Putin’s Ukraine Drones Look Like Total Junk

Fallen Russian Drones Offer Insight Into Russian Equipment Use – Images of crashed Russian drones shared on social media this week offers an interesting look into the kind of equipment being used by the Russian military, including some commercially available equipment being used in a military environment.

A series of photographs shared on Twitter by Ukraine Weapons Tracker, a popular Ukraine war-tracking account, shows a Russian drone that reportedly fell from the sky somewhere in eastern Ukraine. 

The photographs show a ZALA 421-16E2 Russian drone on the ground, damaged and inoperable.

The fixed-wing drone, developed by Russian manufacturer Zala Aero Group, is a mini aircraft launched with the use of an elastic catapult. The drone is also controlled in real-time by a single operator through a secure, multi-channel encrypted link. A nose-mounted electro-optical sensor is used to gather information about its surroundings, and a 60x magnification daytime camera and 10x zoom thermal surveillance device means it is capable of automatically tracking its targets. 

In the photographs shared by Ukraine Weapons Tracker, the camera fitted inside the nose is clearly visible, as well as a Samsung 64GB SD card. The equipment obtained from inside of the drone suggests that the Russian military continues to rely on consumer parts. 

“A Russian ZALA 421-16E2 UAV fell out of the sky in the East. As claimed, a Bukovel-AD CUAS electronic warfare system was used by the Ukrainian 58th Brigade to down the drone,” Ukraine Weapons Tracker writes. 

The remains of an unexploded Russian loitering munition were also captured on camera and shared on social media this week.

In a post published by the same Twitter war-tracking account, the remains of Lancet loitering munition – broken into several pieces – are seen laid out on the ground. 

In the post, Ukraine Weapons Tracker notes that the drone – designed to be used as a weapon – was fitted with a factory-made KZ-6 high-explosive charge.

The munition is used primarily for demolition operations or to pierce armor, making it an effective anti-tank weapon. 

“Remains of an unexploded Russian Lancet loitering munition finally allows us to take a look at the one of the warhead variants which may help with assessing damage- the drone is armed with a factory-made KZ-6 demolition shaped charge,” Ukraine Weapons Tracker notes. 

Improvised weapons and commercially available equipment have been used on the battlefield throughout the Russian invasion and are not exclusively utilized by the Russians. 

In a video shared on Twitter and Telegram, Russian soldiers show an FPV drone that was used to target a single Russian troop but ultimately failed to explode.

In the clip, the Russian soldier targeted by a Ukrainian drone operator reveals how the device – which includes parts available on wholesale website Alibaba – was not properly soldered.

Nonetheless, the availability of cheap, over-the-counter parts means that Ukrainian forces can afford to target single troops, and not just weapons and vehicles, with kamikaze drones. 

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Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.

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