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New Drones as Part of Ukraine’s Modernisation Project

13 November 2020

Since at least 1996, the Ukrainian military has been engaged in gradual shifts away from external influences in technological innovation. The military structure in Ukraine has grown more and more independent from external actors, particularly regarding soft power deals with Russia and the relation between the two powers (JAWORSKY, 1996).

Continuing its rapid modernisation project, on November 12, 2020, the Ukrainian government unveiled its first domestic combat drone, the Sokil-300. Its development began in 2018 when the Ukrainian company responsible for the UAV, Luch Design Bureau, first decided to install their well-known “RK-360MC control points and software” onto a new combat-capable drone (Defense Post 2020). In a tweet posted by Defense Express on November 6, the company revealed the initial hardware design of the drone, whose “[…] new UAS’ navigation components, such as its range measuring system, laser channel, and optics, are set to be manufactured in the Eastern European country. The drone’s thermal guidance system is its only navigational element to be outsourced” (Defense Post 2020) (@DEFENSEEXPRESS 2020).

The weapons systems of the Sokil-300 will also be created domestically within Ukraine, with entirely new systems dedicated to the project. In addition to new weaponry, “all versions can carry 4 RK-2P guided missiles with the portable Barrier anti-tank missile system or Luch RK-10 missiles, up to 300 kilograms of payload”. While these will be universally retrofitted for future upgrades of the Sokil project, there will be three versions of the drone itself.

The first version is the MC-300B, and it “includes the MC-500B engine manufactured by Zaporizhia-based Motor Sich and will allow the Sokil-300 three hours of operation with a cruising speed of 335 kilometres (208 miles) per hour and a maximum range of 1,000 kilometres (621 miles)”.

The second version is the AI-450T2, designed with an engine produced by Ivchenko-Progress, and it “[…]will allow five hours of flight time and a 1,300 kilometre (808 miles) range but a lower cruising speed of 275 kilometres (170 miles) per hour”.

The third version is designed with the Austrian-built Rotax 914 engine. It has “[…] a maximum flight time of 26 hours, a distance of 3,300 kilometres (2,050 miles), but a comparatively snail-like cruising speed of 150 kilometres (93 miles) per hour”.

Following its purchase of six Bayraktar TB2 armed drones from Turkey, in 2019 Ukraine became the fourth European state to possess combat-ready drones. By October 2020, the Ukrainian Bayraktar drones had launched their first Turkish-built laser-guided missiles in military drills, demonstrating Ukraine’s autonomous capabilities (Defense Post 2020).

Ukrainian military officials have emphasised these capabilities since at least 2017. In May 2020, Ukraine tested its first UGV (Unmanned Ground Vehicle) in the Donbass region. The Ukrainian UGV project led to the creation of the RSVK-M2 “Hunter”, a technology that has already been deployed in real combat against pro-Russian separatist forces (Malyasov 2020). The cost of the new Ukrainian drone program has been estimated at around 1.4-1.6 million US dollars, making it far more affordable than purchasing drones abroad.

Written by Price PHILLIPS, Researcher at Finabel – European Army Interoperability Centre


Defense Post. 2020. “Ukraine Unveils the Sokil-300, Its First Domestic Combat Drone.” The Defense Post. (November 13, 2020).

JAWORSKY, JOHN. 1996. “Ukraine’s Armed Forces and Military Policy.” Harvard Ukrainian Studies 20: 223–47.

Malyasov, Dylan. 2020. “Ukraine Is Field Testing Its New Combat Drone in the Donbass Region.” Defense Blog. (November 13, 2020).

@DEFENSEPOST. (2020, November 8). Tweet: “’Сокіл-300’ від КБ “Луч”: на що здатний український ударний БПЛА (фото).” Retrieved from: