Recent reports from Ukrainian media outlets reveal a significant upsurge in the nation’s defense manufacturing capabilities. In just a few months, Ukraine has managed to triple its production of indigenous defense products. A notable achievement in this expansion is the large-scale production of the new UJ-26 Beaver, a long-range loitering munition also known as a kamikaze drone, designed to target key locations deep within Russian territory. Demonstrating remarkable growth in its drone technology sector, Ukraine has increased its drone production by a staggering 100 times in 2023 compared to the previous year.
Leading the surge in production is the UJ-26 Beaver, a long-range loitering munition, also known as a kamikaze drone. This latest addition to the Ukrainian arsenal is capable of striking targets deep within Russian territory. Remarkably, the production of these drones in 2023 has surged by a hundredfold compared to the previous year, marking a significant escalation in Ukraine’s defensive capabilities.
The Ukrainian defense industry’s expansion is evident in the number of companies involved in unmanned systems manufacturing. Currently, around 200 companies are engaged in this sector, with 50 of them already authorized to supply their products to the military. This marks a significant increase from the previous year, with twelve times more enterprises contributing to the defense effort.
Recent attacks on Moscow, including strikes on the IQ-quarter high-rise buildings and possibly even the Kremlin, have been attributed to the use of the Beaver drone. These incidents, occurring in July and August 2023, have highlighted the drone’s operational effectiveness and strategic impact.
The Beaver is distinct in its design and capabilities. Produced by UkrJet, a private Ukrainian company, it features a unique canard aerodynamic configuration with smaller front wings, enabling effective altitude changes and evasion of air defense systems. Costing over $100,000 each, these drones are a significant investment in Ukraine’s defense strategy.
With a wingspan of about 2.5 meters, a speed of 150 to 200 km/h, and a range of 800 to 1,000 km, the Beaver is equipped to carry a 20 kg warhead. Its design, resembling a ‘duck’ with its engine or propeller at the rear, makes it a distinctive presence in the skies.
The technology underpinning the Ukrainian Beaver drones shows striking similarities to the Shahed series of UAVs developed by Iran. This parallel in technological design reflects in their operational capabilities, although each series has its unique specifications. The Shahed drones, notably the smaller Shahed-131 and the larger Shahed-136, are designed for different operational ranges and payload capacities. The Shahed-131 can transport 15 kilograms of explosives over a range of 900 kilometers, while the Shahed-136 is capable of flying up to 2,000 kilometers with a 40-50 kilogram warhead. The Ukrainian Beaver drones, while sharing a technological lineage with the Shahed series, have been adapted and modified to meet specific operational requirements.
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