Flogging a Dead Horse: UK Reportedly Develops 3D-Printed Suicide Drones for Ukrainian Military
A control system for unmanned drones at the Farnborough aerospace show.InternationalIndiaAfricaThe UK is said to have developed a 3D-printed delta-wing “suicide” drone for the Ukrainian military. QinetiQ, the UK-based defense firm that works closely with the British Ministry of Defence (MOD), has lifted the veil of secrecy about some details of the alleged program.Military observers have recently drawn attention to western unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) intended for the Ukrainian battlefield. One of these drones is the delta-wing “suicide” drone which could be made with a 3D printer.A recent statement by QinetiQ revealed that the Future Capability Group (FCG) – an entity within the UK MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) – had been tasked by the British government to provide recommendations for UAS that could be deployed readily by the Ukrainian military.The aforementioned endeavor is part of a broader quick reaction project (KINDRED) aimed at picking equipment that could be delivered to the Ukrainian battlefield within a four-month time frame. To meet the challenge, FCG turned to the expertise, experience and resources available from QinetiQ at MOD Boscombe Down, a military aircraft testing site, on the southeastern outskirts of the town of Amesbury, Wiltshire, England.The report further revealed that a major two-day event had taken place at Boscombe, bringing together over 30 senior MOD personnel from the RAF Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO), the Royal Navy, RAF 56 Sqn, Royal Artillery, Defence Science and Technology Laboratories (DSTL), JHub (StratComs’s innovation hub), Army HQ and, of course, FCG and DE&S.RussiaRussia Starts Testing Its New TrUMP Heavy Drone17 February, 11:09 GMTA variety of equipment, systems and technologies from five different companies were demonstrated during the show. These included a unique 3D-printed delta wing “suicide” drone, which was reportedly tested with a view to supplying it to Ukraine.The Drive suggested that the intriguing device is depicted in a photo attached to QinetiQ’s statement. The picture shows a small drone with swept wing and tail fin, supposedly powered by a pair of micro-turbine engines, and possibly 3D-printed, according to the media.Sputnik reached out to QinetiQ asking them to confirm this report and provide further details but has not received an answer so far.The British drone program bears a strong resemblance to the US effort to develop the so-called Phoenix Ghost loitering munition for Ukraine. The weapon was even announced as part of a US security assistance package in April 2022, but has not been spotted on the battlefield so far.Even though the characteristics of the 3D-printed delta-wing drone tested at Boscombe Down have yet to be made public, western military observers presumed that it could be the weapon referred to recently by UK officials when they said they plan to offer Ukraine “longer-range capabilities.”RussiaMoscow: Drones Used for Attacks on Crimea, Other Russian Regions Made by US Spektreworks16 December 2022, 09:40 GMTThe cost factor of a suicide drone is especially important: a 3D-printed UAS could potentially offer a much cheaper way of striking the adversary’s targets at distance, or even overwhelming its air defenses if launched in considerable numbers.Russia’s “kamikaze” UAS Geran-2, a loitering munition in the form of an autonomous pusher-prop drone, has proven especially effective given its ease of operation and relatively low cost. Shooting down a roughly $14,000 Geran-2 with missiles worth millions of dollars has become a headache for the Ukrainian military.According to western military observers, the 3D printing method may come in handy for the Ukrainian military and its British patrons: the drone could be quickly designed and developed in the UK before production is launched in Ukraine, with only minimal preparation required.So far, the British government has provided at least 2,000 drones and loitering munitions to Kiev, which include spy and cargo-carrying logistics drones, autonomous mine-hunting vehicles, and 850 hand-launched Black Hornet micro-drones, primarily used in urban warfare. The latter were delivered in collaboration with the Norwegian Ministry of Defense.AnalysisNo Lock, No Stock & No Barrel: Why Blinken Re-Evaluated ‘Red Lines’ and Backed Down on Crimea16 February, 19:08 GMTThe 3D-printed drones and similar UAS provided by the transatlantic alliance stand nowhere near the long-range heavy weapons or sophisticated fighter jets requested by the Ukrainian military.A chorus of international military observers has acknowledged that NATO’s weapon deliveries to Ukraine are incapable of satiating Kiev’s military appetite or becoming a game changer in the conflict zone.Even though the transatlantic alliance previously announced, with much fanfare, the provision of Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine, it turned out that Kiev will get less armored vehicles than expected, with the batch including legacy Leopard 1s. Simultaneously, mainstream press has reported, citing present and former NATO defense officials, that the military-industrial complex of the collective West is striving to get more money and resources as the alliance’s member states’ arms stockpiles are being depleted.As such, the 3D-printed drones are at least something that the UK – one of the countries which derailed the Russo-Ukrainian Istanbul preliminary peace agreement in April 2022 – can put in Kiev’s hands, encouraging it to fight to the last Ukrainian.