It isn’t everyday that you get to see a fireworks show like this one. Back in March, a Russian drone packed with thermite took out a Ukrainian ammo dump. The attack was catastrophic for the Ukrainians, as the one thermite grenade did an estimated billion dollars in damage. And now footage is being made public.
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When the incident first occurred, the Ukrainian officials believed it had been an internal act of sabotage. They blamed the explosions on a fire in the facility. They were correct, but it wasn’t an attack carried out internally. It was a remote attack, and was likely carried out with a simple store-bought drone.
Popular Mechanics covered the story. “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.”
What makes the story appealing for Popular Mechanics is the emergence of a new trend in warfare. Drones are relatively new, but this one may have been an “off the shelf civilian product” being used, quite effectively, in war.
The video of the incident is epic. The one grenade caused a chain reaction that took out the entire facility. The casualties, though, were low. Ukrainian officials say one person was killed and five others were injured.
But the destruction was immense. Local houses were hit with shrapnel. Parts of missiles and projectiles littered the surrounding area. As the photographs show, there were a tremendous number of close calls.
“The drone is believed to have carried a ZMG-1 thermite grenade,” Popular Mechanics reports. Thermite is made by mixing dry iron oxide and powdered aluminum powder. Once ignited, thermite burns incredibly hot. It is almost impossible to extinguish, and can melt through many metals.
This is not a new tactic for the Russians. An attack in 2015 destroyed 3,000 tons and burned 1,700 homes. And as the successes mount, Russia ramps up it regular use.
While most of the weaponized drones in use by the United States are not civilian models, our success with the technology has inspired others. ISIS has successfully weaponized civilian drones, and is in the process of refining efforts to use the devices to deliver payloads once carried by suicide bombers.
This video is in two parts. The drone footage at the start is impressive. The second half is the view from the ground looking at the damage.