Ukraine losing 10,000 UAV drones a month as it battles Russia, report says

Watch: Ukrainian soldiers using modified civilian drones to carry explosives.

Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) losses remain at "approximately 10,000 per month", according to a new report by a British think tank.

In the latest Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) report, Meatgrinder: Russian Tactics in the Second Year of Its Invasion of Ukraine, it has analysed the command and control, air defences and other areas, as well as detailing how Russia's electronic warfare systems and counter-drone weapons are downing 10,000 aerial drones each month.

These approximate figures appear to highlight the continued high reliance on drone warfare on both sides with no sign of it slowing down.

It is not clear in the report how many of the drones are being destroyed or disabled in specific months, but the approximate average highlights that Ukraine appears not to be running out just yet in its supply.

Last year, Star Wars actor Mark Hamill was recruited by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to help fundraise for his country's military efforts.

Mark Hamill Honored to be an Ambassador for the Army of Drones and to help President Zelensky and Ukraine 29092022 CREDIT Mark Hamill Twitter.jpg_.jpg
Star Wars actor Mark Hamill said he was "honoured to be an ambassador" for the army of drones and "to help President Zelensky and the people of Ukraine in any way possible" (Picture: Mark Hamill Twitter).

Mr Hamill said he was "honoured" to take on the role of ambassador for the United24 platform – the Drone Army, a project set up by the Ukrainian government to procure unmanned drones to assist the war effort.

Ukraine has frequently displayed its success at fundraising and gathering donations of drones, with social media acting as a key platform where they have been displaying their gratitude.

The high losses reported by the RUSI report are not all military-grade drones – as well as UAVs, Ukraine frequently operates commercial drones.

Some are being used for reconnaissance purposes whilst others are modified for combat roles.

This month, operational news of the Ukraine armed forces posted footage of soldiers giving "gratitude" to the subscribers of the Operative ZSU telegram channel who, according to a post on Twitter, purchased a Mavik drone for them.

The soldiers said it "will work with resets and increase the number of dead junk on our land. It will also help to get to Melitopol faster. Glory to Ukraine! Glory to heroes!"

Russian electronic warfare

The think tank report highlighted that "Russian fires represent the greatest challenge to Ukrainian offensive operations. Russian artillery is also increasingly relying on loitering munitions for counterbattery fires".

According to the report, a leading contributor in the downing of the Ukrainian UAVs is Russian electronic warfare (EW) remaining "potent", "with an approximate distribution of at least one major system covering each 10 km of front".

"These systems are heavily weighted towards the defeat of UAVs and tend not to try and deconflict their effects," the report added.

"Ukrainian UAV losses remain at approximately 10,000 per month.

"Russian EW is also apparently achieving real-time interception and decryption of Ukrainian Motorola 256-bit encrypted tactical communications systems, which are widely employed by the Armed Forces of Ukraine."

Watch: Is the Ukraine war changing the future of drone warfare?

The RUSI report also examined how the Russian military appears to be adapting and attempting to make up for their own shortcoming as fighting continues in Ukraine. 

According to the report: "Russian infantry tactics have shifted from trying to deploy uniform Battalion Tactical Groups as combined arms units of action to a stratified division by function into line, assault, specialised and disposable troops.

"Disposable infantry are used for continuous skirmishing to either identify Ukrainian firing positions, which are then targeted by specialised infantry, or to find weak points in Ukrainian defences to be prioritised for assault.

"Casualties are very unevenly distributed across these functions."

The report highlighted that the "foremost weakness" across Russian infantry units is "low morale, which leads to poor unit cohesion and inter-unit co-operation".

Watch: Why has the war in Ukraine seen a return of trench warfare?

The report states that Russian engineering "has proven to be one of the stronger branches of the Russian military".

"Russian engineers have been constructing complex obstacles and field fortifications across the front.

"This includes concrete reinforced trenches and command bunkers, wire entanglements, hedgehogs, anti-tank ditches, and complex minefields.

"Russian mine laying is extensive and mixes anti-tank and victim-initiated anti-personnel mines, the latter frequently being laid with multiple initiation mechanisms to complicate breaching."

The RUSI report also stressed that "these defences pose a major tactical challenge to Ukrainian offensive operations".

Russian adaptation

An overview of Russian adaptation, according to the report, "reveals a force that is able to improve and evolve its employment of key systems".

"There is evidence of a centralised process for identifying shortcomings in employment and the development of mitigations."

However, the report also states that "much of this adaptation is reactive and is aimed at making up for serious deficiencies in Russian units".

"The result is a structure that becomes better over time at managing the problems it immediately faces, but also one that struggles to anticipate new threats," it goes on to say.

"The conclusion, therefore, is that the Russian Armed Forces pose a significant challenge for the Ukrainian military on the defence."

According to RUSI: "If Ukraine can disrupt Russian defences and impose a dynamic situation on them, Russian units are likely to rapidly lose their co-ordination".

They highlighted that changes in the air combat environment, for example, "have led rapidly to incidents of Russian fratricide (firing on themselves)".

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