Russia Doubles Up Bread Factory As “Drone Baker” As Moscow Bets Big On FPV UAVs For Ukraine War – Reports

Russia has repurposed a bread production plant into a facility for making FPV drones while continuing its regular baked goods production, purportedly to bolster its efforts in the Ukraine conflict.

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The Russian state broadcaster Rossiya has released a video showcasing the Tambov bread and bakery plant, located 400 kilometers south of Moscow, which has been repurposed into a drone manufacturing facility. 

The state media said that the plant commenced drone production in response to a request from the Russian military. 

During a segment of the footage, a correspondent from the state broadcaster displayed the drones and freshly baked bread on the assembly line, noting, “Can you imagine? They smell like fresh bread.”

In March of this year, the Russian government’s daily publication Rossiiskaya Gazeta was the first to cover the drone production at Tambov Bakery.

At the time, the report said that the bakery started the assembly of unmanned aerial vehicles, known as Bekas, in response to an urgent request from soldiers whom the bakery had been providing with bread.

Tambov Bakery’s deputy director Alexander Rudik, a former communications officer and a reserve lieutenant colonel, said, “Last year, the military asked to send drones — the more, the better.”

The latest report additionally highlighted that the plant’s technical staff manages the production of drones in a different facility.

The report further mentioned that the factory had incorporated 3D printers to manufacture components for affixing payloads like cameras, antennas, and munitions release systems, alongside procuring certain parts.

Video grab

In March 2023, it was reported that the Tambov plant was manufacturing 200 Bekas drones each month, priced at approximately US$450 per unit. These drones can achieve 65 km/h speeds, have a 15-minute battery life per charge, and include a spare battery.  

Russia has significantly increased its output of diverse FPV drone models and types following substantial investments in its military-industrial complex. 

However, the US-based Institute for the Study of War suggested that the visual material emerging from the Tambov plant might be orchestrated, raising the possibility of a Russian information campaign. 

This campaign could aim to convey the message that Russian authorities are setting up drone production within civilian sectors, creating a narrative that suggests widespread support for the invasion across all segments of Russian society.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian media claimed that it is highly probable that the Russian propaganda outlet released the video to distort the true extent of Russia’s drone production capabilities. 

In reality, the factory likely only hosts a relatively modest assembly workshop, despite the misleading impression created by the video.

Russia’s Drone Technology Sourced From China

Despite Moscow’s considerable investments in expanding drone production, many drones used in Ukraine’s conflict are apparently sourced from China. 

During a government meeting on October 15, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov emphasized Russia’s reliance on China for drone supplies. 

He stated that all of Russia’s drones are imported from the People’s Republic of China, expressing gratitude to their partners for this contribution. This acknowledgment underscores China’s significant role in providing drones to support Russia in its war against Ukraine. 

But Siluanov added, “But we need to develop our resource base, and the necessary funds have been allocated.” This admission was made in the context of unveiling a new Russian initiative to strengthen domestic drone production capabilities. 

He mentioned that additional funds, amounting to over 60 billion rubles, have been allocated for a national project to develop the country’s drone base. 

The ambitious goal is to ensure that 41% of all drones by 2025 bear the ‘Made in Russia’ label. This initiative reflects a strategic move to increase the share of Russian-manufactured drones shortly.

Ukraine and the United States have made allegations against China, asserting that it supplies drones or essential components for drone production to Russia.

Russia China
File Image: Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping

China, however, has consistently refuted these claims, denying any military assistance to Russia. In August 2023, China took measures to restrict the export of long-range civilian drones due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, expressing concerns that potential buyers might repurpose them for military use.

In September 2023, the US government implemented fresh trade restrictions, targeting 11 Chinese companies. These restrictions were imposed after accusing these entities of providing components for drone production to support Russia’s war efforts in Ukraine.