Ukraine Situation Report: NATO Wants To Give Kyiv A Million Drones In 2024

Ukraine was high on the agenda as NATO defense ministers met in Brussels today to discuss defense investments and present a consolidated front for the alliance. For Kyiv, a highlight of the day was the announcement that NATO allies are planning to jointly supply Ukraine with a million drones this year.

“A group of allies is coming together with the goal of delivering one million drones to Ukraine,” said Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance’s secretary-general.

More details of the drone plans were provided by Latvia and the United Kingdom, the two countries that are heading up the coalition.

Grant Shapps, the British defense secretary, announced the drone capability coalition with the following statement:

“I’m proud to announce that the U.K. and Latvia will co-lead an international coalition to build Ukraine’s vital drone capabilities.”

“Together, we will give Ukraine the capabilities it needs to defend itself and win this war, to ensure that Putin fails in his illegal and barbaric ambitions.”

It is by now no secret that drones are playing a vitally important role in the war, for both sides and across all domains. As well as repeatedly emphasizing the importance of drones to its operations, Ukrainian officials have also warned that Russia possesses far greater numbers of these systems than it does, with a notable disparity when it comes to the widely used first-person-view (FPV) types.

To address that imbalance, Ukraine had already said that it aimed to produce one million drones domestically in 2024, a highly ambitious plan that you can read more about here.

For now, there remain questions as to whether Ukraine, let alone a NATO coalition, can produce so many drones in such a relatively short timeframe. What is clear, however, is that the importance of drones of all kinds on the battlefields of Ukraine is showing no sign of diminishing.

Before taking a look at developments from the conflict in Ukraine, The War Zone readers can review our previous coverage here.

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The meeting of defense ministers in Brussels today comes after U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump warned that he would not defend other NATO members if they failed to meet spending targets.

“We are on the right track” on defense investment, said Secretary-General Stoltenberg. “Today we accelerated work on resourcing our new defense plans and strengthening our transatlantic defense industrial base.”

Significantly, the NATO chief said that in 2024, for the first time, European NATO allies will invest the equivalent of two percent of their total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in defense. This amounts to $380 billion.

With Europe increasingly concerned by political developments in the United States, and especially Trump’s criticisms of its defense spending, there were, not surprisingly, efforts by officials to highlight their investments in the alliance.

The French defense minister, Sébastien Lecornu, for example, said his country’s defense spending will reach two percent of its total GDP this year. The German delegation to NATO posted on social media that Germany “provides significant forces postures” to the alliance.

Meanwhile, Stoltenberg took the opportunity to promote attributes of the alliance in the face of Trump’s critique. He said:

I expect the United States to continue to be a staunch ally, for at least three reasons: First, it is in the national security interest of the United States to have a strong NATO. Second, there is actually broad bipartisan support for NATO in the United States. And thirdly, the criticism in the United States is not primarily against NATO, it’s against NATO allies not spending enough money on NATO.”

“I’m confident,” Stoltenberg added, “that NATO will remain the strongest and most successful alliance in history.”

Stoltenberg admitted that, in the past, NATO’s European allies failed to spend enough on behalf of the alliance. However, the changing security situation since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has seen some significant hikes in defense spending across Canada and Europe.

The NATO secretary-general also appeared to play down fears, expressed by some senior figures, that an emboldened Russia may next seek to invade an alliance member in the next few years.

“We can never take peace for granted,” Stoltenberg said, “but we do not see an imminent military threat against the alliance.”

He added: “NATO continues to ensure there’s no room for miscalculation in Moscow about our readiness to protect all allies.”

As regards Ukraine, Stoltenberg said that supporting Kyiv’s war effort “is not charity” and that helping the country “is an investment in our own security.”

Stoltenberg said:

“We will address how to sustain our support to Ukraine. We see that our support is making a difference on the battlefield every day. Just yesterday, the Ukrainians were able to strike successfully a Russian naval ship, and this demonstrates the skills and the competence of Ukrainian Armed Forces, also in conducting deep strikes behind the Russian lines.”

Stoltenberg also raised the issue of ammunition stocks for Ukraine and for the alliance, with NATO members having struggled to meet the prodigious demands triggered by the war, especially for artillery rounds.

A Ukrainian soldier holds artillery ammunition near the frontline area in Bakhmut on April 02, 2023. (Photo by Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“To ensure that Ukraine gets the weapons, the supplies, the ammunitions they need, we need to ramp up production,” he said. “And NATO allies have, just over the last months — since we agreed on the defense investment plan — agreed and signed contracts for 10 billion euros, for more orders from different parts of the transatlantic defense industry.”

The demand for ammunition is reflected in two recent efforts in Scandinavia.

Reportedly, the Norwegian-Finnish ammunition producer Nammo is now operating a five-shift production rota at its facility in Sweden, ensuring that 155mm ammunition is now being manufactured around the clock. Also based in Sweden is the French-owned Eurenco company, which is operating a similar production schedule at its facility in Karlskoga.

On the battlefield, there are further reports that the situation in Avdiivka, in the eastern Donetsk region, is becoming increasingly untenable for the Ukrainian forces.

A Ukrainian serviceman of the 47th Mechanized Brigade prepares for combat in an M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, not far away from Avdiivka, on February 11, 2024. Photo by Genya SAVILOV / AFP

Ukrainian military spokesman Dmytro Lykhoviy said that Ukraine is currently conducting a maneuver in Avdiivka with the aim of withdrawing troops from some areas to “more advantageous positions.”

Lykhoviy added that Ukraine had established a backup logistics route into the town, but that bringing supplies into Avdiivka and evacuations from it were “difficult.”

In related news, the new commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Oleksandr Syrskyi has given what appears to be his first interview since being appointed.

Significantly, Syrskyi talks about the conflict having entered a new phase, in which Ukraine is engaged in a defensive operation, not an offensive one. This would seem to be the nail in the coffin of the Ukrainian counteroffensive launched last summer, but which made only strictly limited gains since then.

Other key takeaways from Syrskyi include the assessment that Russian losses are seven to eight times greater than Ukrainian losses. This is reflected in the different tactics between the combatants, with Ukrainian forces said to be willing to retreat from their positions rather than sacrifice large numbers of personnel, something that has been evident in Avdiivka, Bakhmut, and elsewhere.

Syrskyi reiterated: “We must end the war by going to our borders. Other options are not considered, because we simply have no other way out.”

For Ukrainian and Russian soldiers on the ground, winter may soon be coming to an end, but the situation is as tough as ever, if not tougher, with snow and ice having given away in some areas to almost impassable mud, as seen in the video below.

Ahead of the meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, Russia unleashed another large-scale missile attack against targets in Ukraine. Air alert warnings were reported across the country overnight. Two dozen cruise and ballistic missiles were launched, including from Tu-95MS Bear-H strategic bombers, according to Ukrainian officials.

A multi-story residential building stands with broken windows following a missile strike on February 15, 2024, in Lviv, Ukraine. Photo by Anna Srogui/Suspilne Ukraine/JSC/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images

There were reports of missile strikes against Dnipro, where a series of explosions were heard shortly after 6:00 a.m. in the center of the city. There were also reports of explosions in Zaporizhzhia, Kyiv, and the western city of Lviv. Andriy Sadoviy, the mayor of Lviv, said that 10 Russian missiles had been aimed at the Lviv region alone.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that North Korean-supplied KN-23 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) were among the weapons launched by Russia overnight. North Korea’s KN-23 has a very similar outward appearance to the Russian-made Iskander-M (and by extension the air-launched Kinhzal) and is believed to have broadly similar overall range and performance. You can read more about the supply of North Korean ballistic missiles to Russia here.

Ukraine, too, has been keeping up its campaign of missile strikes against targets in Russia’s border regions, especially the city of Belgorod in the region of the same name. The city has come under repeated Ukrainian attacks in recent months, with Russian officials today saying that the latest strikes killed at least six people.

On the Telegram messaging app, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said that as well as the six confirmed fatalities, 18 people were injured in Belgorod, five of them children. Russia’s TASS news agency meanwhile reported that 15 people were hospitalized.

Specialists of various services work by a damaged shopping center following an attack on Belgorod on February 15, 2024. Photo by STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images

Poland has reiterated that it may seek to deploy nuclear weapons in the coming years, as it seeks to further bolster its defenses against the threat from Russia.

In a radio interview, Polish Brig-Gen. Jarosław Kraszewski said that it was entirely conceivable that Poland might join the NATO nuclear weapon sharing program.

“I consider having such an arsenal as a task for several years. I hope it will happen,” Kraszewski said, adding that “peace and security have no price.”

Last summer, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said his country wanted to join NATO nuclear weapon sharing, as we discussed at the time. This was said to be in direct response to the Russian deployment of some of its nuclear weapons to neighboring Belarus.

In its latest defense intelligence update, the U.K. Ministry of Defense confirmed yesterday’s successful Ukrainian attack on the Russian Ropucha class landing ship Caesar Kunikov. The attack once again made use of successful uncrewed surface vessels and you can read our full report of the incident here.

The U.K. Ministry of Defense said the attack “almost certainly resulted in the sinking of the vessel.”

It added that “three of 10 Ropucha class vessels [in the Black Sea Fleet] have now been destroyed by Ukrainian strikes.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has thanked Australia for contributing funds to strengthen his country’s defense capabilities.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said: “Australia remains steadfast in supporting Ukraine to defend itself against Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion. We stand with Ukraine in support of its courageous people and also in defense of a fundamental principle — the right of every sovereign nation to be secure in its own borders and to determine its own future.”

Based on Ukrainian accounts, the U.S.-supplied Avenger short-range air defense system is one of the favored weapons in its class, especially when it comes to tackling the Russian drone threat.

The Humvee-based Avenger system, drawn from U.S. military stocks, can fire Stinger heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles and engage air and ground targets with an onboard .50 caliber machine gun. While it has reportedly been successful in defending against the scores of Iranian-made drones that have been used to attack Ukraine, the video below shows an Avenger coming under attack itself, from a much smaller and more agile Lancet loitering munition.

In this case, the speed of the Humvee is sufficient for it to escape the attention of the Lancet, although it was unsuccessful in shooting down the loitering munition using its Stinger missiles.

Next up, another Ukrainian Stinger application involving a Humvee. This is an example of a twin-missile pedestal mounting on the rear of a Humvee, reportedly in service with the 1129th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment. The vehicle is adorned with at least six kill markings.

That’s it for now.

Contact the author: thomas@thewarzone.com

 

Thomas Newdick

Staff Writer

Thomas is a defense writer and editor with over 20 years of experience covering military aerospace topics and conflicts. He’s written a number of books, edited many more, and has contributed to many of the world’s leading aviation publications. Before joining The War Zone in 2020, he was the editor of AirForces Monthly.

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