Iranian drones in Ukraine, a symbol of Russia’s weakness

Iranian drone demonstration (via AFP) (-/)

The Russian use of iranian drones in Ukraine It shows two things: Tehran’s growing involvement in this sector and certain shortcomings of the Russian drone industry.

Iran has delivered hundreds of drones to Russia by the middle of this year, according to the White House, and these are beginning to be deployed to the front lines.

What drones and for what?

They have been identified two models with different uses.

“The Shahed 136 is a suicide drone quite large and inexpensive to manufacture. It hits its target by GPS coordinates entered before takeoff. It then advances autonomously, flying quite low and reaching a target set hundreds of kilometers away,” said Pierre Grasser, a French researcher associated with the Sirice Center in Paris.

He too Mohajer-6, which is similar in function and size to the Turkish Bayraktar TB-2,” said Vikram Mittal, a professor at the US Military Academy West Point. The Mohajer-6 “is the Russian response to Ukraine’s TB-2”, the famous AMAL (medium height, long range) armed drone supplied by Turkey and which was also used by Azerbaijan in its war against Armenia in 2020, recalled Jean -Christophe Noel, researcher at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI).

How effective are they?

“Like all armed drones or stalking munitions, they are very effective when the adversary does not have the means to protect himself or respondNoel said.

“A lot of its early success will come from the fact that it’s a new weapon in this setting. The Ukrainians are going to capture them, dissect them and develop anti-drone systems. Before this, they will be effective”, anticipated Mittal.

Remains of a Shahed-136 drone after it was shot down in Odessa, Ukraine (via Reuters)
Remains of a Shahed-136 drone after being shot down in Odessa, Ukraine (via Reuters) (UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCES/)

Until then, the Ukrainians can try to shoot them down with man-portable anti-aircraft systems during the day, or radar-equipped batteries at night.

As for the suicide drones“its use is a saving measure for Russia because allows you to save valuable cruise missileswhich cost $1.5 million to $2 million,” Grasser said.

Its “main defect is that they can only achieve fixed goals”, he highlighted. “Not a threat to deployed troopstherefore this deployment of drones should not change the course of a battle.

Russian failure

Why does Russia, one of the world’s largest arms manufacturers, have to buy from Iran?

“The Ministry of Defense developed the appropriate tactical and technical requirements for drones, and most (Russian) manufacturers are unfortunately not able to meet them”, declared Russian Colonel Igor Ishchuk on Tuesday, quoted by the news agency. TASS.

Pierre Grasser cited a weakness in the Russian industrial structure. “The STC, which manufactures the Orlan (reconnaissance) drones, announced that it would move to three eight-hour shifts to operate 24 hours a day. They couldn’t make the equipment. Like on the front line Russia’s problem is human resources”, he explained.

Beyond this difficulty, Russia did not have long-range suicide drones like the Shahed 136 in its arsenal, but rather reduced-range models (40 km maximum),” he added.

(FILES) This handout file photo made available by the Iranian Army press office on October 21, 2021 shows a drone above an undisclosed location in Iran during a military exercise.  - Washington said in July 2022 that Iran plans to deliver
Iranian drone (-/)

As for the AMAL armed drones, “the fact of receiving the Iranian Mohajer 6 is also an acknowledgment of its industrial failure”, said the researcher. “They are supposed to have materials from this range (…) That means that Russian (industry) can’t keep up”.

“Western sanctions caused problems, as well as COVID that disrupted global supply chains,” Mittal noted.

The Russians “no longer have access to Western technological components and their attempts to develop such devices in series have been unsuccessful,” Noel added.

Although they are applying alternative solutions. For example, getting a Russian diplomat to buy navigation systems from a model airplane shop anywhere in the world. “The pieces will be sent to Russia in a diplomatic bag,” Grasser explained.

The Ukrainians are studying the models to deploy a defense according
The Ukrainians are studying models to deploy a defense accordingly (UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCES/)

A rival of Turkey in the market?

“There is no doubt that there is a kind of race between Iran and Turkey for the cheap drone segment to extend their sphere of influence,” Mittal said.

“The top of the market is occupied by the United States and Israel,” said Mariane Renaux, an expert in aeronautics and drones.

Turkish drones are below but more reliable than Iranian drones, which seem not to have much accuracy”, he added.

“Iran already has hundreds of customers for its drones in the Middle East” among its allies, from Yemen to Lebanon, passing through Iraq, Noel said. “But US sanctions against potential customers very strongly limit the number of candidates who want to purchase such equipment,” he added.

(With information from AFP/by Fabien Zamora)


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