The War Of Drones, Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine
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The War Of Drones, Russia’s Invasion Of Ukraine

Drones of war are the weapons of the future which have been dominating the war in Ukraine

Iran’s provision of unmanned aerial vehicles to Russia’s armed forces exemplifies the testing-bed nature of the Ukraine conflict more than anything else. Iranian UAVs have become increasingly significant weapons for Russia, where they are used to hit several civilian and military targets.

Initially, it appears that Russian forces have used them primarily as loitering battlefield munitions (also known as one-way attacks or suicidal drones), targeting Ukrainian artillery and other medium-value tactical targets.

Ukraine has also suspected Russia of using the smaller UAVs to carry out covert strikes on weapons storage sites; Russia has denied those accusations. Russia claims it shot down 583 Ukrainian drones during the Ukraine war but has provided no independent verification of that claim.

The biggest challenge facing the Russians has been their failure to down drones deployed by Ukrainians and severely cripple Ukraine’s air defences, which allies suspected would have happened just days into the conflict, hasn’t.

Putin has now drawn Russia’s military into 301 days of fighting despite Western sanctions and shipments of Western anti-aircraft systems to Ukrainian forces. Ukraine relied heavily on sophisticated Western weapons systems during the illegal Russian invasion. It has used numerous missile launchers, such as the HIMARS to cause major damage to Russian supply lines and command centers to the south. If Ukraine were given appropriate weapons from the beginning of the war, like the U.S. long-range Patriot missiles to strike Russia’s infrastructure, Russia would likely reconsider its current bombing campaign.

Some argue that allowing Ukraine to strike targets within Russia, or even arming Ukraine sufficiently to win on Ukrainian soil, would give Putin the excuse for more attacks as if Putin needed it.

The Ukrainian army has reported increasing success shooting down Russian missiles and incoming drones, but Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, says Russia continues receiving new drone shipments from Iran. The Ukrainian defence minister said it is already preparing an army of drones to counter Russian incursions, which in the past few weeks have seen Moscow launch waves of Iran-made kamikaze drones aimed at striking critical Ukrainian infrastructure.

Ukraine is looking to build Ukrainian NATO-calibre artillery, and Ukraine needs a capability for drone jamming. Ukraine has its aerial, submarine, and ground-based drones, Ukraine’s defence minister told Reuters, calling them the future of warfare on Earth.

Although Russia has more military hardware, many of them are old relics from the cold war, showing the Kremlin’s inability to defeat a sizeable smaller army. The Ukrainian’s ability to succeed using what Ukraine has is a strong indication that offensive maneuvers are possible with new technologies. Some almost miracle-like Ukrainian successes against Russian airpower have included shooting down a surfeit of the more sophisticated planes in Moscow’s arsenal. Small, inexpensive, relatively slow-moving, and carrying much less of a wallop than a cruise missile or 500-pound bomb, Iran-built SHADED-136 UAVs have been defying Ukraine’s otherwise superb air defences.

The Iran-built drones are directed against power and water systems across Ukraine. Ukraine’s Air Force said in Telegram that its personnel could shoot down 30 out of at least 35 drones that Russia launched over Ukraine from the eastern Azov Sea, along Ukraine’s southeast coast.

While 400 Iranian-made strike drones are low compared to the thousands of rockets Russia has been firing, it may prove harder to intercept the drones flying in clusters.

Iranian-made Shahed-131 and Shahed-136 series drones began appearing in Ukraine in mid-August 2022. While the use of heavier, combat-capable UAVs has declined. Experts said that drones made by Polish and Turkish counterparts have become nearly ubiquitous in Ukrainian battlefield images, giving both sides a far more lucid picture of the war in Ukraine and improving targeting at points neither can advance.

For decades, militaries worldwide have used drones as complementary weapons of war. With the invasion of Ukraine, they are on par with becoming the primary tools of mass destruction. This war is becoming the blueprint for future wars where drones will be at the forefront of combat missions supported by humans in a reserve role.

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