In September, the Russian army began making extensive use of its new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) arsenal against Ukraine. We’ll find out what kind of UAVs they are and how effectively the adversary Russians employ them.
What Iranian drones are deployed by the Russian military?
Currently, Iran has provided the Russian Federation with two different types of drones: the Shahed kamikaze drone and the Mohajer-6 reconnaissance and strike drone (in the Shahed-131 and Shahed-136 versions).
The Mohajer-6 drone is developed for aerial reconnaissance and carrying out airstrikes on targets. This UAV has a 600 kg take-off weight and can carry up to 4 armaments (it can carry a payload of up to 100 kg). The Mohajer-6 is equipped with Almas anti-tank missiles and Qaem bombs. Its reported range is up to 20 km but is likely to be no more than 8 km in actuality (range – 8 km).
The following are some more tactical and technical features of this UAV: length: 5.7 meters; wingspan: 10 meters. The top speed is 200 km/h, and the highest altitude is 6 km. It can fly for up to 12 hours and travel up to 200 km, but it’s important to note that the range may be extended with the help of additional stations. Runways are utilized to utilize it.
The Shahed drone is a kamikaze drone made to strike targets directly. The Shahed-136 and Shahed-131 are two such UAVs that Russia currently employs in the war against Ukraine.
The Shahed-131 is a smaller version of the kamikaze drone Shahed-136. Therefore, the Shahed-131 has these features significantly smaller than the Shahed-136: 135 kg and 10-15 kg, as opposed to 200 kg and up to 40 kg, respectively.
Other features include the developer’s assertion that this UAV’s maximum flight range is 2,500 km, which is likely a significant overestimate. This indicator only represents a few hundred meters, not thousands (at least 200 km, since Russians launch these kamikaze drones across the south of Ukraine from the territory of Crimea). Shahed can fly between altitudes of 60 and 4000 meters at a declared speed of roughly 180 km/h. Shahed is launched from a ground platform.
Shahed and Mohajer-6 in the war against Ukraine
Currently, it is unknown whether Russia uses these drones as a strike or solely reconnaissance drones, as well as how actively it “raises” these UAVs in the sky. There isn’t a lot of information available about the usage of Mohajer-6 drones by the Russian army’s inaccessible sources.
At least one of these drones has already been lost by the Russian Federation; on September 23, the Air Force Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine claimed that an Iranian Mohajer-6 UAV had been downed by Ukrainian anti-aircraft fighters.
In summary, if we consider that the Mohajer-6 weapon’s range does not exceed 8 km, it should become a reasonably easy target for Ukrainian air defense, especially for MANPADS calculations, therefore there is no need to come up with anything new to defeat this drone.
The scenario with Shahed, however, is somewhat different because Russians actively utilize these UAVs to strike infrastructure sites as well as directly destroy weaponry and military hardware. In particular, on September 23, Shahed kamikaze drones made their first attack on Odessa; in all, three Russian UAVs were employed in the attack; one of them was shot down, and two others struck an office building near the port. The air defense of the Ukrainian Armed Forces shot down six Iranian Shahed kamikaze drones on that day.
There are two things to keep in mind to effectively combat these drones. On the one hand, these drones are incredibly loud – the sound they make when flying sounds like a moped engine – and they are easily heard from a distance. On the other side, they can fly very low, which makes it extremely difficult to calculate air defense.
The head of the press center for the security and defense forces of the “South” operational command, Nataliya Humenyuk, noted during a briefing at the Military Media Center that as of September 28, 22 Shahed kamikaze drones had been shot down in the South of Ukraine, but that only 10 of those shots had actually hit their intended targets, and even of those 10, not all of them had been successful.
Additionally, on September 30, the Shahed-136 kamikaze drone strike was successfully repelled by the air defense units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine; five out of seven UAVs were shot down.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine are now developing alternatives for efficient defenses against this threat; approximate estimates indicate that Iran could transport somewhere between a few hundred and a thousand Shahed kamikaze drones to Russia.