Ukraine Situation Report: Lithuania’s Crowdfunded TB2 Drone Heads To The Fight

Turkish manufacturer Baykar decided to donate the drone after Lithuanians raised $6 million to purchase it.

byDan Parsons|
Lithuania To Deliver Turkish-Made Bayraktar TB2 Drone To Ukraine
Lithuania To Deliver Turkish-Made Bayraktar TB2 Drone To Ukraine


A Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone crowdfunded by Lithuanian citizens has been transferred to Ukrainian service, according to the Lithuanian government. 

Dubbed the “Vanagas,” Lithuanian for “Hawk,” the medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was eventually donated by manufacturer Baykar after a very successful online campaign raised about $6 million — more than enough to pay for the drone — in three days. The Turkish company decided to donate the drone instead and allow the funding to go toward Ukrainian humanitarian relief and other non-lethal military items. Decorating the TB2's fuselage is a custom bird-of-prey design, with wings the color of the Ukrainian and Lithuanian flags, stretching its talons over the word Vanagas.

Lithuanian citizens also raised about $23 million for the Blue/Yellow charity that provides the Ukrainian military with non-lethal military equipment, according to Oryx. The site lists 79 vehicles and other pieces of military equipment visually confirmed as destroyed by TB2s in the fight so far. Still, the actual toll the drones have taken on Russian forces is likely significantly higher. Ukraine's use of Bayraktars against Russian forces occupying Snake Island in the Black Sea may have been factor in making their continued presence on the island indefensible.             

The drone donated by Turkey and Lithuania was displayed at Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania on Wednesday, where thousands of people turned out to see it before it was shipped into Ukraine. Lithuania’s government approved the transfer on July 6. 

Vanagas was the nickname of Adolfas Ramanauskas, the leader of Lithuania’s “Forest Brothers” fighting unit that resisted Soviet occupation of the country for a decade after World War II. 

Lithuanian television journalist Andrius Tapinas, who led the crowdfunding campaign, confirmed on July 7 that the TB2 was on its way to Ukraine. 

Alongside weapons like the U.S.-made Javelin anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), the Bayraktar TB2 has achieved legendary status in Ukraine because of its perceived effectiveness against invading Russian forces. Firing the MAM-L guided missile, the drones have been used to significant effect against Russian armor, especially early in the invasion, and small naval ships. A folk song was even written about the Bayraktar and its signature status among Ukrainian weapons of war.

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Lithuania’s generosity underscores the former Soviet republic’s support for an independent Ukraine. It introduces a potent weapon familiar to Ukrainian forces, which means it can be rapidly put to use with no training required. 

Before diving into the rest of today’s news from the war in Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up with our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

Ukrainian forces, led by divers from the 73rd Naval Special Purpose Center special operations forces (SOF) have planted a flag on Snake Island. Broadly analogous to U.S. Navy SEALS, the frogmen stole ashore using underwater propulsion devices to clear a path through Russian defenses for a follow-on force of Ukrainian Marines, according to Naval News. The gesture is largely symbolic, as the Ukrainian troops withdrew after surveying the island and planting a flag.

Russia has made few new advances in Donetsk, despite heavy shelling of Ukrainian positions, according to the most recent intelligence assessment from the U.K. Ministry of Defense. After some gains last week, Russian forces are likely reconstituting along the new frontlines in the east, the U.K. MoD said. Maps of the frontlines have changed little despite some Russian progress westward and weeks of back-and-forth artillery fire. 

Several sources from inside Ukraine attribute the many recent pinpoint strikes on Russian ammunition depots to the U.S.-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS. Screenshots of Russian messages on the social media platform Telegram show complaints that the HIMARS are wreaking havoc on their positions.

Reports indicate that Ukrainian forces have blown up at least 11 ammunition dumps in a little over a week. Though unconfirmed, precision strikes like these behind Russian lines are precisely the way HIMARS, firing M30/31 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems of GMLRS, can be effectively used, as The War Zone explained in this previous story. While using HIMARS to hit strategic targets over extended distances is happening, not every strike of significance can be attributed to the four launchers currently in the country. There is a tremendous amount of fire in both directions, the vast majority of which is unguided artillery.

On an unannounced trip, U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal arrived in Kyiv to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 7. Zelensky said the trio discussed the U.S. “supplying modern air defense systems” to Ukraine. So far, the United States has delivered air surveillance radars and at least 1,400 Stinger man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS). Now it has also promised NASAMS, an advanced medium-range air defense system that primarily uses the AIM-120 AMRAAM as a ground-launched SAM. So far two batteries have been promised, but that will supposedly be expanded soon. Getting higher-tier western air defense systems has been among Ukraine's top goals since the invasion began.

The Ukrainian Army posted on its official Twitter page that it appreciates the support of the two lawmakers and that they toured an exhibit of destroyed Russian military equipment. They also viewed evidence of Russian war crimes, leading the senators to call for Russia to be named a state sponsor of terrorism. 

Videos of small, but remarkably accurate, commercial-grade drones dropping ordnance on Russian equipment continue to surface. Most recently, a small UAS managed to drop a grenade into the open hatch of a Russian T-72 tank, as seen below.

The grenade shown above appears to be encased in a plastic bomb-shaped capsule like the one demonstrated in the video below. The apparent “fish-bait bombs” are typically used to cast bait into the water by anglers to attract fish and are available on Amazon for less than $15. 

Using commercial-grade drones is a relatively simple, affordable method of attacking opposition forces up to and including tanks, depending on the munitions the unmanned system can carry. Another video posted by Ukrainian special forces claims to show a small drone destroying infantry fighting vehicles and tanks by dropping what appear to be mortar rounds on top of them.

Russian forces are aware of the threat posed by small quadcopters and other unmanned aerial systems, which can fly high enough to be undetected and are challenging to bring down with conventional weapons. For that reason, both sides are fielding anti-drone weapons like this Russian-made LPD-801 rifle-shaped drone jammer developed by PPSh Lab. 

While fighting the Russian invaders, Ukrainians are also continually cleaning up the wreckage of vehicles lost in combat. A somewhat gruesome example emerged online overnight of two Russian T-72s that were lost in a river near Chernihiv earlier in the war. The hulks were winched from the water with most of their crew members’ bodies still inside. 

Russian tanks are vulnerable to Western-supplied weapons like the new batch of rare French HDP-2A2 anti-tank landmines that recently appeared in Ukrainian service. The mines are triggered by a magnetic field that fires off an explosively-shaped charge when a vehicle passes nearby. 

Capturing a donated U.S. vehicle in Ukraine is one thing. Setting sights on a U.S. state is quite another. In a significant case of wishful thinking, Billboards have begun to pop up in Russia that declare, “Alaska is ours!” U.S. Army and Air Force units stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and elsewhere on the West Coast might have something to say about Russia trying to renege on the 1867 sale of Alaska to the United States. 

We will continue to update this post as necessary.

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