Ukraine’s massive drone strike heralds a ‘future of war’

A little before 7 am on Monday, people in Kyiv heard a whining above their heads and knew where the sound was coming from. “kamikaze” drone flying into the city. Drones were widely used on both sides of the Ukrainian conflict, but they were the first Russian attacks to deploy a swarm of aircraft. Videos and images of drones flying directly over urban infrastructure such as power plants, residential buildings and railways began to spread on social media as civilians and soldiers attempted to shoot down them. About 28 were launched from Kyiv on Monday morning. An aircraft crashed into a residential building, killing at least four civilians. Firefighters work after a drone attack on a building in Kyiv. [Roman Hrytsyna/Reuters]
Tensions rose as locals waited to see where the drone would go. The low hum of the aircraft, gunshots and screams were still flying, each drone finding its target and chasing pigeons. They are called kamikaze drones because they attack once and never return. Ukrainian officials say it is the Iranian Shahed-136 that is mainly used in their airspace. Russia appears to have purchased about 2,400 units in August, with the first reported use in Ukraine being reported a month ago. They are far from high-tech. The smallest cost is only $20,000, but conventional drones are typically more than 10 times this number. They also carry explosives weighing 35-40 kg (80-90 lbs), which is much smaller than most drones. But their value lies in the numbers. They appear in large flocks and fly low enough to dodge radar defense systems. “They are relatively small and disposable,” said Katherine Lawlor, a researcher at the Institute for the Study of War. “It flies to something and then explodes.” “It’s important to note that this isn’t the kind of drone you see in other disputes like the much more expensive and sophisticated US Predators,” she said. “These drones are effectively missiles. They roam around in search of targets.” Their low cost allows drones to be deployed in bulk, and has a psychological effect on civilians waiting to see and wait for an attack by hovering in the air before attacking. Ukrainian officials have shot down dozens of people last week and estimate they’ve shot down nearly 100 since it was first used. However, even if shot down, it can explode in mid-air, distributing potentially lethal debris. Targets that hit the target explode on impact. The emergence of drone swarms in Ukraine is part of the changing nature of the Russian offensive, and some speculation indicates that Moscow may be short on long-range missiles. Russia has recently stepped up aerial bombardment in densely populated urban areas such as the capital Kyiv. Analysts say this appears to be retaliation for recent attacks on Ukraine, such as the bombing of a bridge linking Russia to Russian-occupied Crimea and an attempt to demoralize the Ukrainian population and fighters. However, this strategy also potentially represents a broader trend globally. Ulrike Franke, Senior Policy Fellow of the European Council for Foreign Relations, which is leading the Technology and European Power Initiative, said: “This drone is designed to be used by Russia on the front lines far away from the main battlefield. It allows us to target Ukrainians,” he said. “But targeting civilian populations and infrastructure is not just a tactic. It also depletes Ukraine’s air defenses,” he said. “Every drone shot down, whether human or weapon, is another launch of the Ukrainian defense system and cannot be used for anything else.” Suicide Drones As with many trends in modern warfare, these technologies appear to have been tested in the decade-long Syrian war in which both Russia and Iran reported using suicide drones. Countries like Somalia, Nigeria and Albania have recently been selling drones to countries where traditional military markets have been shut down, and even unlikely countries like Turkey are becoming international drone tycoons. The Ukrainian Army used Turkish-made Bayraktars along with the US-supplied Switchblade drones. Since many countries cannot afford the expensive drones favored by the United States and other Western powers, smaller, cheaper drones of this kind are likely to be more widely deployed. It is reported that members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have been sent to a military base in Crimea to help the Russian army in training how to use it. “There has been a lot of debate among experts about whether drones will be used in more advanced combat, such as a potential US-China conflict,” said Zachary Kallenborn, a policy fellow at the Schar School of Policy and Government, which studies unconventional weapons and technologies. . “These examples [in Ukraine] “Proof that drones will be widely used even by more advanced military forces.” “We see military value in using drones in large numbers,” he said. “So the logical response is, ‘Well, how can we make this more effective? How can I integrate this with other communications and make it more dynamic and more accurate?’ Technology is definitely heading in a direction this is the future of warfare.” There are signs that Ukrainian military and civilians are already adapting to the new challenges presented by this drone swarm. While the Ukrainian military awaits shipment of missiles and other air defense systems, a Ukrainian startup has worked with the Ukrainian military to develop a smartphone app called ePPO Observer that allows civilians to provide targeting data to the Ukrainian military. Ukrainians can report sightings of incoming aircraft and missiles through the app. “Quietly go to the ePPO Observer application, select the desired category, point your smartphone in the direction you saw or heard and press the big red button,” the press release said. According to reports, there will be blackouts and electricity distribution in Ukraine after such an attack destroys critical power infrastructure. Iran has already agreed to deliver more drones and missiles to Russia, despite criticism from other countries and Ukrainian politicians. With fighting still taking place in other parts of Ukraine, it is unclear whether simply scale alone can turn the conflict in Russia’s favor, especially on distant battlefields. “The use of these drone swarms is intended to have a psychological impact among Ukrainian civilians as well as decision makers on the ground,” Lawlor said. “But it’s not going to change much at the forefront.”

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