A Russian “suicide drone” that picks its own targets using artificial intelligence (AI), has been spotted in Ukraine. Pictures of the ZALA Aero Group’s suicide drone, called ZALA KYB (KUB-BLA) was first demonstrated at the IDEX-2019 arms exhibition in the United Arab Emirates. ZALA Aero Group is a subsidiary of the Russian arms company Kalashnikov.
The KUB-BLA has a maximum flight time of 30 minutes and is packed with ball bearings to maximize injuries and deaths[as seen nearby in a photo Tweeted by @UAWeapons].
ZALA Aero also makes the Lancet, a loitering munition with a max flight time of 40 mins which can hunt drones, vehicles, and hardened targets on land and sea at a distance of up to 24 miles.
Both the KUB-BLA and the LANCET, which were both used in Syria, are said to independently find a given target and hit it using AI. Russia’s use of UAVs was surprisingly light at the beginning of the Ukraine invasion but has recently increased. The Russians are now posting footage of the drones in action from the front lines, writes Tyler Rogoway and Stetson Payne of The Drive. They write (abridged):
Well into its third week, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to morph as new capabilities are brought to bear and new tactics are deployed. While Russia’s side of the conflict appears to have been surprisingly light on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, that is changing. Russia is now posting UAS footage from the front lines much as it did with Syria. And now, for the first time, it is confirmed that Russian suicide drones/loitering munitions have been employed, as well.
#Ukraine: The first proof of loitering munitions combat use by the Russian army. ZALA KYB “kamikaze” UAV fell down in #Kyiv today.
The drone didn’t explode, however it is unknown if it malfunctioned or it was downed using Ukrainian electronic warfare systems. pic.twitter.com/Ju38t0Qhrp
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) March 12, 2022
A ZALA KYB loitering munition was downed in Kyiv. This is the first known evidence of loitering munitions being used in the conflict. These systems have proven to be decisive in recent wars and are extremely challenging to reliably defend against. The ZALA KYB is a class of loitering munition that would be especially useful for engaging fixed soft targets or targets of opportunity and scouting ahead of friendly forces when equipped with an optical payload.
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