In the ever-intensifying conflict between Russia and Ukraine, recent reports from Kyiv’s military paint a grim picture of staggering losses incurred by Russian forces within a 24-hour period.
On Sunday, Kyiv’s military announced that Russian troops suffered significant casualties, losing over 1,000 soldiers, nearly a dozen tanks, and almost 100 airborne drones in what has been termed the “largest drone strike” since the onset of the 21-month-long war.
Russian Losses and the Unfolding Conflict
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces revealed that in the past day alone, Moscow’s forces faced severe setbacks, with 1,070 fighters and 11 tanks lost.
These losses add to an alarming tally since the outbreak of all-out war in February 2022, accumulating 324,830 soldiers and 5,513 tanks, according to Ukraine’s count.
These are the indicative estimates of Russia’s combat losses as of Nov. 26, according to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/UvnZ49l2ne
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) November 26, 2023
According to a report by Newsweek, of particular note is the striking figure of 93 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) lost by Russia in this single day, bringing the total number of UAVs lost to 5,901.
However, it’s essential to note that independent verification of these statistics remains unavailable.
Dominance of Drones and New Warfare Dynamics
Drone warfare has emerged as a dominant factor in the battlefield dynamics of the Ukraine conflict.
Rapid advancements in uncrewed technology have reshaped the nature of warfare, with Russia extensively employing cheap suicide drones, notably the Iranian-designed Shahed drones, also recognized as Geran-1 and Geran-2.
Characterized by their distinctive low buzzing sound, these drones carry a warhead designed to shatter or explode upon reaching their intended targets.
The smaller Shahed-131 has a shorter maximum range of approximately 550 miles, while the larger Shahed-136 boasts an estimated range of about 1,200 miles.
Recent Escalations and Impact of Drone Strikes
Ukraine reported that Moscow initiated a “record number” of Shahed drone launches, deploying 75 UAVs from two sites in Russia.
While primarily targeting Kyiv, these strikes extended to at least six regions.
Initially, the Ukrainian military claimed to have destroyed 71 of the drones, but a revised count increased the number to 74 UAVs.
During the night of November 25, Russia launched 75 'Shahed' drones, out of which 71 were successfully destroyed by the Armed Forces of #Ukraine and the Air Defense systems
❗ The number of launched attack UAVs became a record high since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. pic.twitter.com/N7lxwXOidt
— MFA of Ukraine 🇺🇦 (@MFA_Ukraine) November 25, 2023
The intensity escalated further when, early on Sunday, Ukraine’s air force intercepted nine additional Shahed drones launched from Primorsko-Akhtarsk in Russia’s Krasnodar region.
Of these, eight were intercepted, underscoring the gravity of the situation.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a US think tank, characterized this onslaught as “the largest drone strike against Ukraine since the start of the full-scale invasion.”
Notably, the Shahed drones used in these attacks were identified as modified versions, featuring a black exterior capable of absorbing radar signals, rendering them more challenging to detect.
Analysis and Speculations
The recent presentation of Iran’s Shahed-238, a jet-powered iteration of the Shahed-136 drone by the Ashura Aerospace University of Science and Technology, has sparked interest in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Footage released on November 19 displayed the Shahed-238, featuring a black exterior suggestive of stealth capabilities.
🚨Update: Tehran just revealed its new Iranian Shahed-238 kamikaze attack drone!
Iran is now producing a new Shahed with a jet engine, with different radar guidance! This Shahed is more advanced and reactive! It's black matte color which could make it harder for visual… pic.twitter.com/ieGxvK29HI
— US Civil Defense News (@CaptCoronado) November 21, 2023
However, it remains uncertain if Russian forces deployed this specific modification during the November 25 strike in Ukraine.
Colonel Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s air force, emphasized that these new iterations of Shahed drones were designed with stealth capabilities, posing enhanced challenges to Ukraine’s air defenses.
“Russian forces attacked Kyiv with a new modification of Shahed drones and noted that these drones were black in color and contained a material that absorbs radar signals, making them more difficult to detect,” the ISW November 25 report noted.
Furthermore, Russian military bloggers supported claims that these black drones, referred to as “black Geran” or “Feran,” the Russian name for Shaheds, are harder to detect, amplifying the complexity of defense measures.
However, the veracity of these claims and the extent of their impact remain subjects of scrutiny.
Verification challenges persist, and independent corroboration of the reported losses and technical advancements remains essential.
Below are Russia’s combat losses as of November 28, according to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
These are the indicative estimates of Russia’s combat losses as of Nov. 28, according to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/N1PZvpK5n3
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) November 28, 2023
Conclusion: Implications and Future Scenarios
The recent surge in drone warfare highlights a critical juncture in the conflict, underscoring the evolving nature of modern warfare tactics. As losses mount and technological advancements shape the battlefield, the implications for the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine are profound.
This escalation in drone warfare is poised to influence strategic decisions and potentially alter the course of the conflict. The resilience of defense mechanisms and the adaptability of military strategies will undoubtedly play pivotal roles in shaping the outcomes.
As developments unfold, the evolving dynamics in Ukraine necessitate vigilant observation, considering the potential implications for regional stability and international relations in the realm of military and defense technology.
In this volatile landscape, the understanding of drone technology’s role in conflicts like the one in Ukraine serves as a crucial factor in comprehending modern warfare’s shifting paradigms and the challenges it poses to military operations and global security.