Russia has hired a priest to train children how to operate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for combat in a school recently opened in the country’s Krasnodar region.
The priest, Igor Biryukov, told Russian news outlet Lenta that the training will focus on learning how to fly the drones, including with the help of technical simulators. Programming and 3D design will also be taught.
The school, located in the city of Prochnookopskaya in Krasnodar Krai, was opened this month for the children of parishioners. Its opening comes weeks after Russian officials announced that students in high schools would be taught how drones are operated in combat and how to use them for reconnaissance, as part of a “basic military training” program.
The Ukraine conflict has underlined the importance of UAVs in modern warfare, with both sides using them for reconnaissance and attack and with Moscow itself repeatedly being hit by what Russia said were Ukrainian drones.
“So far we have five laptops for general practice and three laptops for drone practice. There is also a fleet of drones. But our logistics will improve as donations come in. We intend to improve our inventory. The amount of hardware will also expand. I think that in the future we will acquire the so-called all-terrain drones,” said Biryukov.
Artem Sheikin, a senator from Russia’s Amur region who proposed the courses on military drones, told Russia’s state-run news agency RIA Novosti that the classes would begin in schools on September 1.
Russia’s First Deputy Minister of Defense Ruslan Tsalikov said in a statement that the program, which has been approved by Russia’s education ministry, will teach students the fundamentals of “terrain reconnaissance and enemy unmanned aerial vehicle combat methods.”
“The current army is not just a Kalashnikov assault rifle, but also advanced unmanned vehicles,” Sheikin said, according to RIA Novosti.
Russia previously announced that school students would be taught how to use assault rifles and hand grenades. Russian Education Minister Sergey Kravtsov told state-run news agency Tass last November the training would be rolled out in high schools from September 1.
The program is part of a Soviet-era basic military training course that has been reinstated amid the war in Ukraine.
The British Defense Ministry said in an intelligence update on September 6 that this new curriculum serves three objectives.
“To indoctrinate students with the Kremlin rationale for the ‘Special Military Operation’, instil students with a martial mindset, and reduce training timelines for onwards mobilisation and deployment.”
The ministry said that the introduction of UAV operations “indicates their evolving importance on the battlefield and the lessons learnt about these systems directly from the conflict in Ukraine.”
Newsweek has contacted the Russian Ministry of Defense via email for comment.
Do you have a tip on a world news story that Newsweek should be covering? Do you have a question about the Russia-Ukraine war? Let us know via [email protected].