Ukraine’s military worries about Iranian UAVs

Ukraine believes that Russia is deploying a large number of Iranian-made UAVs and that poses a big challenge for them.

Colonel Rodion Kulagin, artillery commander of the Ukrainian Army’s 92nd Mechanized Brigade, earlier this week said a series of Iranian-made Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) appeared in the sky over the eastern province. north of Kharkov during last week.

Particularly in the combat area of ​​the 92nd Brigade, the Shahed-136s destroyed four 152- and 122-mm self-propelled artillery systems, two BTR armored personnel carriers, and killed four soldiers. 16 people were injured. Russia is said to have been testing the drone on the battlefield since last month, targeting a US-supplied M777 howitzer.

2S3 Ukrainian self-propelled howitzers suspected of being ambushed by Shahed-136 in Kharkov province last week.  Photo: Twitter/War_Noir.

2S3 Ukrainian self-propelled howitzers suspected of being ambushed by Shahed-136 in Kharkov province last week. Image: Twitter/War_Noir.

The Shahed-136s seem to be concentrated mainly in the Kharkov province, where the Ukrainian military has launched a surprise counter-attack and made advances in the past few weeks. “Russian forces still have overwhelming artillery fire in many other areas. But they no longer hold this advantage in Kharkov province and started using suicide drones,” said Colonel Kulagin.

The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine on September 13 announced that it had shot down a Shahed-136 with a picture of the aircraft’s tail wing. In the photo, the vertical tail is fixed to the main triangular wing, on the wings are the words M214 and “Geran-2” written in Cyrillic characters. This may be a contraction of “geranium” (geranium), in accordance with the rules for naming flowers for artillery weapons of the Russian army.

The Russian Defense Ministry and Iranian officials have not commented on the report. Russia in August denied information Washington Post posted that Russia received Iranian UAVs for use in Ukraine. However, British and American officials still believe that Tehran and Moscow have reached an agreement.

“Shahed-136 is a strong Russian counterweight to the high-tech weapons transferred by the US to Ukraine, including HIMARS rocket artillery. The presence of Shahed-136 will certainly force Kiev to change its plans. The large scale of the battlefield makes it very difficult for Ukrainian forces to stop the enemy’s suicide drones,” said Scott Crino, director of the US-based strategic consulting firm Red Six Solutions.

Ukrainian commanders said that Shahed-136 often operates in a squadron of two to deal with anti-aircraft nets and maximize destruction. Colonel Kulagin admitted that anti-aircraft batteries were difficult to detect Shahed-136 because of their small size and operation at very low altitudes.

The tail of the suicide drone was shot down by Ukraine in Kupyansk on September 13.  Photo: Defense Ministry of Ukraine.

The tail of the suicide drone was shot down by Ukraine in Kupyansk on September 13. Image: BQP Ukraine.

Western military experts believe that suicide drones can help Russia deal with Ukraine’s ground-based air defense forces, which have caused many difficulties and limitations for the Russian air force’s operations during more than six months of hostilities.

“Passive radar detectors allow the UAV to self-target and attack, similar to Israel’s Harpy series. Even without such a detector, the suicide UAV can still perform attacks with a high number of numbers. Despite their slow speed and small size, the Shahed-136s have a very large range, enough to hit targets at a distance. hundred kilometers”, pen Tyler Rogoway of Drive comment.

Crino said that the plan to use the fleet of two aircraft was remarkably effective in combined attacks against radar and enemy artillery. “Iran also has anti-jamming systems that make it difficult for the Ukrainian military. It is very difficult to stop the Shahed-136 when they are locked on target,” he said.

Using the Shahed-136 in Ukraine is a significant expansion of Iran’s weapons capabilities, after Tehran’s UAVs proved powerful in the Middle East and put a lot of pressure on Washington and its allies.

Russia has about 1,500-2,000 reconnaissance UAVs of all kinds, but has relatively few armed UAVs that can make precise attacks on targets deep in enemy territory. Meanwhile, Ukraine has fully used Turkish-made UAVs to ambush Russian forces since the beginning of the war.

The British Ministry of Defense on September 14 said that Russia has only used Iranian UAVs in tactical raids on the front lines, instead of taking advantage of the Shahed-136’s 2,500 km flight range to attack strategic targets located deep within the country. Ukrainian territory.

UAVs play an important role in the war in Ukraine, from performing the task of ambushing enemy targets to reconnaissance and pointing to artillery. Both sides do not control the sky and often hesitate to send manned aircraft to the area with enemy air defense nets.

Suicide UAVs have been widely used in warfare. The Ukrainian military makes full use of the Warmate and Switchblade models provided by the US and Poland, while Russia also deploys the KUB-BLA series developed by the Kalashnikov corporation. However, these types of UAVs have a range, operating time and warhead much inferior to the Shahed-136.

Iran's Shahed-136 UAV launcher.  Photo: IRGC.

Iran’s Shahed-136 UAV launcher. Image: IRGC.

Iran is considered one of the countries with the largest and most powerful armed drone forces in the world, thanks in part to the capture of US drones in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 20 years. Washington accuses Tehran of helping the Houthis carry out coordinated strikes with drones and cruise missiles on the largest oil and gas complex in Saudi Arabia in 2019.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has warned that Iran could supply hundreds of UAVs to Russia for use in Ukraine. Washington initially assumed that these were medium planes carrying guided missiles, instead of suicide drones like the Shahed-136.

However, some experts believe that Kiev may soon find a way to deal with Shahed-136. “Ukraine has a very dense air defense and electronic warfare network, unlike anything Iran has encountered in the past. New UAVs often perform best in the early stages, but their effectiveness diminishes as the enemy searches for them. come up with a countermeasure,” said Michael Knights, a military expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in the US.

Vu Anh (Theo Wall Street Journal)

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