Ukraine’s partners are withholding modern elevation maps that could help Ukrainian drones reach their destinations in Russia.
While several Ukrainian drones have failed to reach Moscow, experts maintain that using these “primitive” drones remains a cost-effective strategy to challenge Russian air defenses, Marko Syrovoi writes at LIGA.net. Military expert Oleksiy Katkov explains that these drones can be produced inexpensively, forcing Russians to expend costly missiles for their interception: “for the destruction of primitive drones at a conditional $10,000, the Russians will spend missiles worth hundreds of thousands.”
However, the main thing that stands in the way of these drones hitting targets in the Russian capital is Ukraine’s lack of modern elevation maps.
Around Moscow, a dense air defense system has been built, and the best way to penetrate it is to fly as low as possible to avoid being detected by Russian radar stations, explains Katkov. Without modern digital elevation maps, drones risk colliding with newly constructed high-voltage towers or other recently built tall structures. Countries within NATO and those with significant satellite capabilities have access to these maps, which include data on terrain features, artificial obstacles, and can be updated annually or every few years to account for changes in the landscape. Lacking such maps, Ukrainian drones are forced to fly higher, making them more vulnerable to detection and destruction.