Ukrainian Air Defense Systems are struggling to deal with cheap Russian UAVs

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Although the Ukrainian Air Defense Forces has received a large variety of air defense systems, but still they are facing several types of difficulties in facing the cheap UAVs used by the Russian Armed Forces. Ukraine has to spend expensive missiles on intercepting cheap Russian suicide drones.

Russia’s widespread use of Geran-2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), aimed at Ukrainian targets, has caused a great deal of stress for Ukraine’s air defense systems; when UAVs are forced to use expensive missiles against these cheap UAVs.

On October 19, the Ukrainian Army announced that in the past 36 days, they have shot down 223 Geran-2 suicide drones of the Russian army.

The statement further noted that the first Geran-2 suicide drone used in the Ukrainian battlefield was shot down on September 13 in Kupiansk. Kiev believes that Ukraine’s loss to this type of suicide drone is due to a lack of fighter aircraft and anti-aircraft missiles.

Meanwhile, US Department of Defense spokesman Pat Ryder said on October 20 that Russian Geran-2 suicide drones are being shot down a lot in Ukraine, despite the system’s limited capabilities the country’s air defense system is working good.

However, the announcement of the US Department of Defense spokesman raised concerns about the use of expensive anti-aircraft missiles against such inexpensive UAVs. According to Ukraine, its air defense systems shot down 85% of the Russian Geran-2 suicide drone.

However, experts point out that the problem is not the effectiveness of Ukraine’s air defense weapons systems, but the cost of the missiles they use. The current situation shows that Russia is attacking Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure with the Geran-2 suicide drone.

William Alberque, Director of Strategy, Technology and Arms Control at IISS, told a reporter for India’s EurAsian Times,

“Fighting low-cost suicide drones is complex and difficult. The attacker can use a number of tricks to cause maximum damage to the opponent”. 

“The enemy uses multiple suicide drones to attack various targets or attack those targets from unexpected directions rather than direct attack; These tactics make defending very difficult.

Another way is to use multiple suicide UAVs against a target from all directions and at the same time; this significantly increases the chances of hitting the UAV’s target” Mr. Albert added.

Despite the claims of shooting down Russia’s Geran-2 suicide drone, these cheap Russian UAVs still cause significant damage to Ukraine. A recent report said that an air battle between a Russian UAV and a Ukrainian MiG-29, resulted in the destruction of the Ukrainian aircraft.

Ukrainian experts also discovered that the Geran-2 UAV is equipped with quite complex electronic equipment, especially it is not possible to intercept the Geran-2 UAV by means of electronic warfare.

Therefore, the only way to deal with Geran-2 is to hard-press it with ZSU-23-4, Osa-AKM or Gepard anti-aircraft artillery or missiles that Ukraine has just received from Germany.

“UAV systems, like missile defense, are very difficult to penetrate,” says Alberque, who was also formerly Director of the NATO Center for Arms Control, Disarmament and Nonproliferation (ACDC). and requires very expensive countermeasures.”

Military leaders have expressed similar concerns in the past. For example, a top US Army general revealed in 2017 that the US Army was forced to use a Patriot PAC-2 air defense missile, worth millions of dollars, to shoot down a commercial UAV.

“Countries are increasingly looking for advanced and simple solutions to combat drone attacks,” Alberque explained.

If the electronic warfare capabilities are greater, it can allow you to turn off the electronic spectrum over a large geographical area; help prevent control between the central command tower and the UAV.

However, the enemy can deal with this by pre-programming the flight path; though potentially less accurate, its harder to beat.

Another way is to create a cheaper point defense system against UAVs, which is to use anti-aircraft guns with a high rate of fire like the Gepard; With its fast target capture, it can shoot down UAVs at a very low cost.

But no matter what, the advantage will almost always go to the attackers, who will find new ways to penetrate any defense system” Mr. Albert concluded.

Russia is really experiencing “good days” with their Geran-2 suicide UAV on the Ukrainian battlefield; but they do not rely on them as an absolute weapon to attack Ukraine but will combine suicide UAVs with missiles.

Defense Express military analyst Ivan Kyrychevskyi said that in just 1.5 months of being put into service (as of early October), Russia used a total of 86 Geran-2 suicide drones; But from October 10 to October 17 alone, the Russian side used 46 Geran-2 UAVs to attack targets throughout eastern and southern Ukraine.

Russia’s increased use of suicide drones does not mean that its missile arsenal has been exhausted as the West sees it.

However, even the Russians themselves do not consider the Geran-2 UAV as an “absolute weapon”. So they combined the use of suicide drones and missiles, including long-range ones.

In the past week, the Russian Army not only used 46 Geran-2 suicide drones, but also launched 20 missiles of all kinds, including 13 ballistic missiles.

Experts predict that, in the near future, the Russian Army will continue to attack with missiles with two missions at the same time, first to attack important Ukrainian targets, second to test strength of the Ukrainian Air Defense Forces.

And to maintain the intensity of the attacks, Russia will continue to use the Geran-2 suicide drone and continue to consume Ukraine’s air defense missiles, and when Ukraine’s air defense system weakens, russia will use missiles to hit more important targets.

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