Ukraine’s information war against Russia during its current counter offensive now includes dramatized video of dive bombing drones.
On Thursday, the YouTube channel for the Security Service of Ukraine — AKA the SBU, the country’s intelligence and security agency — released a video showcasing special operations in which drone pilots slam their unmanned aerial devices into Russian vehicles, soldiers, as well as other drones. (Content warning: the videos are not necessarily graphic in nature but they do imply violence and the potential for bodily harm).
The SBU said these so-called “kamikaze drones,” invoking the Japanese suicide bombing tactic of WWII, were conducted by the Special Operations Centre’s special forces “Alpha” group. One sliver of video shows a drone targeting an armoured vehicle. Another drone angles down toward what’s apparently a Russian truck while a soldier dives through the door. The SBU said these drones contain an explosive payload meant to detonate on impact.
The ongoing war in Ukraine has seen one of the most massive deployments of active drone warfare in modern history. Photos from late last year show Russia has also made use of so-called “suicide drones.” Other than these videos of smaller drone attacks, Ukrainian agencies has shared multiple videos of unmanned aerial vehicle air-to-ground attacks, mostly from a relatively cheap Turkish-made drone, the Bayraktar TB2 UAV. Ukraine has been more than happy to spread videos of Bayraktar drone strikes on social media.
More than that, Ukraine has made heavy use of much smaller, commercial drones to conduct wartime surveillance, and as is now more clear, attack Russian targets. As noted by Business Insider, a report from the UK-based think tank Royal United Services Institute claims Ukraine uses up approximately 10,000 drones a months, thanks in part to Russia’s anti-drone systems. The Ukrainian military had previously been using SpaceX’s Starlink system for drone control, though the company’s CEO Elon Musk has worked to limit military use of its satellite-based internet services.
Ukraine has heavily depended on drone operations for its ongoing war against Russia, including in their normal surveillance and air-to-ground attack capacity. However, the Ukrainian military seems to be increasingly reliant on the physical use of drones to ram targets. This past week, Ukraine claimed it used a sea drone to attack a Russian warship in the Black Sea. While Russia claims it foiled that attack, Ukraine state-owned broadcasters claimed the drone attack damaged the vessel. Video of the attack shown by BBC cuts out just before impact.
The difficult part of covering any operation in Ukraine is that both sides are waging massive PR campaigns online. Earlier this month, Russia claims a single drone that burst into flames on the top dome of the Kremlin in Moscow was an attempt on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s life.
Drone warfare is evolving, and it seems a new, effective tactic around diving unmanned aerial devices is becoming more ubiquitous. The U.S. is reportedly working on creating programs for flocks of AI-driven drones that could overwhelm air defences or attack ground targets. These drones could also pack explosives or munitions, and experts have said that the war in Ukraine has led to further weaponization of semi-autonomous vehicles.
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