In September, Ukraine was alarmed by the news that Russia purchased a Shahed-136 kamikaze UAV from Iran. The media reported the number of 1000 units, but this number cannot be considered accurate. Perhaps we are talking about the supply of hundreds of drones as they are produced. Iranian drones have already been seen on the battlefield, some of them were shot down near Kupyansk. The occupiers mark them with the Geranium-2 marking, but the model was identified by its design.
APU collisions with Shahed-136
The Armed Forces of Ukraine have confirmed the use of Shahed-136 drones by the Russian army. The troops encountered them in the north-east of the Kharkov region before and during the offensive. According to Colonel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Rodion Kulagin for the Wall Street Journal, back in August, Russia used these UAVs, striking at a US-supplied 155-mm towed howitzer M777. Then, already in September, two 152-mm and two 122-mm self-propelled howitzers, as well as two armored personnel carriers, were knocked out.
“In other areas, the Russians use overwhelming artillery firepower, and this is enough for them. Here they do not have an advantage in artillery, and therefore they began to resort to drones, ”said Colonel Kulagin.
The British Ministry of Defense also confirmed on September 14 that Russia had very likely deployed Iranian drones in Ukraine for the first time. Despite their considerable range, these drones are used for tactical strikes near the front line, and not for the destruction of strategic targets deep in Ukrainian territory.
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Purpose and design of Shahed-136
The Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicle was first shown in 2020. The drone is designed to neutralize ground targets at a great distance – its flight range is declared to be up to 2500 km. The weight of the UAV is about 200 kg, its length is 3.5 m, the wingspan is 2.5 m. The target is destroyed by a warhead enclosed in the bow of the device.
Modifications with a surveillance camera are capable of delivering high-precision strikes. However, the variant without cameras is more common, guiding by satellite coordinates and capable of hitting only stationary objects.
Shahed-136 is launched at a slightly high upward angle from the launcher. The multi-drone portable launch frame allows you to move quickly in any suitable vehicle. The rocket engine, which is discarded shortly after launch, helps the drone gain speed and altitude.
The danger of Shahed-136 lies in the possibility of inflicting precise damage from a long distance. Under the threat of attack by Shahed-136 are any samples of Western equipment transferred to Ukraine.
Also in the expert community there is an opinion that the Shahed-136 design is largely “borrowed” from Israeli drones, which emphasizes the significance of the damage from Western and Israeli technologies falling into the hands of the enemy.
Expert opinion on the role of Iranian UAVs
Scott Crino, head of strategy consulting firm Red Six Solutions, believes the Shahed-136 could provide Russia with a powerful counterweight to high-tech weapon systems such as HIMARS rocket launchers.
“The presence of Shahed-136 in the war in Ukraine undoubtedly changes the operational plans of Kyiv,” he said. “The sheer size of the battlefield in Ukraine makes it difficult to defend against them.”
The expert also noted that kamikaze UAVs can be used with great success when one missile is aimed at the radar system and the second at artillery pieces. “Once the Shahed is on target, it will be difficult to stop it,” he said.
Shahed-136 attack countermeasures
Iranian drones are relatively small and fly at low altitude, making them difficult to detect. Perhaps Iran is equipping Shahed with anti-jamming and interception systems.
Attacks of the “blind” Shahed-136 should be preceded by active reconnaissance using other UAVs. Based on this, the means of possible countermeasures against attacks are counter-reconnaissance, camouflage, the creation of decoys, active GPS jamming.
Military experts note that the real flight range of Iranian attack drones can be 1300-1600 km. A speed of 185 km / h allows you to shoot down Shahed with conventional small arms. Despite the problematic detection by radar, flying at low altitude, they create a lot of noise, allowing you to focus on them directly.
Some Shahed-136s have already been shot down by air defense missiles. The Armed Forces of Ukraine expect effective technical means from Western partners to combat the new threat. In early September, the US imposed sanctions on Iranian drone manufacturers and a transport company involved in the shipments.
Drones of various types play an important role in the Russian-Ukrainian war – neither side has air superiority and is extremely careful to use manned aircraft over enemy positions. Hundreds of military and conventional consumer reconnaissance drones hover daily along the front lines, identifying targets, launching rocket and mine strikes or undermining enemy equipment.