Minister: Ukraine plans to develop combat drones

kyiv (HPD) — Ukraine has acquired some 1,400 drones, most of them reconnaissance, and plans to develop combat models that can attack the explosive drones Russia has used during its invasion of the country, according to the Ukrainian government minister in charge of technology.

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

Ukraine has acquired drones such as the Fly Eye, a small device used for intelligence, battlefield surveillance and reconnaissance.

“And the next stage, now that we are more or less equipped with reconnaissance drones, is attack drones,” Federov said. “These are both explosive drones and drones that fly between three and ten kilometers and hit targets.”

He predicted “more attack drone missions” in the future, but declined to elaborate. “We are talking about drones, UAVs, UAVs that we are developing in Ukraine. In any case, it will be the next step in the development of technologies, ”he stated.

Russian authorities have denounced several Ukrainian drone strikes against their military bases in recent weeks, including one on Monday in which they said Russian forces shot down a drone approaching Engels airbase, located more than 600 kilometers away. (more than 370 miles) from the Ukrainian border.

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

Ukrainian authorities have not formally acknowledged carrying out such drone strikes, but have made cryptic allusions to how Russia might expect retaliation for its war in Ukraine, even inside Russian territory.

Ukraine is carrying out research and development activities on drones that can combat and shoot down other drones, Federov said. Russia has used Iranian-made Shahed drones for its airstrikes on Ukrainian soil in recent weeks, in addition to rocket, cruise missile and artillery strikes.

“I can already say that the situation regarding drones will change drastically in February or March,” he commented.

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

The minister stressed the importance of mobile communications for civilian and military purposes during the war, saying the most difficult places to maintain the service have been the Donetsk, Zaporizhia, Odessa and kyiv regions 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 supplies them with power.

Ukraine has some 30,000 cell phone towers, and the government is trying to connect them to generators so they can keep running when airstrikes damage the power grid.

The only alternative, for now, is satellite systems like Starlink, which Ukrainians could rely on more if 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,” Federov said.

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

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Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten contributed to this report.

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