Ukrainian forces have shot down a Chinese-made “bomber” drone in the eastern warzone after spies based in Russia alerted the local security services as it took off. Fighters from the 111th Brigade of the Territorial Defence Forces of Ukraine, using Ak-47 assault rifles, shot down a low-flying Mugin-5 drone carrying a 20 kilogram bomb near Sloviansk, in the eastern Donetsk region, on Saturday morning around 2am.
The mission has now been confirmed to US outlet CNN, with pictures showing the downed drone in the fields in Donetsk.
Ukraine‘s Security Service (SBU) told CNN overnight on March 11 that its agents based on Russian-occupied territories warned the drone had been launched to attack Ukrainian positions.
The SBU then alerted military units near Sloviansk, who then shot down the aircraft with AK-47 assault rifles.
Members of the 111th Brigade of the Territorial Defence Forces of Ukraine described hearing the drone overhead before seeing a light blinking on the aircraft through the trees.
“From the sound, from the signal light, the troops fired a lot at it and knocked down the UAV,” said Maksim, a 35-year-old territorial defence fighter called to address the threat.
As they approached the drone, they claimed it carried a bomb of about 20 kilograms, which the soldiers later detonated by hooking up a US-made demolition charge and retreating 500 metres to a safe distance.
After witnessing the size of the explosion, they understood just what damage the “bomber” drone could have done if it had not been downed.
According to an expert cited by CNN, the bomb was likely made with 3D-printed components.
The Mugin-5 drone is often referred to as an “Alibaba drone” as it is commercially available for up to £12,400 ($15,000) on certain Chinese websites, such as Alibaba and Taobao.
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The downing of the drone does not point to direct Chinese influence in the war in Ukraine but it does allude to attempts by both Russia and Ukraine to lower the costs of a protracted war, as the use of these drones is a cheap alternative to those used in more official capacities by their militaries.
Chris Lincoln-Jones, a retired British Army officer and specialist in drone warfare, described the weaponised drone downed by Ukrainian soldiers as “crude and unsophisticated”, adding that it suggested Russia was not as proficient in warfare as the West may think.
Mr Lincoln-Jones said: “This particular drone that we’ve been looking at would be much more effective if it had a decent camera in it.”
“This seems to be a very crude, unsophisticated, not very technologically advanced way of conducting operations.”