Inside Ukraine’s efforts to bring a ‘drone army’ to war against Russia | ET REALITY


Ukraine is training thousands of drone pilots and ramping up its drone production to bring a “drone army” to the front of its counteroffensive against Russia, Ukrainian military officials and manufacturers told ABC News in rare interviews on the secret program.

From November to May, Ukraine has trained 10,000 drone pilots and another 10,000 pilots are currently being trained, according to Ukraine’s Digital Transformation Minister Mykhailo Fedorov.

“I want to use all available means to destroy the enemy and achieve victory. The Armed Forces of Ukraine receive a lot of support from our Western partners, but we also have to develop our own technologies and use them on a scale never before seen in any other country.” . conflicts,” said one drone pilot. The name of the pilot and the location of the facility are being withheld for security reasons.

For the Armed Forces of Ukraine, drone warfare is already proving indispensable on the battlefield.

Some drones spy on Russian positions, identifying targets that are then hit by artillery and mortar fire. Others include attacking drones, dropping ammunition or explosions on impact, killing Russian soldiers hiding in trenches, blowing up tanks on the front lines, attacking artillery pieces hidden in tree lines, and hitting ammunition stockpiles and key supply lines. .

PHOTO: A Ukrainian soldier carries a reconnaissance drone on his shoulder.

A Ukrainian soldier carries a reconnaissance drone on his shoulder.

ABC News

A year ago, there were only seven drone manufacturers in Ukraine. Today there are at least 80, according to Dmytro Kovalchuk, CEO of drone maker Warbird.

Kovalchuk embodies the entrepreneurial spirit driving this quiet revolution. In one year, he says he went from making just three drones a month to making 150.

“In Ukraine, not a single state-owned company produces drones. They are all private companies, sometimes partnerships,” Kovalchuk told ABC News.

“It costs $1,000 and can destroy a tank that costs $500,000. We are talking about the development of a drone army,” Kovalchuk said.

Skyeton is one of the most advanced manufacturers of unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs. Its Raybird reconnaissance drone costs more than $1 million and can fly for more than 30 hours at an altitude of more than 16,000 feet, transmitting high-quality real-time images of enemy positions deep in Russian territory.

Oleksandr Stepura, founder and president of Skyeton, says that unmanned aerial vehicles must be able to prioritize and identify targets.

“For us, tanks are not reconnaissance or impact objects. For us, they are warfare systems, artillery systems, air defense systems of the other side. So this is the object that we would like to recognize and destroy.” Stepura said.

The Raybird already has basic artificial intelligence built in, but developers are looking for a new generation that could totally transform warfare, Stepura said.

“(The) manned aircraft era, in Air Force terms, completely ended with this war,” Stepura said. “This war showed that having a person inside the flying bird has no reason to do it, it makes no sense. The pilot has no time to think, ever. Only milliseconds. And any machine will do it better than people… and more faster and with greater precision.”

This new drone army is taking the war to the heart of Russia in Moscow, showing Putin and the Russians that their homeland is no longer immune to war and that Ukraine has new, longer-range drone capabilities.

PHOTO: A man works on drone parts in Ukraine.

A man works on drone parts in Ukraine.

ABC News

ABC News obtained an image of the drone used in the latest attacks in Moscow: a long-range Bober UAV.

A drone developer with deep knowledge of this top-secret program agreed to speak to ABC News anonymously.

When asked about the psychological impact of the ability to attack inside Moscow or in Russian territorial waters, the developer said: “It’s very important for us. We show them that two can play this game. It’s very important for the Russians to know that we too “We have weapons. We can also attack them.”

“The more drones are produced, the more attacks will be carried out,” the developer said.

“My understanding of what the objectives are is to have the ability to attack all strategic aviation airfields, to push back strategic aviation capable of launching missiles,” the developer said.

It is not only about airfields and aviation, but also warships at sea. A new generation of maritime drones burst onto the scene with two recent attacks.

In July, a Russian warship was attacked within its own territorial waters by a drone carrying nearly 1,000 pounds of explosives. The next day there was an attack on an oil tanker supplying Russian troops.

Ukraine has not admitted to carrying out these particular attacks, but intelligence officials now tell ABC News that drones are being used to attack Russia in the Black Sea.

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