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ISW: Ukrainian drone operators are improving their capabilities which may ease pressure on air defense assets

A recent ISW analysis suggests that Ukraine’s improved drone interception capabilities may help conserve scarce air defense resources for higher-value targets.
Ukraine downs 10/10 Russian Shahed drones
Ukrainian mobile fire groups intercept Russian drones. Photo: General Staff
ISW: Ukrainian drone operators are improving their capabilities which may ease pressure on air defense assets

The US-based Institute for the Study of War reported on 8 July that Ukrainian forces are enhancing their ability to intercept Russian drones mid-air using first-person view (FPV) drones. This development could potentially reduce the strain on Ukraine’s short and medium-range air defense systems.

According to the ISW, footage from 1 June shows “Ukrainian forces using first-person view (FPV) drones to strike a Russian tactical Zala reconnaissance drone and a medium-range Orlan-10 reconnaissance drone in mid-flight in the Velyka Novosilka area.”

The Ukrainian Kharkiv Group of Forces released footage on 29 June of “a Ukrainian FPV drone intercepting a Russian Lancet loitering munition in mid-air in the Kharkiv direction.”

The report suggests that both Ukrainian and Russian forces are improving their capabilities to use FPV drones for intercepting other FPV drones at the tactical level. However, the ISW notes that it has “yet to observe confirmation of Russian forces using FPV drones to strike Ukrainian loitering munitions or longer-range reconnaissance drones in mid-air.”

The ISW reports that Russian forces have been taking advantage of constraints on Ukrainian air defense assets in recent months, operating fixed-wing reconnaissance drones more freely in Ukraine, including in deep rear areas. This has likely allowed Russian forces to enhance their reconnaissance fire and reconnaissance strike complexes (RFC/RSC).

The report said that if Ukraine can develop “a robust capability to use cheap and widely-available drones to interdict more expensive Russian reconnaissance drones at scale,” it would likely allow Ukrainian forces to “degrade Russia’s RFC/RSC while conserving expensive and scarce short- and medium-range air defense interceptors for more expensive and significant Russian air targets.”

The ISW cautions that it has “yet to observe Ukrainian forces using FPV drones to strike conventional Russian reconnaissance drones at scale.”

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