Ukraine is doubling down on its deployment of drones in its efforts to oust invading Russian forces, pledging nearly half a billion dollars’ worth of spending for the production and procurement of UAVs – many to be made by domestic companies.
Given the critical, albeit unexpected role both military and consumer drones have played in allowing Ukraine to resist a nearly year-long invasion that Moscow strategists thought would be over in just days, the $541 million 2023 budget for UAVs shouldn’t be surprising. That commitment was initially revealed by the country’s Defense Ministry in a social media post, saying it aimed to meet “the needs and requests of the Ukrainian army.”
Read: Ukraine’s Army of Drones expands pilot training as UAV fleets grow
Despite the abundance of foreign-made drones that have poured into Ukraine by supporters from abroad since Russia invaded last February 24, the funding announcement noted moves are already afoot to ensure a portion of new UAVs covered by the spending are produced by domestic companies. To that end, it said 16 contracts had already been signed between government agencies and local manufacturers, and a total of 75 bids have been made by Ukrainian firms seeking security clearance and production approval of new craft for the military.
The announcement also said considerable effort had been made by officials to fluidify that vetting and authorization process, “which used to last one and a half to two years, and now takes a few weeks.”
In addition to increasing the supply and speeding the flow of drones to Ukraine’s forces, the new UAV spending is partly designed to avert what Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov warned earlier this month could be the loss of national security independence in becoming entirely dependent on material supplied by foreign allies.
“I fiercely support the Ukrainian military-industrial complex and I’m ready to do everything that depends on me for it ,” he said earlier this month in urging the nation to provide for itself despite wartime privations. “That’s why we have to produce everything: guns, shells, tanks, planes, missiles, etc.”
If Reznikov forgot UAVs on the list of supplies the nation’s defense needs more of, his governmental colleagues have not.
Earlier this year Ukraine officials noted that over 1,700 UAVs had been bought under the country’s ongoing Army of Drones fundraising campaign, while others revealed the launch of a new military program to produce specialized first-person view drones for use in explosive strikes on Russian targets.
Read more: Ukraine seeks 1,000 ‘FPV kamikaze drones’ in new funding drive
In an unrelated development, Ukraine mining company Metivest said it has contributed 100 DJI Mavic 3 drones to specialized aerial units as part of a $270,000 contribution to the national defense effort to which it previously supplied more than 1,100 UAVs.
In comments to the Urkinform site about the $541 million budget for new drone procurement, Ukraine’s Commander of the Joint Forces, Lieutenant General Serhiy Naiev, explained why a new influx of UAVs would be vital to thwarting another Russian offensive this spring – and turning that into an opportunity to counterattack.
“From the air, it is possible to monitor the enemy’s positions well, identify, as they say in the military, ‘fat’ targets, on which fire damage must be inflicted immediately, transmitting this information to our fire damage capabilities,” he said. “In this way, the mass use of (uncrewed) aerial vehicles will allow us to advance more quickly during offensive action, as well as significantly reduce the enemy combat potential and completely force them to refrain from offensive moves in certain directions… We protect the lives of our soldiers and destroy the enemy at ranges available to us.”