Among the large number of heroes in the Ukraine’s determination to repel invading Russian armed forces is a mid-size, locally made drone known as the Punisher – something of a weaponized step-up vehicle from consumer craft to the formidable Turkish-built Bayraktar TB2 UAVs also being flown in the country’s defense. As Team Putin might woefully attest, the pint-size Punisher has been living up to its name.
The punitive UAV is built by Ukrainian company UA Dynamics, which describes the vehicle as “reusable, fast, unexpected, precise, lethal.” The firm’s specs say the Punisher has a 4.4-pound “combat payload,” 29-mile strike range, and 39 knots cruising speed. According to UA Dynamics officials cited in various press reports, the Punisher has carried out at least 60 successful drone missions against Russian armed forces since they began their invasion – several with considerably outsize effects.
The craft are described as having a 7.5-foot wingspan, and capacities to fly at 1,300-foot altitudes for missions of up to three hours long. That small size allows the UAV to get deep behind enemy lines with little risk of detection before or during strikes, then return for super-fast seven-minute redeployment servicing. That mix has reportedly allowed Punisher drones to furtively attack supply lines supporting Russian forces, strike trains transporting fuel to troops, and blast munition reserves.
As such, those UAVs have served as a bridge between the larger, fully militarized Bayraktar TB2 drones, and consumer craft that have been deployed in large numbers – and flowing in from foreign donors – in surveillance support of the Ukraine Army battling advancing Russian troops.
Once aloft, the Punisher relies on an accompanying Spectre drone that performs reconnaissance work and identifies Russian targets to be struck. Once supplied with the designated coordinates, the Punisher lets fly with a single shot of its payload, or in three smaller charges fired on different objectives.
According to an article in the Israeli daily Haaretz, UA Dynamics is the creation of veterans in the fighting against the pro-Moscow break-away territories in eastern Ukraine – now fully occupied by the Russian Army. The particularly brutal nature of that conflict, sometimes pitting family members against each another, convinced the founders the country needed domestically produced weapons adapted to the kinds of hard, merciless, and often sneaky combat that they had experienced against Russia-backed separatists.
“Three-quarters of the company’s employees are veterans with experience in special operations deep in enemy territory,” said Maxim Subbotin, who Haaretz identifies as a “marketing expert and an unofficial spokesman for UA Dynamics” – which the paper says only formally registered as a company this year. “The world hasn’t witnessed a military conflict like ours for 70 years – that’s why we have such unique experience.”
When that piece ran in mid-February, Subbotin declined to say whether the mid-size drone had already been used in combat situations in the east of the country. Since then, once Russian forces had invaded Ukraine and stormed in from three sides, deployment and efficiency of the Predator drone has not only been confirmed, but celebrated across the country as a potential game-changer in the war.