At least three different weapons systems with various autonomous functions have reportedly been used by both Russia and Ukraine in the months since Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine began.
Russia’s KUB-BLA drone
The KUB-BLA (aka KYB-UAV) drone is a loitering munition developed by Kalashnikov and Zala Aero Group. According to Kalashnikov, the KUB ‘precisely hits ground targets, delivering specific payload to target coordinates. The target coordinates are specified manually or acquired from payload targeting image.’ The KUB can deliver a range of payloads, and is said to incorporate ‘artificial intelligence visual identification (AIVI) technology for real-time recognition and classification of targets. The AIVI technology increases the area covered during a single flight by 60 times and improves the drone’s real-time lethality and autonomy.’
Russia has reportedly used the KUB-BLA on numerous occasions since its invasion of Ukraine began, with the first evidence of its use coming in March 2022.
Russia’s Lancet drone
Russia is also reported to have used the Lancet drone in Ukraine. Like the KUB-BLA, the Lancet is manufactured by Kalashnikov and Zala Aer Group. Kalashnikov describes the drone as ‘a smart multipurpose weapon, capable of autonomously finding and hitting a target. The weapon system consists of precision strike component, reconnaissance, navigation and communications modules. It creates its own navigation field and does not require ground or sea-based infrastructure’, and ‘is equipped with several targeting systems: coordinate system, optoelectronic system and combined system.’
At the time of writing, reports of the Lancet’s use have not been verified.
Ukraine’s Bayraktar TB2 drones, Switchblade loitering missiles, and the Phoenix Ghost drone.
Ukraine has reportedly successfully used the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone. Baykar describes the Bayraktar TB2 as ‘a multi-purpose platform’ with autonomous flight capabilities that ‘can perform Target Acquisition using the onboard laser designator’ and which ‘is also capable of eliminating the target using its payload consisting of four smart munitions.’
Ukraine has also been using the Switchblade 300 and the Switchblade 600, both of which are loitering missiles with various autonomous capabilities, including navigation capabilities, and feature and object recognition capabilities.
There is little information on the Phoenix Ghost Unmanned Aerial System, developed by the U.S. Air Force and Aevex Aerospace. A U.S. official from the Department of Defense told reporters that the Phoenix Ghost ‘provides the same sort of tactical capability that a Switchblade does.’
The U.S. has committed to providing over 700 Switchblade systems and 121 Phoenix Ghost systems to Ukraine.
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