Ukraine buys 1,400 ‘reconnaissance’ drones, plans to develop combat models: minister – National

Ukraine has bought about 1,400 drones, mostly for reconnaissance, and plans to develop combat models capable of attacking explosive drones used by Russia during its invasion of the country, according to Ukraine’s technology minister.

In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Digital Transformation Minister Mykhailo Fedorov described Russia’s war in Ukraine as the first major war of the internet age. He credited drones and satellite internet systems like Elon Musk’s Starlink with transforming the conflict.

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Ukraine has bought drones like the Fly Eye, a small one used for intelligence, battlefield surveillance and reconnaissance.

“And the next step, now that we are more or less equipped with reconnaissance drones, is attack drones,” Federov said. “They are explosive drones and drones that fly from 3 to 10 kilometers and hit targets.”

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He predicted “more strike drone missions” in the future, but gave no details. “We are talking about drones, drones, drones that we are developing in Ukraine. Well, anyway, this will be the next step in the development of technologies,” he said.

Russian authorities have claimed several Ukrainian drone attacks on their military bases in recent weeks, including one on Monday in which Russian forces are said to have shot down a drone that was approaching the Engels air base, located more than 600 kilometers away ( more than 370 miles) from the Ukrainian border. .

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The Russian military said the debris killed three servicemen, but no aircraft were damaged. The base is home to the nuclear-capable Tu-95 and Tu-160 strategic bombers that have been involved in launching attacks against Ukraine.

Ukrainian authorities have never officially acknowledged carrying out such drone strikes, but they have made cryptic allusions to how Russia can expect retaliation for its war in Ukraine, including on Russian territory.

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Ukraine is conducting research and development on drones that can counter and shoot down other drones, Federov said. Russia has used Iranian-made Shahed drones for its air strikes on Ukrainian territory in recent weeks, in addition to rocket, cruise missile and artillery strikes.

“I can already tell that the drone situation will change dramatically in February or March,” he said.

Federov sat down for an interview in his bright, modern office. Located inside a ministerial building, the room contained a vinyl record player, storybooks stacked on shelves, and a treadmill.

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The minister highlighted the importance of mobile communications for civil and military purposes during the war and said that the most difficult places to maintain service are the regions of Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Odessa and Kiev, in the center and east of the country.

He said there are times when less than half of the cell phone towers are working in the capital, Kyiv, because Russian airstrikes have destroyed or damaged the infrastructure that feeds them.

Ukraine has about 30,000 mobile phone towers, and the government is now trying to hook them up to generators so they can keep working when airstrikes damage the power grid.

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The only alternative, for now, are satellite systems like Starlink, which Ukrainians can rely on more if the blackouts start to last longer.

“We have to understand that, in this case, the Starlinks and the towers, connected to the generators, will be the basic infrastructure of the internet”, said Federov.

Many cities and towns are experiencing power outages that can last up to 10 hours. Fedorov said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a decree ordering mobile phone companies to ensure they can provide signals without electricity for at least three days.

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Meanwhile, with the support of European Union partners, his ministry is working to bring an additional 10,000 Starlink stations to Ukraine, with internet service available to the public through hundreds of “invincibility hotspots” offering hot drinks, heated spaces, electricity and shelter. for people displaced by fighting or power cuts.

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Around 24,000 Starlink stations are already in operation in Ukraine. Musk’s company, SpaceX, began supplying them early in the war after Fedorov tweeted a request to the billionaire.

“I got on my knees, begging them to start working in Ukraine, and promised them that we would set a world record,” he recalls.

Federov compared SpaceX’s donation of satellite terminals to the multiple rocket launchers provided by the United States in terms of their importance to Ukraine’s ability to mount a defense against an invasion of Russia.

“Thousands of lives have been saved,” he said.

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In addition to civilian applications, Starlink has helped frontline reconnaissance drone operators direct artillery strikes against Russian assets and positions. Federov said his staff now spends 70% of their time on military technologies. The ministry was created just three years ago.

Equipping the army with drones is one of your main missions.

“We have to do more than what is expected of us, and progress does not wait,” Federov said, mocking Russia’s drone skills. “I don’t believe in its technological potential at all.”

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