At the end of 2021, in Dubna, near Moscow, mass production of the Pacer UAVs was launched.
Alas, the big special operation happened, as always, at the wrong time, and the plant did not have time to reach serious production volumes.
It is my deep conviction that if this event had happened at least 2 years earlier, the special operation in Ukraine would have taken place according to a completely different scenario, and reconnaissance and strike UAVs would have made a key contribution to this special operation.
At the same time, I continue to come across informational materials, the general message of which is aimed at a derogatory attitude towards this type of weapon. In the framework of this article, I would like to dot the “and” in matters of efficiency drones and their role in the RF Armed Forces.
About aviation and air defense
A phrase from Articles:
Indeed, in battles with a normal regular army, such “shock” UAVs will be completely useless.
Speaking about the special operation, a number of publicists believe that if at the start of the conflict both sides had a “full-fledged regular army” (I would venture to suggest that it means the presence of aviation and a full-fledged layered air defense system) - this will happen throughout the entire special operation.
And it is not.
The radius of use of aviation and missile weapons makes it possible to attack the enemy throughout the entire depth of his communications.
And this means that the first phase of the war will be a battle between these branches of the armed forces (naturally, air defense forces will also participate). This battle will become extremely fleeting and will be fought until the defeat of the mentioned components of one of the parties. Losses received in this phase are not replenished, and even reserves may not have time to be used (recall the example of the destroyed aircraft repair plant in Ukraine).
The first phase will inevitably lead to the fact that one of the parties will receive the "keys to heaven."
Therefore, regarding the role of UAVs in such a war, it would be more correct to describe the situation as follows:
- if we lose this phase, no UAVs will help;
- if we win, UAVs are able to make a key contribution to the further development of events.
In the case of Ukraine, we won this phase.
In the context of the topic under discussion, this means that arguments like "if fighters arrive" no longer work, because fighters already they won't arrive. They were at the start of the conflict. But they were gone. Exactly the same logic is valid for air defense (with some reservations).
What happens to the side that loses the first phase?
The army loses the ability to transfer large forces, forming columns of military equipment, and begins to work as a "second number", completely giving up the initiative. Most of the technology is driven into cities, simply because, not by doing this, the command with a high probability dooms this very technique to rapid destruction.
We can see examples of this now in Ukraine everywhere, including in Mariupol.
Regarding the latter, the same Aristovich, who claimed that the air defense of Ukraine would destroy the Russian Aerospace Forces in a week, already explains that after a month of conflict, it must be understood that the Russian Aerospace Forces, already destroyed 4 times, will not allow the AFU group to reach Mariupol in order to try to deblock the city.
Does this mean that the war is over? Not at all.
Personally, I tend to single out 3 full-fledged tactics that will be used by the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the future:
1) the imposition of urban battles;
3) counter strikes against the advancing forces of the Russian Federation.
Let us dwell in more detail on the third point - counter strikes on the advancing units of the Russian army.
The most unfavorable option for the Russian Federation is the use of the tactics of artillery ambushes by the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The fire weapon occupies a position that is well camouflaged, areas of concentrated fire are planned in advance, in the worst case, zeroing is carried out. Then it remains only to wait for the column to approach one of the sections. Observers on the ground, disguised as local residents, can monitor the movement of Russian troops and even adjust the fire.
In the case of towed artillery, even a single gun can operate with a rate of fire of 5-8 rounds per minute and, until the moment of destruction, is capable of inflicting certain damage on the advancing units. But things are much worse with MLRS.
Such a system is capable of sending 40 (!) 122-mm rockets in the direction of the enemy in less than 30 seconds, and then withdraw from the position and go to the rear to reload. There will be simply nothing to get and destroy it - aviation will not have time to react. The counter-battery work of our artillery also does not guarantee success, because the count will go on literally for seconds - the MLRS collapses too quickly and leaves the position.
This means that each MLRS system can be repeatedly used in artillery ambushes, each time carrying out a fire defeat comparable to an attack aircraft raid.
Detecting MLRS at an already prepared camouflaged position in the "standby" mode is the most difficult (although possible). The greatest chance of detection is at the moment of movement. Either when the system moves to the front, or when a position is being set up, or when it opens fire or moves to the rear, having already fired back.
Below is a video of the discovery of the MLRS followed by surveillance of the vehicle in order to determine the point where ammunition is stored and reloaded. Although there is information that initially this supply point was “surrendered” by a random civilian inhabitant, who, out of “curiosity”, took a picture of the positions of the cars on his phone and posted this photo on the network.
However, it should be understood that the basing of MLRS systems inside buildings is not at all necessary. The photo below captures the moment of reloading the MLRS, which is called in the field. At the same time, an ordinary civilian truck was used as a "warehouse" or a transport-loading vehicle, as you like.
There is every reason to believe that since a similar approach was practiced back in 2015, and in recent years Ukraine has been preparing for war, then in Ukraine today there may be many such “mobile” supply points. Which, firstly, are mobile, and secondly, they do not look like a military warehouse or military equipment. That is, it is possible to identify them precisely as a supply point only by catching them “by the hand” during reloading. 1 ATGM in this case should be quite enough.
As a conclusion: the destruction of large warehouses is good, however, the functioning of the MLRS will be possible for some time after their destruction due to "transport-loading trucks".
In view of the foregoing, it is necessary to tightly control the movement behind enemy lines at a distance of up to 100 km from the front line, which is just easily feasible by attack UAVs. Moreover, the use of strike UAVs for these tasks has practically no alternative.
Indirectly, the correctness of this conclusion is indicated by the results of the operation. In particular, we are talking about the losses of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in cannon artillery (“more than half”), armored vehicles (also “more than half”) and MLRS - more than ... a quarter (!). This ratio is explained simply - both cannon artillery and armored vehicles, having entered the battle once, have a great chance of being destroyed in this battle. MLRS, on the other hand, do not enter into a classic battle, having fired from a distance, they quickly go to the rear.
Thus, at the beginning of the conflict, strike UAVs should be used primarily to detect and destroy:
1) air defense remnants;
3) cannon artillery;
4) all other purposes.
It is from the MLRS that our troops can potentially receive the most damage.
Urban combat tactics
We justified the need for the participation of strike UAVs as a means of combating oncoming strikes and artillery ambushes, but what about urban battles?
Before participating in city battles, you need to approach the city. According to the testimony of civilians evacuated from Mariupol, at the beginning of the conflict, MLRS "packages" sent shells towards the approaching Russian troops. That is, the problem is still the same. And it would be nice, before bringing your equipment to the city, to surgically clean it of heavy enemy equipment, moreover, in conditions when this equipment is pressed close to civilian infrastructure.
This will significantly reduce losses, both during the blocking of the city and during the subsequent assault.
The role of UAVs when escorting strike units
Tanks traditionally used in the vanguard to overcome the enemy's defenses, however, in addition to the obvious advantages, they have a significant drawback - they "see" very poorly. A logical addition to the work of tanks on the ground is the control of the environment of the UAV, including the strike ones. The strike function can be required in cases where the column does not have its own forces to effectively defeat the enemy detected from the UAV - this may be due to the presence of the enemy behind buildings (mortars), or behind terrain folds. An example of such a situation could be the defeat of a Russian tank from the roof of an airport.
I will not post this video here, but anyone can find it on their own. In the context of the topic, it is important that the position from which the Russian troops were fired is easily detected by the UAV, it was not disguised, the AFU soldiers were running imposingly on the roof. At the same time, the calculation of this ATGM could well have been hit by the simplest ammunition.
Strictly speaking, this example reveals another problem of our Armed Forces - due to the weak saturation of the army with UAVs (even reconnaissance ones), the principle of network-centric warfare, about which there was a lot of talk, was not implemented in practice.
Although its implementation in the framework of the mentioned example did not require any significant difficulties. It was enough to have a small UAV control vehicle as part of the tactical level, whose tasks would include at least visually control the situation around the group at a distance of 2–3 km. And also include an 80 mm self-propelled mortar in the link. This would already be enough to, in the situation described, first detect an equipped enemy position, and then hit it with a mortar.
The imperfection of Russian weapons for UAVs
Another argument against strike UAVs in general and Russian versions in particular is the opinion that their weapons are extremely outdated.
In one of articles it is worded like this:
In general, laser guidance is the last day today. More than enough protection and countermeasures.
The general meaning of the arguments weapon The 2nd generation is worse than the third generation weapons, then ... in simple terms, the Russian version of the strike UAV is a poor craft that is not applicable in a war with a “serious enemy”. Suitable only to disperse rallies.
What is the fundamental error of the applied approach?
Are there active defense systems? Yes.
Are there systems that allow you to track the direction from which the laser is irradiated? Yes.
Are there air defenses? Yes.
Are there fighter jets? Yes.
Are all vehicles in Ukraine (or in the army of any other country) high-end tanks? Over which fighters fly, covered by air defense from the ground? We have already dealt with fighters and air defense.
As for ground equipment, even in the US and Israeli armies, the percentage of equipment equipped with KAZs is a fraction of a percent.
At the same time, we have already determined that the priority targets for UAVs are not tanks at all, although they can be destroyed.
In other words, we have a 5nd generation missile that is 2 times cheaper, which allows us to successfully perform 95% of the tasks that 3rd generation weapons can perform. This does not mean that you do not need to develop.
But this also does not mean that 2nd generation weapons cannot effectively perform a wide (!) Range of tasks.
Psychological effect and range
Those who criticize UAVs absolutely do not take into account the psychological effect of their use. And it's worth considering.
The distance at which a battle between motorized units is possible reaches several kilometers. Artillery damage in most cases is possible at distances up to 20 km.
If the advancing army has strike UAVs in its composition, it becomes possible to create a zone in which enemy equipment will be hit pointwise, without being able to shoot back.
The psychological effect of such a situation is enormous - even unaffected equipment is simply abandoned, because there is no point in sitting in it.
The tactics begin to acquire the following features - first, drones fly into the area, clear it of equipment, and only then ground forces advance there, against which only the enemy's manpower remains. The morale of these units is also in question, because fighting against heavy vehicles without heavy vehicles is not the most pleasant experience.
Immediately at the time of the advancement of the UAV columns, they provide a safe zone within a radius of 20–40 km in order to exclude artillery damage.
In this format, without fuss, the entire territory can be cleared.
The assault on large cities, in which the enemy's armed forces decide to dig in, cannot be avoided. However, here, too, preliminary cleaning by strike UAVs can significantly reduce losses.
Attack UAVs will also be useful in patrol missions in the rear, protecting columns from the actions of small "partisan" groups.
Alas, everything that was written in the previous chapter is my fantasy. In reality, behind the beautiful term "air supremacy" there are situations when our tanks are burned from the roofs, without masking the position from above at all. They fire at columns with artillery, and at the same time this artillery does not have active defense systems. This happens because we do not have enough Orions. Russia needs at least 200, and preferably 300 or 400 strike UAVs.
I also see very well that we are lagging behind Western countries in this direction. However, the meaning of the article is to prevent the opinion that this direction is futile and not suitable for a war with a “normal enemy” from taking root in society.
The fact that a plant for the serial production of UAVs has been built inspires cautious optimism. It is unfortunate that this plant did not have time to work for at least a couple of years, because in this case the special operation would have been completely different.
In conclusion, I can recommend for viewing an excerpt about why we are lagging behind in this direction.