Kiev said Moscow Iran-supplied kamikaze drones were used in the attacks on KievVinnytsia, Odessa, Zaporizhzia and other Ukrainian cities have in recent weeks appealed to the West for more aid to help them face this new challenge.
Drones have played a significant role in the conflict since Russia launched its full-scale invasion last February, but their use has increased since Moscow bought new drones from Iran over the summer.
Ukrainians have also been using kamikaze drones against Russian targets and have asked allies to supply them with these deadly weapons.
Here’s what we know about these drones.
What are kamikaze drones?
Kamikaze drones or suicide drones are a type of aerial combat system. They are called waiting munitions because they wait for a short time in an area identified as a potential target and can only strike when an enemy asset is identified.
They are small, portable and can be launched easily, but their main advantage is that they are difficult to detect and can be fired from a distance.
The name kamikaze suggests that drones can be used. They are designed to strike beyond enemy lines and be destroyed in an attack, unlike traditional military drones, which are large and fast and return to origin after firing missiles.
What drones is Russia using in Ukraine?
Ukraine’s military and US intelligence say Russia is using Iranian-made attack drones. U.S. officials told CNN in July that it was a month before Iran began introducing Shahed series drones to Russia at Kashan Airfield, south of Tehran. The drones are capable of carrying precision missiles and have a payload capacity of approximately 50 kilograms.
In August, US officials said Russia had purchased the drones and was training its troops to use them. According to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, Russia has ordered 2400 Shahed-136 drones from Iran.
Ukraine says it shot down such a drone for the first time last month near the city of Khubayansk in the city of Kharkiv. Since then, there have been several attacks. Kiev’s military said it shot down 17 Shahed-136 missiles in a single day. According to photos released by the Ukrainian authorities, Russia has renamed Shahed and uses them under the name “Zeron”.
US officials say there are “already indications” that Iranian drones have “suffered multiple failures” on the battlefield.
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Sasha Baker told reporters late last month, “The idea that drones represent a technological advance, frankly, the data doesn’t show.”
Moscow also has kamikaze drones made by Russian arms maker Kalashnikov Concern. Ukraine says it shot down two ZALA Lancet drones on Wednesday.
How can Ukraine defend itself against these drones?
Since the start of the war in February, Ukraine has asked its allies to provide air defense systems, but the need has become more urgent since Russia began using Iranian-made drones.
Air defense systems were among the top three priorities on the list of weapons requested by Ukraine during a meeting of the Ukrainian Defense Liaison Committee in Brussels on Wednesday, according to a document presented to defense ministers attending the meeting.
Mark Milley, director general of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters after the meeting that the U.S. and allies should provide air defense systems to Ukraine to help protect the country’s airspace against attacks by troops.
“A lot of countries have patriotism, a lot of countries have other organizations, a lot of Israeli organizations are very efficient, the Germans have organizations as we mentioned, and a lot of countries that are here today have different organizations,” Milley said.
“Since all these systems are different, the task will be to collect them, deploy them and train them. It is important to ensure that they are connected to a command, control and communication system and to verify that they have radars capable of talking to each other so that they can identify targets in their approach planes.
The air defenses Ukraine needs to combat kamikaze drones are different from the systems used against cruise missiles and similar weapons. The Patriot defense system – a “target interception surveillance radar system” – is designed to counter and destroy short-range ballistic missiles such as advanced aircraft and cruise missiles, and can be used against drones.
Ukrainian officials say the country’s air defense is already taking down a “bulk” of Shahed drones. In a tweet to Poland on Tuesday, Ukrainian army chief General Valery Zalushny said it had destroyed 9 of the 11 Shahed drones. He said Poland had provided Ukraine with “systems” to help destroy drones.
Last month, it was reported that the Polish government had purchased advanced Israeli equipment (Israel has a policy of not selling “advanced defense technology” to Kiev) and then transferred it to Ukraine.
On Thursday, Zelensky made a fresh call for air defense capabilities, saying Kiev has only 10% of what is needed to counter Moscow attacks.
Are there kamikaze drones in Ukraine too?
The Ukrainian military uses RAM II kamikaze drones, which are developed by a consortium of Ukrainian companies. Purchased with money raised in crowdfunding By ordinary Ukrainians. These precision standby munitions can carry 3-kg warheads and can fly up to 30 kilometers, according to their manufacturers.
But Kiev also relies on allies to supply drones. The US has already sent various types of air defense systems to Ukraine. These include switchblade drones – small, portable kamikaze drones that carry a warhead and explode on impact. The larger Switchblade 300 and Switchblade 600 are manufactured by American defense company AeroVironment.
The smaller Switchblade 300, according to company-provided specifications, can hit a target from a distance of 9.6 km, while the larger Switchblade 600 can hit a target from over 32 km. Both systems can be up and running in minutes.
In May, the US sent the military “Phoenix Ghost” drones, which are believed to be similar to switchblades, although little is known about their capabilities.
The UK has provided standby weapons to Ukraine, including 850 hand-launched Black Hornet micro-drones.
In addition, Ukraine uses Turkish-made Nayraktar TB2 drones. These drones have become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance. However, they are large and designed to return to their original form after dropping bombs or laser-guided missiles.
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