Ukraine’s New Ram II Drones Are Clearing The Way.

The Ram II waits for Russian air defenses to appear—and then strikes

David Axe

April 13, 2024



There’s a middle ground along the edge of the battlefield in Ukraine—a ribbon of land between 15 and 25 miles from the front line that’s too far away for enemy howitzers and first-person-view drones to strike and yet close enough for mobile air-defense vehicles to target enemy aircraft operating over or near the front.

For the first two years of Russia’s wider war on Ukraine, Ukrainian forces didn’t have weapons optimized for striking this air-defense zone—but Russian forces did: their Lancet loitering munitions.

These 25-pound propeller-driven drones—each costing $35,000—fly tight circles, scanning with their onboard cameras until they spot something matching the shape of an enemy vehicle. Then they zoom in and explode.

Russian Lancets have struck hundreds of Ukrainian vehicles, including scores of air-defense vehicles, helping to drive Ukrainian air-defenders away from the front line—and thus creating a safe zone for Russian warplanes and helicopters to operate.

Now it’s the Ukrainians’ turn. In February, Ukraine’s drone industry began mass-producing a Lancet analogue, the Ram II. Manufactured by Deviro, the Ram II isn’t actually a copy of the Lancet. Rather, it’s an upgraded version of an older Ukrainian drone called the Leleka-100.

A Ram II ranges as far as 19 miles with a seven-pound warhead and strikes within three feet of its target, according to Deviro. The company described it as “revolutionary [and] easy to use.”

A Ram II functions like a Lancet does: it loiters, scans and strikes with only minimal input from a human operator. Since appearing along the front line in recent weeks, the RAM II has begun wreaking havoc on Russian air defenses. In a single day on April 9, open-source intelligence analyst Andrew Perpetua counted five Russian air defense vehicles he believed were hit by Ram IIs.

It’s hard to underscore the importance of Ukraine’s new drone campaign targeting Russian air defenses.

While Ukraine’s hundreds of thousands of tiny first-person-view drones plink Russian tanks, fighting vehicles, golf carts and infantry at the front and Ukraine’s bigger and pricier long-range strike drones travel hundreds of miles into the Russian heartland to strike air bases, oil refineries and factories, the Ram IIs prowl that middle air-defense zone.

And if they can knock out enough Russian air defenses, they could do for the Ukrainian air force what Russia’s Lancets have done for the Russian air force: clear the way for fighter-bombers to streak toward the front line at high altitude and drop precision glide bombs from 25 miles away.

KAB glide bombs are the decisive weapon of the third year of Russia’s wider war on Ukraine. Each 1,100-, 2,200- or 3,300-pound KAB—the Russians drop as many as a hundred per day—can devastate a Ukrainian position and clear a path for Russian ground forces.

The KAB is a “miracle weapon” for the Russians, Ukrainian Deep State noted. And the Ukrainians have “practically no countermeasures.”

But that doesn’t mean the Ukrainians are powerless to strike back. The Ukrainian air force has received Joint Direct Attack Munition-Extended Range glide bombs from the United States that are at least the equal of the KABs.

These American munitions may have run out in the six months since Russia-friendly Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives blocked further U.S. aid to Ukraine. But the Ukrainian air force also gets 50 French-made Hammer glide bombs every month—and has modified its MiG and Sukhoi fighters to carry them.

Fifty French glide bombs a month isn’t a lot of glide bombs when the Russians are dropping thousands of KABs in the same span of time. But if and when Republicans relent and allow a vote on fresh U.S. aid, more JDAM-ERs could arrive. Potentially a lot more.

And maybe, by then, Ukraine’s RAM IIs will have pushed back Russian air-defenses and made it safer for Ukrainian jets to glide-bomb the Russians nearly as relentlessly as Russian jets glide-bomb the Ukrainians.


David Axe – Forbes Staff. Aerospace & Defense.  He is a journalist, author and filmmaker based in Columbia, South Carolina.  Axe founded the website War Is Boring in 2007 as a webcomic, and later developed it into a news blog.  He enrolled at Furman University and earned a bachelor’s degree in history in 2000. Then he went to the University of Virginia to study medieval history before transferring to and graduating from the University of South Carolina with a master’s degree in fiction in 2004.