Ukraine in race to build a million reconnaissance and attack drones to fight Putin army

Ukraine in race to build a million reconnaissance and attack drones to fight Putin army

Ukraine plans to produce a million reconnaissance and attack FPV drones next year, the country's minister for strategic industries said on Wednesday.

Oleksandr Kamyshin said Kyiv's plans for next year also included more than 11,000 medium- and long-range attack drones.

"All production facilities are ready, and contracting for 2024 begins," he said on Telegram messenger.

The figure includes at least 1,000 drones with a range of more than 1,000 km (620 miles), he added.

FPV (first person view) drones allow the controller to see what the drone's camera can identify.

The focus on drones highlights how modern warfare has changed.

Ukraine has a huge task in trying to deliver sufficient military production to counter the huge scale of Russia's defence industry.

The West is supplying a large array of military equipment including tanks and munitions, however, two financial packages of support are currently stalled in Washington and Brussels.

As his country ramped up production, Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky stressed: "Shells, weapons, equipment. Our own production. Support for our warriors.

"We will get through this marathon and achieve our victory. The key is to add to the strength of Ukraine, our country, and our people every day."Earlier, UK defence chiefs said Vladimir Putin's army will struggle to make a 'major breakthrough' as Ukraine builds up defences for the winter.

They added that while there were continued Russian attacks, these were mainly at "platoon" level, and the frontlines were now largely static.

In its latest intelligence update, the Ministry of Defence in London said: “In recent weeks, Ukraine has mobilised a concerted effort to improve field fortifications as its forces pivot to a more defensive posture along much of the front line.

“This follows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s calls, from late November 2023, for faster fortifications in key sectors.

“In one part of the project, Ukraine has worked to improve defences along its border with Belarus with dragon’s teeth, razor wire, and anti-tank ditches of mid-December 2023."

The briefing added: “Russia continues local offensive options in several sectors, but individual attacks are rarely above platoon size.

“A major Russian breakthrough is unlikely and overall, the front is characterised by stasis.”

The UK military chiefs also stressed that Putin’s army has seen casualties soar 90 per cent in recent assaults on a fiercely fought-over town in eastern Ukraine.

The Russian military has been seeking to seize Avdiivka in the Donetsk province in the industrial Donbas region for months, launching wave after wave of attacks.

Ukrainian forces have been gradually pushed out of the town and now hold little of it.

But the MoD in London emphasised: “In 2022, Russia planned to seize the town, and the entire Donbas, in just 10-14 days.

“Instead, recent assaults have resulted in a 90% increase in Russian casualties.”

Ukraine has built multiple defences in Avdiivka, complete with concrete fortifications and a web of underground tunnels, allowing them to repel fierce Russian attacks.

Despite heavy losses, Russian troops have inched forward steadily, seeking to envelop Avdiivka and cut Ukrainian supply lines.

That battle has evolved into a gruesome grind for both parties and has been compared to the fighting for Bakhmut, the war’s longest and bloodiest battle that ended with Russia capturing it in May, but at huge cost.

Up to 350,000 Russian military personnel have been killed or wounded in Putin’s Ukraine war, say British defence chiefs.

Russia launched its fifth air attack this month targeting Kyiv and air defence systems destroyed all drones on approach to the capital, Ukrainian military officials said early on Wednesday.

Ukraine’s Air Force said air defence systems destroyed 18 out of 19 attack drones launched at Kyiv, Odesa, Kherson and other regions of Ukraine. It was not immediately clear how many were destroyed over Kyiv.

“According to preliminary information, there were no casualties or destruction in the capital,” Serhiy Popko, head of Kyiv’s military administration, said on the Telegram messaging app.

The Ukrainian air force also said that Russia attacked the Kharkiv region in the east with two surface-to-air guided missiles. There were no casualites as a result of the assault, it added.

Ukraine’s prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday morning that nine people, including four children, were injured in an overnight Russian drone attack on the Ukrainian southern city of Kherson.

“So far, nine residents have been reported injured, including four young children. Civilian objects and residential buildings were damaged,” the prosecutors said in a statement.

A damaged residential building in Avdiivka (Global Images Ukraine via Getty)
A damaged residential building in Avdiivka (Global Images Ukraine via Getty)

There was no immediate comment from Russia.

Russia started carrying out strikes on Ukraine’s energy, military and transport infrastructure in regions far from the front line in October 2022, six months after Moscow troops failed to take over Kyiv and withdrew to Ukraine’s east and south.

Most of southeastern Ukraine remained under air raid alerts late into the night, with Ukraine’s air force saying that the Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Kirovohrad regions were under threat of Russian ballistic missile attacks.

After blunting Ukraine’s counteroffensive from the summer, Russia is building up its resources for a new stage of the war over the winter, which could involve trying to extend its gains in the east and deal significant blows to the country’s vital infrastructure.

A Ukrainian police officer takes cover in front of a burning building that was hit in a Russian airstrike in Avdiivka (AP)
A Ukrainian police officer takes cover in front of a burning building that was hit in a Russian airstrike in Avdiivka (AP)

Putin seems to be hoping that relentless military pressure, combined with changing Western political dynamics and a global focus on the Israeli-Hamas war, will drain support for Ukraine in the nearly two-year-old war and force Kyiv to yield to Moscow’s demands.

“As far as the Russian leadership is concerned, the confrontation with the West has reached a turning point: The Ukrainian counteroffensive has failed, Russia is more confident than ever, and the cracks in Western solidarity are spreading,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, senior fellow with Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, in a recent analysis.

An aid package for Ukraine has stalled in the US Congress as Republicans insist on linking any more money to US-Mexico border security changes opposed by Democrats. The European Union last week failed to agree on a £43 billion package in financial help that Ukraine desperately needs.

But the financial packages for Ukraine planned in Washington and Brussels are both expected to be pushed through in the New Year.