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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Putin’s Kamikaze Drones Are Going to War in Ukraine

KUB-BLA drone. Artist rendering.

As the Russians get more desperate to make a difference on the battlefield in Ukraine they are resorting to some fearsome weapons.

The Kalashnikov “flying grenade” kamikaze drones are raining down on residential areas of Kyiv. Ukrainian fighter shot down one of the small, unmanned craft that landed on March 12 in the Podil neighborhood. It is likely the Ukrainians damaged it with rifle fire, or it crashed on its own. The small, unmanned craft is designed to avoid or overwhelm traditional anti-aircraft systems.

What Is This Thing?

Known as the KUB or KUB-BLA, the light remotely-piloted vehicle is made by a subsidiary of the famed Kalashnikov rifle maker called ZALA Aero. Kalashnikov itself is a subsidiary of Rostec.

The four-foot-long KUB flies silently at a top speed of 80 miles per hour with a duration of 30 minutes before it dives down to its target. The launch unit can be 40 miles away. The payload carries seven pounds of explosives that include anti-personnel metal spheres to maim and kill victims – much like a “flying grenade” has fragmentary shrapnel.

Accurate and Difficult to Track

Rostec CEO Sergey Chemezov said during its unveiling at an arms show in the United Arab Emirates in 2019, that the “shell is delivered to the target by the complex regardless of terrain or whether the target is concealed or not, both at low and high altitudes. It is an extremely accurate and efficient weapon being very hard to combat by traditional air defense systems.”

The Russians are expected to use a flight of dozens of KUBs to confuse enemy air defenses and swoop onto targets in population centers to wreak havoc on people out in the open.

Russians Were Victims of Swarming Drones Too

Russia likely quickened the pace of their kamikaze drone program because they were victims of a small drone swarming attack in Syria too. Syrian rebels sent a squadron of 13 drones at two different Russian bases in 2018. Each of the Syrian drones had one-pound bombs.

Russians Won’t Stop Targeting Civilians

The Russians are proving relentless in targeting civilians during the war in Ukraine. The KUB is an example of their willingness to spare no effort in terror-invoking psychological warfare. These kamikaze drones are another way that the Russians are terrorizing non-combatants in a manner that has human rights organizations declaring that these civilian attacks violate international law.

Full Complement of Drones

Vladimir Putin’s invaders are looking to field a full spectrum of drone warfare, from the tiny KUBs to the Okhotnik-B flying-wing drone that can penetrate enemy defenses for a deep strike. The Okhotnik won’t be ready until 2024, but it shows the ambition of the Russian drone program. The Russians are looking more for combat drones rather than just depending on intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance remotely-piloted vehicles.


KUB-BLA drone. Image Credit: Screenshot.

Civilians in Ukraine Should Stay Indoors

For the Ukrainians, the KUB is just one more casualty-producing weapon systems that the Russians are fielding in the war-torn country. It means the non-combatants will have to avoid the outdoors as much as possible and continue to live in basements and subways that are serving as underground cities for the innocent people caught in the crossfire.

As of March 13, The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported 636 civilian deaths during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Of that number, 46 were children. Moreover, 1,125 people were believed to have been wounded.

The “flying grenade” drones are the latest escalation against civilians and show how desperate the Russians are in attempting to besiege Ukrainian cities and kill and wound their inhabitants. Hopefully, the KUB drones will not have the numbers to hit all the population centers that are now under attack.

Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, 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.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, 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.