Ukraine Is Fending Off Russia With Weapons Reminiscent of World War I

Vladimir Putin has the larger military, but Volodymyr Zelensky’s army is using an "easy target" drone to devastating effect

A Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicle at Gecitkale Airport in Northern Cyprus in 2019. The Ukrainian military has been using the drones effectively against Russia in 2022.
A Bayraktar TB2 aerial vehicle at Gecitkale Airport in Northern Cyprus in 2019.
Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency via Getty

It’s a refrain that’s been repeated over and over since Vladimir Putin sent his troops into Ukraine on February 24: Russia has the larger military by far. 

As Al Jazeera recently explained, in 2020, Russia spent $61.7 billion (11.4% of government spending) on its military while Ukraine spent just $5.9 billion (8.8% of spending), and Putin’s regime bests the assaulted country in just about every area of armaments, from personnel to tanks to aircraft. And yet, Volodymyr Zelensky’s army has been able to hold off the invading force to a degree that most onlookers couldn’t have foreseen. 

One area where Ukraine has found oversized success? Drone warfare. Specifically, the military is wielding the Bayraktar TB2, an unmanned aerial vehicle made by Turkish defense company Baykar, to devastating effect, despite the technology being primitive enough that Russia should be able to easily shoot them down. 

“It is literally a World War I aircraft, in terms of performance,” David Hambling, a London-based drone expert, told NBC News. “It’s got a 110-horsepower engine. It is not stealthy. It is not supersonic. It’s a clay pigeon — a real easy target.”

That’s not to say this model was actually used in the 1910s. The 39-foot-wingspan Bayraktar TB2 has been in use since 2014, and has the ability to be piloted up to 186 miles away, fly at up to 25,000 feet and hold a payload of about 330 pounds of laser-guided ammunition, according to Baykar.

“It’s quite startling to see all these videos of Bayraktars apparently knocking out Russian surface-to-air missile batteries, which are exactly the kind of system that’s equipped to shoot them down,” Hambling added.

Videos of these drones in action have been posted to social media by Ukraine. Five such clips have been shared on the Facebook page of Valerii Zaluzhnyi, commander in chief of the country’s military, according to Insider.

Whether Ukraine can keep up the Bayraktar assault remains to be seen. According to reports, the country had as many as 20 of these drones before Russia began its invasion. Since that time, Russia says it has downed some of the fleet while Ukraine’s defense minister says they have received more, per Insider.

One thing is certain: while Russia certainly has the larger military, as NBC News writes, the competence of that military has been “​​misjudged.”

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