Ukraine upping use of drones in counteroffensive

Aug 31, 2023, 6:02am EDT
A view shows a damaged building following a reported drone attack in Kursk, Russia in this handout image released August 27, 2023. Governor of Russia's Kursk Region Roman Starovoit via Telegram/Handout via REUTERS
Roman Starovoit via Telegram/Handout via REUTERS
Jenna Moon/

Roughly two months into its counteroffensive against Russia, Ukraine is increasingly using drones — and often striking targets within Russia’s borders. On Wednesday, Ukraine targeted a Russian airfield, striking several transport planes. It was the biggest attack inside Russia since the onset of the war.

Australian defense company SYPAQ has provided Ukraine with cardboard drones1 , which are constructed from waxed cardboard and rubber. The drones cost just $3,500 each and are transported in flat packs, meaning they're easily transported. The equipment is capable of carrying up to five kilograms (11 pounds) of cargo — which could make it useful for transporting supplies, as well as in reconnaissance efforts.2

Ukraine has been scaling up its drone warfare against Russia. The country isn't allowed to use Western-donated drones within Russia, which hampers its ability to fully carry out strikes on targets there. But Kyiv is still moving forward with a drone campaign within its enemy's borders, in part because of the psychological impacts: In striking targets in Moscow, it brings the reality of war closer to every day Russians.3

It's difficult to know at this stage exactly what direction Ukraine's counter-offensive will go, but "there is much to be optimistic about in Ukraine’s fight against Russia," retired Australian Gen. Mick Ryan writes in Foreign Affairs. The West, he argues, needs to acknowledge that this war will continue into 2024 and possibly beyond. With a long road ahead, Western allies should find a cohesive Ukraine strategy and "make explicit that its goal is a Ukrainian victory achieved through a Russian defeat," Ryan writes.4