Alwaght- Whereas the Russians warn about any military action on their soil, the Ukrainian forces are stepping up their adventures in Russia’s depth on the strength of the Western military assistance. On Wednesday, two suicide drones infiltrated Moscow in their way to strike presidential palace the Kremlin, but were intercepted by air defenses. The attack was reported aimed at assassination of the Russian President Vladimir Putin, but he was not present in his office in the complex at the time. In the same day, a fuel storage in the city of Krasnodar in southern Russia came under a drone attack.
Though Kiev leaders have rejected their role in the attack on the Kremlin, Moscow officials pointed the finger of blame on them and in response struck parts of Ukraine, including the capital, with 24 kamikaze drones. Since the Ukrainians had last week said that strikes on the fuel depots in the Crimea Peninsula was a prelude to the much-expected counteroffensive in the Russian-controlled areas in the east, it seems that the Kremlin attack was their plan to demonstrate that they are capable of penetrating Russia.
In the first year, the war between Russia and Ukraine was mostly followed by missile and artillery attacks, but over time, the use of advanced but costly weapon systems decreased, and in recent months, drones have become a widely-used weapon on the battleground. The Russians put the use of drones on the agenda last summer, and during this time, they have carried out several large-scale attacks on Kiev and other Ukrainian cities. After the precise attacks by the Russians using drones, the Ukrainians realized the capability of these weapon systems and adopted them further in recent months.
Given the fact that conflict is becoming a war of attrition and there are no clear prospects for its end, the Western countries are trying to manage the developments in a way to make it have the lowest cost for them. According to statistics, the US and Europe have provided more than $150 billion to Ukraine in financial and military aids, and this burned through their arms stockpiles and made them suffer from shortages in arsenals. Since the Western leaders claim that the war will last for years and they have to provide the weapons needed by Kiev in any way to avoid the Ukrainian guns falling silent, they are trying to use drones, which are less costly.
Ukraine is heavily dependent on the Western weapons in the war and almost all of its weapons are provided by the US and other Western backers, and thus, in the drone flow to Ukraine, the Americans can be tracked down. Although Washington officials have denied any involvement in the drone strike on the Kremlin, Moscow has said it was carried out on direct orders from the White House and has warned of the consequences of such moves.
Expanding Ukraine drone infrastructure
Showing incapability on the initial months of war and losing 15 percent of its territory to Russia, in recent months Ukraine has tried to tip the scales in its favor relying on Western arms procurement. Meanwhile, strengthening its air power has been one of the goals of Kiev in purchasing weapons. To this end, a few weeks after the start of the war, it bought dozens of Byraktar attack drones from Turkey and used them to carry out several strikes on Russian warships in the Black Sea and Port of Odesa.
Ukraine is certain it cannot forever rely on the Western allies and this thought motivated its moves to develop its drone power. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in May 2022 launched a campaign, dubbed United24, calling on the world donors to raise funds for Kiev to purchase drones. Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Mykhailo Fedorov said that more than $6.7 million were donated for this campaign and dozens of drones were also given to Ukraine. The Ukrainian official also announced that the Ukrainian army has purchased Warmate drone systems equipped with explosives to carry out suicide attacks. The drones and quadcopters that were used in the city of Bakhmut and in the attack on the Kremlin were all kamikaze-type.
In recent days, the Ukrainian government held that due to the increase in demand on the front line, it is speeding up the production of drones, and in order to accelerate the process, it relaxed import rules and removed taxes on parts and equipment of drones. Accordingly, more than $108 million have been raised with the help of famous figures such as Star Wars star Mark Hamil. In addition to the purchase and construction of drones, this money is also used to train drone operators on the front lines.
Most of drones made on the front lines by Ukraine are DJI Mavic 3 type which cost less than $2,000.
Organizers of campaign of drones for Ukrainian army say they have bought and produced more than 3,300 drones and even 400 people who bought drones for personal entertainment have sent them to Kiev for equipment with explosives and deployment to the battlefield. Last month, the ‘ministry of digital transformation’ of Ukraine, in a move it called “an important step for the development of the Ukrainian drone market”, announced that it will make easier the process of importing drone parts to the country. Ukraine also amended its tax laws so that importers do not have to pay customs duties and VAT on drones and their components.
“Today, in terms of importance, drones are a fundamental technology,” said Fedorov, who is also the minister of digital transformation.
The suicide drones that the Ukrainians are focusing on can deliver deadly blows to Russian facilities and ammunition depots at the lowest cost, and they are trying to use these capabilities more and more.
Also, according to reports, Britain is developing and testing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) capable of supporting Ukraine’s forces against Russia. Among the UAVs is a 3D-printed delta-wing suicide drone produced as part of a rapid development program.
Although London officials have not made any comments in this regard, it seems that the Westerners are resolved to strengthen their ally in the air conflict. Since it refused to deliver fighter jets to Ukraine due to Russia’s warnings, the West is trying to partially reverse Ukraine’s air weakness against Russia with drones.
So far, no reports of American drone delivery to Ukraine have been published, but experts suggest that the parts for the drones are highly likely provided by Washington and its allies and American advisers are responsible for training. Some unofficial sources have previously said that the US has agreed to deliver to Kiev at least 700 low-sophistication Switchblade 300 and 600 kamikaze drones with a flight range of 6 to 25 miles (9 to 40 kilometers) to Kiev, but Washington has declined to officially confirm the news.
White House officials are worried drone deliveries to Ukraine could inflame tensions with Moscow. Washington officials are also afraid that advanced drone systems could fall into the hands of the Russians and end up duplicated by Moscow. As in the case of the downing of the MQ9 drone by the Russian Sukhoi 27 fighter in March, the Pentagon officials announced that they are rushing to find the wreckage of this drone before it falls into the hands of Moscow. Therefore, in order to avoid further tensions with Russia, the White House has taken alternative paths to assemble these weapons inside Ukraine and change the balance in Kiev’s favor.
Drones role in modern war
In recent years, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles have become part of conventional wars. UAVs, floating in the skies of the flash points, collect data from battlegrounds using a vast complex of sensors and cameras and then send these data to the ground weapons systems for prospective operations.
Use of drones allows the military to conduct the operations more precisely and efficiently. UAVs are usually much cheaper than warplanes and can stay in the air for longer time and cover a wider area of reconnaissance. The main advantage of using drones in modern warfare is their ability to carry out operations with a high degree of precision. UAVs are capable of conducting reconnaissance missions, delivering supplies, and supporting ground forces, and this allows for more effective operations because commanders can better assess target without endangering the lives of their personnel or civilians. In addition, drones can be used to locate and engage enemy forces in untracked areas or in situations that are too dangerous for manpower.
First major use of drones was in Afghanistan war when the NATO forces used the UAVs for reconnaissance and supervision missions for final aim of delivering strikes on the Taliban positions. Drones have been used in various countries over the past two decades and their technologies are advancing day by day. In Ukraine war, the warring sides are using these weapons to target the opposite side.
Ukraine war has shown that these remotely-controlled weapon systems are a necessary but insufficient capacity for making gains in modern wars. Ukraine’s growing use of drones has substantially influenced battlefield equations, with Kiev recently outweighing Moscow in use of these systems. As observers put it, drones can watch enemy positions and movements, enhance targeting accuracy for conventional weapons, pressurize enemy forces, and send images from battlegrounds to weaken enemies forces’ morale and uplift internal morale. Furthermore, Ukraine’s power of integrating commercial drones into its air arsenal and conventional weapons and army can reverse part of the country’s aerial weakness against Russia.