Over the past week, Ukrainian commanders claim that many destructive strikes were carried out in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine by Shahed-136 drones delivered to Russia.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, Russia has reportedly used recently introduced Iranian drones to seriously harm Ukrainian forces. This is Russia’s first extensive use of a foreign weapons system since the start of the war, according to Ukrainian commanders.
According to Col. Rodion Kulagin, commander of artillery for Ukraine’s 92nd Mechanized Brigade, Shahed-136 delta-wing drones have been flying over Ukrainian armour and artillery positions in the northeastern Kharkiv region over the past week after being painted in Russian colours and given the new name Geranium 2.
The Iranian drones, which often fly in pairs before slamming into their targets, have destroyed two 152-mm and two 122-mm self-propelled howitzers as well as two BTR armoured infantry vehicles, according to him.
Prior to the current extensive usage of the Shaheds, Russia conducted a test last month in which the drone was used to strike a U.S.-provided M777 155-mm towed howitzer, according to Col. Kulagin. He claimed that another Iranian drone had problems and had been found.
The Iranian drones appear to have been primarily stationed in the Kharkiv region so far. This month, the 92nd Brigade and other Ukrainian forces conducted a major offensive there, retaking about 8,500 square kilometres, or roughly 3,300 square miles, of Russian-occupied territory while also capturing or destroying hundreds of Russian tanks, artillery pieces, and armoured carriers.
“The Russians have overwhelming artillery firepower in other locations, and they make do with that. They no longer have the advantage of artillery here, therefore they have begun to use these drones,” Col. Kulagin stated.
Shahed-136, the most recent iteration of Tehran’s delta-wing design, looks to be the wreckage, according to independent specialists who have reviewed images of recent drone wreckage from the Kharkiv region.
A strategic consulting company’s founder and CEO, Scott Crino, claimed that the Shahed-136 might give Russia a “powerful counterweight” to the advanced weaponry that the United States has given to Ukraine, such as Himars missile launchers.
According to him, “Kyiv’s operational plans are unquestionably shifting as a result of Shahed-136’s involvement in the Ukraine War.” The Shahed-136 is difficult to defend against due to the immensity of the Ukrainian battlefield.
The Shahed-136, according to Mr. Crino, can be utilised to great success when one missile targets a radar system and the other one hits artillery pieces. He added that Iran may have antijamming technologies that make it difficult for Ukrainian soldiers to resist. It will be challenging to halt a Shahed once it locks upon a target, he said.
The most difficult addition to Tehran’s arsenal outside of the Middle East is represented by Russia’s employment of Shahed-136 drones in Ukraine, where Iran has employed its unmanned aerial vehicles to exert pressure on the United States and its allies. It also draws attention to the shortcomings of Russia’s own drone programme, which has fallen short of Ukraine’s armed UAVs in terms of firepower.
In recent years, American soldiers in Syria, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, tankers in the Gulf of Oman, and the oil industry of Saudi Arabia have all been targeted by drone attacks, according to Israel and the West.
In its intelligence update on September 14, the British Ministry of Defense stated that it was also extremely likely that Russia had first-time Iranian drone deployments in Ukraine. It noted that so far, it appears that Moscow is utilising these drones for tactical strikes close to front lines rather than to destroy more strategic targets deep within Ukrainian territory, despite the Shahed-136’s alleged range of 2,500 kilometres.
Due to their small size and low flying altitude, the Iranian drones are difficult to detect by Ukrainian air defence systems, according to Col. Kulagin. He expressed the expectation that the United States and its allies would act to stop Iranian drone supplies to Russia or would provide Ukraine access to more sophisticated anti-drone technologies.
U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan issued a warning about Russian defence officials visiting Iran and planning to swiftly buy up to several hundred Iranian drones, including those with weapons capability. According to a statement from the Iranian Foreign Ministry, at the time, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian refuted the proposal over the phone with his Ukrainian counterpart and declared that Tehran opposed a war on Ukraine.
Regarding Iran’s drone procurement, Russia has not made any public remarks. A recent Wall Street Journal request for comment on the subject received no response from Iran’s Foreign Ministry. Requests for reaction from the Kremlin and the Russian Defense Ministry were not immediately fulfilled.
The Iranian companies Safiran Airport Services, Paravar Pars, DAMA, and Baharestan Kish, as well as the Russian military flights that carried Iranian drones and related equipment to Russia, were sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury on September 8.
Due in part to the fact that neither side possesses air superiority and is therefore reluctant to use manned aircraft over enemy positions, drones of various kinds play a significant role in the battle in Ukraine. Along the front lines, hundreds of military and commercial spy drones fly overhead every day, detecting targets and directing artillery fire.
In contrast to Russia, Ukraine also uses a fleet of missile-equipped drones. Now that Kyiv has been able to weaken Russian air defences in many areas, thanks in part to U.S.-supplied AGM-88 HARM antiradar missiles, they are being used more frequently once more. These Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones initially destroyed several Russian armoured columns in the early stages of the war.
Additionally, loitering weapons, often known as kamikaze drones, are used by both Russia and Ukraine. Kub-Bla, a homegrown drone created by the Russian Kalashnikov Group, is being used by Ukraine, along with Warmate and Switchblade drones built in Poland and the United States. Compared to Iranian-developed Shahed drones, these weapons have a substantially smaller payload and shorter range.
Iran has become one of the most inventive manufacturers of military drones in the world, thanks in part to its ability to reverse-engineer American drones that went awry in Iraq and Afghanistan two decades ago.
Versions of Iran’s kamikaze drones have been used to launch attacks around the Middle East since they were first displayed in 2016. The British government charged Iran of using Shahed-136 drones to attack an oil ship with an Israeli connection off the coast of Oman, resulting in the deaths of two crew members. Drone debris was found on the MT Mercer Street tanker, and a U.S. military inquiry determined that it was from Iranian-made delta-wing drones.
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