In Ukraine, the decisive drone war

In Ukraine, the decisive drone war

ReportageIndispensable to the artillerymen to make it possible to locate the enemy targets or to carry out reconnaissance missions, several models, Ukrainian and Russian, clash.

Will the outcome of the Russian-Ukrainian war be decided in heaven? On both sides, drones are playing a crucial role in the clash taking place on Ukrainian territory.

It was a drone that enabled Ukraine, for the first time, to carry out a deep strike on Russian territory. On June 22, a Ukrainian-made PD-2 suicide bomber crashed into the Novochakhtinsk refinery, located in the Rostov region, 160 kilometers from Ukrainian lines. A video of the incident, filmed by a refinery employee stunned by the violence of the explosion, testifies to the success of the operation. Until then, in-depth attacks on the opposing territory were the prerogative of the Russian side, which has already fired several thousand very long-range cruise and ballistic missiles in four months, capable of hitting any point on Ukrainian territory.

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Conversely, tiny drones are used for surgical strikes, such as these civilian quadricopters flying at an altitude of less than 500 meters, and which drop grenades in the middle of the trenches.

To the south, where the Russian army occupies the Kherson regionthe front remains essentially static and the fighting is characterized by artillery duels. “Drones are the eyes of the gunner”explain to World Mikhaïlo Elisseïev, 32, commander of a group of operators based about forty kilometers south of the city of Kryvyi Rih. “It’s true on both sides. I won’t go so far as to say that drones are decisive in the artillery duel, but they greatly simplify the work of reconnaissance; it is done much faster, the risk of losing men in such missions is reduced, they offer a considerable saving of resources”, he specifies.

Extremely difficult to detect, even for radar

This tall, taciturn-looking sergeant speaks under the shade of a lime tree on the main street of a village less than 10 kilometers from the Russian lines – a village whose Ukrainian officer asked the World to withhold the name, for security reasons. Explosions sound frequently and clouds of dust are visible in the distance. Mikhaïlo Elisseïev weighs his every word: he is afraid of being called to order by his superiors and of letting in information that could be useful to the Russian army.

Mikhaïlo Eliseyev, junior sergeant and commander of drone operators, on a front south of Kryvyi Rih, about 4 km from Russian positions, in Kherson Oblast, Ukraine, June 21, 2022.

“In this area, we have an advantage over the enemy in the number of drones. It is thanks to the fact that we receive a lot of them, provided by civilian volunteers, or even bought by the soldiers themselves. The Russians only have drones delivered by their army. We are better equipped and we have a better view of the enemy. » Here as everywhere else on the 900 kilometers of the front, the Russian army largely dominates in quantity of soldiers, pieces of artillery and ammunition.

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