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The United Kingdom is to join Latvia in leading an initiative to deliver thousands of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Ukraine, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 15 February 2024.

As part of the coalition the UK will scale up and streamline the West’s provision to Ukraine of ‘first-person view’ (FPV) UAVs, which have proven highly effective on the battlefield since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The initiative will provide Ukrainian operators with situational awareness to target enemy positions, armoured vehicles, and ships with explosive ordnance.

Several other countries from the Ukraine Defence Contact Group (Rammstein Group) have announced they will be joining the Drone Coalition for Ukraine, including the Netherlands, Lithuania, Estonia, Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

“By creating a competition to produce these drones at scale and at an affordable price point, the UK will leverage the strength of Western industry,” the MoD stated in a press release. “This is the first project to be launched from the GBP 200 million [EUR 234 million] drone package announced by the Prime Minister in January this year. It will see the UK order thousands of FPV drones for Ukraine, including from UK manufacturers, providing a boost to the industry and delivering on the Prime Minister’s priority to grow the economy.”

UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps was quoted by the MoD as saying, “The UK continues to do all we can to give Ukraine what it needs – upping our aid to GBP 2.5 billion this year and committing GBP 200 million to manufacture drones, making us Ukraine’s largest drone supplier.

“Today, we’re going even further,” Shapps added. “I’m proud to announce that the UK and Latvia will co-lead an international coalition to build Ukraine’s vital drone capabilities. Together, we will give Ukraine the capabilities it needs to defend itself and win this war, to ensure that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin fails in his illegal and barbaric ambitions.”

The UK defence secretary also met his NATO counterparts on 15 February at a defence ministerial meeting of the alliance, where he was due to sign an agreement on two new multinational procurement initiatives focusing on munitions and missiles. Spearheaded by the UK, these initiatives aim to increase defence-industrial capacity across the Euro-Atlantic area, replenish stockpiles at pace and continue support to Ukraine.

This multinational approach is intended to offer a scalable solution for nations to jointly procure more of the missile and munition types that NATO and Ukraine need.

The UK is also working with NATO allies Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United States to deliver priority air defence equipment to Ukraine.

“This partnership, which Canada recently joined, has so far delivered hundreds of short- and medium-range air defence missiles and systems to keep Ukraine’s cities safe from Russian bombardment,” the MoD stated.

The UK has committed to provide GBP 2.5 billion in military aid to Ukraine in 2024/25: an increase of GBP 200 million on the previous two years.

UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps (left) shakes hands with Latvian Defence Minister Andris Sprūds on 15 February 2024, having announced that the UK will jointly lead an initiative to deliver thousands of UAVs to Ukraine. (Photo: UK MoD)