Technology becomes more important on the battlefield with each new armed conflict, and the war in Ukraine has been no different. A report released last month hinted at a troubling reality for forces in the invaded country: In the drone war on Ukrainian territory, Russia appears to be having the upper hand.
The British defense and security think tank Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies (Rusi) pointed out that Ukraine is losing approximately 10,000 drones a month in the conflict.
The study does not specify the types of drones shot down and in what quantities each, but it is known that Kiev uses in the conflict from small commercial drones, for reconnaissance, to the Bayraktar TB2, a powerful Turkish attack drone.
The monthly number of casualties was reported to Rusi by three officers of Ukraine’s armed forces, whose names were withheld. According to the report, Russia deploys a major electronic warfare (EW) system approximately every 10 km of combat front.
“Shipovnik-Aero is proving to be a particularly effective system because it has a low signature [não identificável por
radar] and can further obfuscate this by mimicking other transmitters and communication devices [para enganar as forças ucranianas]. It also has a sophisticated range of effects to take down drones”, highlighted Rusi.
“The Russian military also continues to make extensive use of battle area navigation jamming as a form of electronic protection. This is contributing to a Ukrainian drone loss rate of approximately 10,000 per month,” added the British think tank.
At the same time, Rusi pointed out, Russian troops have been adopting different tactics with drones in Ukraine for offensive actions. According to the report, the invaders make little use of observation or listening posts far from their main positions. Active reconnaissance is largely performed by drones.
“Even when recon units move in, it’s usually to launch drones. It is common to have between 25 and 50 drones from both sides operating over the disputed area between the front line of the own troops and the front line of the enemy troops for every 10 km of front”, explained Rusi.
The think tank described an example of Russian drone action, which took place in an offensive in Bakhmut, in eastern Ukraine, in December.
“One carried out reconnaissance outside the city of Ukrainian artillery positions; another observed possible routes for transferring reserves; a third preceded the assault group to identify Ukrainian ambushes and firing positions; and a fourth flew above the assault group itself, providing the commander with real-time observation of the tactical situation,” highlighted Rusi.
When one of the drones identified a target, its operator passed the coordinates to the commander of the assault group. “If the intention was to attack the target with artillery, this was ordered by the commander of the assault group and carried out by the artillery attached to the group, or transferred to higher command, operating their own drones in the area, who could take over the mission. with its resources”, detailed the document.
The report concludes that, although the West’s view of the war in Ukraine is one of incompetence, discouragement and heavy losses on the Russian side, the invaders have managed to adapt strategies and this needs to be taken into account at a time when Kiev seems to increase its confidence in the face of the arrival of new weapons.
“Ukraine today has the initiative. But as Russian forces adapt, there can be no room for complacency.”
In an interview with the Insider website, James Patton Rogers, professor of war studies at the University of Southern Denmark and an expert on drones, agreed that Russia has managed to create measures to contain the Ukrainian asset of intense use of these tools.
“Is Ukraine really losing 10,000 drones a month? Probably not, but these numbers indicate the scale of the drone war in Ukraine and Russia’s increasingly effective countermeasures,” said Rogers – who welcomed, however, the fact that Ukraine was developing “its own resilient drone systems to fill this capacity gap. Part of the larger conflict, the drone war could also turn.
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