India: The UAV effectiveness in eastern Ukraine is negligible

NEW DELHI ($1=81.69 Indian Rupees) — Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, there has been talking of the so-called “drone war”. Many experts argue that drones and their role in warfare are key. It may well be, given that these drones are increasingly being used in small, regional conflicts, or outbreaks, such as the one in Ukraine.

Downed Bayraktar TB2 of Snake Island battle was found in Romania
Photo: Facebook

However, some opinions differ from the generally accepted ones and they even sound very logical. Such an opinion is expressed by Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhary, who is the Chief of the Air Staff [CAS] of the Indian Air Force [IAF]. Marshall Chaudhary says drones have an effect depending on where they are used.

Such an opinion was met with criticism among the public if you can call comments on social networks a type of criticism. Especially expressed by people who simply perceive an analysis from the perspective of their own worldview. But if we abstract from our personal bias, here is the logic of the Indian commander.

Chaudhary says Ukrainian drones were highly effective early in the war when it was on Ukraine’s central and western fronts. Bayraktar TB2, says the marshal, was a success and a powerful air force weapon that brought added value to Ukrainian attacks.

The reason for this is the fact that in this part of Ukraine [central and western] Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile batteries were available. Together with them, the mobile anti-aircraft missile guns, which by default are intended to oppose low-flying objects, were operationally ready. Thus, Russian drones and helicopters have become the object of Ukrainian air defense, and Russian fighter jets have drastically stopped flying at high, medium, and low altitudes in these regions.

Bayraktar offers folding wing TB3 UAVs to Japanese Izumo destroyer
Photo credit: Wikipedia

I.e. Chaudhary says that Russia does not have air superiority in this particular part of Ukraine. The reason: still Ukraine raises its planes and still Ukrainian air defense as well as man-portable anti-aircraft missile systems are effective. But in Eastern Ukraine the situation is different. There, the drones are not so combat-capable and effective, precisely because in these areas Ukraine does not have air superiority.

Returning again to the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drone, we will see that this is exactly what is happening to it. The drone had a strong combat action when flying in large airspace unprotected by the Russians. Bayrakt TB was scanning with its radio frequency [RF] features back then. Now that the battle is in the East, the drone can easily be detected, scanned, intercepted, and destroyed. As has been the case for the past few weeks when reports of downed Bayraktars have been coming in.

Chaudhary’s analysis is interesting in its nature – it gives a brief idea that complex air and anti-air defenses are part of the entire tactical and strategic preparation for the defense of territory. When you control the sky, you also control the weapons that use it.

This opens up the next topic of conversation: if the US decides to transfer the MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones, will they be effective? Well-probably yes, if they’re far from Russian-controlled airspace. On the eastern front, US drones will be shot down, says the Indian commander-in-chief.

4 MQ-1C UAS with Hellfire ASMs and STARLite Radar for Ukraine
Photo: Wikimedia

The Indian commander says that India should learn a big lesson from the war in which it did not participate. According to him, the actions of Ukrainians and Russians have confirmed his opinion. And that is: one should not invest in “strong-attacking-expensive” drones, but in complex air defense, with options for the hard and soft killing of enemy drones.

Such multi-layered air defense systems ensure that slow-moving drones by military standards easily fall prey to such air defense architecture. Chaudhary says the drone is nothing more than a slow-moving cruise missile controlled by an operator. Therefore, we should treat the drone exactly like a cruise missile.


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