By KIM BELLARD
Like many of you, I’m watching the war in Ukraine with great interest and much support. For all the fuss about expensive weapons — like F-16 fighters, Abrams tanks, Stryker and Bradley armored fighting vehicles, Patriot missile defense systems, Javelin anti-tank missiles, Himars long range missiles, and various types of high tech drones — what I’m most fascinated with is how Ukraine is using inexpensive, practically homemade drones as a key weapon.
It’s a new way of waging war. And when I say “waging war,” I can’t help but also think “providing health care.” It’s not so much that I think drones are going to revamp health care, but if very expensive weapons may, in fact, not be the future of warfare, maybe very expensive treatments aren’t necessarily the future of healthcare either.
Just within the last two weeks, for example, The New York Times headlined Budget Drones Prove Their Value in a Billion-Dollar War, AP said Using duct tape and bombs, Ukraine’s drone pilots wage war with low-cost, improvised weapons, ABC News reports: Inside Ukraine’s efforts to bring an ‘army of drones’ to war against Russia, and Defense News describes how Cardboard drone vendor retools software based on Ukraine war hacks.
This is not the U.S. military-industrial complex’s “shock-and-awe” kind of warfare; this is the guy-in-his-garage-building-his-own-weapons kind of warfare.
Ukraine’s minister for digital transformation, Mykhailo Federov, says the government is committed to building a state-of-the-art “army of drones.” He promises: “A new stage of the war will soon begin.”
Drones made of plastic foam or plastic are harder to find on radar, reconnaissance teams said. Ukraine buys them from commercial suppliers who also sell to aerial photographers or hobbyists around the world, along with parts such as radios, cameras, antennas and motors. The drone units mix and match parts until they find combinations that can fly past sophisticated Russian air defenses.
“The doctrine of war is changing,” one Ukrainian commander said. “Drones that cost hundreds of dollars are destroying machines costing millions of dollars.” The AP discusses how an elite drone unit – “a ragtag group of engineers, corporate managers and filmmakers” — “assembled with just $700,000, has destroyed $80 million worth of enemy equipment.”Continue reading…