Oleskii Reznikov, Ukraine’s defense minister, recently announced the country’s plan to spend around 20 billion hryvnia (US $540 million) on new drones this year, building what’s being called an “army of drones”.
Since the start of the war, both Russia and Ukraine have deployed a wide range of military and commercial drones. The drones have reportedly been used for intelligence gathering, combat operations, documentation of war crimes, supply deliveries, and even by journalists capturing footage from otherwise inaccessible areas.
Ukraine had received a significant amount of UAVs from its foreign partners – from missile-equipped drones from Turkey to light-weight reconnaissance drones from Norway.
Now, Kyiv is seeking to boost domestic production. So far, it’s received applications from 75 different local manufacturers, and has signed 16 supply deals.1
In a Facebook post, Reznikov wrote,
“This is just the beginning. After all, this is not only about the needs of aerial reconnaissance.”
Reznikov appears to be referencing the Ukrainian military strengthening its combat drone capabilities, and not just its surveillance UAVs.2
Last month, on February 28th, a flurry of drones attacked territories within Russia. One drone even got as close as 60 miles from Moscow before crashing, causing Russian President Vladimir Putin to order tightening of the Ukraine border.
While Ukrainian authorities have not formally acknowledged carrying out drone strikes on Russia’s military bases, including the strike on February 28th, they have alluded to how Russia could expect retaliation for the war – including strikes on Russian territory.
And pictures of the downed drone showed it was a small, Ukrainian-made model. The UAV has a reported range of 500 miles, but supposedly cannot carry a large load of explosives.3
Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukrainian Minister of Digital Transformation, said in a recent interview with The Associated Press,
“the next stage, now that we are more or less equipped with reconnaissance drones, is strike drones…. These are both exploding drones and drones that fly up to three to 10 kilometers and hit targets.”
Ukraine is working on creating assault drone companies within its armed forces, while also carrying out research and development on drones that could fight or down other drones.
Fedorov described Russia’s war in Ukraine as the first major war of the internet age, and credited drones with transforming the conflict. Although he would not elaborate, he predicted “more missions with strike drones” in the future.4