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Thursday February 22, 2024

Ukraine to produce thousands of long-range drones, says minister

Category of long-range kamikaze drones is growing, with range of 300, 500, 700, and 1,000 kilometres, he says

By REUTERS
February 13, 2024
Ukrainian Minister for Digitalisation, Mykhailo Fedorov delivers a speech next to pictures of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky during a two-day International conference on reconstruction of Ukraine, in Lugano on July 4, 2022. — AFP
Ukrainian Minister for Digitalisation, Mykhailo Fedorov delivers a speech next to pictures of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky during a two-day International conference on reconstruction of Ukraine, in Lugano on July 4, 2022. — AFP

KYIV: Ukraine will produce thousands of long-range drones capable of deep strikes into Russia in 2024 and already has up to 10 companies making drones that can reach Moscow and St Petersburg, Ukraine’s digital minister said.

Mykhailo Fedorov spoke about the wartime drone industry he has championed in a interview in Kyiv in which he revealed new details about the sector, after a spate of Ukrainian drone attacks on Russian oil facilities in recent weeks.

“The category of long-range kamikaze drones is growing, with a range of 300, 500, 700, and 1,000 kilometres. Two years ago, this category did not exist ... at all,” he told Reuters.

Fedorov, 33, has been at the heart of Ukraine’s effort to nurture private military startups to innovate and build up the drone industry as the war goes into its third year and Ukraine seeks new ways to fight back against well dug-in Russian forces.

The recent series of strikes on oil facilities, he said, reflected the government’s progress in rapidly deregulating the drone market and increasing funding for it, with the state acting as a venture investor.

Some $2.5 million in grants were allocated to military tech startups via the BRAVE1 initiative set up by the government last year, an amount set to be increased roughly tenfold in 2024, he said.

“We will fight to increase the financing even more,” he added.In contrast with Russia where drone production is dominated by the state, the vast majority of manufacturers in Ukraine are private. Fedorov said only one of the 10 companies whose drones could fly as far as the regions around Moscow or St Petersburg was a state company.