Ukraine is rebuilding its navy with combat boats from the US aid program

A Russian flag and a Ukrainian flag fly in the port city of Sevastopol in Crimea in 2014. (Filipo Monteforte/AFP via Getty Images)

TBILISI, Georgia — Faced with one of the largest fleets in the world, Ukraine’s navy struggled in the early months of the Russian invasion. Since February 24, Russia has been dominating the waterways that surround the eastern and southern coast of Ukraine. In eight months, the Russian army has secured strategic positions ports of Mariupol and Berdyanskwhich both surround the Sea of ​​Azov.

But it looks like Ukraine has rebuilt its navy with US help In June, the Ministry of Defense announced that it would send 18 “coastal and river patrol boats” under the $450 million military assistance package. It included two small units of 35 feet river craft; six 40-foot sea combat craft; and 10 Dauntless Sea Ark 34 feet patrol boats.

A Ukrainian border guard watches from the back of a boat patrolling the Sea of ​​Azov.

Ukrainian border guards patrol the Sea of ​​Azov off the city of Mariupol on April 30, 2021. (Aleksey Filippov/AFP via Getty Images)

“This will be useful in enabling the Ukrainians to defend…Odessa and other positions along the Black Sea coast,” a senior defense official said during a briefing at the Pentagon.

The vessels are small and not intended to compete directly on the high seas with warships like the Moskva, the Russian Black Sea flagship that Ukrainian forces destroyed in a missile strike early in the war. But combat boats can execute coastal and river operations.

Russian naval officers line the deck of the Moskva missile cruiser.

Russian navy officers line the deck as the Moskva missile cruiser returns to port after tracking NATO warships in the Black Sea in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol in 2021 (Alexey Pavlishak/Reuters)

are tired Ukrainian Navy the captain, Andrii Ryzhenko, told Yahoo News that each boat can be equipped with machine guns and grenade launchers. “That means they can be used primarily to fight with a similar-sized boat but not with large combat ships,” Ryzhenko said, speaking from Ukraine.

According to reports, a number of combat boats are already patrolling the Black Sea. Photos posted to a Ukrainian defense news site seem to show 40ft US Defiant boats.

Ukrainian marines watch a Russian ship in Sevastopol Bay.

Ukrainian marines watch a Russian ship in Sevastopol Bay on March 4, 2014. (Viktor Drachev/AFP via Getty Images)

Designed by Louisiana-based Metal Shark, the “40 Defiant” was created to “address the vulnerabilities of traditional patrol boats” while offering “substantial increases in capability and firepower.”

The latest additions to the Navy will be a helping hand for Ukraine’s ability to defend its ports and waterways. When Russia invaded and annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014, it had taken over one of Ukraine’s main ports. At least 75% of the Ukrainian fleet has been taken by Russia, according to Defense News. Ukraine was forced to start rebuilding its navy.

In the coming months, Kyiv is expected to receive another 22 boats, making a total of 40 boats, Ryzhenko said.

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