Espreso. Global

Transfer of French fighters, US aid package, Ukrainian FPV drone production. Weekly military results by Serhiy Zgurets

8 June, 2024 Saturday

This week's recap includes French President Emmanuel Macron's promise to give Ukraine Mirage fighter jets, the US military aid package, and the production and use of Ukrainian FPV drones on the battlefield


France plans to transfer Mirage 2000-5 to Ukraine

French President Macron has announced plans to provide Ukraine with Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets. According to him, the modernized Mirage will allow Ukraine to protect its territory and airspace. Ukrainian pilots and technicians will be trained in France, which will last until the end of the year and will take only 5 months, which is very fast. The French president has not yet named the exact number of fighters, but we know that the French have 27 single-seaters and several more two-seaters that can also be used for training. In addition, we know that Macron promised to train 4,500 Ukrainian soldiers in France - that's actually one full-fledged brigade - and confirmed his readiness to send French military instructors to Ukraine, but it's not about training soldiers in the combat zone, Macron said.

Let's get back to the airplanes. So, it seems that the Ukrainian Air Force will fly not only F-16s, but also Mirage 2000-5s. What is this aircraft? It is a fourth-generation fighter that has undergone a number of modernizations and can perform air defense missions, strike ground targets with guided and unguided weapons. However, it will be difficult for it to drive away Russian tactical aircraft, as the Mirage has radar and missiles that are still significantly inferior to those of the Su-35 with its locators and weapons. Nevertheless, the Mirage can effectively hunt down Russian cruise missiles and Shaheds, and it can strike with long-range bombs, such as the Hammer bombs we will receive from France. Most importantly, this aircraft can carry SCALP and Storm Shadow cruise missiles and hit enemy targets at a distance of up to 300 km.

By the way, F-16s cannot do this because they are not adapted for these missiles. So, the French fighters can be seen as a certain enhancement of Ukrainian Air Force capabilities. However, I would say that having two types of light fighters does not really look optimal in terms of logistics, differences in arsenals, and the entire training cycle.

By the way, I have not seen any comments from the Air Force, although at one time Commander Oleshchuk said that Mirage 2000-5 could be used to form one squadron, which would consist of 12 aircraft that would perform the same function as Su-24Ms used to launch SCALP and Storm Shadow cruise missiles. In any case, this is an interesting initiative, and we expect these aircraft to appear in the skies of Ukraine and destroy the Russian enemy.

US aid package

At the same time, a new military aid package from the United States was announced. The package is extremely interesting, first of all, its volume - $225 million - seems to be a small amount, but the content of the package clearly meets the needs of Ukrainian military on the battlefield. This includes ammunition for HIMARS, mortar, artillery, and armored vehicles. In particular, it announced the transfer of 200 M113 armored personnel carriers, while the previous package included 400, so now we are actually talking about a total of 600 of these armored personnel carriers, which are extremely necessary to increase the mechanization of Ukraine's new brigades that are being formed.

While Ukraine is waiting for American weapons to arrive on the battlefield as part of a new package, the Defense Forces are actively using FPV drones. The other day, there was hysteria in Russian publics that Ukrainian forces had an advantage over its enemy in the number of drones: four to one, six to one. Russia will now try to ensure some kind of parity or counteract Ukraine's power. War is about the speed of adaptation on the battlefield, and this is what will determine the nature of the fighting.

Production and use of Ukrainian FPV drones

So, next, we will talk about how Ukrainian drones are made, how they are purchased, and how they are updated. Roman Kniazhenko, director of the company that manufactures unmanned aerial systems, emphasized that thermal imaging drones are a novelty on the market

“We have been making thermal imaging drones before, but now since we have proven this technology, we have started making all the drones that were just thermal imaging drones - homing drones. This does not affect the cost much, but I think we will see in the coming months how much it will affect the effectiveness. We also have a different range of models in terms of size, weight, and a range of repeaters and communication systems. We have now started producing flight controllers, speed controllers, and communication systems for drones in thousands of units, and it's great that we can quickly and be the first to introduce new frequencies, which I think will soon be known to both our units and the enemy,” explained Kniazhenko.

According to him, production capacity has increased over the past year. Last fall, Vyriy Drone's 'birds' formed the basis of a course for people's FPVs, and now the company is working on completely different UAVs.

Speaking about the optimization of the procurement procedure, the director of the manufacturer said: “Bad news, unfortunately, there will be no simple solution, there cannot be one, because this is such a global procurement reform of the Ministry of Defense or the Ministry of Digital Transformation. What needs to be changed is more decentralization and speed."

Kniazhenko explained that currently, the decision is made as follows: a signal is sent that certain drones need to be purchased, then the General Staff of the Armed Forces decides on the priority of the need and what it should look like, the formed need is sent to the structures that will purchase it - the Ministry of Digital Transformation or the Ministry of Defense, and then the purchases are made. The procedure is very long and slow, so the frontline does not always get what was relevant at the time of the decision: “I found a drone with the guys near Kostiantynivka, and it was dated six months ago, and they said they had just received it from the leadership - it's a long time and drones are really becoming outdated.”

Vyriy Drone has representatives who travel to the front, talk to the military and see their needs, sometimes they go and test them in combat conditions, but this is not enough, the head of the production explained.

"We are now expanding our customer service department, which will communicate not with buyers but with users, i.e. with the military, and relevance is important here. The bigger the company, the more difficult it will be to keep it up-to-date, because it is very easy to make quick changes in a production facility with two people, it takes one minute, but in a production facility with 50-100 people, it is much more difficult. We try to stay relevant, make up-to-date drones, and move ahead of the curve,” he explained.

According to him, to sell drones to the state, you don't need to make super cool drones, you just need to communicate well with the state, have great lawyers and at least some UAVs, because the person who is involved in procurement must receive expertise from those who use them, but it takes a long time: “Fortunately, this indicator (expertise - ed.) is quite high, but still, in my opinion, it can be improved constantly. If we're talking about a regular 8-inch drone that is assembled at many factories in China, Russia, and Ukraine, I think we have one of the highest efficiency rates there because of the centralization of the process and the workers' skills and motivation.”

Kniazhenko said that the company is currently making major changes to the drone itself, which leads to changes in the technological process and production time, but the efficiency of the UAV is also improving.

"We have plans to fully switch to all homing drones next month. We think this will be a major change on the frontline, it will be perfect homing from different companies, not only ours, it will be our night homing, I hope it will be presented not only in our drones, but most importantly, it is the key to the autonomy of the battlefield. Our main goal is to have no people on our side for the nearest 10 kilometers, and it is clear that no one will be left on their side either,” added the director of the unmanned aerial systems manufacturer.

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