First Russian drone destroyed by a new British Martlet missile in Ukraine

Yuriy Kochevenko / Twitter

Photos and videos of Ukrainian soldiers using a British-made Martlet man portable air defense system (MANPADS) to destroy a Russian drone have been posted on social media. 

In the video, posted on numerous social media channels affiliated with the Ukrainian military, a soldier is shown firing a missile, followed by cheering of his comrades as an explosion is heard in the background.  

According to the video description, the soldiers belong to the 95th Air Assault Brigade. The weapon system has been incorrectly identified as the Starstreak, however, numerous open source intelligence sources pointed out that it was a Martlet missile, which uses the same launch tube as the Starstreak.  

“This is a greeting from Ukrainian paratroopers to Boris Johnson. Thank you, Britain. The support of our allies is being used effectively, send more of it. For our freedom and yours!” the description says. 

Martlet’s appearance shows that the variety of weapons being sent by European countries to Ukraine is bigger than initially reported. In mid-March 2022, the United Kingdom Defense Secretary Ben Wallace announced that the UK will supply Ukraine with Starstreak MANPADS, with the first systems reportedly reaching Ukraine by the end of the month. On April 2 the first video, claimed to show Starstreak shooting down a Russian Mil Mi-28 attack helicopter, surfaced on social media. 

However, it has not been announced that in addition to the highly advanced Starstreak the UK is sending the Martlet, a more conventional, lightweight missile that reuses some of Starstreak’s technology. 

The Martlet has been adopted into service by the UK military in 2021. It uses a dual targeting system, utilizing both laser guidance and infrared homing, and has an operational range of 8 kilometers (5 miles). 

There have been conflicting reports in terms of what kind of Russian aircraft has been shot down by the Martlet in Ukraine. The original video description states that it was an Olan drone, likely referring to Orlan-10: a small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) widely used by the Russian military for observation, reconnaissance and directing artillery fire.  

However, other reports suggest it was a Kronshtadt Orion, a significantly larger and more powerful medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV. The photos of the wreckage of the drone were shared on April 9 by a Twitter account of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.  

A report from the Air Force Command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces claims that the Orion drone has been shot down on April 7, 2022. However, the report does not explain what weapons system was used to shoot down the Orion, or which military unit did it. 

It was the first visually confirmed loss of the Orion since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. When adopted in 2020, the Orion was Russia’s first MALE drone, as well as the first combat drone.  

The Orion is roughly comparable to the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator in its size and capabilities, and can carry a wide array of guided bombs and missiles. Russian media shared numerous videos claiming to show the Orion destroying Ukrainian vehicles and fortifications.  

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