Ukraine to build a MacGyvered Robot Army

Ukraine will likely become the world leader in cheap military drones and robots built from off the shelf, consumer electronics parts.



I have argued here and elsewhere that a drone army is a powerful and unexploited weapons system just waiting to be discovered.

Kamikazes were terrifying but not particularly successful as they came in one at a time making them relatively easy targets for shipboard gunners. (Less than 20% of such attacks registered a hit or even near miss, a pathetic percentage for a “smart” weapon.)

But scale it up and launch a hundreds drones at once at a target and it would become almost impossible to stop all of them, surely a few would get through. And a hundred commercial drones would still cost far less than a single Tomahawk missile or any of the other exotic weapons we pay for to keep the boys in military procurement happy.

Of course that could never happen, because a $1000 commercial drone would be dressed up in 87 other weapons systems, armor, video cameras and all the rest of the bangles the Pentagon insists on loading onto everything.

But yeah, Ukraine may show the way: off the shelf technology and a few guys with joystick controllers. Whiz bang Pow.


The narrative about why last summer’s Ukrainian offensive went nowhere was that the Russians had heavily fortified their positions over the preceding winter. The obvious, conventional solution would be “vertical envelopment”, dropping paratroops behind the Russian defensive lines. But does Ukraine have the air lift capability to drop a large enough force? That would be where the drones would come in, dropping hordes of them on Russian positions.

Classic pic from late WWII. HMS Sussex was a County class heavy cruiser, big and well armored. The kamikaze simply went splat against the ship.


It’s not the lift tonnage that has been lacking, but rather the ability to establish dominance in the air for long enough to protect Ukrainian lift planes and their troops from Russian missiles and fighters.

The F-16 and other crafts are just coming up to speed.

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Its been pointed out that cheap weapons with limited capabilities are just as difficult to get approved and funded as are more complex systems.

So why not build complex systems? More parts and more functions mean more suppliers, more money to go around, and more votes in Congress. Cheap does no good if not approved and funded.


The Captain


Worked out OK, except the ground forces could not advance quite on schedule, and one LZ full of Brits got hung out to dry.

The Ukrainians would have the same issue: advancing on the ground to back up the paras. They would need a huge amount of artillery to clear a couple mile wide front, dropping shells in a dense enough pattern to detonate all the land mines, as well as destroying Russian fortifications, while the paras prevent reenforcements reaching the Russian lines.

Heaviest artillery barrage my dad ever saw, was one night, when his division was inserted in the front line. The divisions on either side were moving laterally, to create the opening, while the barrage was dense enough to make sure no German would survive an attempt to exploit the opening in the US line.


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In addition, Total numbers of soldiers…?

Does UA have the manpower to risk them on paratrooping?


Yes and no. It would not work well enough without being overwhelming.

The losses are not the only issue. Moral matters. Bad enough being outgunned Ukraine’s moral depends on fighting another day.

Better off and usually winning armies have older men who say, “No” to stupid missions.