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UK and Latvia launch UAV competition, but should go further, says former Latvian defence minister

Screenshot from the camera of a Ukrainian FPV UAV during an attack on a Russian convoy in Russia's Kursk region on 2 June 2024. (53rd Mechanized Brigade/103rd Territorial Defense Brigade, AFU)

The UK and Latvian ministries of defence (MoDs) opened the bidding on a competitive tender to supply test samples of first-person view (FPV) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for potential use by the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), the UK MoD announced on 3 June.

Successful companies will receive initial orders for UAVs. Once technically proved the intent is to place larger follow-up orders of them for Ukraine, the UK MoD said.

The competition is being managed by the ‘Drone Capability Coalition', an initiative launched by Latvia and the UK on 14 February and designed to supply Ukraine with tens of thousands of FPV UAVs.

Latvia's former Defence Minister and chairman of the Northern Europe Policy Centre Artis Pabriks told Janes the competition is a “very good idea, because this is a way that smaller and bigger nations can bolster support to Ukraine”.

However, Pabriks said, “I would extend this immediately to a much larger scale and to much larger drones. FPV drones are good tactically, but we need more capability. There are European companies that are offering drone swarm capability, and we should extend it to that, as its cutting edge.”

Pabriks added that opportunities between governments and companies were being missed, saying, “This drone coalition should be used to improve mutual co-operation within NATO. There is a chance for mutual procurement, for example between Latvia and the UK, and opportunities for co-operation between industries that aren't being used enough yet.”

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