Ukraine plans to ramp up monthly drone output by year-end – minister

(Reuters) – Ukraine aims to produce tens of thousands of drones every month by year-end as it ramps up its defence industry output despite the challenge posed by Russian attacks, the minister for strategic industries said on Wednesday.

Drones have played a central role in the 20-month-old Russia-Ukraine war, used in huge numbers by both sides for surveillance and attack. Kyiv has focused on increasing its output, but has relied heavily on foreign-made drone engines.

Speaking at a NATO Industry Forum in Stockholm, Oleksandr Kamyshin, the minister who oversees Ukraine’s defence industry, did not disclose detailed current drone production figures, but put the number in the thousands per month.

“By the end of this year, it would be dozens of thousands a month. And that’s something we grow even faster than conventional warfare ammunition and warfare weapons,” he said.

Facing depleting Western weapons warehouses as the war drags on, Ukraine wants to boost local production of different military equipment and munitions in order to secure stable and faster supplies. Russia’s regular drone and missile strikes across the country are an additional challenge to that.

“Speaking about shells, for instance, we produce times more now than for the whole (of) last year,” Kamyshin said.

“We found a model of how it can be working even under shelling,” he added, giving no further details.

Ukrainian officials hope cooperation with Western arms producers can also help revive the domestic arms industry and create an additional boost for the economy.

Kamyshin said he had recently seen a “new wave of interest” in his country from Western defense industry companies. Ukraine on Tuesday announced that it had registered a joint venture with German arms manufacturer .

“It’s a positive wave, it shows more interest, and I am sure that interest will lead us to new joint ventures, new local production facilities,” the minister said.

(Reporting by Yuliia Dysa; Editing by Tom Balmforth and Helen Popper)