Are We on the Verge of the First Drone War in the Russia-Ukraine Conflict

Drones are getting a prominent role in modern warfare – and they will be even more important in future conflicts.
Sukhoi_Okhotnik-B drone

Drones are crucial elements in all wars right now. But they’re still a destructive threat that goes unnoticed. Drones represent a modern way of fighting with fewer troops, almost without the requirement for direct aircraft support, and can use short roads as improvised airfields.

This new war strategy significantly reduces the costs of war while inflicting damage to enemies without even putting troops at risk. In the war between Russia and Ukraine, several battles will conceivably be drone vs. drone – and above all, they will pose a great danger to Ukrainian and Russian aircraft, and particularly to lightly armored vehicles and tanks.

What makes drones so prevalent in today’s armed forces? How have they been used recently? And what are their prospects? 

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Drones significantly reduce risk and increase damage

Gelios RLD drone on MAKS 2021 airshow.jpg
“Gelios-RLD” fight drone by Kirill Borisenko under CC BY-SA 4.0

With drones, the human risk is considerably lower for the attacking force seated in front of a screen in a location far removed from the battlefield. From there, with a latency of slightly more than a second, the operator presses the buttons on his joystick to launch the missiles at targets, much like in a video game.

This makes warfare simpler since it’s feasible to attack chosen targets without mass mobilization of troops and equipment. In many instances, the only troops on the ground are units that discover or secure potential targets.

For this reason, the use of drones can only grow on global battlefields as its effectiveness is unmatched and keeps troops safe.

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Drones are incredible effective weapons

MQ 9 Reaper
MQ-9 Reaper by Airman Haley Steve

In the Syrian Civil War, Turkey deployed its drones to bomb Al Assad’s military forces, which quickly overwhelmed Syrian defenses.

Likewise, the US has been operating drones in recent years, for instance in Iran, where the American drones have already carried out long-range operations, including the death of General Soleimani.

Also, in Nagorno-Karabakh, the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan employed an extensive range of Turkish drones, and the effect on the obsolete Armenian defenses was devastating.

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In this war, Azerbaijan employed drones with a new tactic called loitering. This technique involves using small drones, which are launched as kamikazes against enemy targets… and Armenia had little in form of defense against so swarms of drones attacking at the same time.

Russia is developing advanced drones too

Reconnaissance and combat drone “Grom” by Kirill Borisenko under CC BY-SA 4.0

Russia recently launched its latest creation: the Grom. A drone that guides a squadron of attack drones consisting of 10 small units that work like kamikaze drones. In addition to kamikaze drones, Grom will use X-38s, short-range supersonic modular missiles against ground targets.

The use of drones raises numerous ethical questions and completely changes the rules of warfare. One army can attack from thousands of miles/kilometers away. The operators of these weapons are specialists located in safe places, which makes new battles asymmetrical, with hundreds of losses for one nation, including civilians, and no military personnel at risk for the other. 

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Drones are changing warfare

From now on, the use of drones will only increase on the battlefields, and fights between troops will take second place with the use of drones. If an army does not have anti-aircraft defense, it will definitely be one more victim of drones.

This trend is only becoming more pronounced in recent wars. Drones are getting more and more lethal in their attacks and effectiveness, especially against enemy artillery and tank troops.

War has altered technology, and now technology is changing warfare.

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Featured image credit: Sukhoi Okhotnik-B by Geektrooper2 under CC BY-SA 4.0