Heavenly warriors, an analysis of the use of drones of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the media

7 March 2024 14 minutes Author: Murder

The use of kamikaze drones by the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) in the context of the Russian-Ukrainian war is considered in detail. The article analyzes the different types of drones, their functions, and how they are used for combat missions, including reconnaissance and strike missions.

What UAVs are in service with the Armed Forces of Ukraine?

When preparing this report, no subjective estimates of the number of drone launches were made, but only official mentions of UAVs with “arrivals” at the enemy in the period from January to June 2023 were found. At the same time, the interfaces from the control systems of these UAVs were taken into account in the calculations.

Interfaces from control systems of kamikaze drones, which were taken as objects of analysis

Intelligence drones

Leleka is a Ukrainian-made drone that has been in service since 2021. Its speed reaches 120 km/h, and the flight time is up to two and a half hours. In March, aerial reconnaissance of the 92nd Mechanized Brigade recorded a deployed and ready-to-fire Russian 220-mm rocket battery near the village of Novonika-Norivka, Luhansk Region. Leleka directed the artillery of the 40th separate artillery brigade at the enemy. And in this incident, Leka recorded the destruction of Russian military equipment using the RAM II Kamikaze UAV.

The reconnaissance drone Leleka captured the moment of destruction of the Russian TOR-M2 thanks to the RAM II drone. Screenshot from the video

UAV “Shark” is a Ukrainian reconnaissance drone. It is used for reconnaissance and fire control. The first flight will be in 2022. It has a maximum speed of 150 km/h and a combat radius of 60 km, it can fly for up to four hours. The first footage from the Ukrainian UAV was published in January 2023, showing how it works in the Donetsk direction.

Unmanned aerial vehicle “Shark” in reconnaissance. Still frame from the video

DJI Mavic-3. This common, once civilian quadcopter is probably the most popular model due to its versatility. With a flight time of 46 minutes and a maximum climb height of 6 km, it is equipped with high-quality optics that help our military detect invaders from a height. For example, in March, fighters of the 28th mechanized brigade used Mavic to detect the base of the occupier. Also, in February, the 93rd Brigade used this drone to capture the occupying forces in the direction of Bakhmut and coordinate their fire.

The 54th brigade destroys a Russian warehouse with ammunition, and the DJI Mavic-3, after targeting, records the result. February 2023.

In the period from January to June 2023, we have 6 unique references to the work of the Mavic-3 as a reconnaissance drone.

Mavic-3 is versatile because, in addition to reconnaissance, it can be equipped with a system for dropping explosives or a thermal imager – Mavic-3T. In this video from February, in Bakhmut, the Mavic-3T points to the Russian position at night, and also captures the moment of the explosion of the occupiers’ equipment.

Drop drones

Civilian drones such as the third Mavic are equipped with special drop systems that actually drop explosives on trenches and equipment, for example Mavic 3/Mavic 3T In March, the 54th Brigade used a Mavic 3T (with a thermal imaging camera) to kill several Russians.

A still frame from the video of Serhiy Sternenko’s tg channel. Mavic-3T drops explosives on the enemy

Kamikaze drones

These are drones with a built-in warhead. It can stay in the air above the target for a long time and can quickly attack the target at the command of the operator. Kamikaze drones can also perform specific combat tasks provided by predetermined algorithms.

Switchblade 300

American kamikaze drone, the maximum speed of which is 160 km/h. It flies for 50 minutes at a distance of 600 m. It was first used by the Armed Forces during the Russian-Ukrainian war in May 2022. So, for example, at the beginning of June of this year, the SBU Telegram channel published a video in which military counter-intelligence officers of the SBU destroyed an enemy BUK-M1 anti-aircraft missile system and three TOR-2M.

Switchblade eliminates the BUK M1 air defense system. Frame from SBU video

And this video was published in January of this year. It shows three kamikaze drones taking out the occupiers in the trenches in Bakhmut.

A second before. Switchblade destroys the Russian military in the trenches

February 2023. ​​Operators of the “Seneca” special unit of the 93rd OMBr “Kholodniy Yar” are destroying the occupiers with direct hits from kamikaze drones.

Freeze frame from video. The work of Switchblade kamikaze drone operators

There is no information about the start of the collection for the purchase of these drones. Moreover, the USA promises to transfer the latest Switchblade 300 Block 20 kamikaze drones to Ukraine.

During the analysis, the published (albeit insignificant) mentions in the media indicate that the “shooter” was mentioned more often in the period from January to March of this year. Recently, this UAV has not been mentioned either in the media or on TV channels. This trend may indicate that these UAVs are:

  • a) or are no longer supplied;

  • b) or they turned out to be ineffective during the performance of combat missions;

  • c) or the video is not published for security purposes.

A person who is engaged in the factory conversion of drones (for security reasons asked for anonymity) is inclined to option “b”.

Pegasus

The drone is made in Ukraine. It has a flight speed of 50-75 km/h and a flight range of up to 400 meters. It can drop up to 20 kg of ammunition. It’s actually a normal quadcopter, made from simple components and equipped with explosives that turns it into a kamikaze drone. These FPV drones were created in collaboration with the Drone Corps.
In January of this year, Pegas operators blew up a Russian tank and armored personnel carrier with this drone. And in April, operators of the “Eyes of Retribution” unit of the 59th Separate Motorized Infantry Brigade destroyed a Russian dugout.

Frame from the video. The destruction of an enemy dugout by Pegas operators of the 59th Separate Motorized Infantry Brigade was recorded
Destruction of a Russian tank with the help of the Pegas UAV. Fragment from the video

Analysts analyzed the number of unique mentions of this UAV in the media. Every month, the number of mentions of the use of this UAV is increasing. In January of this year, there were only two unique mentions of “Pegasus”, in April – 37 mentions, in June – 33 mentions, in December – 15 mentions of “Pegasus” in the mass media. And of all the mentions we analyzed, this drone appeared in the media most often – a total of 110 unique mentions between January and June of this year.

Probably, public fundraising was organized on Pegas by the “Ukrainian Team” volunteer headquarters – a collection of UAH 3,200,000, from which 100 drones were purchased. Serhiy Prytula collected UAH 20,000,000 in May. How many drones were purchased is unknown. We have reason to believe that the collection was specifically for Pegas, because in the photo in the post Prytula is holding Pegas in one hand. And on June 22, Prytula announced a collection for FPV drones (probably Pegas is also on the list). The total amount of collection is UAH 101,600,000

In May, News.GRP also collected money, probably on Pegas — 4,100,000 UAH = 200 drones.

FPV “Goida” (and related craft names “Bavovna”, “Nort Varta”)

This name was chosen by the followers of the Ukrainian blogger Serhiy Sternenko, who collected for these drones. FPV (First Person View) is a function of transmitting real-time video using a camera mounted on the front of the UAV). We deliberately listed Pegas and “Goida” kamikaze drones next to each other, because, according to this post by Sternenko, “Goida” is a craft, alternative, name for the Pegas UAV.

In particular, according to our calculations, the largest number of mentions in the media about this kamikaze drone falls between January and April of this year. And in the last two months, that is, May and June, there were no reports about the activity of this drone. The most prominent mention of this drone this year was a video published in February, in which Hoyda (or another name – Baovna) blows up a Russian soldier who tried to hack the drone with a branch.

Destruction of an enemy tank in February 2023. Frame from the video

In the same month, the “Goida” drone worked on a Russian SUV, also eliminating several Russian military personnel. This is the work of the K-2 battalion of the 54th OMBr.

Goida is a type of Pegas, but the dissemination of information about this drone was directly influenced by public activist and blogger Serhii Sternenko (after all, this is the craft name of the Pegas drone proposed by his community on the tg channel), as well as such drones. We decided to describe them separately, since we need to count mentions about “Goida” in the mass media thanks to numerous publications and fundraising for UAVs. Since the beginning of this year, 18 unique mentions of Hoyda drones have been recorded. All of them took place in the period from January to April.

Since the beginning of the year, we have counted 6 posts about collecting FPV drones (probably “Goida”), the organizer of which was Sergey Sternenko (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). During these meetings, more than UAH 56 million were collected, and more than 3,000 drones were purchased.

Foxeer

In this video from February, a Ukrainian Foxeer kamikaze drone strikes a Russian Grenader APTS in Russia’s Shebekino, Belgorod Oblast.

Foxeer destroys Russian autonomous technical surveillance post “Grenader”

Falcon Avanger

This is an FPV drone (that is, First Person View – a function of transmitting video in real time using a camera installed in the front of the UAV). The country of manufacture, as well as the characteristics of this drone, are not publicly disclosed in the media. But in this recent video from June, the moment Russian infantry is eliminated thanks to the Falcon Avanger drone. There is also a reference to March — the fighters of the “Stugna” unit destroyed the Russian “Murom-M” visual surveillance complex on the territory of the Kakhovskaya HPP.

Fragment from the video. Destruction of the Russian “Murom-M”

And this post is about how SBU employees destroyed the Russian Murom-M station in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. “Murom-M” monitored the movement of the Ukrainian military around the clock. And also the military destroyed 6 units of armored vehicles: four enemy BMP-2, two MTLB with 16 crew members and a mortar.

During the analyzed period, there was only one mention of the Sokil-Avangar UAV in January, but in June there were already four of them. There were no reports of the return of Sokil-Avangar drones.

RAM II

Ukrainian-made shock drone, which is based on the Leleka reconnaissance UAV, which we wrote about above. The combat radius is up to 30 km, and the flight range is up to 60 km. The duration of the flight can be 1 hour. In this video published by Serhii Prytula, we can see how the SBU “A” TsO with the help of the “RAM II” unmanned aerial vehicle, an enemy TOR M-2.

Only 1 unique public mention of the operation of this drone was recorded between January and June of this year. No reports on collection for the “RAM II” drone were found.

What are FPV drones and how often have they been mentioned in the media?

This analysis includes FPV drone models mentioned from January to June 2023. Of course, these are not the only drones that are in service with the Armed Forces. Of course, the number of mentions of kamikaze drone training in the media is not directly proportional to their effectiveness on the battlefield. After all, only military personnel who used it on the battlefield and were convinced of its effectiveness can talk about the good or bad effectiveness of this weapon. We analyzed the number of mentions of FPV trials of kamikaze drones and announced public meetings (if any). For example, there were many mentions of Switchblade at the beginning of the year, but none in April and May; there was also little mention of RAM II; no mention of Pega in the first half of the year; and no mention of Pega in the second half of the year.

Thus, Pega tops the list of training mentions in the media. There is also information on organized procurement meetings. There is also information about the price of the so-called “Hoida” drone, but there are no reports of its testing in the last two months. The Falcon Avanger, on the other hand, has seen a steady stream of mentions, although there has been no price announcement and no detailed information on its specs.

How the number of unique mentions of kamikaze FPV drones increases from January to June 2023

At the same time, the overall qualitative performance of drones has improved, which compensates for the fact that some drones are mentioned more often in the media (Pegas drones are currently leading the way). This probably indicates an increase in the number of effective kamikaze drones. It could also mean that drone operators and intelligence are getting more powerful by the month.

An increase in the number of general mentions of drones in videos that also show interfaces from control systems. The analysis included 6 kamikaze FPV drones (Pegas, Goida, Foxeer, Switchblade, Falcon Avanger, RAM II)

What’s up with drones in Russia?

Of course, occupying forces also have drones at their disposal, which they use on the battlefield to destroy critical infrastructure and kill civilians. For example, “Orion” is a Russian drone that performs reconnaissance functions and has the ability to launch bombs and missiles at an altitude of 5-7 km. And the “Forpost R” attack drone, which Russia modified under the license of the Israeli Searcher II, can operate at a range of more than 200 km, stay in the air for about 10 hours and develop a speed of up to 180 km/h. Russia uses Orlan-10 for reconnaissance drones. It can stay in the air for up to 18 hours and develop a flight speed of 90-150 km/h.

And kamikaze drones, in particular Russian ones, began to be talked about more actively after the Russian Federation launched “Shahedy” all over Ukraine in October last year – Russian drones of Iranian production, which are currently in service with the occupiers. Iran regularly supplies these kamikazes to Russia, we had analytics about it in quantitative statistics.

In fact, Russia imports thousands of other types of UAVs every month. According to one official (who has not been named for security reasons), Russia’s “business partners” that directly supply the drones include China and Iran.

Examples of Russian UAVs

After all, you’ve probably heard about the scandal involving iFlight Technology Company Limited. It is a Chinese manufacturer of FPV drones and components for non-military purposes. It is currently 100% owned by drone manufacturer DJI. In April last year, the company announced (1, 2) that it was temporarily suspending the supply of drones to Ukraine and the Russian Federation. The next day, Ukrainian activist Serhii Sternenko commented on the company’s statement that in this way part of the procurement of FPV drones for the Armed Forces will be significantly complicated, while the company will send Russian drones directly.

And the Wall Street Journal investigation says that as of February 2023, iFlight Technology Company Limited drones continue to be secretly supplied to the Russian armed forces, having contacts with collaborators in China, the Middle East, and Europe.

According to our information, the Russian Federation has already increased the supply of attack drones from China several times.

Of course, mentions in the media about drones in service with the Ukrainian military do not testify to the effectiveness of UAVs. In this article, we will look at the drones that were mentioned in the media between January and early June 2023. And no matter how many mentions there are on social networks and websites, it is worth remembering that drones are a very important tool today, but, unfortunately, the resources will soon run out. Don’t forget to donate and support the defense forces. After all, every month more and more attack drones appear at the enemy.

The information was taken from Molfar open sources

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