The first Black Sea Security Forum was held in Odesa from June 14 to 16. The event, organized by Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksiy Honcharenko, the Odesa City Council, and the UK’s Lord Michael Ashcroft, discussed pressing issues related to security affecting the region caused by the war in Ukraine. Guests included Bridget Brink, the US ambassador to Ukraine, former Prime Minister of Australia Tony Abbott, and Moldova’s Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu, among others.

The local media outlet Dumskaya reported on Sunday that organizers took the opportunity to reveal the new Ukrainian “Stalker 5.0” unmanned surface vessel (USV) – commonly called a sea drone. The sleek, black glossy plastic machine was displayed in the event’s assembly hall, which attracted much attention and gave participants an opportunity to look the craft over in between sessions.

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The USV is around 5 meters (16.4 feet) long and 1.2 meters (3.9 feet) wide, which in its primary configuration is designed to deliver cargo within an internal watertight compartment ideal for the transportation of weapons, equipment, and provisions. The drone’s guidance and control system is twinned with video broadcasting using Starlink, which is said to provide a stable link even when communication connections are limited.

Stalker can also be used for other military roles. It can be converted into a kamikaze drone by filling the internal compartment with around 150 kilograms (330 pounds) of high explosives or for surveillance and reconnaissance tasks, both along rivers and coastal areas.

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The wide-reaching attacks came a day after a salvo of Kremlin-launched cruise missiles hit, among other things, a children’s hospital in Kyiv, where at least 31 were killed and 117 injured.

The drone is equipped with a 60-horsepower gasoline engine that offers a maximum speed of 40 knots (75 kph/46 mph) and a cruising speed of 30 knots (55 kph/35mph) with an operational range of up to 600 kilometers (372 miles).

The milblogger Colonel GSh points out that Stalker is somewhat inferior to the characteristics of the MAGURA V5 USV which has a 320 kilogram (700 pounds) and can conduct operations at a distance of up to 800 kilometers (500 miles). At a unit price of around $60,000, however, the Stalker is almost five times cheaper than the MAGURA.

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Cheaper maritime drones such as the Stalker and Mamai USV will supplement the bigger USVs available to Ukraine’s armed forces such as the MAGURA and the Sea Baby drones which have had such success against Russian naval and infrastructure targets.

The lower cost will allow sea drones to mimic the success of Ukraine’s use of unmanned aerial drones (UAV) on the battlefield. USVs can be used more frequently, in larger numbers (possibly in swarms), against an increased total of smaller targets. This not only makes their use more efficient both militarily and economically but will further complicate Russia’s ability to implement countermeasures to protect itself. The sea drones, combined with missile strikes, have already driven much of the Russian Black Sea fleet from its home ports.

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