Explosions at two Russian airbases on Monday drew attention to Ukraine’s efforts to develop longer-range combat drones.
The Russian Defense Ministry says the attacks were carried out by Ukrainian drones, which it says were shot down by Russian air defenses. The images – both satellite and photographic – indicate that Russian military planes were damaged at a base in the Ryazan region.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry has made no official comment on the blasts, and the Ukrainian government has not acknowledged adding long-range attack drones to its arsenal.
However, state arms maker Ukroboronprom has repeatedly indicated in recent weeks that it is close to completing work on a new long-range drone.
In October, he posted on Facebook – along with an image of what appeared to be part of the drone’s structure: “The range is 1000 km (621 miles), the weight of the combat unit is 75 kg (165 books). Put the finishing touches on this one.
A month later, on November 24, Ukroboronprom published another article: “The next stage of UAV tests – On behalf of the Chief of the General Staff, we are preparing for flight tests under the action of electronic warfare.”
“The weather, on the one hand, becomes a problem, and on the other hand, it is an additional test for the complex. A kind of crash test.
A photo showed the words “az vozdam” inscribed on what was believed to be the drone – meaning “I will refund”.
And on Saturday, the company’s spokeswoman, Natalia Sad, was reported by the Ukrinform news agency to have told Ukrainian television that “a number of successful test stages have been completed”.
“In accordance with the instructions of the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, we are moving to the stage of testing involving an electronic warfare jamming environment,” she added.
However, there is no public indication that the drone in question was readied for deployment or was involved in the explosions inside Russia on Monday morning.
The two affected bases, according to the Russian Defense Ministry, are hundreds of kilometers inside Russian territory and beyond the range of Ukraine’s declared drone arsenal. No footage or images of the drone remains have been released.
In the western Russian town of Engels, about 500 miles (more than 800 kilometers) southeast of Moscow, CCTV footage appeared to show an explosion lighting up the sky around 6 a.m. local, Monday morning.
The port city is home to Engels-2 Airfield, a strategic bomber airbase, located about 3.7 miles (almost 6 kilometers) from where the CCTV footage was recorded.
Saratov region governor Roman Busargin reassured residents on Telegram that no civilian infrastructure had been damaged, but said “information about incidents at military installations is verified by the forces of the order”.
He acknowledged that reports of “a loud bang and a burst in Engels in the early morning” were spreading on social media and the media.