Espreso. Global

Russian reconnaissance UAVs in Ukraine: how to counter them?

4 July, 2024 Thursday
16:54

In recent weeks, the Russian occupation forces have launched regular missile strikes against airfields and logistics of the Ukrainian Defense Forces in Ukraine's rear areas. These attacks have often been accompanied by enemy reconnaissance UAVs, creating problems not only on the front line but also deep into Ukraine's territory

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Ukrainian military observer Oleksandr Kovalenko and the Information Resistance group have looked into how this became possible and how to counter Russian reconnaissance drones in Ukraine's skies.

Russian reconnaissance drones

Russian forces use drones like the Orlan-10 for control and reconnaissance in Ukraine's rear zones. This drone operates at altitudes of 5-6 kilometers and can fly 120 km controlled and up to 600 km autonomously. The Orlan-10 is mostly made up of foreign components, including a Japanese SAITO engine, a Texas Instruments starter-generator, and various sensors and transmitters from international companies.

Other drones used by Russian forces include ZALA, SuperCam, and Kartograph, which have similar capabilities. Most of these drones are also assembled from foreign parts.

Methods of counteraction

To counter the reconnaissance activities of Russian UAVs, short- and medium-range air defense systems are essential. Mobile interception groups have proven effective against lower-flying Shahed-136 drones, but are less effective against drones flying at altitudes of 5 kilometers, such as Orlan-10.

Air defense systems

Ukraine faces a shortage of short- and medium-range air defense systems. While there is much discussion about Patriot and SAMP/T SAMs, there is little focus on systems like Crotal or Alvis Stormer SAMs, or older models like Roland or MIM-72A/M48 Chaparral SAMs. Additionally, Soviet-era SAM models and their missiles are dwindling.

Light aviation

Light aircraft, such as the Yak-52, have been used to counter UAVs. These aircraft can be effective, especially in regions like Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia, and Poltava, but their use is limited by proximity to enemy aviation or air defense.

Hunter drones

Cheap FPV-drones designed to destroy reconnaissance drones could provide a good alternative where air defense systems and light aviation are limited.

Electronic warfare systems

Electronic warfare systems have effectively neutralized Russian reconnaissance UAVs by jamming their signals. Ukraine has several capable systems, including "Bukovel-AD," "Bukovel-AD R4," "Tritel," and R-330KV1M. However, production has not kept pace with demand, necessitating regular requests from partners to build a robust electronic warfare capability.

Addressing current situation

The ability of Russian forces to operate their reconnaissance UAVs is partly due to Ukraine's past inaction. Ukraine has been slow to acquire light aircraft and develop electronic warfare systems. Now, efforts are focused on compensating for losses and ensuring coverage along the battle lines and in rear areas.

To stay ahead, Ukraine must pursue an integrated approach, utilizing all available means to counter the threat of enemy reconnaissance UAVs and continuously seek support from international partners for necessary defense systems and innovations.

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