UK, learning lessons from Ukraine, to spend $5.7 billion on military drones

By Thomson Reuters Feb 22, 2024 | 6:02 AM

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will spend 4.5 billion pounds ($5.7 billion) to provide its armed forces with drones over the next decade after the Ukraine war showed the importance of uncrewed systems in conflict, the government said on Thursday.

Drone warfare has opened up as a key battlefront two years into Russia’s war with Ukraine and both sides are striving for the upper hand in technology.

Drones – or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – are cheap to produce and can surveil enemy movements and drop ordnance with pinpoint accuracy.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence said the new investment would speed up delivery of drones to its army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, for use in intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance, strike and logistics.

“The conflict in Ukraine has been an incubator for new ways of war and we need to learn and implement those hard-fought lessons,” defence procurement minister James Cartlidge said in a statement.

“Ultimately, this is about learning the lessons from the Ukrainian frontline to procure drones at scale for the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces.”

Britain is already supplying Ukraine with drones. It said it would spend 200 million pounds on uncrewed systems out of a total 2.5 billion pound support package, and has already donated 4,000 drones to Ukraine.

Drones already in use by British forces include the Evolve Dynamics Sky Mantis, which weighs 7.7 kg, and the Reaper MQ-9A which is used by the RAF for surveillance and attack missions.

($1 = 0.7890 pounds)

(Reporting by Muvija M, writing by Sarah Young, Editing by Kylie MacLellan and William James)