In his regular evening address on 6 February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky revealed he has signed a decree creating a separate branch of the armed forces dedicated to drones, according to local press reports.
The Unmanned Systems Forces will focus on creating special drone-specific units, accelerating training and drone production while simultaneously pushing the boundaries of already impressive innovation and further developing operational concepts for their effective use. The new unit will seek to “increase the capabilities of Ukraine’s Armed Forces and to use unmanned and robotic air, sea, and ground systems,” according to the Office of the President.
“This year should be decisive in many aspects – and, obviously, on the battlefield,” Zelensky said. “Drones – unmanned systems – have proven their effectiveness in battles on land, in the sky, and at sea […] Ukraine has really changed the security situation in the Black Sea thanks to drones. Repelling assaults on the ground is largely the work of drones. The large-scale destruction of the (Russian) occupiers and their equipment is (also due to) drones”.
This development is in parallel to other initiatives that seek to develop new strategies for 2024, with particular emphasis on air defence – a subject that Zelensky has been vocal on with Ukraine’s allies. Its current inability to build its own air defence systems increases the level of vulnerability the nation has in confronting Russia’s illegal invasion. Ukraine is striving for greater self-reliance in multiple areas of defence production, including dramatic increases in the production of large calibre artillery ammunition.
A visit by British Prime Minster Rishi Sunak in January confirmed a GBP2.5 billion package of aid that includes air defence equipment, anti-tank weapons, long-reange missiles and what Sunak described as “the largest ever commitment of drones” to Kyiv.
(Image: President Volodymyr Zelensky visiting Ukrainian frontline troops near Robotyne in Zaporizhzhia Oblast on 4 February. Credit: Press Service, Office of the President)