06042017 головнаUnmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have become perhaps the primary feature of a modern army. It is by the amount and sophistication level of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) used that one can easily assess the technological advancement level of a country’s military forces.

 

 


During the ongoing Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) in Eastern Ukraine, UAS assets have shown excellent effectiveness in performing surveillance and reconnaissance intelligence (ISR) missions for the benefit of all armed branches, especially the Missile and Artillery Forces. This has increased the interest by the country’s security organizations in having their units equipped with UAS platforms optimized for specific applications relevant to their respective responsibilities.

 

Ukraine Security Sector’s UAS Requirements Met in 2015-2016

At the turn of 2016-2017, three years into the war in the ATO area, the deployed UAS assets operated by Ukraine’s Armed Forces, Special Operations Forces and National Guard can be broadly divided into three categories:
1. Indigenous systems procured under the Government Defense Procurement and Acquisition Program 2015, which, potentially, may be officially approved for service use or for procurement by the Armed Forces.
2. Foreign-supplied systems procured by the government or provided under military aid programs.
3. UAV and UAS capabilities that were manufactured, procured and provided to security agencies by volunteer and sponsor organizations.
In Ukraine in the period from 2008 through 2016, there were up to fifty companies and organizations , both government-owned and privately run, that were announcing interest in developing UAV platforms and associated payload technologies, and demonstrated relevant pre-prototypes to potentially interested parties, with the Private Sector being most successful in advancing indigenous UAV/UAS technologies.
Athlon Avia R&D and Production Company, Kyiv; Ukrspetssystems, Kyiv; Spytech R&D and Production Company, Odesa; Carboline, Kharkiv; Skyeton Aviation Production Company, Kyiv; and DeViRo Production & Innovation Company , Vinnytsya, are major players in the field of UAV technologies and associated payload development in Ukraine.

 

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Experience and Practice of Using Deployed UAV Systems in Eastern Ukraine
Among the the UAV systems used most widely for ISR purposes in the ATO theater, there are the PD-1 (UkrSpetsSystems, Kyiv) which offers an endurance of 5 hours and an ability to perform tactical ISR missions into the depth of enemy deployment; the Leleka-100 (DeViRo Production & Innovation Company, Vinnytsya); the Mara-2M (Carboline LLC, Kharkiv); and the Valkyrie (provided by the SOS Army volunteer organization).
It should be noted here, that vertical takeoff/landing Mini & Micro UAVs -- in contrast to the initial period of military conflict in Eastern Ukraine where the theme of multi-copters was largely ignored -- are now developing a considerable interest among potential customers from Special Operations Forces, High Mobility Airborne Forces, and Land Forces.

 

 

06042017 PD 1

PD-1 offers an endurance of 5 hours and an ability to perform tactical ISR missions into the depth of enemy deployment


Regarding tactical battlefield UAV platforms in service with Ukraine’s Armed Forces, they are largely used for target search and location measurement, and for missile and artillery fire adjustment. Indigenous systems deemed most suitable for the two aforementioned purposes have been progressively separated into an individual category. There is now general acceptance that a tactical battlefield UAS optimized for ISR support to ground operations, and an artillery spotting UAV system are two different types of systems requiring different payloads, methods of operational deployment, and functionalities.


Kyiv-based Athlon Avia R&D and Production Company is Ukraine’s top leader in the battlefield UAS industry. Athlon Avia has delivered a combined total of over 40 A1-S Fury UAS vehicles to the Armed Forces, National Guard, Security Service, and volunteer organizations, which have already logged a combined total of 2500+ flight hours, spotting targets for artillery fire. Hundreds of targets have been engaged with the A1-C Fury UAS in the ATO theater.
In 2016, the Company introduced the A1-SM Fury, a comprehensive upgrade to its battle proven UAS system A1-S Fury, to Armed Forces officials. The improved A1-SM Fury competes in functionality with the best international brands.


The Fury competes on the domestic market with WB Electronics’ Fly Eye. In 2016, the Armed Forces and the National Guard operated a combined fleet of four Fly Eye tactical battlefield UAS systems -- either provided by volunteer organizations or procured by Ukrspecexport for MoD contracts. Chernihiv-based PJSC CheZaRa will provide warranty and post-warranty servicing for Fly Eye UAV systems, pursuant to rights granted by the manufacturer company.
The indigenous UAV systems used for artillery fire adjustment in the ATO theater alongside the A1-SM Fury and Fly Eye are not as effective as the latter two, and will remain so until the reverse is proven by testing and real-world operation.

 

06042017 A1 SM

The improved A1-SM Fury competes in functionality with the best international brands

 

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Development of Tactical Combat UAV Systems
As the war with Russia-backed separatist rebels is ongoing in Eastern Ukraine, there has been growing interest by domestic industries in developing tactical combat UAV systems.
Ukraine has certain expertise in developing tactical combat UAV technologies. Particularly during a new product demonstration on August 29, 2016 in Kyiv, Ukroboronprom unveiled an aerodynamic model of a tactical combat UAV system to be known as AN-BK-1 Horlytsya ("turtledove"), developed in a collaborative project between Antonov and its partner companies. The Designer describes the AN-BK-1 Horlytsya as a multi-role platform designed to perform day/night aerial reconnaissance and ground attack missions. In developing the AN-BK-1 Horlytsya, Antonov aims to achieve the performance characteristics found with the AAI Corporation’s RQ-7 Shadow 200.


It is important to note that, in developing tactical combat UAV capabilities, not as much focus is now placed on endurance and range as on target identification, location and acquisition capabilities. And besides that, the UAV is supposed to be able to carry payloads of at least 20 kg, which is excessive for any of the indigenous UAV platforms ever developed in Ukraine (excepting, of course, the Horlytsya, which currently exists as a proof-of-concept demonstrator). If developed to a prototype level, the AN-BK-1 will have its total payload capacity (weapons plus a multifunctional gyro stabilized EO/IR gimbal) will be increased to 50 kg.

 

Development of Expendable Combat UAVs
In Ukraine, there have already been demonstrated indigenous unmanned combat systems that could be ranked as "smart grenades" or “suicide” drones. These include the drone systems known as Yatagan 2 and Haidamaka M-49.

 

06042017 Ятаган 2

The Yatagan 2 “suicide” drone


International suppliers propose their own solutions to help Ukraine’s military meet its requirement for suicide drones, including through cooperative production programs. At the Arms and Security-2016 exhibition, JSC CheZaRa, Chernihiv, demonstrated the small unmanned aircraft Warmate. Developed and produced by the Polish private company WB Electronics SA, Warmate belongs to the “suicide drone” category. CheZaRa announced itself prepared to launch a Warmate production line, under a license-production agreement with WB Electronics SA signed on March 18, 2016.

 

06042017 fly eye

Fly Eye UAV system from Polish company WB Electronics


Multicopters have seen frequent use as attack weapons in low intensity conflicts, and in this capacity, their weapon payloads often include armor-piercing hand grenades. There were also attempts made to use a quadrocopter for ground attacks using a vertical, single-use rocket launcher.


Both Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatist rebels have used quadrocopter drones equipped with improvised weapon payloads as platforms for ground attacks. In one such instance, a hostile sabotage group attempted to use a quadrocopter UAV armed with an armor-piercing hand grenade to destroy a Ukrainian multiple launch rocket battery, which was sheltered under a light roof in a location at a certain distance from the separation line set by the Minsk peace accords.


However, in all cases where quadrocopter drones are used for ground attack roles, they have serious weaknesses that include low terminal accuracy (even with their loitering capability), high sensitivity to side wind, short operational range, relatively short endurance compared to fixed-wing counterparts, and low speed (implying high vulnerability to small-arms attacks).

 

06042017 горлиця

The AN-BK-1 Horlytsya is a multi-role platform designed to perform day/night aerial reconnaissance and ground attack missions

 

Endnotes
Real-world experience of military use of different UAV platforms suggests that these assets are highly effective and valuable in modern military scenarios of whatever intensity, including particularly the ongoing military conflict in eastern Ukraine. Military UAV fleets will tend to grow progressively as the range of missions assigned to them expands.


Ukraine’s Armaments Development Program 2020 includes procurements of UAS vehicles in different categories by weight, operational range, and operational capabilities. The Program will fund the acquisition of 50 to 100 UAV platforms for each of the Army and Special Operations Forces, with smaller numbers to be procured to meet the Air Force and Navy requirements.


Backlog demand, pending demand and potential demand from Ukraine’s security agencies offer significant opportunities to both domestic and international suppliers of robotic armament systems. The UAV sector will retain its promise for business interests of those designing, developing, manufacturing and supplying high-tech products to the Ukrainian domestic marketplace.

 

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