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By Igor Kossov
KYIV — Ukraine plans to test locally-made military attack drones next year, according to President Petro Poroshenko and state defense giant Ukroboronprom.
Poroshenko called for “new, modern weapons to defend against the aggressor,” in a speech last week in Kharkiv. To that end, he said that a priority is to develop cruise missiles and attack drones.
Earlier, Ukroboronprom general director Roman Romanov told Poroshenko-owned Channel 5 TV station that armed UAVs are in development by state aircraft developer Antonov, a part of Ukroboronprom.
“This UAV model that we are making now at Antonov will be tested soon, I want to say next year,” said Romanov. “It’s designed to carry weapons, rockets.”
UKRAINE’S BIG DEFENSE INDUSTRY
Ukraine was the world’s 12th largest arms exporter in 2015, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Multiple requests for comment to Ukroboronprom and Antonov were not returned last week.
Talk of developing military drones had been circulating since the start of the conflict with Russia in 2014. Several light drone models, designed for recon and artillery targeting were designed by volunteer civilian engineer groups such as PeoplesProject and Army SOS.
Alexander Turchinov, the National Security and Defense Council Secretary, stated earlier this year that Ukraine’s military has a “huge demand for combat UAVs” and that production will be prioritized by Antonov.
Ukroboronprom unveiled the design of its first UAV in July 2015 and showcased the completed model in February. The BpAK-MP-1 Spectator, built by Ukroboronprom subsidiary Meridian and a team from Kyiv Technical University, is a light fixed wing recon drone that can be launched by hand and can carry an electronics suite with a mass of up to 1.5 kilograms.
JOINT VENTURE WITH POLAND
Future UAVs, possibly including the much larger attack drones, will have help from Poland. Ukroboronprom signed a memorandum of understanding with Polish developer WB Electronics SA in 2015. Among the MOU’s provisions was an agreement to cooperate on UAV production.
According to Ukroboron deputy director Arthur Kheruvymov’s comments to the media last year, combat drones may be part of the agreement. He mentioned that WB Electronics will help develop a machine with a 14-meter wing span that can find and destroy targets.
The MOU was broadened this year in September. In public, the Polish and Ukrainian sides were vague about what new agreements were reached.
Three separate drone developers at this year’s thirteenth annual International Arms Exhibit in Kyiv said that despite strong pro-UAV statements by military and Ukroboronprom officials, they have not seen real demand for their products this year. As a result, they are turning to the more lucrative civilian agricultural sector.
With reporting from UBJ Kharkiv Correspondent, Kate Sukhopleshchenko — firstname.lastname@example.org
For comments and news tips, please email UBJ Defense Correspondent Igor Kossov at igor.kossov@the ubj.com.
Photo: Poland’s WB Electronics displays its Fly Eye reconnaissance drones on its website. WB Electronics made a deal with Ukroboronprom to help it develop unmanned aerial vehicles. (supplied)