Ukraine shot down the first such drone in the country’s east on Sept. 13 and has since downed at least 237, the Ukrainian military said in a statement last week. “We are trying to quickly adapt to the new reality,” Mr. Sak said.
Exploding drones are a rapidly emerging class of weapons that are proliferating around the world and likely to become a staple of modern armed conflicts, military analysts say. That is a point that Ukrainian officials have been making in seeking air defense assistance from their allies. If Ukraine can learn to shoot the drones down with its three-pronged effort, allied countries’ militaries could reap the benefits of this hard-won experience, Mr. Sak said.
There have been notable successes.
One Ukrainian MiG pilot won folk hero status in Ukraine this month for shooting down five Iranian Shahed-136 drones over the central Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia, only to be forced to eject after crashing into the debris of the last one. The pilot, Karaya — who identified himself by only his nickname, according to military policy — told the local news media afterward, “Within a short period of time, we are adapting to this kind of weapon and are starting to destroy it successfully.”
After colliding with the airborne debris, he said, Karaya steered his MiG away from Vinnytsia and ejected. The jet crashed into houses in an outlying area, but injured nobody on the ground. Karaya later visited the site to apologize.
“I visited the scene, said I was sorry for the discomfort I caused the residents and thanked them for their steel nerves,” he wrote on Instagram, saying he showed up in his tattered uniform, missing epaulets. He joked that it was a violation of military protocol. “Lost them while leaving the office,” he wrote.
While fighter jets have been effective against Iranian drones, said Yurii Ignat, a Ukrainian Air Force spokesman, the approach is costly because of its use of air-to-air missiles. “It’s frustrating that we must hit these drones with expensive missiles,” he said. “What else can we do? This is the reality now.”
Before Russia’s arsenal included the Iranian-made drones, beginning in August, Ukraine had an edge in drone warfare.