published : 2023-09-27

Ukraine's Drone Warfare Strategy Shakes 'Mother Russia'

As Ukraine sends more drones to attack, ordinary Russians witness the war firsthand

A group of Ukrainian soldiers operating drones in the field, showcasing their expertise in drone warfare strategy. (Photo prompt: Volodymyr Tarasov / Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images, taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV)

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Last Friday, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine Mykhailo Fedorov indirectly acknowledged Ukraine's involvement in recent strikes on Crimea. He also warned of more drone attacks on Russian warships.

Drone warfare plays a critical role in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's new asymmetric strategy. It aims to keep Ukrainian armed forces in the fight, even if a clear military victory is unattainable.

Zelenskyy believes that small-scale drone attacks can frustrate, demoralize, and exhaust Russian forces and civilians. He sees the war as unwinnable and aims to convince Vladimir Putin that the costs of a protracted war outweigh the benefits of a subdued Ukraine.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the President of Ukraine, giving a speech about the importance of drone technology in their asymmetric strategy. (Photo prompt: Andriy Petrov / Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images, taken with Nikon D850)

Having launched the Army of Drones program, Zelenskyy appointed Minister Fedorov to spearhead it. The program aims to create a 'new type of army' utilizing commercial industry achievements and a private-sector mindset.

Despite challenges such as component shortages, red tape, and corruption, the drone program has been remarkably successful. Ukraine has trained 10,000 new drone pilots this summer and is preparing another 10,000 operators.

The Achilles Company, a specialized drone team, has perfected the 'drone swarm' tactic, coordinating large numbers of drones to attack simultaneously. To overcome component shortages, Ukrainians repurposed cluster munitions provided by the U.S.

Ukraine's drone program focuses on reconnaissance and bombardment missions. Reconnaissance drones identify targets and monitor Russian maneuvers, providing vital information to Ukrainian artillery. Combat drones, known as 'kamikaze' or 'first-person-view,' deliver explosives to destroy or damage targets.

A close-up shot of a Ukrainian combat drone, ready for takeoff, loaded with explosives to carry out precision strikes on targets. (Photo prompt: Ivanov Vasily / Shutterstock, taken with DJI Mavic 2 Pro)

In the past month, Ukrainian UAV strikes have targeted Russian assets deep within Russia, including fuel depots, logistics, and ammunition dumps. Ukraine has also introduced maritime drones or 'uncrewed surface' vessels that can carry heavy warheads and ram into targets.

Ukraine's sea drones, nicknamed 'Sea Babies,' have successfully deterred Russian warships from freely navigating the Black Sea. Remotely controlled Sea Babies damaged portions of the Kerch Bridge, connecting Crimea to the mainland.

Ukraine is expanding its drone fleet and increasing aerial drone production. The country has secured a promise from Germany to deliver 50 uncrewed surface drones.

While Ukraine's drone tactics disrupt and negate Russia's military advantage, it remains uncertain if this tactical brilliance will translate into a strategic blow against Moscow. However, what is clear is that Ukraine is gradually eroding Putin's red lines, making Mother Russia no longer a sanctuary.