Australia will deliver over 300 DefendTex Drone40 (D40) kamikaze drones to Ukraine. The DefendTex D40 is a category of aerial weapon system in which the munition hangs out (waits passively) around the target area for some time and only attacks once the target is located. The kamikaze drone allows for faster reaction times against concealed or hidden targets that emerge for short periods of time without having to place high-value platforms in close proximity to the target area, and also allows for more selective targeting because the attack can be easily interrupted. The autonomy allows the operator to be tasked with flying a drone into position, as it were, and only have to make a call once the drone is in place. The DefendTex D40 is designed to destroy tanks, manpower and ammunition dumps.
The DefendTex D40 can be launched both manually and with a 40mm grenade launcher. These small quadcopter drones can be equipped with a variety of payloads, ranging from full-motion electro-optical video cameras to small explosive or armor-piercing warheads.
The maximum flight range is 20 km, and the takeoff weight of the ammunition package is around 350 g. Line-of-sight restrictions exist for command links between the operator and the drones, but it is possible to use another drone to act as a relay. DefendTex barrage munitions can operate either individually or as part of a swarm. The payload can be easily swapped in the field and, once equipped with cameras, the drones can be recovered and reused.
DefendTex D40s can operate together as at least semi-autonomous swarms after launch. They also offer what is known as multiple munitions simultaneous impact (MSRI) capabilities. These capabilities are useful because they allow more munitions to land on the target without warning.
This means that a single individual could fire multiple Drone40s with kinetic loads, then direct them at a designated point, after which they would all be dropped at the same time. With a mix of different types of warheads, this could allow for more effective engagement of complex and dispersed targets at once, such as troops standing in the open near light armored vehicles. The flight time for barrage munitions is up to 30 minutes.
Development of the unit was largely funded in collaboration with Autonomous Systems Collaborative Research by the Australian government. Defense think tank the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) reported that Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, said Ukraine had sought out Australian defense suppliers for combat drones useful in its fight against Russian invaders.
Test units have already been delivered to Poland, where they will be tested.
After the tests, Australia will send the entire batch of munitions to Ukraine. The drone, which boasts a “low unit cost”, flies autonomously. It was purchased by the United Kingdom and tested by the United States