Russian Drones Flying Into NATO Territory? Russian Forpost drones may be patrolling over Poland which is an encroachment into a NATO country.
The Ukrainian Air Force recently claimed it shot down a Forpost after it flew into Polish airspace and re-entered Ukraine.
The Forpost was reportedly conducting bomb damage observation on March 13 near Lviv in western Ukraine when radar tracked it flying across the Polish border.
If confirmed, this would be an escalation that NATO will be investigating, especially since now there is a Russian Forpost-R variant that is armed and already destroying Ukrainian military targets, according to Russian military sources.
The Ukrainians claimed victory over the Forpost in a Facebook post. “The occupier’s drone first circled over the Yavoriv training ground, apparently assessing the fallout of the missile attack in Lviv region, then flew into Poland, and then returned to the Ukrainian airspace before being shot down by our air defense. The search for the wreckage is still underway,” said Yuriy Ihnat, spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force Command.
The Forpost Is Israeli-Designed
The Forpost has exhibited an interesting history in warfare during its service life. It is Israeli-designed and Russian-flagged. In fact, at least one Russian Forpost got shot down in Syria in 2019. This normally wouldn’t raise any eyebrows, but Israel and Syria are enemies, so it was a noteworthy development that Israeli drones were helping Syria via the Russians. Sometimes war makes for strange bedfellows.
Fast forward to 2022, and the Forpost is still flying for the Russians – this time encroaching NATO airspace in Poland if the Ukrainian Air Force is correct in its assessment.
Forpost-R Is Armed and Deadly
The baseline Forpost is an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance drone. But the improved Forpost-R is now an unmanned combat aerial vehicle that has been spotted taking off in Russia and touted as an aircraft that destroyed a Ukrainian multiple-launch rocket system on March 13, according to Jane’s.
The Forpost-R is based on the Israeli Searcher Mk II drone which is produced by the Ural Civil Aviation Plant in Yekaterinburg.
Jane’s said the Forpost-R is “fitted with the Russian-made APD-85 piston engine, electro-optics, electronics, datalink system, and it runs on domestic software. The Forpost-R also features a reinforced fuselage for increased survivability.”
Watch Out for These Munitions
The Forpost-R weighs 1,100-pounds with a 249-mile range. It can be armed with Kornet anti-tank guided missiles and laser-guided bombs or “dumb bombs” under each wing.
Does NATO Consider Drone Flights an Escalation?
The drone that possibly flew over Polish air space the Ukrainians claimed to have destroyed was likely a Forpost recon remotely-piloted vehicle since it was thought to have been conducting a bomb damage assessment. But it could plausibly have been of the armed variety, if so that would be a new escalation of the war in Ukraine by the Russians.
The United States just sent two Patriot air defense batteries to Poland and it would make sense that these defenders would be deployed on the Ukrainian border. So, Poland, and by extension, NATO, is likely worried that the Ukrainian air war could stray over bordering countries. A Russian Orlan-10 recon drone also reportedly flew into Romanian air space recently.
If this is indeed happening, the Russians will likely continue to keep flying their drones into neighboring countries that are a part of NATO. They don’t have to risk human pilots getting shot down and taken prisoner and they can always deny the encroachments. The Russians are willing to conduct airstrikes on targets near Lviv and drones such as the Forpost-R give them another option to bomb close to bordering countries and bring the war to NATO’s doorstep.
Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, Ph.D., is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.