according to plan.

At a higher level, the coordination of the United States Navy's unmanned programs is carried out within the framework of the New Fleet Architecture concept. Under the new rules, for every large displacement ship, there must be two small manned vessels, as well as three large and four medium surface drones.

This is a small revolution - the Americans are actually abandoning some of the large-displacement ships in favor of increasing the number of medium and small ones, including autonomous vehicles. For comparison: before in the US Navy, for every small class ship, there were two large displacement ships.

Until the end, we have not yet decided on surface robots - some experts believe that autonomous ships in some cases require a crew. Such dual-use vessels are more expensive than drones, which will affect both funding and the number of drones in the fleet.

It should be noted that at the end of 2022, the Pentagon and the White House did not form a consensus on the future of the fleet. Some believe that it would be good to reduce the number of aircraft carriers and thereby increase the number of small and medium-sized ships to 500 units. Others, in particular the Biden team, advocate a reduction in the number of large and small vessels with "a simultaneous increase in the number of tank landing ships and autonomous uninhabited underwater and surface vehicles."

In the strategic plans of the military command, the share of drones in the fleet should be at least 40 percent by 2051. Of course, most of this fleet will be opposed to China, but the Americans will prepare their own solutions for Russia as well. The drone attack on ships of the Black Sea Fleet last year can be considered a combat test of the potential of American kamikaze drones.

While it is being decided at the top, there are already quite a few American drones in the seas in varying degrees of readiness. Manufacturing companies are fighting for orders - by the end of 2024, the fleet intends to spend at least $ 4,5 billion on drones alone. The most famous of them is Sea Hunter with a displacement of about 140 tons and with the possibility of round-the-clock monitoring of coastal waters for three months. By the end of next year, the US Navy will have at least eight such vessels.

Experimental Orca. Source:

In 2023, they will complete the development of the Orca large underwater drone, designed to be on duty at a range of up to 12 km and at a depth of up to 3 meters. This is a hunter for underwater and surface vessels, a minesweeper, an electronic warfare specialist and a reconnaissance - that's how many functions the Americans want to cram into the hull of a diesel-electric submarine. There are plans to purchase eight drones.

There are good news.

According to Western media, the project to create an underwater unmanned reconnaissance Snakehead is closed. At the very end of 2022, Joe Biden cut off funding storiesfor which more than $200 million was spent.

Unmanned surface vehicle Mariner. Source:

There is a host of smaller projects that are nonetheless important for the needs of the fleet. Especially in this series, dual-use projects stand out, capable of mimicking civilian drones.

For example, Maritime Robotics offers a small plastic Mariner capable of carrying some kind of payload. Officially, it can be equipped with "various sensors, infrared cameras, radars, oceanographic instruments, hydroacoustic positioning systems, echo sounders and other sonar systems." Unofficially, according to the experience of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, inconspicuous drones are simply equipped with explosives and sent to the nearest enemy port.

For the Americans, the first naval drones have already become apples of contention with potential adversaries.

Saildrone incidents

An unmanned system, especially a marine one, is very vulnerable to external influences. The Americans, who managed to saturate the Middle East with drones of various classes and purposes, were faced with the unpretentious tactics of Iran. Americans call the simple capture of floating drones by Iranian sailors blatant, deliberate and unfounded. Some of them do not officially belong to the US Navy. So, in the summer and early autumn of last year, the Iranians captured several Saildrone drones.

According to the documents, this product is purely civilian and is designed to collect data on climate, bottom topography and ocean hydrology. The sailboat robot is able to work autonomously for up to 12 months, using wind and solar energy for movement. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards, quite rightly, did not believe in the humanitarian nature of the Saildrone mission and seized one sailboat in the Persian Gulf. The robot was taken in tow by the transport of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Shahid Baziar, but was soon released back.

The Americans claim that this happened not without threats from representatives of the US 5th Fleet. Just a few days later, a similar trick was turned by the Jamaran ship of the Iranian Navy. The sailors took a couple of drones onto the ship, received a warning from American destroyers and threw the sailboats overboard. They say the Americans lifted a whole MH-60R Sea Hawk into the air to intimidate. Whether it was possible after such an unceremonious treatment to keep the Saildrone the opportunity to conduct reconnaissance, history is silent.

Iranians do not take courage at all. In 2019, they shot down an American RQ-4A Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance aircraft. Considering how many such “hawks” have been hanging over the Black Sea in recent months, it is time for the Russian Aerospace Forces to think about a similar step. Moreover, the Americans themselves complain about the uncertain status of drones. Iran shot down a reconnaissance aircraft only because it is unmanned, and this is the only reason why the US did not launch cruise missiles in response to Tehran. This is the special charm of flying and floating drones of a potential enemy - with a certain level of courage, they are destroyed without any special consequences.

Let's return to the robotic sailboats involved in hydrographic surveys. The Americans, in response to Iran's demarche, made an innocent face and tried to justify themselves:

"The saildrones did not pose a hazard to maritime traffic and operated in close proximity to the southern Red Sea for more than 200 consecutive days without incident."

Commander Tim Hawkins of the US 5th Fleet was quick to report that the orange robots were unarmed and were taking unclassified photographs.

Except Saildrone, quite legally, participated in military exercises in the Gulf of Aqaba last year. The sailboat even changed its orange livery to steel gray in the manner of the US Navy. That is, the toy is at least integrated into the NATO information space.

There is no doubt that every Saildrone is a reconnaissance drone hiding behind the orange skin of a research mission. Another question is how much you can get useful from the interception of such products. This problem is already worrying the American command. Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, who oversees experimental drone building in the US Navy, advocates for the simplification of drones. Easy access to floating drones by the enemy should not lead to the loss of critical information.

There are already many precedents in Iran when American drones have become a prototype for their own developments. Cooper proposes to eliminate the possibility of storing secret data on board similar drones, turning them into remote transmitters of information in the cloud. He is echoed by Richard Jenkins, CEO of Saildrone:

“You have to plan ahead so that there is no classified information…no security breaches, no IP addresses leaked that the person who stole it could get off the ship.”

The purely “peaceful” Saildrone is being actively developed by the US Navy. Source:

The Iranians are trying to steal a Saildrone drone. Source:

In the end, it is worth adding that, according to Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, by the summer of 2023, the fleet of drones in the Red Sea will be at least one hundred copies. The appearance of Saildrone and others like it in the waters of the Black, Baltic and other seas bordering Russia can be considered a matter of time. However, any interception attempts will trigger cries of "egregious, deliberate and unjustified" violations of international law.

Considering the upcoming expansion and improvement of the US marine drone fleet as a reason for panic, of course, is not worth it. But an effective antidote should have been developed yesterday.
21 comment

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  1. Vladimir_2U
    Vladimir_2U 11 January 2023 07: 19
    Iranians do not take courage at all. In 2019, they shot down an American RQ-4A Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance aircraft. Considering how many such “hawks” have been hanging over the Black Sea in recent months, it is time for the Russian Aerospace Forces to think about a similar step.
    By the way, yes! Signal "your course leads to danger", give a warning on the course, wait a little and that! Memento mori!
    A good article!
    1. Scientist
      Scientist 11 January 2023 07: 39
      Exactly, "the moment and the sea."
    2. Reklastik
      Reklastik 15 January 2023 11: 16
      Signal "your course leads to danger", give a warning on the course
      - And why signal something?
      1. ailcat
        ailcat 18 January 2023 09: 23
        Comply with international rules and get Casus belli.
  2. parusnik
    parusnik 11 January 2023 07: 53
    But an effective antidote should have been developed yesterday.
    Yesterday, there was a lot to do..
  3. Vladimir Dmitrievich Burtsev
    Vladimir Dmitrievich Burtsev 11 January 2023 12: 41
    While Russian shipbuilders are developing and building surface ships of yesterday, passing them off as an outstanding achievement in shipbuilding, as I have already stated in my comments, a campaign has begun in the United States for a real, real breakthrough in the field of shipbuilding, the creation of fundamentally new surface warships. Then, as always, in hindsight, ours will catch on and another rush will begin. There are no problems in equipping our ships with weapons, now we need to create fundamentally new high-speed weapon carriers: ekranoplans, hovercraft, hydrofoils, catamarans. Introduce existing developments of amphibious aircraft into service, develop new amphibians for which we are still ahead of the United States. Create now, before time is lost, fundamentally new developments of ships. Russia has the longest maritime border, for its protection, the prompt solution of crisis situations, high-speed warships and amphibious combat aircraft of increased autonomy, range and duration of flight, and an unlimited region of use are needed.
    1. flyer
      flyer 11 January 2023 14: 28
      Who will build something for us? Gone are the days of romance. According to HSE statistics published in a scientific article for 2019, every year, the percentage of researchers in our country has fallen by an average of 2010% since 4. To all this, add problems with the teaching staff, which is already old, problems with the amount of remuneration of scientific workers in comparison with the West, and many more nuances that, taken together, do not reassure the word at all.
  4. Plover
    Plover 11 January 2023 13: 47
    Once in Sapsan, returning from Moscow to St. Petersburg, I caught a glimpse of a conversation between two representatives of the shipbuilding industry, which they were drinking brandy after, apparently, a working trip. The bottom line is that the "admirals" (it sounded like "three admirals") either have no idea how they see the future of the fleet, or everyone thinks "into himself" and the fleet does not have a common position. Therefore, what kind of robotics and UAVs (unmanned floating vehicles) in such conditions? Look, do we hear a lot about the fleet after "Moscow"? They changed the commander and quietly sat down - if something didn’t work out. But something tells me that there has never been any research and development work to somehow increase the usefulness of the fleet in the current conditions.
  5. Sergey39
    Sergey39 11 January 2023 17: 35
    An example of how Iran and China seized American drones and they could not counteract this. The devices went to the enemy and naturally were studied!
    Patrol and reconnaissance drones are defenseless and must be defended!
    Ah, here are shock drones or kamikazes, the right topic is they are harder to detect, intercept or destroy!
    Sevastopol, the first call, although We got off with almost a slight fright!
    There is another example when, on the roadstead in Sevastopol, an Italian battleship, which we got under reparations after the Second World War, exploded and sank with part of the crew! Behind the scenes, everything converged on Italian combat swimmers, the best in the world at that time!
    No wonder NATO is very concerned, Our underwater vehicle Poseidon!
    But, this is a doomsday weapon, not a weapon to destroy NK!
    1. Blackgrifon
      Blackgrifon 12 January 2023 16: 31
      Maybe they will create something similar to the American Orca. It’s good not to start from scratch, after all - we also have our own cars, albeit small-scale ones.
      1. ch28k38
        ch28k38 16 January 2023 20: 33
        As a person who worked on a nuclear submarine, I was surprised by the combination of two parameters, namely: a diesel-electric power plant and an immersion depth of 3000 m.
  6. usm5
    usm5 11 January 2023 19: 40
    Corruption is a terrible problem, which is the main reason for Russia's technological backwardness. Stalin at one time tried with the help of cruel repressions to change the Soviet elite that had begun to rot. Nothing happened. Corruption devoured him and the USSR. GDP is trying to free the country from corruption with the help of the SVO. It seems that society has already awakened, but it is not at all a fact that this infection in Russia will be defeated. Our financial bourgeoisie is like a plague. She eats the body despite the fact that it is a source of existence for her.
  7. Oleg Ogorod
    Oleg Ogorod 11 January 2023 21: 24
    No, no, I want today, no, no, I want now.
    Well, an anecdote about a brothel and furniture.
    Who will create a fleet of drones in Russia?
    Designers in Russia have not been needed for a long time.
    We needed specialists who service the purchased imported equipment.
    Therefore, there are practically no schools of designers in Russia for a long time. There is only a large successful school of huckster officials. Will they build a fleet of drones? They can only buy and sell. And, of course, drinking. Like in a cartoon about a flying ship. Will you build? I will buy!
    How to fix? Yes, this is not fast, very fast. And very complex and difficult. Change the mentality of the people, even in the conditions of NWO.
    The film was like this, Mark Zakharova. About the dragon. It was as relevant then as it is now. Time goes by, people stay. And problems of consciousness.
  8. Blackgrifon
    Blackgrifon 12 January 2023 16: 29
    Hmm... The world has changed. In 2013, single drones were planted by electronic warfare stations, and now a little more, a drone-automated infantryman will appear. A drone strike fighter is already flying among the Turks and the Australians. Something incomprehensible and large (Hunter) is being riveted with us. And the modern battlefield can no longer be imagined without a host of different UAVs.
    1. agond
      agond 12 January 2023 20: 06
      The sea drone is not a miracle of technology, at least the one in the picture, not that does not prevent us from building such drones, it is orders of magnitude cheaper than a conventional ship with a crew, though they have different tasks (we do not mention aircraft carriers). And then it is very difficult to establish the ownership of a vessel without a crew if it is without a flag, especially if it is in neutral waters. rocket. and then look for who is to blame. Yes, if they sink the drone, the loss is not great.
      1. Blackgrifon
        Blackgrifon 13 January 2023 17: 04
        I understand, but still 10 years of the so-called. it was difficult to imagine what value these systems would have. After all, even in Iraq, the spirits really hacked them.
      2. Dmitry_Semashko
        Dmitry_Semashko 30 March 2023 18: 56
        Who will design and produce all this? We have neither science nor industry.
  9. acetophenone
    acetophenone 13 January 2023 00: 26
    This is the special charm of flying and floating drones of a potential enemy - with a certain level of courage, they are destroyed without any special consequences.
    Why is this? Is it necessary to stomp on calluses??
  10. lelik613
    lelik613 13 January 2023 06: 11
    Legislatively consolidate the doctrine that any unmanned vehicle outside the state borders (territorial waters) of the owner is a hostile object by default, subject to preventive destruction.
    Well, of course, to perform without any
    exceptions and discounts.
  11. APASUS
    APASUS 13 January 2023 10: 44
    And what is the international legal framework for marine drones? Any vessel at sea must identify itself without endangering others. And this is enshrined in maritime law, to which section should a sea drone conducting reconnaissance be attributed? According to the Americans, this is generally a peaceful ship
  12. VladMirU
    VladMirU 13 January 2023 16: 30
    Quote: APASUS
    And what is the international legal framework for marine drones? Any vessel at sea must identify itself without endangering others. And this is enshrined in maritime law, to which section should a sea drone conducting reconnaissance be attributed? According to the Americans, this is generally a peaceful ship

    And this is how we decide, not the Americans. They announced that the enemy - banged. And no need to wrap snot around your hand ...