A drone carrying a thermite grenade infiltrated an ammunition dump in Ukraine, setting off an explosion that caused an astounding ten billion rands worth of damage. The incident points to the growing use of drones in wartime, particularly off the shelf civilian products harnessed to conduct sabotage and other attacks.
By Kyle Mizokami
Ukraine’s domestic intelligence service, the SBU, believes that a drone carrying a Russian thermite hand grenade caused a series of titanic explosions at Balakliya, a military base in Eastern Ukraine. Amateur video of the incident posted on YouTube shows a raging fire spewing out of control artillery rockets, and an explosion and shockwave that sent civilians nearby reeling.
One person was killed in the attack and five were injured.
The aftermath of the thermite grenade
The drone is believed to have carried a ZMG-1 thermite grenade. Thermite, a combination of iron oxide (rust) and aluminium powder. The stuff burns extremely hot and easily could have gotten through wooden crates to detonate the munitions inside. The ammo dump is just 60 miles from the Russian/Ukrainian border, where fighting recently took place.
According to PM contributor David Hambling writing at Scout Warrior, it’s not the first time military bases in Ukraine have been hit by drones. A similar attempt to blow up the Balakliya base took place in December 2015, when drones dropped 14 grenades. The fires were extinguished by Ukrainian servicemen, and one grenade, a ZMG-1, was recovered.
In October 2015, an attack on an ammunition depot at Svatovo destroyed 3 000 tons of explosives and damaged 1 700 nearby homes. Two other attacks on ammo dumps took place in February, and another facility was attacked in March.
Guerrilla groups, terrorists, and perhaps even governments worldwide have rapidly weaponised consumer drones, effectively turning hobbyist devices into lethal weapons capable of killing. In 2016, two French Special Forces soldiers were injured and two Kurdish fighters were killed by an exploding ISIS drone. ISIS has conducted numerous drone attacks during the Mosul campaign and terrorism experts fear weaponised drones could spread outside conflict zones.
Source: Global Guerrillas
This article was originally written for and published by Popular Mechanics USA.