Both Russia and Ukraine have used drones, which prolong the fighting until the moment, and the balance of the war continues to fluctuate time after time. The drones outperformed the “cruise” missiles, and seemed more effective and less costly in the theater of operations. Many new players joined the production and manufacturing of this type of aircraft.
The war of drones, whose use has taken on new dimensions in the Russian war against Ukraine, has many aspects, tactical, psychological and financial.
Here are some aspects that can be highlighted regarding the use of drones in light of the current stalemate on the front.
March “mile” out of the game
The Turkish “Bayraktar TB2” drone was one of the heroes of the Ukrainian resistance at the beginning of the invasion. This march is also known as “MALE” according to the initials of the phrase “Moyenne Altitude, Longue Endurance”, as it flies at a medium altitude and is able to fly for a long time.
“This march occupied an important place in the strategic communications of the Ukrainian forces,” says French researcher Leo Beria-Bigny of the French Institute of International Relations. “The TB2, which was presented as an essential component during many important armed operations, such as disrupting a column of Russian military vehicles coming from Belarus, or the destruction of the cruiser Moskva, is one of the symbols of the early days of the conflict.
Despite being praised, Bayraktar has not been flying for months. A European source in the defense industry, speaking on condition of anonymity, says, “The mobile front is suitable for engaging MALE drones, which caused a lot of damage. But the front witnessed a stalemate later and became unbreakable with the deployment of anti-aircraft systems by the Russians.” And since Bayraktar has become fragile in the face of these transformations, it is no longer flying as much as it used to be.
Constant fear and uncertainty
Moscow regularly rains Iranian-made Shahed explosive drones on the Ukrainian depth. On the other hand, Kiev is sending similar planes to the Russian hinterland, whether in Crimea or the Belgorod region, and even to Moscow, according to what the Russian government reported on Tuesday.
Ukrainian forces resort to “long-range suicide drones, sometimes to Chinese drones with a commercially available propeller, or to old Soviet Tu-141 jet-powered reconnaissance marches. The latter is equipped with explosive devices, and can hit targets inside Russian territory,” according to him. Explains the European source.
And since they are much cheaper than the missiles that are often intercepted, they are used by both sides “to act as a decoy, to force defenses to fire their missiles to exhaustion. And to create constant fear and uncertainty. In the long run, all of this has advantages.” According to a senior French officer says.
Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds of the British United Services Institute (RUSI) note that since the Russian industry can only supply “about 40 long-range missiles per month,” Moscow launches a large number of drones “to increase the number of hubs.” Threat, the Shahed-136 drones are used as scouts to identify gaps in the Ukrainian defence.”
Useful when in the trenches
Most of the drones are used near the front for reconnaissance and targeting or launching attacks, using small commercial drones that are modified for this purpose, dropping bombs on Russian soldiers in their shelters.
Experts from the British Institute for United Services say: “It is common to count between 25 and 50 drones from both sides, operating in the disputed area between the two front lines, about 10 kilometers wide.”
The models used range from tactical drones such as the Ukrainian FURIA with a range of about fifty kilometers or the Russian Eleron-3, to commercial quadcopters purchased by public subscription and modified, with a range of less than ten kilometers.
In the face of these swarms, each camp deploys defenses, especially electronic ones, to disrupt sometimes very low-cost marches, which are not desirable to shoot down with expensive missiles.
The industrial source explains that “soldiers are very vulnerable” to small modified quadcopters, noting that “the only way to fight is through jamming.”
According to the Royal United Services Institute, “electronic warfare and drones cannot be separated.” “This is a new type of multi-armed battle, and just as there are infantry and artillery, there are also drones and electronic warfare,” he added.
On the other hand, the experts of the “Royal United Services Institute” indicate that the Russians have deployed lighter means on a large scale, as “anti-drone capabilities are allocated at each sector, which generally include directional jamming devices.”
The industrial source explains that “the anti-drone gun (its usefulness) is zero in defense. What works is the fixed jamming devices installed near the front area, but their location can be monitored and their life expectancy is very limited because they are shot,” according to the industrial source.
In the end, the losses of drones are very high, and according to the military source: “It is believed that each drone does not fly more than four to six times before it is shot down.”
Ukrainians say they lose 10,000 marches a month. This number cannot be verified and may be part of a strategy to reach out to Westerners who are supportive of Kiev.
What if the forehead moves?
If the front sees large troop movements with breakthroughs, attacks and counter-attacks, it is clear that drones will be involved.
“As battlefield dynamics change, drones will provide new capabilities for the Ukrainians,” West Point academy professor Vikram Mittal told Forbes.
“They can be modified to help clear obstacles,” such as minefields, or to ensure supplies of ammunition “or other equipment needed for units to continue their operations,” he adds.