Up to 30 miles behind the enemy lines, the Ukrainian military has deployed punisher drones that may target fuel storage, ammunition reserves, and electronic warfare facilities.
The battery-powered punisher drones have been “game-changing” and have completed up to 60 “successful” missions since the beginning of the Russian invasion, according to Eugene Bulatsev, an engineer with the Ukrainian designer UA-Dynamics.
“This is the cheapest and easiest way to deliver a punch from a long distance, without risking civilian lives,” Bulatsev said.
The fixed-wing punisher drones
The punisher drone is a fixed-wing unmanned aircraft with a 7 1/2 feet wingspan that can fly for hours at an altitude of 1,300 feet.
The unmanned aircraft can carry up to 6 pounds of explosives and can complete its mission autonomously based on the coordinates of its target. The impact of the blast can be recorded by onboard cameras to confirm the accuracy of the mission.
Many of them are in use in the Ukrainian military, including in the country’s special operations forces. Bulatsev declined to answer how many and where they are deployed, stating that this information is classified.
Often times the punisher drones are used in tandem with a smaller reconnaissance drone called the Spectre.
The specter will fly and identify the target, which will then be struck by the fixed-wing punisher drones.
The punisher drones are not inexpensive. Each package costs US$196,000 and includes two aircraft, a ground station, and a trainer.
So far drones of various sizes have been quite successful for the Ukrainian military, however, Aaron Stein, of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, believes that the drones used by the Ukrainian military will be overwhelmed “at some point in the near future.”
The Russian military campaign had stalled, according to Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, in part because the Ukrainians have been executing a “very clever plan.”
“We’ve seen footage we can’t verify but we’ve seen footage of Ukrainians using UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) to attack petrol train convoys, to go after logistical lines, we’ve seen lines blown up, all the things you and I think of when it comes to resistance,” he said.
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