Ukraine seeks to expand its military 'drone coalition' with allies


  • World
  • Wednesday, 21 Feb 2024

FILE PHOTO: A Ukrainian serviceman controls a Leleka reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at a front line, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine February 15, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine is seeking to expand its military "drone coalition" with allies, to include at least 20 new countries to help supply drones, cooperate on technology, and strengthen its military as the war with Russia enters its third year.

Deputy Defence Minister Kateryna Chernohorenko said that eight countries had so far joined the coalition, an initiative initially launched by Ukraine, Latvia and Britain.

Kyiv is working to ensure more purchases, more supplies of components and closer cooperation on technology solutions to be able to respond to changing war tactics.

"We think that eight countries is only the beginning. We want more countries to join. Our objective is for at least two dozen countries to join this initiative," Chernohorenko told a media briefing.

She reiterated Ukraine's target of one million "first-person view" (FPV) drones - guided by remote pilots watching an image sent back from a camera onboard - for this year.

Drones have become a crucial part of tactics for surveillance and striking targets for both sides in the war, thanks to their relatively low cost.

As the Ukrainian military is outgunned and outmanned on the battlefield, Moscow's forces have been increasing pressure along the entire frontline.

Ukraine retreated from the ruined city of Avdiivka in the east last week after some of the bloodiest fighting of the war. During the intense combat in recent weeks, Ukrainian soldiers were shooting down about 200 drones on average daily near Avdiivka alone.

To catch up with the bigger Russian army, Ukraine ramped up its domestic drone production significantly over the past year with the number of producers reaching about 200 companies. Detailed figures for Ukrainian drone production are not available.

Earlier this month Kyiv also set up a separate branch of the armed forces devoted to drones.

Vadym Sukharevskyi, the newly appointed commander of the drone forces, said that Kyiv was doing "colossal" work to continue to speed up drone supplies to the front and overtake Russian forces.

"The enemy is moving on, it has a powerful industrial base. Yes, we are catching up somewhere... We will do everything to improve this parity and overtake them."

Sukharevskyi also said that some units were already testing new drones with artificial intelligence on the battlefield but did not provide further details.

(Reporting by Olena Harmash; Editing by Peter Graff)

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