Up Close With The "Beaver" Drones Leading Ukraine's Airborne Counteroffensive
In recent days, multiple drone attacks targeted and hit skyscrapers in Moscow's business district. These strikes are thought to have been led by Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), reportedly belonging to a new category of "Beaver" drones. Here's what we know about them.
MOSCOW — Earlier this week, drones hit the high-rise block where Russia's federal ministries are located. In this latest attack, offices for the Ministry of Economic Development were damaged, with windows blown in. And although the Russian army claims that the drones can be jammed with radio waves, the strikes still succeeded in damaging the building’s facades and interior.
On Wednesday, Aug. 2, Russia retaliated with a drone attack of its own — on a Ukrainian port at Izmail in Odessa, damaging a grain warehouse, a passenger building and an elevator for loading grain.
Newsweek magazine writes that the Ukrainian attacks were carried out by the latest generation of Ukrainian drones known as "Beaver". Justin Bronk, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), compared said Beaver drone to the Iranian Shahed drones that Russia used in its attacks on Ukrainian cities: the Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have a comparable weight and size and flight range (1,000km), but a larger wingspan.
Analysts note that as it stands, it is unclear whether the Beaver UAV can cope with electronic warfare systems and interference as effectively as the Iranian Shaheds, which have several types of navigation.
Screenshot of footage reportedly showing a Ukrainian "Beaver" drone in action, as part of the latest series of attacks on Moscow.
OSINT Defender via Twitter
A costly project
Fundraising for the Beaver drones was handled by Igor Lachenkov, a Ukrainian blogger who features on the local Forbes “30 under 30” list . He previously led the Telegram channel “Bromeeems”, one of the largest Ukrainian meme channels. Since the outbreak of war, the 23-year-old now runs one of the top 10 channels in the country, which covers latest updates on the war for some 1.3 million subscribers. Through this channel, he has accumulated millions of dollars in donations that go towards drones and other resources for the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Only time will tell just how useful a weapon these drones are to the Ukrainian offensive.
According to The New York Times, in late December, Lachenkov received a call from the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine and offered to raise money for a new long-range UAV. As a result, the blogger's subscribers donated 20 million hryvnias (more than $540,000), and in May, Lachenkov, together with the head of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine, Kirill Budanov, presented the Beaver drone.
Beaver drones spotted
Residents of Ilyinsky, in the Moscow Region, filmed the Beaver drone carrying out an attack on May 30. Russian Telegram channels posted videos of a drone flying over houses. Another video shows what is claimed to be an electronic warfare drone being suppressed, falling into a field and exploding.
On July 24, the same drone was spotted over Moscow. The drones hit a building located next to the Ministry of Defense, as well as a business center under construction. The drone filmed on video flew towards the Kolomenskaya metro station in Moscow, and a few minutes later hit the nearby business center on Likhachev Avenue.
On Aug. 1, a similar drone was filmed over Odintsovo, Moscow Region. Military expert Yan Matveev believed this also to be a Beaver. One drone hit the skyscraper of the Moscow City business center, two more, as stated by the Russian Ministry of Defense, were shot down in the Moscow region, including in the Odintsovo district.
Social media image of a Beaver drone
OSINT Defender via Twitter
Missed strikes or Ukrainian trolling?
“Right now, not much is known about these drones,” says military analyst David Sharp.
The Ukrainians are trolling them.
“Its main feature, which is important in war, is its long range. It can reach Moscow from Ukraine without any problem. We shouldn’t attach much importance to its design — this is a UAV-consumable that flies one way and, by definition, should be cheap. But it is highly reliable and carries a significant explosive charge.
“The Beaver can be given a route that bypasses air defense systems. The Russian Ministry of Defense claims that the UAV was suppressed by radio waves, causing it to miss its target. I consider these claims to be false, because a downed drone cannot hit the same place twice, three days apart.
“Attacks like these are not made multiple times a day and are not planned on a whim... The likelihood that they fell twice in the same place after being suppressed by electronic warfare is extremely small. It is not difficult for a truly high-precision weapon to hit even a specific window. A blow twice in one place is the Ukrainians mocking the Russian Ministry of Defense. The Ukrainians are trolling them.
“Whether the Beaver has become the most effective Ukrainian UAV is still difficult to say. Only time will tell just how useful a weapon these drones are to the Ukrainian offensive.”
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