Volodymyr Zelensky has ordered his officials to create a separate branch of the army specially dedicated to drones as they have been instrumental in Ukraine’s fight against Russian forces in the continuing invasion.
“I have just signed a decree initiating the establishment of a separate branch of our Defence Forces – the Unmanned Systems Forces. This is not a matter of the future, but something that should yield a very concrete result shortly,” Mr Zelensky said in his nightly address on Tuesday.
The Ukrainian war-time leader championed the country’s effective drone attacks on Russian forces and infrastructure, just days after Kyiv said it used sea drones to sink a Russian missile-armed corvette Ivanovets warship in the Black Sea.
“Drones – unmanned systems – have proven their effectiveness in battles on land, in the sky and at sea. Ukraine has truly changed the security situation in the Black Sea with the help of drones,” Mr Zelensky said, adding that repelling ground assaults has primarily become the task of drones.
Ukrainian forces are expected to now work on special staff positions for drone operations, special units, effective training, the scaling-up of production for drone operations, and inclusion of the best ideas and top specialists in the unmanned aerial vehicles domain, the president added.
Successful Ukrainian attacks on Russian aircraft and ships parked in the Black Sea have helped push Moscow’s naval forces back and allowed Kyiv to increase crucial exports of grain and other goods through its southern ports.
The separate branch for drones will aid Ukraine with a “powerful impetus” to the military’s technological development, said Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s minister for digital transformation.
In the past year, drones have fundamentally changed the situation on the battlefield, the minister said. “They are effective in stopping Russian attacks and back up counterattacks by Ukraine’s armed forces,” he said.
Ukraine’s army chief Valeriy Zaluzhny has also backed the idea of drones in attacking Russia, calling the development of unarmed weapons systems “a central driver of this war”.
“Crucially, it is these unmanned systems – such as drones – along with other types of advanced weapons, that provide the best way for Ukraine to avoid being drawn into a positional war, where we do not possess the advantage,” Mr Zaluzhnyi wrote for CNN.
The war-hit nation has also relied heavily on its domestic production of drones in the warfare with Russia for over a year as the almost two-year-long Russian invasion grinds on.
Government officials have said that Ukraine aims to produce tens of thousands of drones every month. No figures on current production are available, but since the start of the war, drone production has shot up, with dozens of companies developing and producing different models.