December 7, 2022

EXPO Magazine

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“The stakes are too high.” Meet the Iranian kamikaze drones causing Ukraine headaches

They are harder to detect and much cheaper than cruise missiles. Iran was able to develop its own drone program thanks to the study of captured US drones.

Rumors began to emerge before Vladimir Putin’s visit to Iran in July, when hundreds of Russian drones were shot down in large numbers over Ukrainian skies. Facing great difficulties on the ground and outnumbered after months of war, the Russian army needed weapons capable of balancing the balance of power on the battlefield. Tehran offered the solution: kamikaze drones were cheaply made and very difficult to detect.

After weeks of calm, without the sound of sirens announcing airstrikes, the city of Odessa awoke to a week of Iranian kamikaze drone attacks. Over three days, several administrative buildings in the port city were attacked. A similar attack last Sunday damaged a building in the port of Odessa, killing at least one person.

Ukrainian air defenses have been effective in securing the region in recent times, but new weapons deployed by Moscow are putting the capabilities of the Ukrainian armed forces to the test.

“Currently, my hometown Odessa and the neighboring city of Chornomorsk are under massive attack by Shahid drones. Our security forces are bringing them down, but the level of danger is too high,” described a Ukrainian citizen on social networking site Twitter.

The Russians named it Geran 2, but its name was Shahid-136, a drone with a delta-wing structure capable of striking its target by carrying a 40 kg explosive charge. It was used for the first time by Russian troops during the Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kharkiv on September 13.

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What makes these drones different from others? They are very difficult to detect and this is a big problem for Kiev, which has already asked NATO allies for more robust air defense systems and sophisticated radar systems. Ukrainian forces can sense that one of these drones is about to attack only when it is already very close, as its engines make a characteristic sound.

According to Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ignat, the drone attacks come at a time of decline in the use of cruise missiles, which in the case of Russian Kalibr missiles cost 6.5 million euros each. Although the drones do not have “high technical parameters”, Ignat warned that they pose a “difficult challenge” to Ukrainian air defense.

But why did Russia buy Iranian drones? The intensity of the conflict is prompting Moscow to import more weapons, but due to restrictions imposed by economic sanctions, the number of countries willing to supply weapons to Putin is very limited. The solution? Obtaining arms from another sanctioned country.

Even under the tight grip of sanctions, Iran has been able to develop its own drone program thanks to the study of captured US drones. And these drones have proven to be successful on the battlefield. However, many experts point out that Iran lacks the capability to produce the equipment Russia needs to have a decisive impact on the war.

Iran’s decision to supply Russia with these weapons, although Tehran denies it, did not go down well in Kiev and, “in response to this hostile act”, Ukraine decided to suspend the recognition of the Iranian ambassador and significantly reduce the number of diplomatic personnel. In that country..

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Ukraine expects these drones to play an increasingly important role in the conflict, rather than the use of aircraft by the Russians, who have struggled to control airspace over Ukraine. Civil servants in Kiev estimate that 261 Russian military aircraft and 224 helicopters have been shot down so far.