Death From Above: Documenting Loitering Munition Use in Ukraine

Inspired by Oryxspioenkop, I wanted to make an ongoing list documenting the use of loitering munitions, also known as suicide drones, during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I will be relying on visually confirmed uses, whether it be through video or photos, to document these instances.

Before getting into the list, some of you may be asking “what are loitering munitions?” These weapons are essentially explosive laden drones that can passively loiter around a target, waiting for the most opportune moment to strike, or be used in a direct attack method, either by remote control or autonomous means. Loitering munitions are something I have covered greatly on my page since the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, which showcased their effectiveness during conventional warfare to the world.

Now onto the list:

March 12: Russian Zala KUB-BLA used in Podil, Kyiv, marking first recorded loitering munition use in the conflict. Ukrainian forces claimed to have intercepted the drone before it could reach its target and detonate.

March 14: Russian Zala KUB-BLA used in an unspecified area of Kyiv Oblast. Unclear if the drone was intercepted or crashed on its own, however, it is clear that the drone did not detonate as intended.

March 20: Russian Zala KUB-BLA used at an unknown location in Ukraine. Unclear if the drone was intercepted or crashed on its own, however, it is clear that the drone did not detonate as intended.

March 22: Russian Zala KUB-BLA used in an unspecified area of Kyiv Oblast. Again, it is unclear if the drone was intercepted or crashed on its own. This appears to be the fourth Zala KUB-BLA to not detonate as intended.

April 9: Ukraine’s Border Service reported that at least two Russian Zala KUB-BLAs were used to attack one of their positions in Luhansk. They stated that one of the drones was shot down by small arms fire, indicating that another successfully detonated. There were no reports of casualties from the strike. This marks the first visually confirmed Zala KUB-BLA strike were the drone detonated as intended.

April 19: Two Russian Zala KUB-BLAs destroyed in an unspecified area of Ukraine. Does not appear to be a successful detonation of either drone.

April 27: Zala KUB-BLA downed by Ukrainian forces somewhere in Luhansk. Does not appear to be a successful detonation.

April 27: First reported and visually confirmed use of loitering munitions by Ukrainian forces during the conflict. Two Polish-made WARMATE loitering munitions were intercepted over the Russian controlled city of Enerhodar, which is home to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

May 6: First recorded instance of an American-supplied Switchblade 300 targeting a Russian position, reportedly in Kharkiv Oblast. As seen, the drone was able to detonate as intended, but appears to have missed a direct hit.

May 6: Photo of the remains of a Switchblade 300, which appears to have properly detonated. It is unclear if this photo is related to the footage above.

May 8: Ukrainian forces were able to intercept a Russian Zala KUB-BLA, location unknown. Unclear if the drone was hit by small arms fire or taken down with a jamming device. The drone was not able to detonate as intended.

May 18: Footage showing a Russian Zala KUB-BLA strike targeting Ukrainian M777 Howitzer teams  in Pidhirne, Donetsk. The ZALA KUB missed the howitzers and the proximity of its blast to the artillery pieces likely caused little to no damage to them. The blast and shrapnel could have wounded crew members, but it’s unknown. 

May 24: Footage from Ukrainian SSO showing a successful Switchblade 300 strike on a Russian T-72 with infantry seen outside the tank. The Switchblade 300 is designed for anti-personnel and light vehicle targets, so the strike likely had little to no effect on the tank, however, it likely resulted in casualties to the soldiers outside of the tank.

May 25: Footage showing a successful Russian Zala KUB-BLA targeting Ukrainian infantry in Pavlivka, Donetsk, resulting in casualties. To me, this is the first footage successfully showing the system’s anti-personnel capabilities. Note that the soldiers did not appear to notice the drone at all until the strike.

May 25: Footage showing the deployment of a Switchblade 300 from its launch tube by Pro-Ukrainian Chechen fighters (note the Republic of Ichkeria patch). Footage does not show target or impact.

May 26: Footage showing two Russian Zala KUB-BLA strikes on unknown Ukrainian targets in Kharkiv Oblast. The drones appear to have reached their targets and detonated as intended, but the extent of the damage on targets is unknown.

May 27: Remains of a Switchblade 300, location unknown. Due to the state of the drone, it appears to have detonated properly, however, the target and how much damaged it caused is unknown.

May 29: Another photo of a Switchblade 300, claimed to have been shot down near Izyum. It is unclear if it was shot down or if it detonated as the rear half typically remains intact after a strike.

May 29: Intercepted Russian Zala KUB-BLA, location unknown. This one did not detonate as intended.

June 3: Footage showing the deployment of a Switchblade 300 from its launch tube. Footage does not show target or impact.

June 7: Footage showing an intercepted Polish-made WARMATE loitering munition, along with a Punisher strike UAV, reportedly in the Kharkiv Oblast.

Purported use:

Undated: Video first posted to Telegram channel Milinfolive purportedly showing two showing two Russian loitering munition strikes in an unknown part of Ukraine, one against an unidentified Ukrainian target and the other against a Ukrainian T-72 tank. The video quality is too low to confirm whether or not these are in fact loitering munitions as claimed and if they are, which model. The first clip appears to be a Zala KUB-BLA, but like I said its hard to know for sure.

April 2: State-media outlet RIA posts Russian Ministry of Defense video showing “high precision weapons” being used against the Azovstal iron and steel works in Mariupol city. While the weapon used was not specified, it appears to be a Zala KUB-BLA loitering munition.

May 15: As per the tweet, it is unclear if this is Zala KUB-BLA or a Eleron-3 (ISR UAV), but it shows the drone falling out of the sky. It is unclear if this was due to jamming or a mechanical issue.

Unbiased & Unfiltered News Reporting for 12+ years. Covering Geo-Political conflicts, wartime events, and vital Breaking News from around the world. Editor-In-Chief of Atlas News.


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