Mystery Sea Drone Found in Black Sea: U.S. Boat with Soviet Warhead

A puzzling maritime drone has been discovered in Romanian waters of the Black Sea. The capsized vessel combines a U.S.-built hull with a massive Soviet-era Russian warhead, sparking questions about its origin and purpose, reports Naval News.

Discovery and Destruction

The unusual uncrewed surface vessel (USV) was found floating upside down on April 3, 2024. Romanian forces reportedly destroyed the boat in a controlled explosion on April 5. Initially, the events were not publicized, and few details were revealed when later shared in local media.

U.S. Boat, Soviet Warhead

Analysis of the vessel reveals that the USV uses an AM-800 aluminum-hull rigid inflatable boat (RIB) produced by Silver Ships in , . The boat, designed for fire rescue, still bears its original red finish on the lower hull and inflatable collar.

The warhead mounted on the USV is from a P-20 Styx anti-ship missile, a Soviet-era weapon. At around 500 kg (1,100 lb), the warhead is more than twice the size of that on a Harpoon or Neptune missile. The warhead is mounted on a crude wooden frame in the forward deck of the boat, angled to direct the shaped charge directly forward for maximum damage.

Attribution Uncertainty

The nationality of the vessel was not officially shared, although some local media suggested it is Ukrainian. The use of a U.S.-built hull supports this conclusion, as the manufacturer, Silver Ships, had previously been reportedly supplying craft to as part of U.S. aid.

However, the possibility that the USV could be Russian should also be considered. has tried to disrupt or prevent merchant ships sailing to Ukraine since the end of the Black Sea Grain Initiative last July. While efforts have focused on attacking Ukrainian port infrastructure and using air-dropped mines, the mines have been unsuccessful so far. Russia may be tempted to use USVs to hit ships, thus reestablishing a de facto blockade while maintaining deniability.

The discovery of this mysterious maritime drone in the Black Sea raises questions about its origin and purpose. While the use of a U.S.-built hull suggests it may be Ukrainian, the possibility of Russian involvement cannot be ruled out. As the likelihood of both sides operating USVs in the Black Sea increases, further developments may shed light on this puzzling find.

Photo courtesy of Silver Ships.


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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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