Putin’s struggle to meet demand for drones highlights faltering war machine

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has publicly admitted that Russia lacks the necessary military hardware, such as ammunition, aircraft, drones and communications equipment, to effectively carry out the war in Ukraine. Despite the significant 2.7-fold increase in the production of weapons over the past year, the quantity of these resources is still falling short. 

Speaking at a meeting with military reporters at the Kremlin on June 13, 2023, Putin confirmed: “We do not yet have enough modern arms, but the defense industry and the military-industrial complex are developing rapidly, and I am sure all the challenges facing our defense industry will definitely be met.”  

Even with these constraints, Russia continues to launch drone strikes. Ukraine’s air force reported that Russia launched 31 drones on Ukrainian targets over 24 hours on May 31, 2023, with 29 of these being intercepted by air defenses. 

Drone warfare has emerged as a significant component of the conflict, with both sides leveraging the technology for offensive strikes and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) purposes.  

However, Russia has struggled to meet its own demand for drones, according to the US Center for Naval Analyses (CNA). A report published on June 01, 2023, suggests that Russia’s inability to scale up drone production is due to a combination of reliance on imported technology and entrenched shortcomings in its defense industry. 

Russia has been frequently using Iranian-made Shahed 131 and 136 drones, also known as ‘kamikaze’, plus domestically produced ISR drones such as Orlan variant unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and Lancet drones.  

Putin further stated that Russia is open to peace talks over Ukraine, but insisted that Western countries must stop supplying arms to Kyiv. 

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