Defense against Russian attacks: Why Ukraine relies on drones

Status: 04/24/2022 2:48 p.m

More than Russia, Ukraine relies on the use of drones in the war. In addition to Turkish and US drones, German drones are now also being used. Which ones are used – and for what?

It buzzes like a big bumblebee and finally lands vertically on the ground – the Vector drone. Ukrainian journalist Yuri Butusov posted a video of their flight on his Facebook page. The recording is intended to show that the Vector drone is already on site, the first German drone in Ukraine.

Experiences from Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh

It is manufactured by the company Quantum Systems near Munich. Company founder Florian Seibel confirmed the delivery. It came about through a wealthy Ukrainian. A first test system has already been delivered and is in use in eastern Ukraine.

“It was so successful in the first few days that two more are on the way,” says Seibel. The Bundeswehr has ordered eight systems from the Federal Ministry of Defense, “which will also be transferred over the next few weeks, then as an official part from Germany.”

The Ukrainian armed forces rely on drones. As the 2020 fighting in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh showed, drones can play an important role. The Ukrainian army primarily uses UAVs to destroy Russian artillery systems and tanks.

The best known is the use of the Turkish Bayraktar combat drones. They can fly up to 300 kilometers and drop four projectiles. It is estimated that Ukraine had about 50 Bayraktars before the outbreak of war. The country is said to have bought more in the meantime. They are manufactured by the Baykar company, which maintains close personal contacts with the Turkish President.

“Melt” military technology

The Bayraktar drones are being celebrated in Ukraine. An online game was named after them and a song was even dedicated to the drones, which promptly went viral. In it, the author sings about, among other things, how Bayraktar “melts down” Russian military technology.

But these drones are high-precision combat devices that also target the Russian air defense system – and cost around 1.5 million euros. The Ukrainian armed forces are therefore increasingly using cheaper drones to scout enemy positions and coordinate their own artillery.

“Mosquito” tactics instead of clumsiness

The German drones should also serve this purpose, explains Florian Seibel:

This system is also used to direct artillery fire. Because older artillery systems in particular shoot inaccurately at the beginning. And in order to bring the fire to the target, the drones are then allowed to circle 15 to 20 kilometers away and see virtually live where the artillery shells are landing and can then actively correct them. In principle, each unit can obtain its own picture of the situation – it knows exactly where the enemy is.

Ukrainian military analysts call this the “mosquito” tactic. Agile, smaller units that act within the framework of an overarching strategy, but independently decide on attacks and carry them out on site. This self-responsible local fight distinguishes the Ukrainian army from the Russian one.

This is said to have rather rigid decision chains. While this enables them to launch massive attacks, it makes the squad sluggish overall. And vulnerable to the initiative of individual Ukrainian companies, which are also given information superiority by reconnaissance drones.

A Vector drone at a trade fair in early March 2022 in Nuremberg. Ukraine also gets several drones of this type from Germany.

Image: dpa

Drones from their own country are also in use

Ukrainian soldiers also use domestic aircraft. The Leleka-100 drone is the most popular. The Lelekas, which weigh about five kilograms, are produced by the Deviro company based in Dnipro in central Ukraine. Leleka means stork in Ukrainian.

300 “storks” are said to have been flying for the military since last year. And there will be supplies. A fund that collects financial aid for the Ukrainian army announced that it had ordered more equipment. Its director, Taras Chmut, explained on Ukrainian television:

We have signed a contract for the delivery of 25 Ukrainian Leleka-100 drone systems, worth up to EUR 4.5 million. These will be manufactured in Ukraine over the next few months and will most likely be delivered to 25 units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Japan also supplies drones

An international fleet of drones is now being assembled for Ukraine. The US switchblade drones, for example, are already in use. The US also wants to deliver another model – the Phoenix Ghost – to Ukraine. It should even be specially adapted to Ukrainian needs. Japan has also announced that it will equip Ukraine with its drones.

Russia seems to be using drones much less intensively. Above all, it raises the Orlan – a self-produced surveillance drone from Saint Petersburg. It flies up to 100 kilometers and can also be used to precise the artillery shots.

Drones in the Ukraine war – German devices also in use

Palina Milling, WDR, April 24, 2022 2:38 p.m

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