Ukraine says its Vampire bomber drone is such a nightmare for Russian troops they call it the 'Baba Yaga,' a mythical evil creature

A man in military uniform crouching next to a drone at night.
A member of the Ukrainian military preparing a drone for flight in November in the Bakhmut District, Ukraine.Kostya Liberov/Libkos via Getty Images
  • Ukraine says its Vampire bomber drone is a nightmare for Russian troops and has an evil nickname.

  • Vampire drones are harder to spot, are fast, and can drop bombs on targets in the dead of night.

  • The domestically produced drones are best for nighttime attacks thanks to thermal imaging.

Ukraine says its Vampire bomber drones are becoming such a nightmare for Russia that they've earned a menacing nickname among its troops.

The fast, hard-to-detect drone has apparently earned a reputation during its nighttime raids, with Russian forces calling it "Baba Yaga," an evil witch from Slavic folklore. Ukraine says the capabilities of the bomber drone allow them to fly close to Russian tanks and armor at night before hitting them with major explosives.

On Tuesday, the defense ministry of Ukraine shared a video of the Vampire drone from United24, a Ukrainian government-run crowdfunding and digital-media site, calling the unmanned aerial vehicle "the Russian's nightmare."

The short video focuses on a specific drone unit, Unit Code 9.2, outside Bakhmut, explaining that the operators use DJI Mavic drones — small UAVs that Ukraine has been using in combat, sometimes crudely attaching explosives to them — during the day.

"But at night, it's time for the Vampires to fly," the video says.

These UAVs can fly fast — usually about 23 meters a second — and carry hefty explosive payloads to enemy targets.

"With a capacity of carrying up to 15kg and a flight distance of up to 10km, this drone has become a true nightmare for the Russians," the video narration says.

Part of the appeal of the Vampire, Ukraine says, is its thermal imaging, which allows operators to identify and target enemies at nighttime. Some other UAVs also have thermal-imaging capabilities, but the ability to fly during both day and night with a heavy explosive payload makes the Vampire a valuable asset.

A Ukrainian drone operator from the 24th Separate Mechanized Brigade tests new military equipment including FPV drones on the training area amid Russia-Ukraine war in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on August 03, 2023.
A Ukrainian drone operator testing new military equipment including FPV drones in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, in August.Wojciech Grzedzinski/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Vampire drones, which are domestically produced, have been used to drop various types of munitions on Russian enemies, most often targeting tanks. They also wrecked a Russian warehouse near Bakhmut back in August and have proven effective at avoiding Russian jamming, which has become so prevalent on the front lines.

Back in August, Mykhailo Fedorov, the vice prime minister of Ukraine for innovation, education, science, and technology, posted a video showing off a room full of Vampire drones. He said 270 of the UAVs would be headed to the front lines "to back up our Ukrainian soldiers during the counteroffensive."

Fedorov had previously shared footage in June of what he said was a Vampire drone delivering humanitarian aid to people on the Russian-occupied southern bank of the Dnipro River.

Drones of all types, from modified hobby drones to high-end systems built to military specifications, are playing an increasingly prominent role in Ukraine and shaping modern conflict. Both sides are churning out thousands of them for surveillance, fire correction, bombing runs, and one-way attacks, forcing troops to keep an eye on the skies.

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