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Ukraine’s Digital Transformation Minister announces thousands of long-range drones, says they can reach Moscow and St. Petersburg

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Ukraine will produce thousands of long-range drones capable of carrying out deep strikes at Russia in 2024, and there are already up to 10 companies that produce drones capable of reaching Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Source: Mykhailo Fedorov, Deputy Prime Minister for Innovation, Education, Science and Technology Development and Minister of Digital Transformation, in an interview with Reuters

Quote: “The list of long-range kamikaze drones is growing, with an [effective] range of 300, 500, 700, and 1,000 kilometres. Two years ago, this category did not exist … at all.”

Details: The minister said the recent series of strikes on Russian oil facilities reflects the Ukrainian government’s progress in rapidly deregulating the drone market and increasing its funding, with the state acting as a venture capitalist.

Fedorov noted that the BRAVE1 initiative, launched by the government last year, has provided about US$2.5 million in grants to military-technical startups and that this amount is set to increase about tenfold in 2024.

“We will fight to increase the financing even more,” he added.

Unlike Russia, where the state dominates drone production, the vast majority of manufacturers in Ukraine are private. Fedorov said only one of the ten companies whose drones can fly into the regions around Moscow or St. Petersburg is state-owned.

Ukraine’s drone production and deliveries increased more than 120-fold in 2023, part of a broader effort to develop and produce wartime drones to close the gap with Russia’s strike capabilities, Fedorov said.

Fedorov said he agreed with the assessment of Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s head of Defence Intelligence, that Kyiv has reached “a kind of parity” with Moscow in the production of long-range drones.

In the situation of a shortage of artillery shells, the Ukrainian authorities are relying on drones.

Quote: “We need to act in an anti-bureaucratic way. This is the essence of a breakthrough in the war of technology. We are going to continue to put our bets on this, to work in this direction. Because technology can really save us.”

Details: Fedorov said that last year, more than 300,000 drones of various types were contracted, and more than 100,000 were sent to the front. These figures do not include volunteer deliveries, which have made a “significant contribution,” he added.

Quote: “We removed taxes on UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) components, simplified the contracting procedure, and the procedure for decommissioning. In other words, we took all the blockages that private sector companies were facing and addressed them in six months by passing all the necessary laws and resolutions,” Fedorov said.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has set a goal for Ukraine to produce 1 million first-person view (FPV) drones this year, which are cheap to manufacture and are being deployed in huge numbers by both sides on the front.

Ukraine’s drone industry relies heavily on components from other countries, including China. As Fedorov said, there are attempts to localise the production of components.

“That’s why I think that if we continue this trend, by the end of this year, we will have a lot of companies that have already made more than 50% of their components locally,” the minister said.

He said that the recent surge in production has put such a strain on logistics that changes had to be made quickly to prevent long delays in deliveries.

“In December alone, drone deliveries were 50 times higher than in the entire 2022. Just imagine, the system was not prepared for that, and I think the logistics did not realize that such volumes were possible,” Fedorov said.

The private sector has also been held back by the state monopoly on the production of ammunition for drones. Three months ago, Ukraine passed a decree abolishing this state monopoly and later halted a separate monopoly on the production of artillery shells and missiles, he said.

“Over the past three months, more than 20 companies have already undergone testing and can now hand over ammunition to the state,” the minister said.

Reminder: Since 2022, Russia has been using thousands of Iranian Shahed drones against Ukraine. Ukraine has begun to respond in kind.

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