Recently, Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Russian State Duma (lower house of parliament), stated that if the Ukrainian authorities provoked a war in the Donbass region, it would lead to “Ukraine annihilation.” Deputy Director of the Russian Presidential Office Dmitry Kozak also stated on April 8 that if the Ukrainian authorities launch a large-scale military operation in Donbass, it will mean “the beginning of the end” for Ukraine.
Russia’s threats are not limited to verbal warnings. Russia is gathering a large number of tanks and weaponry close to the border between Ukraine and Crimea, and at the same time, it has released video footage of these military actual combat exercises to prove that it is ready for a large-scale war. Although Russia and Ukraine have launched tit-for-tat military deployments in eastern Ukraine, diplomatic efforts do not seem to be over. While high-level government officials on both sides are verbalizing each other, they also show an attitude of reluctance to break out large-scale wars. There seems to be room for maneuver between peace and peace. However, what interests me is that Ukraine seems to have seen the huge advantages that the Azerbaijani army has achieved with new weapons such as drones and cruise missiles during the Naka War, and is fully preparing to apply this technology to enhance its military’s combat effectiveness. So, what preparations has Ukraine made for drone warfare, and can it gain the advantage of future combat?
In the Soviet era, Ukraine once possessed all Soviet advanced air combat weapons, including strategic bombers, and also had the Soviet Navy’s aircraft carrier fighter training base in its territory. In theory, this country was even capable of owning carrier-based fighters. However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian Air Force did not purchase any new manned fighters. Its more than 100 old-fashioned fighters, attack aircraft, and combat helicopters are already very worn out, and it is even difficult to maintain its normal operation with an air force budget of about 300 million US dollars a year. With the breakdown of relations with Russia, any aircraft of the Ukrainian Air Force will be directly threatened by the Russian air defense missile units deployed on the Russian-Ukrainian border. This made the Ukrainian ground forces in the East-Ukraine war almost impossible to obtain any air support.
The Naka War that broke out in 2020 gave Ukraine new hope. The Azerbaijani army flexibly used various drones in the battle, quickly destroyed the well-trained Armenian army, and rendered Russian anti-aircraft weapons useless. Armenia’s air defense forces could not fight back these tiny but deadly drones and cruise missiles. The same situation actually appeared on the Syrian battlefield a few years ago. Even the air defense weapons operated by the Russian army are difficult to withstand the attacks of drones. This kind of tactics makes Ukraine quite excited, and it is preparing to fully equip drones to enhance its attack capabilities.
Ukraine has developed its own drone called PD-1. It has a wingspan of nearly 10 feet and a continuous cruising time of 5 hours. It is equipped with photoelectric infrared reconnaissance equipment, and can use encrypted data links to transmit signals and commands. This is a small 45 kg unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, although it does not have it. The combined attack capability of reconnaissance and combat is better than cheap and capable of rapid mass production. In an exchange of fire in January 2021, Ukraine used this drone to guide ground fire and destroyed an artillery position of the Donbass pro-Russian armed forces. In 2017, Ukraine also introduced a Polish-made fly-eye unmanned reconnaissance drone. This is a small 11kg drone that can be carried by two scouts on foot and take off anywhere at any time, with an effective cruise time of 2.5 hours. , Can be used as an air fire observation point for artillery. Because this UAV is made of composite materials and powered by a silent motor, it is difficult for the enemy to detect and warn. It is a very practical frontline unmanned reconnaissance aircraft.
In addition to reconnaissance drones, Ukraine also reached an agreement with Turkey in 2019 to purchase the TB-2 attack drone that shined in the Naka War. At the same time, the two sides agreed to authorize the production of this attack drone in Ukraine. Strong tactical drone. TB-2 is a long-endurance attack UAV, it can carry 4 rounds of precision-guided weapons, and the endurance time can reach 27 hours. In the Syrian war, TB-2 destroyed more than 70 armored vehicles, and Syria claimed that they shot down 9 TB-2 drones. TB-2 successfully destroyed an S-300 air defense missile position in the Naka War, and wiped out a large number of armored vehicles and air defense guns, becoming a star weapon. Azerbaijan’s announcement on social media of the attack and beheading pictures taken by drone reconnaissance equipment has dealt a heavy blow to the morale of the Armenian army. In addition, Ukraine is also asking its industrial sector to develop suicide drones such as cruise missiles to strengthen its frontline attack capabilities.
Of course, Russia has long been aware of this and has made active preparations to deal with Ukraine’s drone war plan. On the one hand, the Russian army began to provide jamming drone equipment to the pro-Russian militia of East Ukraine, and on the other hand, it was secretly using drones to attack Ukrainian targets. As early as 2018, an arsenal at the forefront of Ukraine exploded. The Ukrainian military investigation results showed that it was likely that a missile launched by a Russian drone destroyed the arsenal. Obviously, Russia is also very aware that Ukraine lacks the means to counter drones and is actively using drones as a means of attack. It can be seen that the future battlefield of East Ukraine is likely to be the first UAV battlefield in history, and both sides will do their best to use their respective UAVs to fight.