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Britain is trying to give Ukraine minehunters: Weapon of the week

Jan 9

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The premiere episode of Weapons & Warfare delves into the British government’s plans to give Ukraine two Royal Navy ships: Sandown class minehunters. These ships can seek, detect and destroy individual mines.

Russia has been using tanks, landmines, artillery barrages and more in its ground offensive against Ukraine. Beyond land assaults, though, Russia has been attempting to block Ukrainian access to the Black Sea, limiting its ability to export grain.

Designed by British shipbuilder Vosper Thornycroft, only 15 Sandowns were ever made, with the first entering service in 1989. The nearly 174-foot-long ships have a 35-man crew and cruise at a top speed of 13 knots — around 15 mph.

The ships are armed with six guns but are mostly for self-defense. The armaments include a 30 millimeter rapid-fire cannon, three Browning 50 caliber miniguns and two general-purpose machine guns.

Another key tool is the SeaFox mine disposal unmanned underwater vehicle system (UUV), an underwater drone that can detect mines planted at sea. They also act as surveillance tools, helping Ukrainian sailors detect Russian submarine routes.

The promise of new sea technology comes at a time when Russia’s losses in the Black Sea are mounting. At least 17 Russian vessels were struck from February 2022 through November 2023.

Despite Britain’s promises of new ships, Turkey is hesitant to let the ships pass through the Bosphorus Strait. The Turks want to keep the Strait from becoming a part of the theater of war.

Access the full Weapons & Warfare episode here.

Access all Weapons & Warfare podcast episodes here.

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TANKS, LANDMINES, ARTILLERY BARRAGES….THE GROUND OFFENSIVE IN UKRAINE’S WAR IS AS VISUALLY STRIKING AS IT IS HORRIFIC….BUT IT’S NOT THE ONLY WAY RUSSIA AND VLADIMIR PUTIN ARE FIGHTING UKRAINE….THEY’RE ALSO TRYING TO CHOKE OFF THE COUNTRY’S GRAIN EXPORTS IN THE BLACK SEA–

A DEVASTATING MOVE FOR POTENTIALLY MILLIONS GLOBALLY.

IN JUST THE PAST FEW MONTHS UKRAINE SAYS SEA MINES, PLACED IN SHIPPING LANES BY THE RUSSIANS, DAMAGED AT LEAST THREE SHIPS, AND POSSIBLY AS MANY AS NINE. ENTER THE NAVIES OF THE UNITED KINGDOM AND NORWAY WITH THE MARITIME CAPABILITY COALITION. 

THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT  SAYS IT PLANS TO PROVIDE UKRAINE WITH TWO ROYAL NAVY SHIPS. SPECIFICALLY TWO SANDOWN-CLASS MINEHUNTERS. 

ACCORDING TO THE BRITISH MINISTRY OF DEFENSE… THESE FIBERGLASS VESSELS ARE NEARLY 174 FEET LONG AND OPERATE AS SINGLE ROLE MINE HUNTERS RATHER THAN MINE SWEEPERS. WHAT THAT MEANS IS THE CREWS OF THESE SHIPS SEEK, DETECT AND DESTROY INDIVIDUAL NAVAL MINES, WHERE MINESWEEPERS CLEAR ENTIRE AREAS WITHOUT PRIOR DETECTION OF MINES.

BUILT AND DESIGNED BY BRITISH SHIPBUILDER VOSPER THORNYCROFT, ONLY 15 SANDOWNS WERE EVER MADE. THE FIRST ENTERED SERVICE IN 1989. WITH A 35 MAN  CREW, THESE SHIPS CAN CRUISE AT A TOP SPEED OF 13 KNOTS, OR ABOUT ABOUT 15 MILES AN HOUR FOR YOU LAND-LOVERS WHILE THESE SHIPS ARE ARMED WITH SIX GUNS, THEY’RE MOSTLY FOR SELF-DEFENSE. THE ARMAMENTS INCLUDE A 30mm RAPID FIRE CANNON.  ALONG WITH THREE BROWNING 50 CALIBER MINIGUNS AND TWO GENERAL PURPOSE MACHINE GUNS. 

BUT THE REAL STAR OF THE OPERATION IS THE SEAFOX MINE DISPOSAL UNMANNED UNDERWATER VEHICLE SYSTEM, OR U-U-V. MADE BY ATLAS ELEKTRONIK, THE SEAFOX IS AN UNDERWATER DRONE. THE SEAFOX SNIFFS OUT AND DESTROYS MINES PLANTED AT SEA. BUT THAT’S NOT ONLY ROLE FOR THESE CUNNING CREATURES.

THE UNDERWATER DRONES CAN ALSO BE USED FOR SURVEILLANCE. ENABLING UKRAINIAN SAILORS TO SURVEY RUSSIA’S STRATEGIC PORTS AND SUBMARINE ROUTES.  

THE PROMISE OF THE NEW SEA TECH COMES AT A TIME WHEN RUSSIA’S LOSSES IN THE BLACK SEA ARE ALSO MOUNTING. FROM THE START OF RUSSIA’S INVASION OF UKRAINE IN FEBRUARY OF 2022 THROUGH NOVEMBER OF 2023, AT LEAST 17 RUSSIAN VESSELS WERE STRUCK.

UNFORTUNATELY, JUST BECAUSE BRITAIN WANTS TO GIVE UKRAINE THE SHIPS DOESN’T MEAN UKRAINE CAN ACTUALLY GET THEM. TURKEY IS DRAGGING ITS HEELS ON LETTING THE VESSELS PASS THROUGH THE BOSPORUS STRAIGHT. TURKEY SAYS IT WANTS TO KEEP THE STRAIGHT FROM BECOMING A PART OF THE THEATER OF WAR. 

WHILE THIS ISN’T GREAT NEWS FOR UKRAINE, IT ALSO MEANS RUSSIA CAN’T SAIL ANY WARSHIPS THROUGH THE STRAIT EITHER.