The drone unit of the 108th Territorial Defense Brigade of the Ukrainian Army continues its combat training as heavy clashes continue on the Zaporizhzhia frontline in Ukraine on November 04, 2023. (Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu via Getty Images)

BELFAST— The UK will supply Ukraine with an additional 10,000 drones under a new $159 million military aid package announced by British Defence Secretary Grant Shapps during a visit to Kyiv.

Most of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) set for delivery are First Person View (FPV) platforms, though a number of one way attack, surveillance and maritime drones will also be provided.

The latest pledge is in addition to the $255 million drone package announced by London in January and February’s move to co-lead an international drone coalition for Ukraine with Latvia. The European coalition is targeting production and delivery of 1 million drones to the war-torn country.

“Britain steps up support to Ukraine today with a complete package of $414 million for cutting-edge drones to help fight Putin’s illegal invasion,” the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in a Thursday statement. 

Shapps said Ukraine has already been using “UK donated weapons to unprecedented effect, to help lay waste to nearly 30% of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet,” and encouraged “international partners” to join Britain’s drone supply effort.

A total of $128 million from the latest drone package will be spent on maritime capabilities so Ukraine can “turn the tide” in the region. London did not say when the aircraft will be delivered.

Over the course of the war, drones of various design and mission capability have contributed to the destruction or damaging of “thousands of pieces of Russian equipment and vehicles,” added the UK MoD. It noted that “highly manoeuvrable” FPV drones have been effectively deployed to avoid Russian air defenses and strike their targets.

When committing to co-lead the European drone coalition, London said that it would stand up an industry competition to “scale up and streamline the West’s provision” of FPV drones to Kyiv. In 2023, the UK locally developed and manufactured hundreds of one way attack drones for the first time.

Military analysts say that the manufacturing and technological capabilities required to produce one way attack or kamikaze drones are not difficult. The aircraft are also produced at low cost compared to more advanced systems.

Russia continues to heavily rely on Iranian designed Shahed series attack drones for strike operations against Ukraine, with reports emerging in January that Moscow and Tehran had struck a deal for a new Shahed 107 system at an estimated cost of $2 million. A security source told Sky News that the drone has a V-tail design, range of 1500km and can be launched from a vehicle.

Ukraine claims to have produced 300,000 drones last year and has built up a 60 unit UAV strike force. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has consistently pressed international partners to deliver more drones, ammunition, air defense systems and long range munitions to thwart Russian attacks, amid Moscow recently seizing control of new territory, including the Eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiivka.

Zelenskyy said in a post on X (formerly Twitter) that discussions with Shapps mainly addressed “bolstering Ukraine’s air defense and long-range capabilities, as well as meeting other urgent needs for weapons and ammunition and developing joint weapon production.”

Shapps also told broadcast media during his Kyiv visit that the idea of deploying boots on the ground in Ukraine, as controversially proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron, is “not in the picture.” Macron doubled down on those remarks this week by telling Ukraine partners not to be “cowards” and continues to advocate for Western troops to be sent to Ukraine.

His comments sparked a dispute with Germany. Boris Pistorius, German defense minister, said that talk of boots on the ground “is something which does not really help solve the issues we have when it comes to helping Ukraine,” reported Politico.

The Franco-German tension arrives in the wake of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz being rebuked by the UK for implying British programmers are supporting Storm Shadow long range missile targeting activities in Ukraine.

Scholz delivered that assessment when justifying his reasons not to send the German-Swedish Taurus KEPD 350 cruise missile to Ukraine. A Russian leak of high ranking German military officials discussing how to potentially deliver Taurus to Ukraine also claimed that British personnel are directly involved in Storm Shadow operations in Ukraine. Berlin has since called for an investigation into the embarrassing Taurus audio leak incident.