Military drones have become an essential tool in modern military operations. Their ability to perform various functions, such as locating enemy units, directing artillery, and gathering intelligence, makes them valuable on the battlefield.
Russia, Ukraine, and the United States have recognized the importance of this technology and are implementing different strategies to equip their armies with military drones. While everyone is looking to improve their recognition capabilities, their approaches vary due to organizational, cultural, and budget differences.
Ukraine: Overcoming Difficulties in acquiring military drones
In the last year, Ukraine has experienced a significant increase in the acquisition of military drones. However, this process has been fraught with difficulties. Unlike in Russia and the United States, drone procurement in Ukraine has been mostly informal, done through volunteers and non-profit organizations. The main manufacturer of drones, DJI, has banned the sale of its products to Russia and Ukraine due to their use in warfare, which has led to drones being purchased through clandestine channels.
In addition to these restrictions, Ukrainian generals have shown a preference for larger drones with greater payload capacity. This has created a procurement discrepancy, as commercially available drones may not meet these specifications. Despite these challenges, Ukraine has managed to establish the largest number of drones in its air force, thanks to its adaptability and the training of more than 10,000 operators. These achievements demonstrate Ukraine’s determination to acquire this military technology.
United States: Drone Acquisition and Replacement Plans
The US military has begun acquiring drones to meet its short-range reconnaissance needs . The first drones acquired are the Skydio RQ-28A model, developed from civilian versions. These drones offer special features such as a thermal imager for night operations and software for transmitting data to military systems.
Although the procurement process has been successful, the US military already plans to replace these drones with a more advanced system, the SRR Tranche 2. These new drones will meet all established requirements and offer further improvements in terms of sophistication and capabilities. However, the quality and additional improvements will also increase the price of these new drones, which means that relatively few will be purchased compared to other countries.
Russia: Volunteer Dependency and Import Restrictions
In the case of Russia, the country’s backed separatist militias have used consumer drones since 2014. However, the procurement of drones in the Russian military is not done through official channels but rather through volunteer and charitable-led organizations. by family members of active-duty soldiers.
Although it is claimed that Russian military units can order drones through official channels, the reality on the ground suggests that volunteers remain the main source of procurement. In addition, laws are being put in place to restrict the importation of drones into Russia, which will make it even more difficult to obtain these devices in the future.
Despite the difficulties, Russia is also working on the domestic production of military drones. It is expected that they will start manufacturing their drones in the future. However, experts suggest that the quality and price of these Russian-produced drones might not be on par with the more advanced models available in other countries.
In short, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States are adopting divergent strategies for acquiring military drones. Ukraine has managed to establish a sizable number of drones in its air force, despite difficulties in formally acquiring them. The United States is acquiring drones to meet its current needs and plans to replace them with more advanced models.
On the other hand, Russia relies heavily on volunteers and faces restrictions on importing drones. Although they are expected to start producing their own drones, their quality and price may not be on par with the more advanced models available in other countries.