1st Recorded Kill By VAMPIRE! Ukraine ‘Shoots Down’ Shahed UAV With L3Harris System; Kyiv Shares Stunning Video

With Russia intensifying drone strikes against Ukraine, there’s visual evidence showing Ukrainian air defense units employing the US-origin VAMPIRE anti-drone system to shoot down the Russian Shahed-class kamikaze UAVs.

Russia To Deploy 5000-Km Ranged Tu-142 Aircraft To Hunt Hostile Nuke Subs, Patrol Northern Sea Route

On February 12, the Ukrainian Navy published footage demonstrating the use of a VAMPIRE system in the southwest Odesa region. The footage was not explicitly identified as being from a VAMPIRE system by the Ukrainian Navy. 

However, as soon as the video went viral, military watchers identified the system as a VAMPIRE by referring to the operator’s console, which is visible in the clips. They noted that the appearance and details remain identical to those in the official manufacturer L3Harris marketing literature.

The video shows the drone’s tracking box and laser spot as seen from the operator’s console, with some other details muddled. Just seconds into the video, the drone is aimed at and obliterated. Military experts noted that all of the components match the control interface of the VAMPIRE system, despite most details being blurred out by the Navy.

Additionally, the video depicts the Shahed-type drone being tracked, lased, and then targeted with a rocket. When the missile intercepts the drone, there is an obvious detonation. Although the target appears to have sustained very minor damage based on what can be seen in the infrared video feed, it is difficult to determine the entire degree of the damage. 

In the final frame, the drone is seen losing control, shaking frantically, and hitting the ground. In the background, the operator(s) could be heard cheering for a seemingly successful interception.

The development was reported a day after Russia launched over 45 drones against Ukrainian targets, with the latter reportedly shooting down at least 40 of them.

According to OSINT analysts, this Navy footage appears to be the first concrete proof of Vampire systems actively participating in Ukraine’s air defense. The Vampire system is made to take on both ground and aerial threats thanks to its APKWS (Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System) guided rockets.

The US first announced it would deliver the VAMPIRE Counter-drone system to Ukraine. At the time, it said that the military aid package included ten mobile counter-UAS laser-guided rocket systems that “will enable Ukraine to fire precision rockets from mobile positions.”

A US official noted that these systems will be new to Ukraine, and “they will use the APKWS advanced precision kill weapon system, laser-guided munitions, to counter the drone threat.

Ukraine’s air defense capabilities against persistent aerial threats have been strengthened by the US Navy’s confirmation that all Vampire systems pledged to the country had been delivered by the end of 2023.

The VAMPIRE systems are a high-tech and economical way to resist hostile kamikaze drones. The interception of a Shahed drone, which can weigh up to 240 kilograms, marks a noteworthy achievement for the APKWS technology.

Considering that only 14 of these systems are believed to have been shipped to Ukraine, this is a low-density capability for the nation. For a country that consistently needs more robust air and missile defenses overall, the devices do provide an extra mobile defensive tool against invading drones.

Even in tiny numbers, VAMPIRE counter-drone systems could lessen the need to employ more advanced air defense systems for counter-drone operations.

This makes the VAMPIRE an asset for Ukraine, especially since Russia unleashes swarms of drones almost every day, and the Ukrainian administration has continued to plead with NATO for more air defenses. The drone strike was conducted on agricultural facilities, coastal infrastructure, and power grids. 


L3Harris manufactures the Vehicle-Agnostic Modular Palletized ISR Rocket Equipment, employing laser-guided munitions to strike ground and air targets, including unmanned aircraft systems. The VAMPIRE is a weapon that takes down low-flying aircraft, especially drones, and strikes ground targets.

Colin Kahl, the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy at the Pentagon, earlier described VAMPIRE as a “kinetic system” that “shoots [unmanned aerial vehicles] out of the sky, essentially, using small missiles.”

A two-person crew may install the entire weapons system on a pickup truck or flatbed lorry in two hours. It has a laser designator to focus on the targets and a “sensor ball” to track drones. One person may operate the device to strike both aerial and ground targets.

The Vampire is a portable kit that can be mounted on most vehicles with a cargo bed to launch the 70mm Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II (APKWS II) laser-guided rockets or other laser-guided munitions, according to the L3Harris website.

vampire anti drone system
A closer look at VAMPIRE’s launch system and sensor ball. (L3Harris)

APKWS II converts an unguided 70mm rocket into a precision weapon using a laser seeker guiding element and a control unit focusing on a laser designator. They can be quite precise and rarely result in unwanted repercussions.

Vampire includes an elevatable electro-optical/infrared modular sensor ball, a four-round launcher for 70mm laser-guided rockets such as the APKWS II, and laser designators such as the WESCAM MX-RSTA or a comparable model.

An independent power supply and a centralized control system are also part of it. The palletized system can be used in truck beds or permanently stationary locations.