Ukraine's 'Baba Yaga' bombing drones: The transformative military tech pressuring Russian defense
The "Baba Yaga" drones, part of Ukraine's "Army of Drones" initiative, are commercial constructs with a payload upward of an estimated 44 lbs. They've been repurposed for military operations and include models like the DJI Matrice RTK 300 or certain agricultural drones. These drones can cover up to 6 miles, maintain an altitude of around 2.5 miles, and remain airborne for approximately an hour. However, these operational characteristics may be diminished in case of overload.
The Ukrainians deploy these drones for bombing operations, equipping them with anti-tank mines, PG-7VL grenades (capable of penetrating up to 19.5 inches of armored steel), TM-62 mines, or mortars, or configuring them as 'mother drones' for swarms of FPV drones (capable of giving a first-person perspective). In the latter scenario, the "Baba Yaga" drone is fitted with a signal amplifier to enable it to utilize the FPV drones, which have been converted into improvised ammunition by attaching a bunch of grenades, for instance.
Though these drones come into prominence in 2023, their usage has been hindered due to the advancement in electronic warfare systems in recent times. The counteractive measures include Russian military electronic warfare kits, which are typically neutralized using a blend of military drones like the FlyEye, in tandem with artillery or circling ammunition Warmate.
The commercial "Baba Yaga" drones step into the fray at this juncture, bombing targets shielded by commercial jammers. FPV drones then mop up the remains. This procedure works because commercial jammers, whether mounted on vehicles or trenches, produce a disruption bubble of a few to several hundred feet, capable of neutralizing FPV drones. But if a drone can ascend above this disruptive area, it can release lethal cargo onto the target.
However, commercial jammers, more prevalent than their professional counterparts, may not always succeed. This is because both Ukrainian and Russian forces experiment with a range of control signal frequencies that Chinese jammers find harder to deal with. Hence, the only truly effective way of eliminating a drone lies in its physical destruction.
In consideration of this, Russian forces have resorted to the desperate measure of using their reconnaissance drones to ram into detected "Baba Yaga" drones. This approach, as evident in the video footage below, leads to, at best, the loss of both drones.