The all-out drone war in Ukraine points to the future

Drones, used on an unprecedented scale for both surveillance and attacks, have become a defining feature of the Ukraine conflict.

Drones have been part of warfare for years, having been used extensively by the United States during the “war on terror” and playing a major role in conflicts including in Iraq and the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

But the extent to which they are being used by both sides in Ukraine – and the benefits they bring as well as the threats they pose – underscores the importance of the military being prepared to use drones in future conflicts and to fight.

“The magnitude and scale of drone use in Ukraine surpasses any previous conflict,” said Samuel Bendett, an unmanned military systems researcher and analyst with the CNA Russia Studies Program.

Stressing the “absolutely unprecedented use of commercial drones” for both surveillance and combat in Ukraine, Bendett said the war showed that “small…tactical drones are absolutely essential — on every unit, at every platoon level, in every.” company.”

“Because these are basically expendable and very short-lived, they have to be made available to the armed forces in very large quantities,” he said.

Drones have played a key role since the conflict’s earliest days, when Ukrainian forces used Turkish-made Bayraktars to conduct attacks on Moscow’s troops as they unsuccessfully attempted to capture Kyiv.

Both sides use drones to locate and track enemy forces and direct artillery fire, and both also use “loitering munitions” – unmanned aircraft equipped with explosive charges that detonate on impact.

Lauren Kahn, a research fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the war in Ukraine happened at a time when “a lot of this technology is mature and mature” and “accessible and cheap.”

This allows for more experimentation, she said.

“Because they’re so affordable, they’re used in a way that treats them as much less valuable,” said Kahn, who focuses on the impact of new technologies on international security.

And it poses a challenge for defenders when drones are cheaper than the means used to shoot them down, she said, citing Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure with Iran-provided drone waves.

“Better and more effective methods of countering drones, I think, will be … the next phase and focus of development,” Khan said, adding that there has to be “a more economically feasible solution” to counter the “cheapness of offensive technology.” .”

The war in Ukraine served as a testing ground for anti-drone measures, and the United States provided Kyiv with options ranging from machine guns to specialized air defense systems.

Drones can be used in “creative and unique ways on the battlefield,” and defending against them requires ongoing effort, said Pentagon press secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder.

Bendett said electronic countermeasures play an important role for both sides in Ukraine.

“Both Russians and Ukrainians are now saying publicly that there are parts of the frontline where their military drones cannot operate, where their commercial drones can be jammed and rendered inoperable,” he said.

While drones used to conduct airstrikes are attracting more public attention, the surveillance capabilities of unmanned aerial vehicles can have wider implications, making it more difficult for troops to evade the attention of their enemies.

The conflict has shown that “anti-drone systems, technologies and training are absolutely paramount,” Bendett said.

“Militaries have to adapt,” he said. “You have to adjust to the fact that any belligerent now and … in future wars could be armed with the types of drones that we see in Ukraine.”

© 2023 AFP

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *