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Podcast: How drones complement but cannot replace artillery in Ukraine’s military strategy

From dropping bombs on Russian positions to evacuating wounded comrades, drones have become an indispensable asset for Ukrainian forces. However, the Russian army also constantly improves in the drone race.
Podcast: How drones complement but cannot replace artillery in Ukraine’s military strategy

How did drones transform the battlefield of the Russo-Ukrainian war? What role do drones play now, and who is ahead – Ukraine or Russia? Find out in the radio program Ukraine 242 with Euromaidan Press journalists Alya Shandra and Bohdan Ben.

Ukraine 242 is a weekly program featuring interviews with experts and key people on the ground in Ukraine and worldwide, responding to events and issues since the Russian invasion hosted by Ursula Ruedenberg. 

Key takeaways: how drones shape the Russo-Ukrainian war

Last February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the creation of a branch of the Ukrainian Armed Forces dedicated specifically to drone warfare. This March, the United Kingdom expanded its commitment to providing the Ukrainian Armed Forces with over 10,000 drones developed in the UK. These directives come after years of the effective grassroots development of drone warfare in Ukraine. To better understand it, Ursula talked with journalists from Euromaidan Press, Alya Shandra, and Bodan Ben.

Never before in any wars have drones been used in the quantity and the ways that they are being used now. Whoever wins in the drone race could very well win in the war. Right now, we’re witnessing the race between Ukraine and Russia to innovate and produce drones faster. And the outcome of this drone race is not clear at all.

FPV drone tactics reshape conventional trench warfare in Russo-Ukrainian War

For example, the developer of the R-18 drone, which is dropping bombs on Russian positions, explained how this developing process constantly changes. As soon as they have improved this drone, it can fly for a few months and attack Russians. But then they will again detect how to use electronic warfare or other means to stop it. And then again, Ukrainian engineers should look for new countermeasures. So it happens on the Russian side.

Meet the R18, Ukraine’s formidable night strike drone transforming the battlefield

Another exciting thing is that the Ukrainian army was the first one to introduce special drone companies in each brigade. One of the commanders of such a company said they are working primarily at night, using night vision devices on the drones. The last time, they hit three tanks and two armored vehicles in one night. And this is not an exception.

Ramping up production is currently one of the biggest challenges for Ukraine. Zelenskyy’s goal of producing one million drones in 2024 is theoretically possible for Ukraine, but it would require more governmental finances and some other conditions, such as cheap loans for manufacturers to buy parts for drones. So far, the government allocated only part of the money due to budget shortages.

Inside Ukraine’s campaign to crush Russia with combat drones

Currently, there are also first cases when soldiers are trying to evacuate wounded comrades using land drones. The Ukrainian Minister of Strategic Industries said these land drones should be another priority for developers this year. These land drones are capable not only of taking wounded from the battlefield but also of bringing some supplies to the front line or land mines without human presence.

The drones can’t replace artillery just because of the weight of the explosives that they carry. Also, artillery can fire on a longer range, especially rocket artillery. The drones don’t have this capacity, and therefore, they shouldn’t be overestimated. Artillery shells remain a must-have for the Ukrainian Armed Forces to stop Russian offensives. Artillery remains the main firepower of Ukraine’s Armed Forces in the absence of aviation and a sufficient number of long-range missiles.

Expert: Ukraine’s persistent drone strikes could disrupt Russian war machine, trigger fuel deficit

Since 2014, mostly volunteers have provided drones to the Ukrainian army. Since 2022, the government started making centralized efforts in the direction of drone development, production, and supply, and it really ramped up production at the end of 2023, though Russians managed to catch up and, in some cases, surpass Ukrainian production capacity.

Supplies by volunteers remain important, given that the Ukrainian budget is quite limited because of the size of the economy and the scale of the war. The common thing, for example, is that the government gives the infantry company rifles, grenade launchers, mortars, and ammunition. Soldiers, of course, would like to have a sufficient number of off-road vehicles, night vision, and drones, too, to be able to fight more effectively. And they have to look for it themselves, with the help of volunteers and fundraising campaigns. Everyone has relatives in the army and is eager to help them. Eventually, numerous small groups of volunteers emerged, as well as big institutions and big NGOs that are providing help on the battalion level, like the most well-known Come Back Alive Foundation.

“It’s been a very long time since you’ve fought a war in the American territory, isn’t it?” Alya said. “Here, the armed forces are our saviors who are ensuring that we actually get to keep existing as a nation. They are literally the reason that Bohdan and I can talk to you right now and not be killed by the Russians. This perception of armed forces explains people’s participation in Ukraine’s armed fight against the Russian war.”

If you want to donate to Ukraine’s drone program, check out the following resources:1) The Euromaidan Press permanent fundraiser: we regularly help Ukrainian army units, including with drones.
2) Our Verified ways to help Ukraine list — there you will find a selection of Ukrainian funds and volunteers helping the army, including with drones.

Ursula Ruedenberg is manager of Pacifica Radio’s Affiliate Network Division. She has been co-producing and distributing Ukraine 2 4 2 since the beginning of Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine 2 4 2 is a weekly program featuring interviews with experts and key people on the ground in Ukraine and worldwide, responding to events and issues since the Russian invasion.

Ruedenberg also led the creation and on-air launch of KHOI Community Radio in Ames Iowa and served as the station manager and program director from 2011 to 2021. Prior to her work in radio, she worked as a public artist and directed a community-based mural program for the City of New York. 

Pacifica Network is a global network of more than 200 community-based radio and Internet stations working for democracy. Their mission is providing independent programming and building cooperation between local independent grassroots media groups for network-wide content production, journalism, technology, and good management practices. 

Pacifica Foundation established the concept of independent community radio in the United States in 1949 and led as a developer of independent journalism. It owns five radio stations, itself, in New York City, Washington DC, Houston, and Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area. The Pacifica Radio Archives is one of the most extensive and important historical sound archives in the United States.

For information about the network or network membership, please contact Ursula Ruedenberg at [email protected].


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