Cult of the Drone: At the Two-Year Mark, UAVs Have Changed the Face of War in Ukraine – But Not Outcome

By Paul Lushenko, an assistant professor and director of special operations at the U.S. Army War College. Originally published at The Conversation

Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, have been central to the war in Ukraine. Some analysts claim that drones have reshaped war, yielding not just tactical-level effects, but shaping operational and strategic outcomes as well.

It’s important to distinguish between these different levels of war. The tactical level of war refers to battlefield actions, such as patrols or raids. The operational level of war characterizes a military’s synchronization of tactical actions to achieve broader military objectives, such as destroying components of an adversary’s army. The strategic level of war relates to the way these military objectives combine to secure political aims, especially ending a war.

In the war in Ukraine, what have drones accomplished at these three levels?

Mounting evidence, including my own research as a military scholar who studies drone warfare, suggests that drones have delivered some tactical and operational successes for both Ukraine and Russia. Yet they are strategically ineffective. Despite its increasing use of drones, Ukraine has not dislodged Russia from the Donbas region, and Russia has not broken Ukraine’s will to resist.

Drone Warfare in Ukraine

The drone war in Ukraine is evolving in ways that differ from how other countries, especially the United States, use UAVs.

First, the U.S. uses drones globally, and often in conflict zones that are not recognized by the United Nations or do not have U.S. troops on the ground. Unlike this pattern of “over-the-horizon” strikes, Ukraine and Russia use drones during an internationally recognized conflict that is bounded by their borders.

Second, the U.S. operates armed and networked drones, such as the Reaper, the world’s most advanced drone. Ukraine and Russia have adopted a broader scope of low- and mid-tier drones.

Ukraine’s “army of drones” consists of cheaper and easily weaponized drones, such as the Chinese-manufactured DJI. Ukraine has also operated Turkish-manufactured TB-2 Bayraktar drones – the “Toyota Corolla” of drones. U.K.-based defense and security think tank Royal United Services Institute estimated that Ukraine loses 10,000 drones monthly and within a year will have more drones than soldiers, implying it will acquire over 2 million drones. To manage these capabilities, Ukraine recently established a new branch of the armed forces: the Unmanned Systems Forces.

A Ukrainian serviceman of the Adam tactical group operates a drone to spot Russian positions near the city of Bakhmut, Donetsk region, on April 16, 2023. Sergey Shestak/AFP via Getty Images

Russia has responded by importing Iranian-manufactured Shahed-136 attack drones. It has also expanded the domestic production of drones, such as the Orion-10, used for surveillance, and the Lancet, used for attacks. Russia intends by 2025 to manufacture at least 6,000 drones modeled after the Shahed-136 at a new factory that spans 14 football fields, or nearly a mile. This is on top of the 100,000 low-tier drones that Russia procures monthly.

Third, the U.S. uses drones to strike what it designates as high-value targets, including senior-level personnel in terrorist organizations. Ukraine and Russia use their drones for a broader set of tactical, operational and strategic purposes. Analysts often conflate these three levels of war to justify their claims that drones are reshaping conflict, but the levels are distinct.

Tactical Effects

Drones have had the biggest impact at the tactical level of war, which characterizes battles between Ukrainian and Russian forces.

Famously, Ukraine’s Aerorozvidka Air Reconnaissance Unit used drones to interdict and block a massive Russian convoy traveling from Chernobyl to Kyiv a month after Russia’s Feb. 24, 2022 invasion of Ukraine. It did so by destroying slow-moving vehicles that stretched nearly 50 miles, causing Russia to abandon its advance.

Both militaries have also adopted low-tier “first-person-view” drones, such as the U.S.-manufactured Switchblade or Russia’s Lancet, to attack tanks, armored personnel carriers and soldiers. Russian and Ukrainian forces are increasingly using these first-person–view drones, combined with other low-tier drones used for reconnaissance and targeting, to suppress opposing forces. Suppression – temporarily preventing an opposing force or weapon from carrying out its mission – is a role normally reserved for artillery. For example, suppressive fire can force ground troops to shelter in trenches or bunkers and prevent them from advancing across open ground.

These gains have led Russia and Ukraine to develop ways of countering each other’s drones. For example, Russia has capitalized on its advanced electronic warfare capabilities to effectively jam the digital link between Ukrainian operators and their drones. It also spoofs this link by creating a false signal that disorients Ukrainian drones, causing them to crash.

As a result, Ukrainian drone operators are experimenting with ways to overcome jamming and spoofing. This includes going “back to the future” by adopting terrain-based navigation, though this is less reliable than satellite-based navigation.

Operational Limitations

Drones have been less successful at the operational level of war, which is designed to integrate battles into campaigns that achieve broader military objectives.

In spring 2022, Ukraine used a TB-2, along with other capabilities, to sink Russia’s flagship ship — the Moskva — in the Black Sea. Since then, Ukrainian officials claim to have destroyed 15 additional Russian ships, as well as damaged 12 more.

Ukraine also used sea drones – uncrewed water vessels – to damage the Kerch Bridge, connecting Crimea to mainland Russia, as well as attack fuel depots in the Baltic Sea and near St. Petersburg.

Though impressive, these and other operations have momentarily disrupted Russia’s use of the Black Sea to blockade Ukraine’s grain shipments, launch missiles against Ukraine and resupply its soldiers.

The problem is that Ukraine lacks air superiority, which has encouraged its use of an army of drones to execute missions typically reserved for bombers, jets, attack helicopters and high-end drones.

Though Denmark and the Netherlands have promised to provide Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets, thus replacing the country’s aging aircraft, they have not arrived. My research also suggests that the U.S. will likely not sell its advanced Reaper drones to Ukraine, fearing crisis escalation with Russia. Further, these drones are vulnerable to Russia’s integrated air defenses.

Lack of air superiority exacerbates tactical challenges such as jamming and spoofing, while undermining Ukraine’s ability to deny freedom of maneuver to Russia.

Strategic Myths

Despite these tactical effects and limited operational gains, drones are strategically ineffective.

Drones have not, and are not likely to, shape the outcome of the war in Ukraine. They have not allowed Ukraine to break its stalemate with Russia, nor have they encouraged Russia to end its occupation of Ukraine.

To the extent drones have been strategically consequential, the implications have been psychological.

Russia and Ukraine use drones to terrorize each other’s citizens as well as generate propaganda to stiffen their own citizens’ resolve. Russian and Ukrainian leaders also perceive drones as providing advantages, encouraging them to invest in these capabilities and perpetuate what I call the cult of the drone.

The lesson from Ukraine is that while drones have some value at the tactical and operational levels of war, they are strategically inconsequential. They are not a magic bullet, offering a game-changing capability to decide the fate of nations.

Instead, countries must rely on time-tested combined arms maneuver, wherein they integrate personnel and weapons systems at a particular time and place to achieve a particular goal against an adversary. When these effects are aggregated over the course of a war, they expose vulnerabilities that militaries exploit, and often with the assistance of allies and partners.

Only then can countries achieve military objectives that secure political outcomes, such as a negotiated settlement.

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  1. marcel

    Fully agree with the author on the changes at the tactical level. The battlefield will never be as before (as Western armies seem not well prepared for such battles).
    I also agree that drones don’t play a role (at least yet) at the strategical level, ie be a deciding factor on the objectives and (political) outcomes.
    But I disagree with his analysis at the operational level. Where he cites the successful use of drones against targets like ships or the Kerch bridge, he omits the very large role p^layed by NATO’s satellite & intelligence gathering capabilities. None of these successes would be possible with the big US UAVs flying around, and which the Russian army is still wont to to shoot down.

    1. jun mas

      Agreed. It is the full spectrum of US/NATO ISR capabilites that have leveraged the FPV drone capability of Ukrainian forces. While the video shows Ukr forces piloting the FPV drones that does not assure that US/NATO ‘pilots’ are not involved, as well.

      Initial drone use, by both Russia and NATO, has evolved through military practice. Russia has developed a counter, Ukr not so much. Dispersal of men and equipment is now the norm on the battle front for both sides. Small attack drones are being used effectively as PART of the evolving combined arms military manuever.

  2. ambrit

    Though the author naturally was limited to the Ukranian experience in the subject, for obvious reasons, I feel that he underestimates the force multiplier effect the use of drones has had upon Russian artillery forces. Drones are perfect artillery spotters. Almost ubiquitous over the battlefield, spotting and targeting of enemy forces by drones can be done practically in ‘real time.’ Not only does this increase the effectiveness of artillery strikes, but thereby, it can reduce wastage of shells. Where previously, a target would be ‘bracketed’ by a pattern of shells, now more precise targeting, and thereby lower numbers of shells needed to accomplish the objective, will encourage economy of use.
    The second basic effect I see of heavy drone use on the battlefield is the trend seen in the Russo Ukraine War for a ‘return’ to WW-1 style trench warfare. For several reasons, drones have limited the previous abilities of mobile armour forces to maneuver and develop deep penetration strikes. Anti-armour drones, like the Lancet, etc. added to more precise artillery strikes enabled by observation drones have “complicated” the working lives of the mechanized part of the field armies. The fall back here is “boots on the ground.” Mass numbers of troops has returned to it’s previous status as the base line definition of “military strength.” Since drones are often small scale items, used by troopers ‘on the ground,’ this increases the reliance on individual soldiers, not decreases it.
    Another item of interest is the essential replacement of high cost, in both material and trained personnel, air units. For air units, the biggest investment is the training of the air crew. Physical air units can be replaced and repaired fairly easily, while training a pilot and ancillary air crew is a long term and relatively expensive endeavour. By comparison, drones and their “air crew” are cheap and easily reproduceible. Indeed, almost any youngster who has grown up playing First Person online games already has the basic skill set to fly a drone. What we are seeing here is the emergence of “cheap air forces.”

    1. JW

      Yes I agree they can enhance but not replace artillery. Their future could allow small, medium sized, poorer nations to ‘punch above their weight’ ( ie Houthis). They could make aircraft, ships and tanks almost redundant. But until robotics develops more, not people.

      1. Not Qualified to Comment

        A clear distinction needs to be drawn between drones as ‘spies’ and as ‘attack vehicles’. As has been pointed out, the limited explosive load they can carry is ineffective against amour or buildings and useful only against individual troops such as snipers and spotters, or soft-skinned vehicles. Their real value, as ambrit observed, is as spotters of enemy movements to warn of pre-attack build-ups, and for targetting and correcting artillary fire.

        You could say that ‘air warfare’ itself started with the use of ballons in WW1 for exactly this ‘spying’ purpose – artillary control and trying to see what was happening in the enemy’s rear. This led to the first offensive use of aircraft, the earliest and still largely experimental flying-machines pressed into service trying to shoot the balloons down with rifles, to aircraft sent up to defend the ballons from the enemy’s aircraft, beginning the arm’s race into ever more efficient fighters also able to drop small bombs over the side of the cockpit into the trenches, which branched into the development of dedicated bombers and their airforces we have today – something I doubt anyone foresaw in 1916!

        1. fjallstrom

          HG Wells “The War in the Air” was written in 1908 and features a world war one type scenario with airplanes, bombing of navy ships, terror bombing of cities (in particular New York), Zeppelins as hangar ships and much else. Mutual bombing of each others cities leads to downfall of civilization.

          Didn’t get everything right but still impressive.

    2. paolo carugati

      Your analysis is by far more valuable than the article! Thank you. You are right: drones do not allow any more fast military maneuvers with large harmored forces and a WWI style war (trenches, small slow gains) is the result. I would assimilate drones to artillery but more precise, cost-effective and human saving (by the attackers). Changes in the war style driven by the use of drones, together with the Russian will to avoid un-necessary own soldiers losses, is the only reason why Russia is moving so slow. Sooner or later the long Ukrainian front line will be so thin and weak (few, untrained, unmotivated, exhausted soldiers) that local munities will cause some political change in th Ukr government

      1. Yves Smith

        This is not correct. First, as military analysts have discussed, drones are NOT a substitute for artillery. They pack a much weaker punch. That topics has come up because the EU has been talking up a plan to build a million drones…which experts say is not a substitute for a million artillery shells.

        Second, Russia’s objective has not ever been to move, as in take territory. It is running an attritional war. It is delighted to be able to NOT move much at all, keep its very short supply lines back to Russia, and have Ukraine throw its men and materiel against the line of contact. It will eventually take territory for some different reasons, namely to take full control of the new oblasts that voted to join Russia plus to take territory as needed to provide for Russian security.

      2. Polar Socialist

        I’d say it’s the other way around: the trench warfare has created the optimal circumstances for the drone warfare. I don’t think there are that many FPV strike videos from the last days of Avdeevka, because the situation was chaotic, front line volatile and troop locations fast changing.

        “Cheap” drones just don’t have the range/endurance to hunt for targets in that kind of environment, nor do the drone operators want to stay stationary hooked on to a monitor for 20 minutes when the enemy can be literally on top of you in minutes.

        The hunter drones, like Lancet, have the endurance but they already cost the same as 40-45 artillery shells and still have less punch than one shell. While Lancet is way more precise (an a good day) and has a longer reach (downwind), it’s not nearly as versatile as artillery, and it can be defended against (dodged, fooled, blinded, shot down, etc…).

        1. fjallstrom

          I think one can divide the effect.

          Drones as surveillance makes concentration of forces without being hit by artillery harder, making it more important to hide in trenches, forest and buildings. This gives an advantage to the defender with well prepared positions.

          Then the trench warfare gives FPV drones a role as you describe.

          I think the first one is the more important aspect.

  3. JW

    I am not sure how anyone from the US Army College can write an unbiased report on use of drones in Ukraine. Most of the information will be provided by Ukrainian sources. Whilst its a simplification, Ukraine predominantly seems to be using them in lieu of artillery shells, and Russia as longer distance kamikaze weapons.
    The paper is correct that they join all other ‘magic bullet’ weapons as incidentals to the use of overwhelming force of artillery and troops used intelligently and strategically by experienced, trained commanders, coupled with industrial capability. One side has a significant advantage over the other.

    1. Jams O'Donnell

      Indeed. Another point the author avoids is that US use of drones is frequently (and possibly always so in that most US invasions and wars are not lawfully undertaken) illegal as they intrude on the airspace of countries with which the US is not ‘officially’ at war with. Also that they are often, based on faulty or inherently physically poor information, inaccurate – hitting such targets as wedding parties more often than ‘terrorists’.

    2. IMOR

      “Second, the U.S. operates armed and networked drones, such as the Reaper, the world’s most advanced drone. … My research also suggests that the U.S. will likely not sell its advanced Reaper drones to Ukraine, fearing crisis escalation with Russia. Further, these drones are vulnerable to Russia’s integrated air defenses.”

      So, yeah: what the coomenters immed above and below said.

  4. Luciano Moffatt

    “No hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver. ”
    (there is no worse blind than the one who does not want to see)

    No strategic value?
    Russia started gaining this war at the time she embraced drones.

  5. ddt

    Hmm. That may be the case with Ukraine and Russia’s SMO. In Nagorno-Karabach, the Azeris routed the Armenians with the aid of drones fairly quickly. So in certain instances they well may be “consequential.”

    1. vao

      Drones seem to have played a major role too in enabling the Ethiopian army to rout the Tigrayan forces, which had initially been inflicting severe defeats on Addis-Ababa’s military.

      A counter-argument would be that drones were so effective in those cases because the opponent neither had them, nor effective counter-measures (physical barriers, electronic jamming) — but this is the point: those conflicts mark the point where drones became a must-have on the battlefield.

      Although drones were not used during the Nagorno-Karabakh and Tigray wars in numbers as vast as those seen in Ukraine, it is still remarkable that a historical assessment does not include those two earlier, foundational examples.

  6. bwilli123

    Saw a report on Russian armed forces civilian support groups that, amongst other things, were creating apps that civilians could use to report sightings of Ukrainian drones (and probably troop movements)
    The report said that Apple quickly deleted these apps (and subsequent apps) from the App Store. Unknown is if the Android store have done likewise.

    1. digi_owl

      Android allow install without a store, so Whatever Google etc do has limited impact.

      For all their faults, Google has never removed or curtailed this feature in all the years of Android development. And recent versions even made it easier to use third party stores by providing a mechanism for them to do updates unattended.

  7. Aurelien

    Drones are force multipliers, which means that you have to have the forces to multiply, and the larger and better your forces, and the better your use of drones, the more you will benefit. An army consisting entirely of drone operators, especially the FPV type, would not last long on the battlefield. Likewise “drones” are not one thing, but several, as the article points out, and they are neither a revolution in warfare nor just a tactical curiosity.

  8. Raymond Sim

    Lol. If it were 1915 this guy’d be writing much the same essay about aircraft and/or submarines.

    Is “strategically ineffective” a term of art with a specific meaning, or is the author just trying to pretend Iran doesn’t exist?

  9. PlutoniumKun

    Using the widest definition, there have been ‘drones’ for a long time – arguably, unmanned fireships were the first ones, and since WWII there have been any number of self-guided or remote guided weapons. Long distance self homing torpedoes were the original ‘carrier killer’ (there have been carrier killers around since there were carriers, and yet still for some reason everyone is still building aircraft carriers).

    The history of the torpedo is a good forerunner for what the future of drones might be. When torpedoes matured in the late 19th Century, they provoked panic among traditional naval planners. They raised the prospect of cheap weapons affordable by any tinpot country that could sink the monstrously expensive battleships that the Great Powers depended upon to bully everyone else. But while they became a vital part of every countries arsenal, and improved constantly, in reality so did countermeasures, so they were never the gamechangers everyone assumed they would be.

    The one big introduction of the Ukraine War has been the cheap consumer drone, which can be afforded in vast numbers compared to traditional guided weapons. These are stunningly effective against unprepared forces as was seen in Armenia, but its not clear they are much use against a well organised defence with layered protections. Its noticeable that in Ukraine they don’t seem to have had much impact in the most heavily contested areas, probably because both sides have been able to focus their electronic warfare in those zones. Noticeable also, that Israel, arguably the world leader in drone development, hasn’t been able to use them to great effect in Gaza. While there is no doubt they are taking a toll among Hamas, they haven’t been a gamechanger.

    Every military measure usually provokes a countermeasure. We’ve seen in the Ukraine how the first generation of drones have proven less useful as each side improves its electronic warfare, with the result that ‘cheap’ drones suddenly need specialized hardened electronics and high grade multifunctional sensors, which suddenly means that they are no longer cheap – pretty much the same price as the weapons they are replacing. So everyone ends up back to square one, needing very expensive military grade hardware to counter very expensive military grade hardware.

  10. The Rev Kev

    Two years ago the Pentagon had probably drawn up contingency plans for sending a coupla brigades into the Ukraine, perhaps to occupy Odessa so that the Russians did not get it and shut the Ukraine out of the Black Sea. Now there is no way that the Pentagon will want to send any brigades into the Ukraine as Russian drones would do a demolition job on them. So here is the thing. About twenty years ago the US started using huge drones to do remote recon and bombing. Now more and more countries have drones and the US has had a few of these big drones shot down in different places. But with the advent of these smaller drones, the US may be realizing that all those bases scattered around the world may become vulnerable. At least one African nation were using these suicide drones in combat. I suppose that you can say that it is a “democratization” of warfare enabling smaller countries to take it to the big powers like we are seeing in the Red Sea. For better or worse, it is one of those revolutions in military warfare that happens from time to time.

    1. digi_owl

      I seem to recall we were musing if the 101st was going to attempt to take Odessa a little over a year ago when news broke that they were sent to Romania.

  11. Martín

    It’s strange how the author doesn’t acknowledge the losses of the Russian ships to drone attacks as being something of a huge importance. It is a new development of this particular war, and has been without a doubt a surprise for every party involved. It has significantly altered the outcome of the war as well, and is an element that will reshape the way maritime war is carried out in the future.

    1. Wisker

      I’d say the modern vulnerability of surface ships is not peculiar to drones, however. Anyone with decent surveillance and missile technology–China, Russia, Iran, etc.–can wreak havoc on a surface fleet pretty far out at sea. This has been the case for some years now, it’s just that a conflict with the right actors hasn’t arisen yet. Ansarallah in Yemen is only the very tiniest tip of the iceberg of what can be brought to bear.

      Surface ships stuck very close in to a hostile coastline–as the Russian Black Sea Fleet is to Ukraine–are vulnerable to many more and cheaper forms of attack. I’d argue that surface drones–short ranged and very slow no matter how stealthy–are not much use outside of a few narrow cases like this one, and even then you have to have a poorly defended target.

      Modern ISR, long-range missile proliferation, and lagging air defense are at play in the naval arena rather than drones.

  12. GDmofo

    With modern ISR, you’re unable to amass troops without your opponent knowning. Explain how that DOES NOT affect strategic thinking? It completely changes how your offense operates, but it doesn’t have that much of an impact on strategical thinking? Really?

    1. Polar Socialist

      It doesn’t change in any way how your offense operates: you still have to push trough the enemy lines to break his cohesion and force him leave the battlefield – that has been with us since the time of phalanxes.

      Until the First World War basically all battles were fought with the commander seeing most of the battlefield. For a military genius like Napoleon the idea that a battle could be fought without the real-time knowledge of the troop positions and movement would be ridiculous.

      That said, the modern IRS does set some constraints to the theater level operations, but nothing that armies haven’t been dealing since the First World War.

      One of the simplest ways is ensure your opponent is deprived of means to affect your troop concentrations – like Russians are currently doing with regards to the Robotino front. 70,000 Russians have allegedly been there preparing for the attack that started yesterday. The Ukrainians couldn’t do much but wait for the shoe to drop.

  13. NotThePilot

    I thought this was a good article, and 2 things stood out.

    1. The author teaches at the US Army War College? If so, the simple fact that he casually discusses the operational level may signify something interesting.

    I was never in the military and I could be totally misinterpreting things I’ve read, but I think there’s actually been a weird doctrinal debate within the US military for a while about whether the operational level really exists. Like a lot of people would make the counter-argument that it’s just a fuzzy gray-area between tactics vs. strategy, and Russian and other militaries just insist it’s a distinct thing for weird cultural reasons.

    It’s a super-tiny data-point, but maybe the US Army has quietly agreed with the operations-realists (?) and is putting the operations-nominalists out to pasture, especially since seeing the war in Ukraine.

    2. I think I agree with his point about drones not having an immediate, revolutionary strategic impact. But I wonder if they will have subtler, slower effects via doctrine and how soldiers actually view themselves and warfare.

    For just one random example, maybe there’s something almost MacLuhan-esque about replacing an artillery strike with a FPV drone strike. IIUC even with modern artillery, lobbing a shell 40km away is sort of abstract and intellectual. It takes a certain nerve, quick and precise thinking, and lots of technical training. I imagine piloting a suicide drone is something much more visual and intuitive though.

    1. digi_owl

      I suspect part of the US problem is that they have not been fighting an attrition war since perhaps Korea.

      Vietnam was more counterinsurgency with NVA only getting really involved after USA pulled out.

      And later wars have been mostly shock and awe sprints with complete air dominance, followed by yet more “counterinsurgency”.

  14. XXYY

    My take is that the largest effect of low-cost, mass produced drones will be in the area immediately behind the front lines. These areas used to be relatively safe and could be used for a massing troops and supplies in preparation for reinforcing the front lines. Now, as we are seeing, it’s dangerous for more than two or three troops to gather together since they will be immediately spotted and targeted. The Ukrainian Army is going to great lengths to disguise their soldiers and disperse them throughout civilian areas to try to keep from being killed before they can enter the fray. And any kind of truck, warehouse, or staging area is extremely likely to be attacked long before it can be of any use.

    I’m thinking this new reality makes traditional war fighting approaches almost impossible. Gathering large masses of soldiers and material prior to a large scale attack or assault is almost a thing of the past at this point.

    Seems hard to dismiss this as inconsequential or “a myth”.

    1. ambrit

      One possible result of this change in the ‘vulnerability’ factor of front line combat, is a reappraisal of the casualty percentages that are considered “acceptable” to the staff. It would be interesting to compare the effective distances behind the ‘front line’ that artillery versus drones possess.

  15. Dandyandy

    This very detailed expose on pros and cons of drones was obviously written before it became apparent that the real meat-munching weapon of this war has finally arrived in the shape of the precision guided FAB500s and FAB1500s. Think about it, the old dumb 500-700-1500kg bombs that in previous wars were used for blanket saturation of enemy positions, meaning one or two or five thousand of these puppies thrown down from very high heights (think B-52s), suddenly can be dispersed in ones and twos and threes targeting street corners and individual park benches, courtesy of extra precise su34s and su35s, to kill groups of 10 and 50 and 100 enemy personnel. I’d say this alone is a tenfold or hundredfold increase in efficiency of the activity of killing.

    What TOS couldn’t do in Avdeyevka, FABs did.

    1. Raymond Sim

      How do you equip your troops on the ground so that they can figure out where to tell you to put two or three of these godawful things, and trust you not to blow them up too?

      1. Polar Socialist

        At least in Russia the forward air controllers can feed the target coordinates directly to the SVP-24 nav/attack computer of the supporting fighter-bombers. Of course no system is without friction, but Germans solved this problem at least satisfactorily already by 1939, when the Blitzkrieg was unleashed on Poland.

        1. Raymond Sim

          Did those German forces face anything like the fortified zones in Ukraine? Did the Stukas work the same kind of miracles at Stalingrad?

          I’m gonna say the JDAMskis almost certainly owe a lot of their current tactical effectiveness to the little drones’ capacity for close inspection of potential targets, and it wouldn’t suprise me a bit if they proved to be of limited usefulness without them.
          Note that the Russians had already previously demonstrated the ability to reduce similar Ukrainian positions, albeit perhaps more slowly.

          1. hk

            There must have been something during the Crimea campaign in 1942: Stukas were heavily involved in breaching the defenses of the Perekop Isthmus, then at Sevastol. Not sure about the technical details of how they coordinated witg ground forces (or with tactical obs aircraft, though.)

  16. ambrit

    Reading the comments here, it struck me that, as a rule, whatever is ‘deployed’ and ‘perfected’ on the front lines of some far away field of combat returns to the Homeland to be deployed for domestic policing purposes. Considering the wide range of definitions of what constitutes “domestic policing,” expect to see drone technology deployed very soon in a neighbourhood near you.
    The historical records of how failing elites ‘manage’ said declines suggest that we should expect drones to become our New Homeland Gestapo’s favourite mechanical tool.
    Informants are the traditional “favourite tool” of Organs of State Security everywhere and everywhen. One could characterize informants as “wetware drones.”
    Stay safe, go Grey.

    1. JBird4049

      The police are already using unarmed drones with some departments pushing for armed ones. If it became standard for the police to use armed drones, I would expect many innocent deaths as well as the use of them on the police. If a civil war occurs, it will happen with the government especially the police very vulnerable.

  17. Revenant

    I am uneasy about accepting any of this article because I do not believe there is any proof of its very first claim that Ukrainian drones pinned down Russia’s column north of Kiev. My understanding is that, to the contrary, this column pinned down Kiev and forced Zelensky to the table in Istanbul, the column was withdrawn as a good faith gesture and Zelensky then reneged on the draft agreement with BoJo’s encouragement.

    The article, in the histrionically pro-UA Guardian, states that “Not all the details of these claims could be independently verified, but US defence officials have said that Ukrainian attacks contributed to the halting of the armoured column around Ivankiv.”. Not all. Contributed. Weasel words from the lying US of A for “possibly none” and “did next to nothing”.

    Read it yourself here.

    Given the first lie was inserted so boldly, I suspect the rest of the article is misdirection. Whatever we should think about drones, it probably shouldn’t be this. And the reference to the operational level may be an attempt to buy uncritical appraisal by playing on the vatniks’s sense of military superiority. :-)

    1. jrkrideau

      I am uneasy about accepting any of this article because I do not believe there is any proof of its very first claim that Ukrainian drones pinned down Russia’s column north of Kiev.

      That was my immediate reaction. It sounds like a “Ghost of Kyiv” story. Certainly every photo I saw of that 65km long convoy showed it sitting there quite happily as a very obvious threat to Kiev. If anything the Russians were sneering at Kiev.

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