One of the unintended consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been the insane development of cheap but effective weapons that have been decimating Russia’s invasion force. The Ukrainian battlefields have become testing grounds for new drones, shoulder-mounted missiles and all kinds of other mass-produced death dealers donated by Western allies.
In just 200 days, these weapons allowed the Ukrainian military and Territorial Defence Forces to completely turn the tide of the war. Though the Russians once threatened the Ukrainian capital at Kyiv, they are now losing ground to a counter-assault and losing ships at sea while Ukraine has been striking deep inside Russia. Here are just a few weapons that made the turn possible.
1. Suicide Drones
When an oil refinery in the Russian city of Rostov exploded in June 2022, Russian officials' first response was to blame sabotage or terrorism, but the truth was actually much worse for Vladimir Putin. It was an easily-operated, long-range drone strike that flew across the heavily defended front line – and could have hit anywhere.
U.S.-made Switchblade drones are cheap and easy to use, but require an operator and have a short range. Ukrainian suicide drones feature much longer ranges, and a guidance system tat requires only a point placed on a GPS-powered map. The worst part for Russia is that Ukraine makes these itself.
2. Harpoon Anti-Ship Missiles
Harpoon missiles are nothing new. They’ve been in the U.S. arsenal since the late 1970s for a good reason: anti-ship missiles can be devastating weapons at sea. Indian anti-ship missiles crippled the Pakistani Navy in 1971. Missiles gave Israel naval supremacy against Syria and Egypt in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. They also gave Argentina a fighting chance against the UK’s Royal Navy.
What’s new about anti-ship missiles in Ukraine is that they’ve been pulled off of allied ships and put on flatbed trucks for Ukrainians to fire at the Russian Navy. Two Russian warships have already been sunk by Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
The Vehicle-Agnostic Modular Palletized ISR Rocket Equipment or VAMPIRE is exactly what it sounds like, a package that can be outfitted on any vehicle with a cargo bed. It’s a four-barrel rocket launcher with a sensor system. It’s a cheap solution to a country that needs guided missile systems to defend against aircraft, helicopters and drones.
Since they system can be perched on the back of even the cheapest Toyota, it means that even the most rural areas of the country can now be defended by anti-aircraft missile batteries that can be moved around at will, making them harder targets for Russian counter-attacks.
4. HIMARS Rocket Systems
The U.S.-made M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System is more expensive than the VAMPIRE, but is much more useful in defending major cities from aerial attacks than the VAMPIRE. HIMARS is superior to the Russian Smers anti-aircraft systems and has a much better range and accuracy than anything else in the field.
Although the exact range of the munitions given to Ukraine is classified (HIMARS has different ranges, depending on the munitions used), the system has been used for targets up to 50 miles away in the war thus far.
5. Bayraktar TB2 Drones
This lightweight, cheap, Turkish-made drone has been the MVP of Ukrainian defense in recent months. With a range of 186 miles and a maximum altitude of 25,000 feet, it’s perfect for reconnaissance, targeting and surveillance missions, but can also be armed with laser-guided bombs.
Besides providing location coordinates for artillery strikes, Bayraktar drones have also destroyed helicopters, missile launch sites and even Russian naval vessels since the war in Ukraine began. It is one of the most popular crowdfunded items the Ukrainian military receives.