HomeTop StoriesAre drones the future? Not for everything, says the Polish general

Are drones the future? Not for everything, says the Polish general

KORZENIEWO, Poland — Military personnel should be wary of applying lessons from the war in Ukraine and instead adapt to the battles yet to come, a top general in the Polish military said.

While the war between Ukraine and Russia has highlighted the crucial role drones can play – and the threat they can pose to troops – General Piotr Blazeusz remains unconvinced of their value while crossing waterways.

“Traditionally, you wouldn’t just use drones for a water crossing. You could use them for reconnaissance purposes to gather intelligence ahead of time, but while you’re making the actual crossing you don’t really need them in the air,” the deputy chief of the general staff told Defense News in an interview on the sidelines of the Polish-led dragon exercise held here. “You would want them up front, at the front, making sure there are no roadblocks, or identifying enemy positions or threats to the vehicles disembarking.”

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During the March 4-5 exercise, organized as part of NATO’s large-scale Steadfast Defender exercise, drones were nowhere to be seen. One unmanned aerial system – AeroVironment’s Puma drone – was visible during the static display portion, but was reportedly not involved in the training. It had previously flown during the recently concluded NATO Brilliant Jump exercise.

For the past two years, the 2,200-kilometer-long Dnipro River – which flows through Russia, Belarus and Ukraine – has served as a crucial part of the front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces, as well as a key target for both sides.

In November, both Ukrainian and Russian officials confirmed that Ukrainian units were able to cross the river and had gained a foothold on the eastern bank of the river.

Drone and aerial reconnaissance units were reportedly involved in the crossing operation, providing partial cover for soldiers crossing and detecting Russian movements.

“Combat drones are probably of little use for river crossings,” said Samuel Bendett, adviser on Russian military capabilities at the Center for Naval Analyses. “What’s more important is to have ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] those under constant surveillance, as well as a menagerie of counter-drone and electronic warfare systems to protect personnel and equipment.

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Blazeusz said one of the reasons why drones were not used as part of the Dragon Demonstration on the Vistula River had to do with the smaller range forces needed to cross.

“The Vistula crossing is only 320 meters long, so not that big. But if it was a longer distance, you might want them, but we do have other means of communication than just drones,” he explained.

In contrast, some parts of the Dnipro River in Ukraine can be almost 1.6 kilometers long.

Some observers at the exercise shared concerns that not everyone in the West is adapting tactics quickly enough to meet the demands of modern warfare ushered in by the war between Russia and Ukraine.

While countries should keep a close eye on events there, Blazeusz warned that militaries should not try to simply duplicate strategies.

“Never in history has the next war been an exact copy of the previous one, so we have to be very careful in identifying the lessons we learned in Ukraine and then applying them because yes, there are clear indications on what we should do, but we shouldn’t just try to replicate what they’re doing there,” he said. “We have our own considerations [as a country] to think about.”

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