Russian drones have continued to rain down on Ukraine, devastating the country killing civilians and destroying buildings.
The Kremlin’s ‘kamikaze’ suicide drones, loaded with explosives, have become a terrifying feature of everyday life for Ukrainians.
Often small in size and cheap compared to other similar weapons, these drones have become an integral part of Russia’s warfare tactics, and one model in particular is wreaking havoc.
In a strike on Tuesday, Iranian-supplied Shahed-136 UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) were shot down from the sky over Kiev in successive waves of 31 strikes, Ukraine’s armed forces said. Although Ukraine’s air defenses said they were able to shoot down 29, Russia’s drones have not budged.
While Ukrainian forces have been using sophisticated drones, such as the US-made Predator, the Shahed-136 has proven a crude but effective weapon.
The Shaheds, which Russia has renamed the Geran-2, have a range of more than 600 miles and can “loitere” over potential targets for hours before crashing into enemy soldiers, vehicles or buildings and exploding on impact.
An Iranian-made suicide drone, launched by Russia, is seen flying over kyiv amid an air strike on the capital Ukraine on October 17, 2022.
A ball of smoke and flame billows over the streets of Kiev as the city is shelled by a swarm of Iranian-made kamikaze drones, striking residential areas and energy infrastructure, October 17, 2022.
Iran previously denied providing Russia with weapons, before admitting late last year that it sent “a small number of drones months before the Ukraine war” to Moscow.
Iranian Shahed-136 UAVs: facts and figures
Ukraine accused Russia of using Iranian-made Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as suicide drones, against military and civilian targets.
Tehran has denied selling the drones to Russia, but evidence is growing that Moscow is deploying the weapon.
Here are some facts and figures about the deadly drone:
- Weapon Type: Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)
- In service since: 2021
- Made in: Iran
- Maker: HESA (Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industries Corporation)
- Weight: 440 pounds
- armored head: 80 pounds
- Length: 12 feet
- Wingspan: 8 feet
- Range: 600 miles
- Flight height: 13,000 feet max.
- Speed: 120 miles per hour
- Used in: Yemen, Iraq and Ukraine
Iranian-made Shahed-136 UAV
Drones have been used repeatedly by Russia during the conflict, targeting urban centers and power plants.
They are comparatively cheap, costing in the region of £16,000.
Their use in swarms presented a major challenge to Ukrainian air defenses early in the war.
And while Western nations have since bolstered Ukraine’s air defenses with anti-missile systems, the country is still in the grip of relentless attacks.
Ukrainians who have witnessed the drone strikes say they make a very distinctive noise, like “motorbikes” in the air, while some soldiers have taken to calling the drones “the flying lawn mower.”
The general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces released a video in October last year showing smoking wreckage, claiming it was one of the drones. The post said that he had been shot down by a machine gun.
“This is a primitive craft product,” Yuriy Ignat, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, told Radio Free Europe after last year’s attack.
‘It’s not a high-tech conveyor belt production like the [Turkish-made] Bayraktar or American and Israeli [unmanned aerial vehicles]’, he added.
Ukrainian residents described the drone strikes to RFE. You can hear the roar. First, I just heard them, but then I saw one fly by and then explode,” said one man.
Another said: ‘There was a buzz that woke me up. I remember thinking, “What is that?” The sound was getting closer and then there was an explosion near the house.
The first recorded use of the drones was reportedly in Yemen. Now, Iran is reported to have sold hundreds of drones to Russia.
Packed with explosives, Shahed UAVs can be pre-programmed with a target’s GPS coordinates. They are known as suicide drones because they plummet and explode on impact like a missile, destroying themselves in the process.
Iran’s Shahed drone has been in service since 2021 and weighs 440 pounds
Ukrainian air defense intercepts a Shahed drone in the air in Russia’s third airstrike on the capital in 24 hours in kyiv, Ukraine on May 30, 2023
A Shahed missile is destroyed in the air as Ukrainian air defense intercepts an attack, kyiv, Ukraine, May 30, 2023
Smoke billows from a building attacked by a drone in central kyiv, October 17, 2022
A security officer uses his rifle to try to shoot down a suicide drone attacking the Ukrainian capital of kyiv, on October 17, 2022.
Shahed 136 is nearly 12 feet long with a 4 foot wingspan in a delta or triangular shape. The explosives are contained in the nose of the drone, as well as the technology that guides it to its targets for a precision strike.
The engine is located at the rear and drives two bladed propellers. It has been compared to an engine you would find in a lawnmower or moped.
According to Iranian data, the range of the UAV is about 1,000 km (621 miles), but drone expert Samuel Bendett of the CNA think tank told MailOnline that the Shahed is being used in Ukraine at much shorter ranges. . That’s because its GPS guidance system, which is vulnerable to interference, isn’t very robust.
To overwhelm air defenses, several of the drones, usually batches of five or more, are launched at once from the same rack. They can be fired in rapid succession from a truck-mounted rocket launcher.
The rocket jettisons on liftoff and the engine takes over once it’s airborne. A near horizontal launch allows drones to fly low and slow, thus avoiding radar detection more effectively.
The Iranians are known to have controlled Shaheds via radio. It is not clear if Russia is capable of doing the same in Ukraine, although the Ukrainians have reported seeing the drones change direction, suggesting at least some remote control.
Part of a shot down Iranian-made Shahed-136 drone launched by Russia is seen near Kupiansk, Ukraine, on September 13, 2022.
View of a damaged apartment from the center in a residential building in Kiev as a result of a Russian military strike by Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones, May 9, 2023
Vehicles are destroyed amid a spate of kamikaze drone attacks on May 30, 2023 in kyiv
Using Shaheds allows Russia to avoid putting sophisticated aircraft and pilots at risk and save its limited stock of expensive long-range precision missiles.
Russia has managed to use the Shahed drones to saturate targets effectively, be it a fuel depot or infrastructure and utilities like power or water stations. They have done this by using them in conjunction with intelligence drones.
But Ukraine has said it managed to shoot down the vast majority of the drones, more than 80 percent, using machine guns and man-portable anti-aircraft missiles.
As the conflict essentially becomes one of attrition, Russia’s success in finding cheaper but more powerful weapons will continue to be to its great advantage.
I am Rakesh Sharma, I associated with Elite News as an Editor, since 2021. I take care of all the news operations like content, budget, hiring and policy making.