Warplanes: Poland Sends Warmate to Ukraine


January 22, 2024: After Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022, Ukraine’s NATO neighbors, especially Poland and the three smaller Baltic States were the first to send weapons and munitions. These nations used lots of imported munitions which could not be exported without permission from the foreign manufacturer. Poland, however, had become a developer and manufacturer of weapons, and so was able to send locally developed Warmate UAV munitions immediately.

Poland completed development of Warmate in 2017 and the Polish military ordered a thousand Warmate UAVs at a cost of about $28,000 each. Developed and made in Poland, Warmate is delivered as a system package. Each one consists of ten 4 kg Warmate UAVs together with ground controllers, maintenance, and training material. The first hundred Warmate systems went to Polish Special Forces and the new territorial defense units. The remainder of the Warmate order has now been delivered.

Unlike similar small UAVs, Warmate can use an explosive warhead as an expendable cruise missile type weapon. Normally Warmate is used for surveillance and can be reused dozens of times. Warmate is carried and launched, with a pneumatic assist from its box-like storage container. The electric motor gives Warmate a top speed of 150 kilometers an hour/41 meters a second. Endurance is 30-50 minutes and normal altitude is 300-500 meters. Range is line of sight and 10-12 kilometers from the operator. The control and video transfer signal is encrypted and Warmate can operate autonomously along a preprogrammed route using GPS with a backup unjammable INS/Inertial Guidance System to deal with jamming.

Warmate can operate in combat mode by adding a 300 gram warhead. There are several types of warhead: fragmentation, with fragments deadly up to 10 meters, armor piercing able to penetrate up to 120mm of armor and thermobaric/fuel air explosive. While useful against armored or unarmored vehicles, Warmate would be most useful against snipers or other targets that are a danger and can quickly move if spotted. The fragmentation warhead could be highly effective because Warmate could be flown through a window cave/bunker entrance and kill everyone in a room. Warmate could also disrupt an ambush.

The idea of UAVs used as mini-cruise missiles isn’t new. Israel and American troops have been using such loitering munitions for years. Israel has Harpy and the Americans began with Switchblade in 2009. This was a one kilogram expendable/used only once UAV that can be equipped with explosives. The Switchblade is launched from its shipping and storage tube, at which point wings flip out, a battery powered propeller starts spinning and a vidcam begins broadcasting images to the controller. The Switchblade is operated using the same gear the larger two kg Raven UAV employs. A complete Switchblade system containing a missile, container, and controller weighs 5.5 kg. Switchblade was very popular with troops in Afghanistan and with Special Operations Command/ SOCOM in all sorts of places they won’t discuss in detail. Switchblade was followed by an improved version as well as a larger second generation LMAMS UAV.

After Russia attacked Ukraine in 2022, Poland provided neighbor Ukraine with some Warmate systems for use against Russian forces. Warmate performed quite well against the Russians. Warmate proved very hard to detect and destroy in flight. That was because if used for an attack, shooting down a small target like Warmate, coming in at 41 meters a second, was very difficult. The Russians had effective electronic warfare systems for remotely controlled UAVs but were not able to use them effective against Warmate, even in attack mode. Warmate is cost effective and very cheap to produce, especially in light of the Ukraine experience.




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