Ukraine developing ‘unstoppable’ AI-powered attack drone with Western backing

Ukraine’s AI-powered drones will allow pilots to operate them further from the front line – Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters

Ukraine is developing artificially intelligent drones that will be harder for Russia to shoot down, The Telegraph can disclose.

The push to create an image recognition targeting system, which can autonomously hunt and strike targets, is backed by more than £200 million in Western finance from a UK-led drone coalition.

Kateryna Chernohorenko,Ukraine’s deputy defence minister, said the system would make one-way attack drones less susceptible to Russian electronic blockers and allow pilots to operate them further from the front line.

The official, who leads Kyiv’s negotiations on drones, said it was being developed as a “joint venture” alongside members of the £1.2 billion scheme.

“The great challenge is the last mile of engagement taking into account that more and more individual electronic warfare systems are available,” Ms Chernohorenko said.

“Our drones should be more effective and should be guided towards the target without any operators.

“It should be based on visual navigation. We also call it ‘last-mile targeting’, homing in according to the image.”

The drone would be launched and piloted by a human to about a mile before their target.

At that point, AI would take over, guiding the drone to its eventual target and making it harder for Russia to jam any signals back to the pilot.

A fifth of the finances raised through the drone capability coalition, spearheaded by Britain and Latvia, is being set aside by Kyiv for the manufacture of the next generation of combat drones.

British defence sources have denied that the Government will play any role in producing autonomous drones alongside Ukrainian engineers.

Ukraine’s drone programme has proved hugely controversial in recent weeks, with the United States publicly condemning Kyiv’s deep strikes on oil refineries inside Russia.

Kateryna Chernohorenko, Ukraine deputy defence minister, said the system would make one-way attack drones less susceptible to Russian electronic blockers – Vladimir Shtanko/Anadolu via Getty Images

Western intelligence officials have acknowledged Ukraine’s armed forces have access to drones capable of hitting targets more than 600 miles away.

Tweaks and innovations have made both commercially produced and homemade UAVs lethal weapons in the war between Ukraine and Russia.

Ukraine’s defence ministry believes its fleet of naval drones have inflicted losses on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet “at a ratio one to 10 in the context of price”.

Ukrainian forces have become increasingly reliant on the devices to compensate for shortages of more conventional weapons fuelled by the United States’ delayed $60 billion aid package.

Western officials have warned the shortages of weapons and ammunition have forced Ukraine to cede ground to advancing Russian troops.

Because of the urgency, half of the funds raised by the international coalition are being used to purchase readily available UAVs from Ukrainian producers.

“We understand the joint ventures are quite a long way [away] and it’s not a fast way but we want to move in this direction to have joint ventures, to prove we’re fast and can produce technological weapons,” Ms Chernohorenko said.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “We are leading the way in providing lethal aid to Ukraine, including over 10,000 drones, which can attack targets at sea, provide surveillance and are first-person view.

“The UK is also a joint leader of the drone capability coalition, which is supplying thousands of drones to Ukraine which have proven highly effective on the battlefield.”

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