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Ukraine worrying about Russian domestic production of Shahed 136 drones



Vadym Skibitskyi, a representative of the Main Intelligence Directorate at the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, announced on August 29, 2023, in Ukrainian media that Russia plans to domestically produce the Shahed-136 drone, also known as Geran-2 in Russian service. This move aims to increase the number of drones available to the Russian military and reduce dependency on limited deliveries from Iran. This increased availability of drones could give Russia the upper hand in aerial warfare, putting Ukrainian defenses under immense pressure.
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The Shahed-136 is an Iranian-made, long-range unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) primarily designed for reconnaissance and surveillance missions. (Picture source: Iranian MoD )


The Shahed-136 is an Iranian-made, long-range unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) primarily designed for reconnaissance and surveillance missions. However, its versatility has been demonstrated in the Ukraine conflict, where it has been used as a loitering munition carrying a high-explosive fragmentation warhead estimated to weigh 30–50 kilograms. The drone can operate autonomously or semi-autonomously, identifying and engaging high-value targets with precision.

Before this shift, Russia had been reliant on Iranian deliveries of the Shahed-136. According to Skibitskyi, "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."

Russia aims to produce 1,300 units of the Shahed drone by the end of 2023 as part of a broader strategy to establish a robust UAV production capability on Russian soil. This move is designed to overcome the limitations of relying on external suppliers like Iran, especially given the urgency to replenish their drone arsenal used extensively in recent operations against Ukraine.

This development poses a significant alarm for Ukraine on multiple fronts. Firstly, Russia's move towards domestic production of Shahed drones is likely to result in a more extensive and readily available arsenal. This increased availability of drones could give Russia the upper hand in aerial warfare, putting Ukrainian defenses under immense pressure.

Secondly, the domestic production of drones offers Russia greater tactical flexibility. With a larger fleet at its disposal, Russia could employ a range of strategies, including launching massive drone attacks aimed at overwhelming Ukraine's air defense systems. Such a capability would make it increasingly challenging for Ukraine to predict and counter Russian military actions effectively.

Lastly, Vadym Skibitskyi's revelations indicate that Russia has been conducting reconnaissance operations that target critical Ukrainian infrastructure, such as energy installations and air defense systems. The domestic production of drones could enable Russia to carry out more targeted and potentially devastating attacks on these vital structures, thereby posing a significant risk to Ukraine's national security.

Ukraine is actively working to counter this emerging threat. "We will do everything to protect our installations and give recommendations to our energy sector to prevent serious destruction," assured Skibitskyi. Additionally, Ukraine is sharing intelligence with international partners to impose sanctions that could disrupt the supply chain for Russia's drone production.

To counter these threats, Ukraine is utilizing numerous systems provided by NATO member countries. Among the most representative of these systems are advanced air defense mechanisms like the Patriot, capable of detecting and intercepting drones. Specialized training has also been given to Ukrainian forces to effectively operate these systems. In the realm of electronic warfare, jamming equipment such as the EC-130H Compass Call has been supplied, designed to disrupt the command signals of drones.

Intelligence sharing is another critical aspect, offering real-time data on drone movements and capabilities. Joint exercises, such as "Rapid Trident," have been conducted to simulate drone attack scenarios and test the responsiveness of defense systems. These collective measures aim to mitigate the impact of Shahed drones on Ukraine's military operations and overall security.


 

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