Ukrainian battlefields look like World War I, but with new and terrifying additions that leave troops with few places to hide

Ukrainian paratroopers take refuge in trenches from a BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launcher attack in Seversk, Ukraine, July 5, 2022.

Ukrainian paratroopers take refuge in trenches from a BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launcher attack in Seversk, Ukraine, July 5, 2022.Laurent van der Stock/Getty Images

  • The conflict in Ukraine has emerged as the first large-scale war in which both sides will use drones.

  • Experts say drones are changing the face of warfare by making artillery more powerful.

  • One expert said the debate over whether drones would matter in conventional warfare is over.

Trench warfare, merciless artillery, gains of a few metres, and heavy casualties on both sides. The Ukrainian battlefield resembles that of World War I, but with a new and terrifying reality. The constant buzzing of drones, a harbinger of death and destruction, is always watched from above.

The Ukraine War has essentially become ‘World War I with the ISR in the 21st century’ [Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance]Mark Kanshian, a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel and senior adviser to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Insider.

shelling in ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers work in an artillery unit in the direction of Marinka, January 15, 2023.Diego Herrera Carcedo/Getty Images

Ukrainian soldiers in the trenches

Ukrainian soldiers in the front line trenches in Vuhledar, Donetsk region, January 5, 2023.Diego Herrera Carcedo/Getty Images

Ukraine and Russia are changing the face of war as they use drones of all shapes and sizes to spy on each other and strike targets on an unprecedented scale. Drones have been used to locate and fire at enemies, and to crash and destroy buildings in “kamikaze” attacks. Drop bombs on tanks.

Much of the fighting takes place in rural areas with vast open fields that are often dangerous to traverse. This is the modern equivalent of the horror-filled “no man’s land” of World War I. Drones have proven to be a very useful and deadly tool. Both use drones equipped with cameras and other sensors to provide live streams that can be viewed on laptops and digital tablets to spy on enemies and coordinate attacks from a distance.

Drones have played an important role in coordinating artillery fire and confirming that targets have been hit or destroyed. They are the eyes of the sky that make artillery even more deadly on the Ukrainian battlefield.

“Unmanned systems have been used more and more in conflicts over the past decade, but the Ukrainian war has taken it to a new level. , there was a lively debate about whether drones could play a role in regular warfare, not just missions like Afghanistan.

“That debate is over,” Singer added.

“Future of War”

Ukrainian soldier launching a drone

Ukrainian military personnel fly a drone outside Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine, on December 30, 2022.Samir Al-Dumi/Getty Images

Unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, have been used in various capacities in warfare for generations.some researchers Point out the use of Austria Unmanned hot air balloon bombs Venice In 1849 as the first example.

America started Development of unmanned aircraft It dates back to World War I. Remotely piloted aircraft were used for surveillance during the Cold War, and unmanned technology gradually advanced into his twentieth century. By the late 1990s, Predator drones were being used by the US and NATO. Reconnaissance mission in the Kosovo war.

However, it was the beginning of the war on terrorism that saw the use of drones grow exponentially and move away from their use primarily for reconnaissance purposes. Since the 9/11 attacks, the US military and CIA have used drones to monitor and target terrorism suspects in places such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

Armed drones have also been used in other conflicts, including: Battle of Azerbaijan and ArmeniaAs technology advances and becomes cheaper, drones are becoming more and more attractive to militaries around the world. These systems can collect information, otherwise risk the lives of pilots, and carry out missions that cost less than building a conventional air force.

However, the war in Ukraine was the first time that drones were used in a conflict involving the great powers and the modern armies of both sides, and that they were used “extensively and for an extended period of time.”

Ukraine has emerged as the guinea pig for drone warfare in many ways. A wide array of unmanned aerial vehicles, produced everywhere from the United States to China, Turkey to Iran, have been used in combat.

Early in the fighting, Ukraine successfully rained hell down on critical Russian assets, including armored vehicles, from above using Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones. The Bayraktar — with a range of 186 miles, about the size of a small plane, and capable of carrying laser-guided bombs — involved in the attack that sank Moscow, Flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Bayrakthal TB2 Drone

The Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone was a key tool used by the Ukrainian military to repel Russian forces.Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Later in the war, Russia began launching a swarm of Iranian-made Shahed-136 “Kamikaze” drones. Attack targets throughout Ukraine. The Shahed-136 is a loitering ammunition, designed to lodge or loiter before locating and impacting a target. It is less than 12 feet long, can fly at 115 miles per hour, and has an explosive warhead in its nose that detonates on impact. These disposable drones are relatively cheap ($20,000 each) and have been used by Russia to destroy critical civilian infrastructure and make life more difficult for Ukrainians.

The United States has also provided Ukraine with hundreds of Switchblade drones, a kind of loitering ammunition or kamikaze drones that can be carried in backpacks. Switchblade knives can be used to attack infantry, armor, and artillery.

“So called ‘Kamikaze’ drones, these Iranian Shahed-136s and their various relatives all see the first use of swarm drones. This is new. It’s the future of warfare.”

Singer said the Russian military’s use of drones to attack civilian targets would set a dangerous precedent for future warfare.

“This is analogous to Germany’s use of the V-1 missile towards the end of World War II,” he said. “A country that hopes new technology will make up for its losses on the battlefield.”

Drone attack destruction in Kyiv

Firefighters work after a drone attack on a building in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, October 17, 2022.Roman Frizyna/Associated Press

“They are constantly being watched”

The most ubiquitous drone on the Ukrainian battlefield fits in your hands. In fact, military analysts online are particularly surprised that he relies heavily on small civilian or commercial drones, such as the Chinese-made DJI Mavic 3, which costs less than $3,000.

These drones are used for reconnaissance, but are also weaponized, with soldiers armed with improvised explosive devices and grenades.

“Ukraine and Russia now have literally hundreds of drones in use. Now every small infantry unit has one or more flights. Singer has spoken out about the use of cheap commercial drones in Ukraine.

Drones aren’t necessarily the most important and impactful tool in use in Ukraine, but they are increasing the accuracy of other weapons.

Marina Milon, a defense researcher at King’s College London, said, “In the past, if you wanted to find enemy positions, you would have had to send in special forces…and you would have lost some troops. Maybe. told BBC News Early January. “Right now, the only thing you’re risking is drones,” Miron added.

The surveillance component is important, with Ukrainian front-line forces reporting that drones are “always around” and “they are being watched all the time,” Kansian added.

Ukrainian soldier holding a drone

Ukrainian military personnel pose with a drone outside Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine, December 30, 2022.Samir Al-Dumi/Getty Images

Ukrainian soldiers pointing their weapons at the sky

A Ukrainian soldier shoots at a Russian drone with an assault rifle from a frontline trench east of Kharkiv on March 31, 2022.Fadel Sena/Getty Images

“We have been doing overhead reconnaissance for a long time, but the scale is new and we have the ability to combine that with fire support,” Cancian said. “It’s one thing to take a picture of a target and be able to do something about it 24 or 48 hours later, as opposed to being able to do something in 10 minutes.”

Drones have significantly shortened the so-called kill chain, helping troops quickly identify targets and provide coordinates to artillery units, Kangxian said. A “kill chain” is a military term or concept that refers to the stages of an attack, from target identification to engagement to damage assessment.

The war in Ukraine has shown that drones are as “essential” in combat as artillery and tanks, Singer said. It is most valuable for accurately identifying the enemy, making the Ukrainian artillery so deadly, not for the sake of it,” he added. fire. “

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