A Ukrainian drone unit has been striking Russian targets with anti-tank grenades as troops sleep.
The unit has destroyed dozens of vehicles including tanks and command trucks, The Times reported.
Ukrainian forces have had surprising success in using drones to destroy Russian equipment.
An elite Ukrainian drone unit is destroying weaponry of the invading Russian forces as their soldiers sleep, The Times of London reported Friday.
Aerorozvidka, a specialist air-reconnaissance unit within the Ukrainian army, says it has destroyed dozens of “priority targets” including tanks, command trucks, and other vehicles in nighttime raids, the paper reported.
Russian forces stop moving during the night and typically place their tanks among houses in villages where conventional artillery cannot strike them, Yaroslav Honchar, the unit commander based in Kyiv, told the paper.
But the elite drone unit, which has dozens of squads of expert drone pilots, has these stationary vehicles in its cross-hairs.
“We strike at night, when Russians sleep,” Honchar told the paper.
An unnamed Ukrainian soldier told The Times it was “impossible” to see the unit’s drones at night.
“We look specifically for the most valuable truck in the convoy and then we hit it precisely, and we can do it really well with very low collateral damage,” the soldier said. “Even in the villages, it’s possible. You can get much closer at night.”
The unit’s arsenal of drones ranges from cheap commercial ones to heavy-duty octocopters that have been modified to drop anti-tank grenades and to see with thermal cameras, according to the paper.
The R18 drone has a 4-kilometer range — about 2½ miles — and its capacity to drop 11-pound bombs is particularly prized by Honchar’s drone warriors, the paper said. The team also uses the PD-1, or Punisher drone, developed by Ukraine, that can carry about 6½ pounds of explosives up to 30 miles away.
Since Russia began its invasion, Ukrainian forces have had success in using drones such as the highly rated Turkish-made Bayraktar TB-2 to destroy the equipment of invading forces, Justin Bronk, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, wrote in The Spectator.
The success of the drones “speaks more to the skill of its Ukrainian operators and the incompetence and operational failures of Russian forces,” Bronk wrote.
Aerorozvidka’s drone unit, which flies up to 300 missions a day, according to The Times, operates using Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite system, which was activated in Ukraine days after Russia invaded.
This means drone teams can operate regardless of internet outages or power failures, which are rampant across the country.
“If we use a drone with thermal vision at night, the drone must connect through Starlink to the artillery guy and create target acquisition,” an Aerorozvidka leader told The Times.
Aerorozvidka uses an advanced NATO-supported intelligence system, Delta, which pulls together information from various sources including satellites and drone reconnaissance to precisely identify targets.
This helps the unit make the most efficient use of its limited supply of bombs, according to The Times.
Aerorozvidka was created by model-plane enthusiasts in 2014 and has since been integrated into the Ukrainian general staff following the success of its operations against Russian forces in Crimea, The Times said.
In recent weeks, supporters from around Europe have been donating drone parts and other equipment such as 3D printers to help build and repair devices damaged by Russian small-arms fire.
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