Russia and Ukraine are now fighting a drone war. The US, Germany and now NATO are supplying technology against it.
The Ukraine war has long since become a drone war. In no other military conflict have so many unmanned aerial vehicles of various sizes and capabilities been deployed. Commercial quadrocopters fly as well as small fixed-wing aircraft for reconnaissance. Russia and Ukraine also use drones for their attacks, which completely destroy themselves on impact like guided missiles. Only Ukraine, meanwhile, has larger combat drones in the form of Turkish TB2 drones.
With the unmanned armament, the need for drone defence equipment is also increasing. NATO also wants to support Ukraine in this regard. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said this last week after a meeting of defence ministers in Brussels. They are to help neutralise the Shahed-136 drones.
Kamikaze drones from Iran
According to different sources, Russia may have procured a three-digit number of these kamikaze drones from Iran. They have been in operation for about three weeks, hitting targets in western Ukraine. Allegedly, the Shahed drone is now also being manufactured under licence in Russia under the designation Geran-2. The Russian military also flies the smaller variant Shahed-131 and its own production Zala Lancet.
NATO drone defence is said to involve hundreds of electromagnetic jammers that jam the radio signal used to control the drones. The aircraft then either crash or, as in the case of commercial quadrocopters, slowly sink to the ground.
Stoltenberg did not say what specific technology would be delivered. In Germany, for example, both the military and the police are equipped with jammers for drone defence. These are futuristic-looking devices that resemble a rifle. However, they can only be used to bring smaller drones to the ground.
Confusion of terms
For larger drones, which are reserved for the military alone, much more powerful jammers would be needed. Russia, for example, has such systems with its Pantsir system, which is mounted on trucks. In Syria, in the civil war in Libya, but also during Azerbaijan’s war against Armenia’s Nagorno-Karabakh two years ago, the Pantsir platforms were therefore targeted first by the (in all three cases mostly Turkish) attackers.
The US military has also sent anti-drone weapons to Ukraine as part of its support against the Russian war of aggression. The latest pledges are said to include a combination of three systems that can also be used against larger drones such as the Iranian Shahed-136. The pick-up-mounted system, called Vampire, consists of a jammer, an infrared camera and a missile launcher.
The German Ministry of Defence had also announced a few weeks ago that it would support Ukraine with drone defence. However, it is not clear from its list which technology is to be supplied. The list consists of a jumble of terms, including seven „jammers“, ten „anti-drone guns“, a total of 12 „electronic drone defence devices“, 14 „drone defence sensors and jammers“ and two Humvee vehicles on which „jammers/drone carriers“ are mounted.
Image: A German „rifle“ for drone defence (Bundeswehr).