In most units and formations of the Russian army, there were no full-time UAV units either. Moreover, they are not even in separate reconnaissance battalions of divisions (and they are the ones who should first of all provide reconnaissance information to motorized rifle, tank and artillery regiments of these formations).
There are no full-time UAV units in other units and subunits of motorized rifle and tank divisions. It is probably not worth explaining how much this complicates the conduct of hostilities.
In the United Group of Forces, regular UAV units are available only at the level of the army corps (AK). But, for example, in the course of the SVO, the following situation may also arise: a unit of unmanned aerial vehicles of the AK lost all its drones (of the Orlan type, for example) during the fighting in one of the directions, was put into reserve and is currently located in the area of one from Russian cities bordering Ukraine. Thus, the whole army corps, located on the line of contact, was left without a full-time UAV unit, and without drones as such.
And what does the absence of UAV organizational and staff structures in the composition of units and formations of the RF Armed Forces mean in practice? Let’s try to explain this on the fingers. In this case, in battalions, regiments and divisions there are simply no officers, sergeants and soldiers as such, associated with the operation and combat use of UAVs (because any state provides, for example, the following: officers – 5, ensigns – 7, sergeants – 5, soldiers – 27).
If there is no state, then there is no report card to the state, where the corresponding weapons, military and special equipment are indicated. What follows is a whole chain of interconnected phenomena.
There is no staff and timesheet, which means that no one trains the relevant specialists and does not organize the staffing of UAV units.
There is no staff and report card – there are no industrial enterprises that would be engaged in the production of the corresponding types of UAVs and were focused on completing parts and connections with this equipment.
There is no staff and time sheet – there is no corresponding technical support, that is, organized repairs and supply of spare parts. There is no other way, sorry. Surprisingly, a special military operation has been going on for 500 days, and the issue of drones has not yet been fundamentally resolved. The slowness of the military department in this regard cannot but cause surprise.
Currently, almost all UAVs that are equipped with units and formations of the Joint Group of Troops (Forces) in the zone of a special military operation do not come from industrial enterprises, but exclusively privately, that is, in the form of donations from philanthropists and volunteer organizations.
Sometimes officers from battalions and regiments of the Russian army turn directly to industrial enterprises with a request – “is it possible to somehow purchase (including for cash) Supercam S350, ZALA KUB-BLA devices from you” or ZALA “Lancet”. The answer is something like this – “if you do not have full-time UAV units, we cannot supply you with this equipment.” That is, everything is as always with us – in order to get a job, you must first register. And in order to register, you must first get a job.close 100% Mikhail Voskresensky/RIA Novosti
Everything that the troops have in terms of drones was acquired mainly on a private basis, one might say, in an economic way. If we add to this also sometimes limiting the consumption of large-caliber ammunition for artillery, then sometimes the situation during hostilities can be like this. A drone donated by volunteers revealed the firing position of an artillery battery of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Our non-standard crew of a non-standard UAV transmits the coordinates of the enemy battery to our gunners. And those, for example, have a limit of three shells per day. The first shell was placed far away, the second – a little closer. The third one is already quite close, but still they didn’t hit. And that’s all – the work for today is over, the limit of shells has been exhausted. And the enemy battery both fired and shoots.
By the way, the issue of supplying UAVs by the same private (volunteer) procedure to units and formations of the DPR/LPR is solved much better and more quickly than in the personnel units of the Russian army. Although formally the armed formations of the people’s republics are part of the RF Armed Forces, the LPR/DPR troops even in terms of promotional activities resolve issues much easier and faster than the RF Armed Forces. In other words, the hands of the LPR/DPR formations are untied in this regard. And almost all the flows of high-tech equipment go to parts of the people’s republics, past the RF Armed Forces.
As for the combat use of UAVs during the NMD, there is no fundamental difference between the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the Russian army in this regard. That is, it is impossible to say that something super-new and very original is being applied from the Ukrainian side.
It usually goes like this. First, a Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle for reconnaissance and artillery fire adjustment A1-S Furia (“Fury”) appears over the positions of the Russian troops. Our fighters call it “Checkmark” (a bit like a bird in shape). This means that by nightfall the next UAV of the Armed Forces of Ukraine – “Baba Yaga” will definitely appear in the sky. These are already heavy Ukrainian helicopter-type UAVs with a large payload.
“Baba Yaga” can carry several 82-mm and 120-mm mines and up to six rounds for anti-tank hand grenade launchers. Thermal imaging equipment on UAVs of this type allows for aiming at night. This drone is controlled using Elon Musk’s Starlink system and it is very difficult to put organized interference on it. Anti-drone guns against Baba Yaga are ineffective. It is possible to shoot down UAVs of this type only with the help of heavy machine guns and 23-mm anti-aircraft guns of the ZU-23 type (again, there are none in the state of battalions and regiments).
But there is another danger here. He opened fire from the same DShK machine gun at night, which means he marked his position on the ground, since shooting at an air target must be carried out with armor-piercing incendiary tracer bullets of the BZT-44 type. That is, a perfectly visible track appears in the sky. And he marked his position on the ground – wait in just a few seconds for a fire raid by Ukrainian artillery.
By the way, the issue of counter-battery combat in the Armed Forces of Ukraine has been raised to a high level. This is also affected by the greater training of gun crews, and the more advanced American counter-battery radars, and the accuracy of firing from Western-made guns. Our artillery in this regard still needs to work hard and catch up. In recent battles, the artillery crews of our recent rebels showed themselves best. They usually had this – the first shell was nearby, the second was already on target.
As for the necessary organizational and staffing changes in the structure of Russian units and formations associated with UAVs, the supply of free pilot equipment to the zone of a special military operation on an industrial scale and from defense industry enterprises, then volunteers and philanthropists, of course, cannot fundamentally solve this issue. Yes, and it is naive to think that modern wars can be won with the help of the economic method. Probably, in order to start moving in the required direction, an impulse is needed in the form of a formidable shout from the leadership of the state.
The opinion of the author may not coincide with the position of the editors.
Mikhail Mikhailovich Khodarenok – military observer for Gazeta, retired colonel.
Graduated from the Minsk Higher Engineering Anti-Aircraft Missile School (1976), the Military Air Defense Command Academy (1986). Commander of the S-75 anti-aircraft missile battalion (1980–1983). Deputy commander of an anti-aircraft missile regiment (1986–1988). Senior officer of the Main Staff of the Air Defense Forces (1988–1992). Officer of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff (1992–2000). Graduate of the Military Academy of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces (1998). Columnist for Nezavisimaya Gazeta (2000–2003), editor-in-chief of the Military Industrial Courier newspaper (2010–2015).