Ukraine’s special IT force of 30 troops on quad motorcycles is an important aspect of the country’s defense, but it is forced to rely on crowdsourcing for supplies.
Russia massed a 40-mile mechanized column a week into its invasion of Ukraine in order to launch an overwhelming attack on Kyiv from the north.
According to a Ukrainian commander, the convoy of armoured vehicles and supply trucks came to a standstill within days, and the operation failed, in part due to a series of nocturnal ambushes carried out by a squad of 30 Ukrainian special forces and drone operators on quad bikes.
The drone pilots came from Aerorozvidka, an air reconnaissance force that began as a bunch of volunteer IT experts and enthusiasts constructing their own devices eight years ago and has developed into a key component of Ukraine’s David-and-Goliath resistance.
However, while Ukraine’s western backers have provided tens of thousands of anti-tank and anti-air missiles and other military hardware, Aerorozvidka has been forced to rely on crowdfunding and a network of personal contacts to keep going, in order to obtain components such as advanced modems and thermal imaging cameras, which are prohibited from being sent to Ukraine due to export controls.
Lt Col Yaroslav Honchar, the unit’s commander, described the ambush at Ivankiv that helped stop the huge, sluggish Russian onslaught in its tracks. He said that Ukrainian fighters on quad bikes were able to approach the advancing Russian column at night by riding through the forest on either side of the Chernobyl-bound road going south to Kyiv.
The Ukrainian troops had night vision goggles, sniper rifles, remotely detonated mines, thermal imaging cameras on drones, and other weapons capable of dropping tiny 1.5kg bombs.
“In the middle of the night, this one tiny unit destroyed two or three cars at the front of this convoy, and then it became stuck.” “They remained two more nights there and smashed a lot of automobiles,” Honchar claimed.
The Russians divided up the column into smaller groups in order to make progress towards Kiev, but the same assault force, he said, was able to hit the Russian supply depot, hampering their ability to advance.
“The Russian force’s first echelon was cut off from heat, oil, explosives, and gas. And that was all thanks to the efforts of 30 people,” Honchar explained.
In the first day of the war, the Aerorozvidka unit claimed to have assisted thwart a Russian airborne attack on Hostomel airport, about north-west of Kyiv, by employing drones to find, target, and shell roughly 200 Russian paratroopers hidden at one end of the runway.
“It helped a lot that they were able to do it.”