First-Person-View Drone: Ukraine’s Top Commander Calls FVP Kamikaze UAVs ‘Massive Threat’ To Its Military

Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the beleaguered head of Ukraine’s army, says that if his country is to prevail in its conflict with Russia, it will have to adjust to the plateauing military support from its allies and put an even greater emphasis on technology to counter Russia.

As uncertainty surrounds his tenure as the army chief, Zaluzhnyi wrote in an exclusive article for CNN that discussed the difficulty of mass mobilization—a point of contention between him and President Volodymyr Zelensky—amid a flurry of speculations about his future.

Without answering any questions about the rumors swirling about him, Zaluzhnyi referred to his previous assertions. Ukraine’s top priorities should be unmanned aerial vehicles and electronic warfare capabilities. He also warned Ukraine against expecting too much out of Western military aid.

There was a great deal of anticipation in early 2023 that Ukraine would launch an offensive and advance, waging a war of maneuver to retake large swathes of land that it had lost to Russia when the invasion was launched in February 2022. 

Zaluzhnyi’s depiction of the conflict as a war of position, defined by combat attrition and immobility, signified the acceptance that the highly publicized Ukrainian counteroffensive from earlier in 2023 ended a few months later. 

That counteroffensive has been understood to be a failure despite the Ukrainian reluctance to accept defeat after the hype that had been created.

In his most specific and interesting observation, he emphasized that it was challenging to penetrate the deep Russian minefields, intense Russian artillery fire, and the rapidly spreading First-Person-View (FPV) drones across the frontline, which made stealth attacks much more difficult.

Despite Massive Military Aid, Ukraine Struggled To Break In!

Russian mines have undoubtedly been Ukraine’s greatest kryptonite in its counter-ops against Moscow’s units. In the run-up to the counteroffensive that was launched in June last year, Russia heavily employed anti-tank mines on the battlefield as a part of its tactics to halt a Ukrainian advance.

This was also confirmed by a UK intelligence assessment published at the time.

Michael Newton, the head of the HALO Trust program, which clears landmines in Ukraine, stated, “What we’re seeing is just industrial level… industrial mine-laying.”

Additionally, a meticulously drafted British Royal United Services Institute report noted that Russia had employed a combination of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines in the conflict. These mines were crucial components of defensive fortifications, especially in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine that Russia had managed to occupy.

By fortifying these sites, the advance of troops was intended to be directed against weak spots. The Ukrainian forces, in advance, were believed to be vulnerable to counterattacks and heavy artillery fire. In a video shared by the Russian Defense Ministry on Telegram, a Russian soldier stated, “We use [mines] in certain crossroads to cover our troops on the flanks so that the enemy doesn’t break through.”

Various mines have since been used in the battle, including the TM-62, which explodes when a passing vehicle applies pressure, and the sophisticated PTKM-1R, which has sensors that can identify and release submunitions on moving vehicles. 

Another major factor that has led to a deadlock for Ukraine has been Russia’s electronic warfare (EW) capabilities. Even though Ukraine has managed to produce a massive number of drones locally, they have fallen prey to Russia’s EW systems, a tactical weakness that has been accepted by Kyiv’s officials and military watchers keenly studying the war.

Krasukha - Wikipedia
Krasukha is a Russian mobile, ground-based, electronic warfare (EW) system. – Wikipedia

Moscow uses various techniques in its electronic warfare, with jamming and “spoofing” GPS being critical components of the Kremlin’s arsenal. These tactics seriously interfere with cell, radio, and radar communications to deceive opposing drones or missiles.

Ukraine’s sophisticated Western-supplied precision-guided weapons have also become vulnerable due to the interference of Russian jammers. Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief, earlier underscored Russia’s extensive production of what he labels “trench electronic warfare.”

In May last year, a RUSI report said Moscow’s EW has consistently remained effective and brought down nearly 10,000 Ukrainian drones a month, which is approximately 333 drones per day. Russian EWs have been tackling everything from drones to communications and satellite navigation signals. And while Ukraine has devised ways to surpass these and has launched several high-profile attacks, the EW system remains a problem.

Russian First Person View (FPVs), like other drones deployed by it, have been posing another major hurdle for Ukrainian forces. Both Russia and Ukraine have extensively deployed the FPVs in the ongoing conflict. 

Some military experts noted that while trenches once protected shelling, the introduction of FPV drones, including the threat posed by drone-dropped munitions, has drastically changed the level of protection that trenches offer infantry.

DroneSpace creator and Ukrainian Maksim Sheremet recently offered an insightful analysis of the current market, focusing primarily on Russia and Ukraine.

He says, “Russian companies produce six times more FPV drones monthly than Ukrainian companies.” That is to say, based on estimates from the Ukrainian side, Russian companies create 300,000 drones per month.

The most notable drones in this context are first-person view (FPV) drones commonly used for racing or filmmaking. These are retrofitted with makeshift explosives and flown to strike fixed targets relatively cheaply.

Although Ukraine is believed to have used its FPVs more effectively to hit Russian targets, the Ukrainian army chief’s emphasis on Russian FPVs is significant.

File Image: Drone FPV
File Image: Drone FPV

All of these above factors, alongside several others, have essentially contributed to the failure of Kyiv’s counter-offensive. Zaluzhnyi said Ukrainian forces made a 20-kilometer advance in the south, which was the central area of emphasis; the expectation had been that they could advance to the shore, roughly 70 kilometers distant.

While they deal with political unrest, we must deal with essential partners cutting back on their military support. The level of fighting in Ukraine, coupled with a worldwide scarcity of propellant charges, is depleting our allies’ arsenals of missiles, air defense interceptors, and artillery ammunition.

Zaluzhnyi also warned that Russia may try to start new wars elsewhere in light of how the Middle East’s events have diverted attention from other issues. He advised his country to focus on technological innovation and make do without vast volumes of Western military aid.

“The challenge for our armed forces cannot be underestimated. It is to create a completely new state system of technological rearmament. Taking everything into account at this moment, we think the creation of such a system could be achieved in five months,” he said