There’s a new weapon heading for Ukraine that could help defend its cities against missiles – and it’s named after a famous raccoon.
For months, NAFO (North Atlantic Fella Organization) has been waging an information war on social networks against Russian propaganda and is gradually raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Ukrainian armies.
The Guys, as they’re called, are a rowdy group of online comrades with a nose for dog memes that are easily identifiable by their Shiba Inu profile pictures.
So when Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s United24 initiative asked if NAFO wanted to raise money to pay for a naval drone — and give it a name — they were quick to bite.
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The challenge for the guys is part of United24’s quest to assemble a fleet of 100 marine drones, following which Ukraine said was a strike against the Russian Black Sea Fleet in October exclusively using unmanned vessels.
It only took the guys a few weeks to raise the $250,000 (£205,000) needed to buy one of these drones, which they duly named Raccoon’s Revenge.
Why this name? It’s kind of a long tail.
As Russian forces ready to withdraw from the city of Kherson in the face of Ukrainian offensives Last month, bizarre footage surfaced appearing to show animals being stolen from the local zoo, including a raccoon.
Since then, “The Kherson Raccoon” has become something of a celebrity on Russian social networks and has been used as a mascot by Russian paratroopers.
It’s clear the guys think the Raccoon hasn’t forgotten his Ukrainian roots, and the moniker Raccoon’s Revenge beat names like HMS Bonquerer and Aqua Bonker 9000 in a recent poll of over 11,000 people.
Money raised by NAFO guys helps Ukraine
“I was a fan of HMS Bonqueror myself, but Racoon’s Revenge was the community’s choice,” US Army veteran and current Pete told Sky News.
He added: “If a Russian warship is destroyed by a drone funded by NAFO participation, that could be hard to beat when it comes to humor in this war.
“And with the thousands of mortar and artillery shells, the dozens of vehicles and artillery pieces that we’ve sponsored, and everything else, that’s a pretty high bar to jump.”
Pete also helps run the forge – the design team that creates custom “fella” avatars for people who donate to Ukraine.
He added, “I would like to highlight the guys at the forge who are responsible for making the diverse and very creative profile pictures for the donations.
“Without them, all of this is impossible. They really are the glue that holds it all together, and without them, Kama and I would have been unable to keep up.”
NAFO has already raised huge sums – some say a million dollars – for the Ukrainian military and their tongue-in-cheek humor has proven popular online.
Their slogans and guys appear everywhere, including painted on a 2S7 Pion self-propelled gun named “Super Bonker 9,000”.
United24 said on Twitter: “You did it, beautiful doggos!
“Since this morning, $255,546 for the #NAFOdrone has been raised!
“Thank you guys for making this possible, for every #nafofleet, for every donation. Raccoon’s Revenge is non-negotiable, thank you to each and every one of you.”
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What are marine drones used for?
So what are naval drones like the Raccoon’s Revenge, and have they ever been used in warfare?
Russia says 16 maritime drones were involved in the attack on its Black Sea Fleet near the Crimean port of Sevastopol in October, with two ships damaged.
United24 says three Russian ships were damaged, including the flagship Admiral Makarov.
The United24-funded naval drones are 5.5 meters long, have a range of up to 800 km (500 miles) and can carry a combat payload of up to 200 kg.
Missiles fired from Russian warships were part of Moscow’s destruction of Ukrainian power grids that plunged cities into darkness – so Ukraine hopes naval drones can disrupt ships.
Speaking to Sky News previously, US Army Lieutenant Colonel and drone warfare expert Paul Lushenko said maritime drones are “just another line of approach” to target Russian assets.
“These days, there are only a limited number of target acquisition systems, even on these exquisite boats.
“And so when you have a swarm of abilities, how do you prioritize the targets?”