Jet engine equips new version of Iranian Shahed drone


On September 26, 2023, Iran showcased a new variant of its Shahed-series attack drone, now equipped with a jet engine. This development was revealed in a trailer for an Iranian documentary titled "Parchamdar," which explores the history of drone development in the country.
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A new Shahed drone equipped with a jet engine is showcased in an Iranian documentary (Picture source: Iranian Media )


The new jet-powered Shahed drone is expected to be significantly faster and more difficult to intercept than its predecessor, the Shahed-136, which was powered by a piston engine. While the Shahed-136 had a cruising speed of approximately 190 km/h, making it vulnerable to anti-aircraft guns and even small arms like Kalashnikovs, the jet-powered variant is anticipated to operate at much higher speeds. This could potentially reduce the number of drones shot down; a considerable percentage of Shahed drones deployed in Ukraine have been intercepted by Gepard flakpanzers armed with 35mm automatic cannons.

However, the jet engine comes with a major drawback: its high heat output could make the drone easier to detect by heat-seeking missiles. Additionally, the range of the jet-powered drone may be significantly less than the 1,900 km reported for the Shahed-136 due to the turbojet's fuel inefficiency.

The international community has been keeping a close eye on Iran's drone technology, especially since these drones have been supplied to Russia and used in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The European Union, the United States, and other nations have imposed multiple rounds of sanctions against Iran for supplying Shahed-131 and Shahed-136 drones to Russia, which has used them extensively in Ukraine.

Iran's drone technology has evolved to become a crucial part of its defense strategy and foreign policy. The drones are not only used for domestic security but are also supplied to allies, providing Iran with leverage in international conflicts. For instance, Iranian drones have been supplied to the Houthis in Yemen and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.

Moreover, a Ukrainian government document suggests that the Shahed drones used in Ukraine contained components manufactured by Western companies, adding another layer of complexity to the international implications of Iran's drone program. The document also indicates that Iran has been diversifying its production and even shifting some of it to Russia.