​Who Are the Artisans Behind the Handmade Rocket Launchers on Pick-Ups and Grenade-Dropping Drones

Photo credit: Ed Ram, The Guardian
Photo credit: Ed Ram, The Guardian

A unit of volunteers that became some of the best scouts participating in Ukraine’s offensive near Kherson

Since the very start of russian unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, we could see Ukrainian troops using equipment that in not in service with Ukraine’s army, nor supplied by the allies.

Instead, those are examples of creativity from the Ukrainian military who managed to create custom weapon systems such as a "mini-Grad" out of a rocket launcher from a downed russian helicopter or a remotely controlled RPG.

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A few days ago, The Guardian had a chat with a unit that creates and uses an MLRS of their own making, basically some tubes for launching Grad rockets installed on a pickup.

This is the "Karlsson" air reconnaissance unit. It belongs to the Territorial Defense Forces of the Ukrainian regular army, but their tasks are those of special forces. Mostly, they adjust artillery fire with their cheap commercial UAVs or fire support with artillery of their own, as in this case.

As noted by The Guardian, this unit of 30 men was operating in the Kherson region, where the Ukrainian joint forces are slowly pushing the russians out from Kherson, a city with its supply routes severely restricted by Ukrainian fire control, so that russian garrison is bleeding out of ammunition and other crucial needs to sustain defense.

Notably, the "Karlsson" unit was created just after February 24, 2022. And now it consists of about 30 volunteers from various specialties, from all over the world. The journalists from The Guardian talked to several servicemen from New Zealand and the U.S.

It all started with volunteers who collected their own money and donations from fundraisers to equip themselves, and enlisted as Territorial Defense Forces. Throughout their service, they worked with artillery units and the Special Operations Forces helping them to exploit the liberated areas, a serviceman of the "Karlsson" unit told Hromadske.

"In a few months we turned into one of the best units scouting, gathering intelligence and adjusting artillery fire," soldier Taras said to the journalist.

Their primary job is to fly around with drones and collect data, but sometimes they launch point strikes with grenades dropped from Mavic drones, Punisher UAVs and mortars.

The "Karlssons" also use commercial drones with special gear to deliver small grenades onto russian positions / Photo credit: Karlsson special unit

When it comes to providing fire support for their artillery, they pull out their custom-made weapons. As a multifunctional unit of Territorial Defense, they don’t have sophisticated equipment such as BM-21 "Grad" multiple launch rocket systems. Yet they have smaller launchers using the same type of ammunition. Those are very mobile and relatively cheap, as the source material is almost literally metal scrap.

According to the 35th Territorial Defense Brigade press office, this rocket system used by the "Karlssons" was made out of a damaged BM-21 Grad system with a functional launcher / Photo credits: 35th Territorial Defense Brigade, Ed Ram for The Guardian

For example, the "rocket launching system" below was made thanks to volunteers and the workers of the local service station.

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