Russian forces use small swarms of 2 to 3 drones, launched at short intervals to attack groups
As the war in Ukraine intensifies, the Russian military has reportedly stepped up the use of kamikaze drones like the KUB-BLA (Kuba) across the front line.
The increased reliance on kamikaze drones over artillery fire likely signals a shift in Russian tactics, one introduced to counter the highly mobile offensive probes by Ukrainian forces.
On October 28, Izvestia reported that units of the Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) used the aforementioned drones to destroy shelters for the personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU).
According to Izvestia correspondent Natalia Grafchikova, Russian forces initially launched a reconnaissance drone to identify and locate the targets’ coordinates.
They then attacked the target using kamikaze drones equipped with a high-explosive fragmentation warhead.
According to the commander of the unit of the Russian Airborne Forces, “the artillery is causing fire damage in a wider area and there is a large consumption of ammunition. Roaming ammo allows you to deal damage directly to the target.”
It is possible to launch the Drone “Cuba” from unprepared places, even from the roof of a car!
For the safety of the personnel operating the drones, the drones are launched from a position out of range of enemy artillery. The launch is not missile-assisted and is therefore difficult to detect.
The KUB-BLA is manufactured by ZALA Aero, which belongs to the Kalashnikov Group of Companies. It is a relatively small drone (1.2m wingspan) with a 3kg head and a top speed of 130km/h.
Its outstanding features include silent operation, stealth design, long-range capability, and most importantly, the ability to identify its target using AI. Drones have an accuracy of 5 to 10 meters.
ZALA Aero says the KUB-BLA’s advantages include “high accuracy, stealth launch, quiet operation and ease of use.” “The explosive can be delivered to the target regardless of how well it is hidden. It works at both high and low altitudes regardless of hidden terrain.”
The drone is programmed to navigate autonomously using SATNAV to a target located at the coordinates fed to the drone.
Target coordinates can likely be updated in flight based on data transmitted by a tracking drone covering the target area.
The drone is powered by a push propeller on its back that is driven by a silent electric motor. The battery operated drone has a flight endurance of 30 minutes.
After launch, the drone autonomously navigates to the target area and dives into the target.
The low-observability (LO) aerodynamic configuration makes detection by radar difficult.
The LO configuration and complete absence of thermal signature practically define a successful adversary MANPAD attack.
The sound stealth combined with the LO configuration and the absence of a thermal signature greatly increases the probability of the “Cuba” reaching the target location.
Typically, the drone is used to neutralize targets such as enemy phalanxes, individual or group of armored vehicles and to accumulate manpower, hidden in a forest or scattered along a trench.
Considering that the drone warhead is only 3 kg, it is unlikely that a single drone will be effective against a group of armored vehicles.
Russian forces use small swarms consisting of 2 to 3 drones, launched at short intervals to attack groups.
Swarm attack increases the chance of at least one drone hitting the target if worn by ground defenses.
Also, swarms give operators the flexibility to direct follow-up attacks on dispersing armored vehicles or infantry soldiers.
“Cuba” was unveiled at IDEX 2019. State tests were completed at the end of 2021. Russia used the drone at the start of special military operations.
Major General Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Directorate, recently said in a media interview: “Yes, at the beginning of the conflict on February 24 and so on, some cases of Russian roving munitions called Kub were recorded.”
Until now, the use of drones by Russian forces has been sparing. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on May 18, 2022, released video of US M777 howitzers manned by Ukrainian artillery being hit by KUBs.
It is possible that Russia uses drones sparingly either due to operational deficiencies or lack of inventory.
Increased use of the drone now would indicate that the operational glitches have been ironed out and mass production has begun.
The significant increase in the use of Russian drones belies Western claims about Russia’s inability to produce high-tech military equipment due to sanctions.