Drone warfare has become front page news. Ukraine drones recently attempted a strike on the Kremlin. Last week a drone attack in Russia set large oil depots ablaze. Video of a Reaper drone being harassed by Russian fighter pilots was also recently prominent in the news cycle. Many people are interested in knowing more about military drones around the world. Hopefully, you will find this article interesting as we highlight drones that are being featured on the battlefield.
Switchblade drones made by Aerovironment have proven very effective in the Ukraine conflict. It is a popular choice because it is designed to be easy to carry. The drone is fired out of a tube that can be carried in a backpack. Soldiers can easily deploy the projectile from the tube where it can automatically seek out and attack the target. These drones are especially useful for combat in difficult terrains. For example, a soldier can launch an attack while in a protected position, such as hidden on a mountain. The design will only get more sophisticated, allowing for more options than the current design. Currently, the system operator can alter the strike path mid-flight, but soon might have more capabilities to change targets.
Switchblade drones have been labeled “Kamikaze drones.” They are intended to seek out the target and then strike. They are designed to be destructed on impact, the cost of each drone is around $6,000. Other countries around the world have been developing similarly designed munitions, these basic drones are proving difficult to defend against. The cheap cost of manufacture when compared to larger drones, which can cost millions, is appealing to militaries around the world. Reverse engineering is leading to similar designs being deployed globally.
China has answered the demand for Kamikaze drones, by developing the ZT-180 drone. China hopes to supply to Russia with the design by the hundreds. Experts say that this drone is similar to the Shahed 136 drone and Shahed 131 drones manufactured by Iran. Not much is known about the ZT-180 as of yet, but downed Iranian craft have revealed that the drones rely on American and European Union components to operate. Not much can be done to stop the proliferation of cheap drones unto the battlefield.
Even regular DJI consumer drones are being used on the battlefield for everything from reconnaissance to attacks. Modifications to the drones allow for both sides of the conflict to strap small explosives to the drones. The inexpensive nature of these drones is what is driving the demand, for under $2,000 a lot of damage could be done. When these drones operate together like a unit creating a swarm, the damage can be extensive. The drones are difficult to defend against. Conventional warfare has undergone a dramatic change due to the rise of drones, particularly the implementation in the Ukraine Russia conflict.
Large craft like the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drone will continue to be useful on the battlefield. However, militaries have shifted their strategies to focusing more on smaller craft due to lower costs. These Turkish drones are designed to operate like the Reaper and Predator drones, but are a cheaper alternative. Since their introduction in 2016, the Bayraktar drones have proven very popular, but at $5 million to start the drones are not cheap.
The USAF has recently demonstrated the importance of the Reaper drone by demonstrating a landing on a highway, The military wants to be prepared to land the craft in whatever improvised environment necessary. To stay ahead, militaries around the world need to constantly evolve their strategies. This will lead to more and more technology on the battlefield.
It seems that drone fleets of different sizes and different purposes would be beneficial. The military needs to be capable of meeting whatever unique challenges adversaries bring. Different countries are reverse engineering drones to find out for themselves how to make their own designs better. The race is on to find the perfect flying machine and the money being spent is attracting the manufacturers who are ready to deliver. This is true throughout the world.