It’s not something one often sees from usually secretive, stealthy intelligence services: A specialized section of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense has made a public appeal for donations to its project to purchase 1,000 first-person view (FPV) drones for attack missions against Russian forces.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense announced the effort last Friday, saying its Kryla military intelligence division had launched the effort to assemble a fleet of “FPV kamikaze drones.” Funding for the project is being overseen by the “Charity Starlife” organization, which has worked with various Ukraine ministries and groups in support of the nation’s defense against Russia’s nearly yearlong invasion.
Although Ukraine’s deployment of smaller homemade and consumer drones has largely been used for non-combat purposes like situational awareness, intelligence gathering, and medical and humanitarian aid transport, the 1,000 FPV craft Kryla plans on acquiring will be destined for unabashedly increasingly frequent offensive missions.
“This type of drone has become a truly revolutionary means of combat,” the Ministry of Defense’s announcement said. “After all, FPV (First Person View) drones provide an opportunity to collect invaluable intelligence information and are literally used as sniper weapons from a distance of up to 10 kilometers.
“The installed cameras and modern means of communication allow the operator to control the aircraft in ‘real time’ while remaining at a safe distance,” it added. “This helps preserve the lives of our Defenders and effectively destroy enemy equipment and personnel.”
Video footage has circulated in recent months of Ukraine pilots using FPV racing drones rigged with explosives to swoop through the open doors of Russian military vehicles or into houses where invading forces were billeting. But Kryla’s move to organize that activity on a much wider basis suggests an escalation in the use of UAVs for aerial attacks on both sides.
Russia has been launching Iran-built Shahed loitering UAVs in strikes on Ukraine cities for several months, and unleashed a brutal wave of those in the run up to and weeks since New Year’s Eve. In response to that, Ukraine has warned it is preparing to introduce similar craft produced in the country give itself weaponry beyond its usually defensive deployment of smaller craft thus far.
“The next stage, now that we are more or less equipped with reconnaissance drones, is strike drones,” said Ukraine Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov, referring to the 1,617 smaller consumer and enterprise UAVs the country has acquired in its Army of Drones campaign. “I can say already that the situation regarding drones will change drastically in February or March.”
That Ukraine government program is apparently independent of the FPV drones the Defense Ministry’s Kryla unit wants to buy – presumably from foreign manufacturers – to use in strikes against Russian forces.
“We are talking there about drones, UAVs, UAVs that we are developing in Ukraine,” Fedorov said of the previously revealed attack drone production. “It will be the next step in the development of technologies.”
And another serious threat to the troops Moscow deployed 11 long months ago for an invasion officials thought would be over in days.