Russia used about 660 Iranian made Shahed drones and expects new batch of up to 300 units

According to Ukrinform, the Russian Federation used about 660 Iranian-made Shahed UAVs out of the 1,750 units provided for by the contract with Iran. Currently, the Russian Federation is expecting a new batch of 250-300 drones.
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A massive Iranian-made suicide drone attack is aimed at breaking through the Ukrainian air defense network (Picture source: Iranian MoD)

Vadym Skibitsky, a representative of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, told RBC-Ukraine news agency in an interview that "The Russians really have problems with their arsenal, including drones. To date, they have used approximately 660 Shahed drones. The contract provides for 1,750 units. It takes time to deliver and prepare them. They [Russians] have used a large amount in recent days, and these reserves need to be replenished. According to our data, they will now get another shipment. We will clarify the quantity. As a rule, before that, 250-300 pieces were brought in a batch. Let's see how it will be this time,"

He noted that a massive drone attack is aimed at breaking through the Ukrainian air defense system and hitting targets. Launching a small group – 5-10 units – will not produce such an effect. Skibitsky added that the Russians are using different altitudes and different directions to bypass air defense systems, as well as changing drone launch areas.

The HESA Shahed 136, or Geran-2 in Russian service, is an Iranian loitering munition in the form of an autonomous pusher-prop drone. It is designed and manufactured by Shahed Aviation Industries. The munition is designed to attack ground targets from a distance, fired in multiples from a launch rack (in batches of five upwards) to overwhelm air defenses by consuming their resources during the attack. The first public footage of the drone were released in December 2021.

The nose section contains a warhead estimated to weigh 30–50 kg (66–110 lb). The munition is 3.5 meters (11 ft) long with a wingspan of 2.5 meters (8.2 ft), flies at over 185 km/h (115 mph), and weighs about 200 kg (440 lb). The range has been estimated as between 1,800 and 2,500 km (1,100 and 1,600 miles) usable in a pre-programmed direct-attack munition mode (somewhat like a long-range cruise missile), and also a long-duration loitering munition mode limited by a radio signal range of about 150 kilometers (93 miles) in receiving new GNSS target location instructions.

The Shahed 136 is used in three models in the Iranian armed forces: anti-personnel and armored vehicle, anti-fortification, and radar seeker. The U.S. Army unclassified worldwide equipment guide states that the Shahed 136 design also supports an aerial reconnaissance option. It is visually similar to the smaller Shahed 131, differing mainly by its wingtip stabilizers extending up and down rather than only upon the Shahed 131 that has a simple inertial navigation system (INS) and a GPS with some electronic warfare protection, which the Shahed 136 may also have.

In Ukraine, Russia has used loitering munitions bearing the name Geran-2, which are considered by Ukraine and its Western allies to be redesignated Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones. In the months prior to the confirmation of their use, US intelligence sources and Ukrainian officials claimed that Iran had supplied Russia with several hundred drones including Shahed-136s, although Iran repeatedly rejected the claims that it had sent drones for use in Ukraine, saying it is neutral in the war. However, on 2 September 2022 the Commander of the IRGC General Hossein Salami said at a Tehran arms show that "some major world powers" had purchased Iranian military equipment and his men were "training them to employ the gear". Russia stated it uses unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) of domestic manufacture. This may reflect domestic production of these drones within Russia. On 21 November 2022, a British government minister stated that the number of Shahed-136 loitering munitions used in Ukraine was estimated to be in the low hundreds.