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Five uncrewed developments that defined the domain in 2022

27th December 2022 - 15:00 GMT | by Matty Todhunter in London

Perhaps unsurprisingly, some of the most significant developments in the world of uncrewed systems have stemmed from the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

5. TB2 enrages Russia and reiterates its value to Ukraine

Could the Ukraine-Russia war be changing the once-held belief that TB2 strike UAVs are only effective in combat against adversaries with minimal air defence capabilities?

One of the more spectacular TB2 successes disclosed by the Ukrainians was this attack on a Russian fuel train. (Photo: Ukrainian MoD)

The apparently successful employment of Bayraktar TB2s by the Ukrainian Armed Forces against Russian ground targets — and the evident failure of the Russian Aerospace Forces or SOF to destroy the Turkish-made aircraft — builds on the significant successes the MALE UCAVs had against far less sophisticated militaries in Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Ukrainian military has been careful to maintain operational security around its use of TB2s by leaking on social media only a few examples of successful strikes since the Russian invasion began on 24 February.

Read the full story.

4. Iranian words and deeds raise the regional stakes

The US officially points the finger at Tehran after the 30 July UAV attack on a vessel in the Gulf of Oman, while the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps continues to ratchet tensions with a grandiose new claim.

Image from video broadcast by Iranian Al-Alam TV, showing a Shahed-136 kamikaze UAV about to hit a test target in April 2021. (Photo: Al-Alam)

The deadly attack on the tanker MV Mercer Street in the Gulf of Oman on 30 July, which killed two people, has renewed attention on the risks posed to civilian shipping by Iranian UAVs.

Fingers were pointed at Iran after the attack, with Israeli sources telling Shephard that they believe a delta-wing Shahed-136 armed UAV was used to hit the bridge of Mercer Street.

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3. RCO defends Project Mosquito cancellation, claiming investment stopped making sense

RCO defends Project Mosquito cancellation, claiming investment stopped making sense.

Concept art showing the UK's Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (Image: UK MoD)

The Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) in the UK RAF has told Shephard that the surprising decision to cancel Project Mosquito was based on continued investment in the effort no longer making ‘a huge amount of sense’.

Targeted at developing a low-cost, UK-made uncrewed fighter aircraft, Project Mosquito would have seen a Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA) demonstrator, designed by lead contractor Spirit Aerosystems Belfast and partners Northrop Grumman and Intrepid Minds, make its first flight in 2023.

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2. Black Sea drone attack reaffirms threat to naval vessels

A naval expert tells Shephard the Ukrainian attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet assets, as reported, fits into a long tradition of weaker navies seeking to find ways to counter more powerful opponents.

Russian Navy Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate Admiral Makarov, pictured here passing through the English Channel, was reportedly damaged in the attack. (Photo: UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

On Saturday, three Russian vessels were reportedly targeted from the air and the sea using a mix of UAS and USVs, damaging the Russian ship Admiral Makarov – an Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate.

While details of Saturday's reported Ukrainian attack on Russian naval forces in and around Sevastopol remain unclear, the incident has served as a reminder of the threat posed by remote-controlled explosive boats.

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1. Iran and Russia weigh risks and rewards from potential UAV deal

A potential move to supply Russia with Iranian UAVs makes some sense but it is not without disadvantages .

Russia may be looking to acquire large numbers of Iranian UAVs. (Photo: IRNA)

According to several statements by Western officials, Russia is negotiating with Iran on the procurement of Iranian-made UAVs as a means of offsetting serious shortages of modern tactical UAVs in the Russian Armed Forces.

Russia lacks sufficient UAVs for battlefield intelligence and situational awareness in its invasion of Ukraine — but it is worth questioning how feasible is a deal with Tehran, what types of Iranian drones could Russia procure and how will this influence Iranian programmes in terms of further sales and general development of uncrewed systems?

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Matty Todhunter


Matty Todhunter

Matty Todhunter is the UAS Analyst for Shephard Media's Defence Insight. Before joining Shephard, Matty graduated with …

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