Hell From Above
Back in 2014, when the pro-Russian forces along with Russian units battled the Ukrainians in the Donbas area, it was just a bunch of drone hobby enthusiasts buying commercial drone kits in stores and online and adapting them for some sort of military use. For the most part, these were used for various reconnaissance and surveillance tasks to help keep track of the enemy forces and deployments. A few attempts were used to arm them as well.
Since then, the special unit was adopted into the Ukrainian Army and now plays an important role in supplying the "eyes and ears" of Ukrainian artillery units fighting the pigs of the Russian Army that invaded that country. This unit is critical since much of the Ukrainian air force is grounded or lost.
The unit is led by an ex-Israeli commando, Nathan Changin, whose mission is to use the unit to conduct offensive actions using its small but deadly fleet of drones. At the start of the Russian invasion on February 24th, the unit had 10-12 predator drones from Turkey called TB-2. These proved to be deadly against Russian armor units but eventually all were lost by March 20th. These losses were never replaced so the Ukrainian unit improvised using higher end commercially available drones.
The unit comprises of 50 pilots, all previously from the hobby group that had started in 2014. They have done an amazing job in improvising these drones by arming them with a single 3 lb. RKG-3 explosive, which is able to penetrate 150mm of armor. These are usually carried by drones with eight motors. They are virtually silent and with thermal night vision can fly to a tank or APC and hover between 400-600 feet above it to drop the device. In most cases, the impact literally decimates those inside and makes the vehicle useless. Russian troops are in great fear at night because of them. The problem for the Ukrainians is that there are not enough of them and to fly them to the target, the operator must be within 1-2 km of it. This makes it dangerous.
The unit does have a limited number of other drones to make the Russians nervous. These are:
- PD-1 is a reconnaissance drone that can carry a 7kg payload and has a range of 95 km. It can remain in the air for 10 hrs.
- R18 that has a range of 4 km and carries a 10 lb. bomb and is operational for 40 minutes. It also has night vision.
- Switchblade, an American kamikaze drone that began arriving March 19th. This is a serious upgrade for the Ukrainian unit. It is launched like a mortar with a range of 5-6 miles. It can loiter above an area to acquire the target and once locked, attacks it. They can easily disable armor units. The Ukrainians received about 100+ of them. The explosive charge for the 300 model is equivalent to a 40mm grenade. The 600 model is the anti-armor model that has a 25 mile range and can loiter for 20 minutes to acquire the target. The warhead is similar to the Javelin, that has proven to be Ukraine's greatest anti-armor weapon.
The drone unit has other drones within its inventory but the above ones are its main ones. It could acquire more Turkish TB-2 predator drones, but the Switchblade 600 model really is an excellent substitute for it and as deadly.
The Ukraine-Russia war is curiously absent of many Russian drones being used. Only a few have been downed. The same can be said of its air force that is far superior to Ukraine's. It has been only sporadically used for the most part. With the war hitting a stalemate, which surely is unexpectant for Putin who thought Ukraine would collapse within a week, the Ukrainian drone unit will have many easy targets as the Russian units dig in.