Explosions at two Russian air bases on Monday drew attention to Ukraine’s efforts to develop longer-range combat drones.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the attacks were carried out by Ukrainian drones that were allegedly shot down by Russian air defenses. Images – both satellite and photos – suggest damage was done to Russian military aircraft at a base in the Ryazan region.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry has not issued any official comment on the blasts, and the Ukrainian government has not admitted to adding long-range attack drones to its arsenal.
However, state-owned arms manufacturer Ukroboronprom has indicated several times in recent weeks that it is close to completing work on a new long-range drone.
In October it was posted on Facebook – along with a picture of what appeared to be part of the drone structure: “Range is 1000 km (621 miles), combat unit weight is 75 kg (165 pounds). Put the finishing touches on this one.”
A month later, on November 24, Ukroboronprom published another post: “The next stage of UAV tests – By order of the Chief of the General Staff, we are preparing for flight tests under the action of electronic warfare.”
“The weather becomes a problem on the one hand, and an additional test for the system on the other. A kind of crash test.”
A photo showed the words “az vozdam” on what was said to be the drone – meaning “I will repay”.
And on Saturday, the Ukrinform news agency reported that the company’s spokeswoman, Natalia Sad, told Ukrainian TV that “several stages of successful testing have been completed.”
“In accordance with the instructions of the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, we are entering the phase of testing using an electronic warfare jamming environment,” she added.
However, there is no public indication that the drone in question was being prepared for use or was involved in the blasts in Russia early Monday.
The two bases hit are hundreds of kilometers inside Russian territory and beyond the range of Ukraine’s declared drone arsenal, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. 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 showed an explosion lighting up the sky around 6 a.m. local time Monday morning.
The port city is home to Engels-2 Airfield, a strategic bomber base that was approximately 3.7 miles (almost 6 kilometers) from where the CCTV footage was recorded.
Saratov Region Governor Roman Busargin assured residents on Telegram that no civilian infrastructure was damaged, but said that “information about incidents at military facilities is being verified by law enforcement agencies.”
He admitted that information about “a loud bang and an early morning eruption in Engels” spread on social networks and the media.