European coalition bids to deliver 1 million drones to Ukrai…

Ukrainians train with handheld drones. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

MUNICH — A host of European nations, led by Latvia and the United Kingdom, have joined a coalition committed to producing and supplying Ukraine with one million drones, as the war with Russia approaches its third year.

Latvia first announced it would lead the coalition last month, but plans advanced Wednesday when the Baltic nation signed a letter of intent to build out the project with Ukraine, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Estonia, Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

No timeline for the delivery of the drones has been issued and it remains unclear if or when that number will be matched. The European Union was forced to admit last month that it would not hit its target of supplying Ukraine with one million 155mm artillery shells by March 2024.

“[The] Drone Coalition intends to deliver 1 million drones to Ukraine,” said Latvia’s MoD in a Thursday statement.

“By signing the letter of intent, countries have agreed to commit resources for manufacturing of drones and will deliver these drones and spare parts to Ukraine, where they will be tested and [the] Coalition will also train Ukrainian troops on how to use them and integrate with other technologies,” the statement said.

The United Kingdom said today it will co-lead the drone coalition with Latvia. London alone pledged to supply “thousands” of drones but did not make reference to the one million figure specifically. The UK added that it will “scale up and streamline the West’s provision” of First Person View (FPV) drones to Kyiv.

London will fund production of the aircraft under a £200 million ($250 million) drone package and plans on setting up a competition to produce them “at scale and at an affordable price point.”

Latvia’s investment is much more modest, valued in the region of €10 million ($10.8 million) “over the next year,” but it stressed that Ukraine has already provided “information” relating to drone requirements. Riga has since approached local suppliers and invited them to propose specific aircraft types and detail spare part delivery plans.

Ukraine’s UAV Strike Units, ‘Neon’ Software

Ukraine’s Mykhailo Fedorov, deputy prime minister for innovations, development of education, science & technologies, said in a remote address to the Munich Security Conference today that Ukraine produced 300,000 drones last year, and its armed forces have also built up an “Army of Drones” comprising of 60 UAV strike units.

The strike force, he claimed, has destroyed 14,270 pieces of Russian land warfare equipment including tanks, trucks, self-propelled artillery, multiple launch rocket systems and ammunition storage houses.

“[The strike units] provide significant feedback both for military and drone producers” he explained. “R&D [and] mission planning relies on the information from” the UAVs.

He also said Ukraine is using a system called “Neon,” roughly defined as a predictive software tool used to collect cruise missile route data from an enemy attack that can then be used to reposition air defence systems to dodge future volleys.

Scaling up production of electronic warfare systems, “robots” and drone ammunition are some of the more innovative projects Kyiv is currently focused on, said Fedorov.

Outside of mass producing FPV drones, Kyiv wants to also increase production of long-range strike types.

“To achieve this 100 times growth of the drones market, we as a government created a so called ‘Fast Track for Innovations,’ meaning that we simplified dozens of bureaucratic procedures and got rid of unnecessary ones, [including introduction of a] favorable tax regime, [lifting of] import duties, and many more,” he explained.

Ukrainian naval drones have been used to devastating effect recently against Russian warships.

Ukraine’s military intelligence agency claimed Wednesday that a special operations unit sank the Ropucha-class landing ship Cesar Kunikov with Magura V unmanned surface vessels (USVs).

Video footage posted on Telegram showed the drones striking the ship off the coast of Crimea.

Similarly, the Russian Ivanovets warship was also reportedly sunk earlier this month. A Ukrainian drone operator said 10 Magura vessels were used to destroy the surface ship, six of which struck it directly, according to CNN.

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