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Ukrainian military to create separate branch dedicated to drones

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President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree creating a separate branch of Ukraine’s Armed Forces dedicated to drones, he said in his evening address on Feb. 6.

The Unmanned Systems Forces will reportedly focus specifically on improving Ukraine’s work with drones, creating special drone-specific units, ramping up training, systemizing their use, increasing production, and pushing innovation.

According to the President’s Office, the division will aim to “increase the capabilities of Ukraine’s Armed Forces and to use unmanned and robotic air, sea, and ground systems.”

“This year should be decisive in many aspects – and, obviously, on the battlefield,” Zelensky said. “Drones – unmanned systems – have proven their effectiveness in battles on land, in the sky, and at sea.”

“Ukraine has really changed the security situation in the Black Sea thanks to drones. Repelling assaults on the ground is largely the work of drones. The large-scale destruction of the (Russian) occupiers and their equipment is (also due to) drones.”

Zelensky noted that the branch’s creation will be undertaken by the military, the Defense Ministry, and the government as a whole.

The announcement comes as Ukraine seeks to introduce new military strategies in 2024, specifically with an increased emphasis on air defense. Over recent weeks, the government has highlighted the need for expanded air defense capabilities from its Western partners.

At a press conference in Vilnius earlier this year, Zelensky stated that Ukraine currently lacks the ability to produce its own modern air defense system, something that it desperately needs to protect its citizens from Russian strikes. Zelensky pointed to the mass strikes across Ukraine at the end of December and the start of the month, which hit “civil infrastructure, people, kindergartens.”

Sufficient air defense systems are therefore the “number one” thing that is missing in Ukraine right now, Zelensky said. “We can fight this enemy with technology until we have driven them from our land.”

Late last month, following his announcement in Vilnius, Zelensky confirmed that agreements are in place to begin joint production of weapons and ammunition, including drones within the country. He added that Ukraine is increasing its production of artillery ammunition every month.

Two days before, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited Kyiv and pledged a 2.5-billion-pound ($3.2 billion) military aid package.

The package included air defense equipment, anti-tank weapons, long-range missiles, and training for Ukrainian soldiers. The U.K. government announced earlier that the tranche also consists of the “largest ever commitment of drones” to Ukraine.

Read also: Russia’s use of North Korean ballistic missiles not a sign of Moscow’s depleted domestic capacity

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