The Russian military claims it has destroyed 1,600 Ukrainian military drones since the beginning of the Russo-Ukrainian War.
"In all, the following targets have been destroyed since the beginning of the special military operation: 260 aircraft, 144 helicopters, 1,600 unmanned aerial vehicles, 357 surface-to-air missile systems, 4,146 tanks and other combat armored vehicles, 763 multiple rocket launchers, 3,185 field artillery guns and mortars and 4,453 special military motor vehicles," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said during a briefing on Saturday, according to Russian state-run news outlet TASS.
As with many of the battlefield claims being made by both sides, the Russian military’s estimates of Ukrainian equipment losses have not been independently corroborated.
Ukrainian forces reportedly made extensive use of combat drones in the early stages of the war, setting up ambushes to destroy Russian heavy armor in the forested areas of northwestern Ukraine. Ukraine entered the war with an undisclosed number of Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones, first purchased by Kyiv in 2019. Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov revealed last month that the Ukrainian military has received as many as fifty TB2 drones since the Russian invasion commenced on February 24.
Additionally, the United States has committed to supplying Ukraine with around 700 Switchblade loitering munitions—also known as “Kamikaze” drones—to target Russian armored vehicles. It is unknown how many Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) remain operational in the war’s current stage, as the average Ukrainian surveillance drone has reportedly only lasted for about a week before succumbing to Russian air defenses.
Russia’s drone fleet, composed in large part of Orlan-10 reconnaissance UAVs, vastly outnumbers its Ukrainian counterpart. These drones are mainly being used by the Russian military to spot and track Ukrainian units. "Russian forces can bring their guns to bear on the enemy within only three to five minutes of an Orlan-10 drone spotting a target," Jack Watling of the Royal United Services Institute told the BBC. There have been reports of Orlan-10 combat variants being used to strike Ukrainian targets with high-explosive fragmentation ammunition; Russia’s Defense Ministry previously published footage of one such drone being loaded with munitions in Ukraine.
Moscow has accused Ukraine of executing drone attacks against targets in the far-western Russian cities of Bryansk and Belgorod. Bryansk regional governor Alexander Bogomaz claimed in late June that a Ukrainian drone was shot down while attempting to strike the village of Sluchevsk, located just across from Ukraine’s northeastern border with Russia.
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest.