An elite Ukrainian drone unit exploits the cover of night to destroy Russian tanks and trucks while their soldiers sleep, report says

  • An elite Ukrainian drone unit has been striking Russian targets with anti-tank grenades while troops sleep.
  • The drone unit has destroyed dozens of “priority targets” including Russian tanks, command trucks and other vehicles.
  • Ukrainian forces have had surprising success in using drones to destroy Russian equipment.

An elite Ukrainian drone unit is destroying the weaponry of the invading Russian forces as their soldiers’ sleep, The Times of London reported.

Aerorozvidka, a specialist air reconnaissance unit within the army, says it has destroyed dozens of “priority targets” including Russian tanks, command trucks, and other vehicles in nighttime raids, the paper reported.

Russian forces stop moving during the night and typically hide their tanks in between houses in villages where conventional artillery cannot strike them, Yaroslav Honchar, the unit commander based in Kyiv, told the paper.

But the elite drone unit, which has dozens of squads of expert drone pilots, has these stationary vehicles in its cross-hairs.

“We strike at night, when Russians sleep,” Honchar told the paper. “In the night it’s impossible to see our drones.”

“We look specifically for the most valuable truck in the convoy and then we hit it precisely and we can do it really well with very low collateral damage. Even in the villages, it’s possible. You can get much closer at night,” he said.

The unit’s arsenal of drones ranges from cheap commercial ones to heavy-duty octocopters that have been modified to drop anti-tank grenades and to see with thermal cameras, according to the paper.

A Bayraktar TB2 drone.
Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

The R18 drone has a 4km range and capacity to drop 5kg bombs is particularly prized by Honchar’s drone warriors, the paper said. The team also uses PD-1, or Punisher drone, developed by Ukraine, that can carry 3kg of explosives and hit targets up to 30 miles.

Since Russia began its invasion, Ukrainian forces have had success in using drones such as the highly-rated Turkish-made Bayraktar TB-2 to destroy the equipment of invading forces, Justin Bronk, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) wrote in The Spectator.

The success of the drones “speaks more to the skill of its Ukrainian operators and the incompetence and operational failures of Russian forces,” Bronk wrote.

Aerorozvidka’s drone unit, which flys up to 300 missions a day, according to The Times, operates using Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite system, which was activated in Ukraine days after Russia invaded.

This means drone teams can operate regardless of internet or power outages, which are currently rampant across the country.

“If we use a drone with thermal vision at night, the drone must connect through Starlink to the artillery guy and create target acquisition,” an Aerorozvidka leader told The Times.

Aerorozvidka uses an advanced Nato-supported intelligence system, Delta, which pulls together information from various sources including satellites and drone reconnaissance to precisely identify targets.

This helps the unit make the most efficient use of their limited supply of bombs, according to The Times.

Aerorozvidka was created by model plane enthusiasts in 2014 and has since been integrated into the Ukrainian general staff following the success of its operations against Russian forces in Crimea, The Times said.

In recent weeks, supporters from around Europe have been donating drone parts and other equipment such as 3D printers to help build and repair devices damaged by Russian rifles.