Loitering Weapons in Ukraine Could Be Bad News for Russian Tanks – Despite the fact that Russia has far more tanks than Ukraine, the Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Turkey have significantly contributed to “levelling the playing field”. Since Moscow began its unjustified invasion on Ukraine about a month ago, the not-so-secret weapon has been credited for destroying multiple Russian tanks.
The Bayraktar TB2 is a Turkish-built aircraft that can fly for 27 straight hours and reach 25,000 feet in the air. Each of the drones can be controlled remotely from up to 185 miles away and has the ability to carry four laser-guided bombs or rockets, for a total payload of about 330 pounds.
By using increasingly deadlier yet smaller UAVs, the Ukrainians might be able to expand on their success at hitting Russian armour on the ground. The White House said last week that a new $800 million arms shipment to the embattled country included 100 more “tactical unmanned aerial systems.”
The small “Switchblade” drones are distinct from the Bayraktar TB2 or even the long-range Predator drones used by the American military since they lack a rocket launcher. The Switchblade may instead hover overhead like a conventional drone before using GPS to direct itself like a missile directly into the target where it can destroy its payload.
These unmanned aerial vehicles, also referred to as “loitering munitions,” have the ability to stay in the air while they look for a target, and some of them have the capability of returning to base if the target identification is failed.
“While they function similarly to UCAVs (unmanned combat aerial vehicles), their ability to self-destruct is what makes them unique. Although Ukraine has been utilising Turkish TB-2 UAVs, loitering weapons have not yet been used, according to William Davies, assistant defence analyst at global analytics company GlobalData.
The smallest model, the Switchblade 300, has a range of around six miles, weighs under 5.5 pounds, and fits in a backpack. It may be deployed using a small mortar tube.
The heavier Switchblade 600 may be used against targets up to 25 miles away and weighs about 50 pounds. It is equipped with an anti-tank warhead. Both versions have a “wave-off” option that enables the human operator on the ground to stop an attack in the event that civilians show up or the enemy shifts positions.
“Providing them with 300 or 600 of AeroVironment’s Switchblade loitering munition — the precise type is unknown — would improve their offensive capability. The 600 is more plausible because, because of its capacity to breach armour, it would be useful for Ukraine against Russian armoured vehicles, whereas the 300 is normally used as an anti-personnel weapon. The 600 can fly up to 25 miles, making it easy to deploy them from behind the front lines, although the 300 can only go 6.2 miles.
The only instance of loitering munitions being used during the Ukraine crisis is when Russia used the ZALA KYB for both observation and attacks on soft targets. Nevertheless, the AeroVironment Switchblade may soon join Ukraine’s arsenal of weapons, which would be bad news for Russian tankers.
According to Davis, every model that is provided may be carried by a single soldier, making it simple to deploy. “They are substantially less expensive and smaller than larger unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and because of their modest size, conventional anti-air systems find it difficult to identify and eliminate them. Even if 100 is a small number given the weapon’s one-time use, it can nonetheless have a big impact on deeply embedded Russian forces.
Loitering munitions are desirable due to both their effectiveness and relatively low cost.
Davis stated, “In addition, they will give Ukrainian forces more observation and striking capabilities.” In addition to loitering weapons like Stingers and Javelins, the Biden administration’s arms package focuses mostly on anti-armor and anti-aircraft weaponry. Slovakia is sending the S-300 air defence missile system.
All of this suggests that the current situation for Russian tanks in Ukraine may not be favourable.