November 26, 2022

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Why is Russia starting to use Iranian-made drones in Ukraine?

Widely used in recent weeks, this new equipment is used to compensate for some military deficiencies and sometimes faulty combat logistics.

New types of weapons in a dimension-shifting conflict. For several weeks now, several suicide drone attacks have been reported on Ukrainian territory, particularly in Odesa and Kyiv.

According to a CIA report released in July, the drones, made by Iran, one of the few countries still in Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation,” were purchased by the Kremlin by the hundreds this summer and began their use in early September. . The devices were also used in a series of bloody strikes that hit Ukrainian territory on Monday.

Military weakness?

Among the range of equipment supplied by Iran to Russia, we find combat drones (Mohajer-6 and Shahed 129), but especially the Shahed-136, aerial kamikazes manufactured by the Iranian Aviation Industry Company (HESA). However, many questions arise about these deliveries, while Russia is one of the world’s major arms producers.

Called on our antenna this Tuesday morning, General Vincent Desportes, former director of the War School and Professor of Strategy at the Science Po, says Moscow sees it as a way to save its missiles.

“They have scope for limited strikes,” he said.

“Since the beginning of September, the Russians have been using drones to help mitigate the difficulty of using their aircraft. They do not have air superiority and any Russian aircraft flying over the battlefield has a significant chance of being destroyed. With drones, the risk is great but no human death,” he analysed.

Regarding these suicide drones, “their use is a cost-saving measure for Russia, as it saves precious cruise missiles, which cost 1.5 to 2 million” US dollars, recalls Pierre Grasser, a French researcher associated with the Sirius Center in Paris.

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In response, the Ukrainians could try to shoot them down with small anti-aircraft systems during the day or radar-equipped batteries at night. They can also try – but the maneuver is not easy – to jam the GPS signal to interfere with Shahed 136, which is not equipped to pursue their target in this situation.

Incorrect logistics

With BFMTV on Tuesday, General Vincent Desportes sees a sign of “a logistical problem” by Russian industry in the importation of these munitions. A point made by Russian Colonel Igor Ichauk with the Doss Agency.

“The Ministry of Defense has developed appropriate tactical and technical requirements for drones. And most (Russian) manufacturers, unfortunately, cannot meet them,” he explains.

Pierre Grasser, for his part, evokes a weakness in the Russian industrial structure. “STC, which makes the Orlan drones (spy, editor’s note), has announced a shift to 3-8 to operate 24 hours a day. They can’t build teams. On the front line, Russia’s problem is human resources,” he explains.

Beyond this difficulty, Russia does not plan long-range suicide drones such as the Shahed 136 in its arsenal, he adds, calling them “models with reduced autonomy (up to 40 km).”

Regarding MALE armed drones, the researcher notes, “Acquiring the Iranian Mohajer-6s is an admission of industrial failure.” “They have to have products in this range (…). This means (the Russian industry) cannot continue.”

Effect of Western Sanctions

A final point to consider regarding the use of Iranian drones is the effect of sanctions imposed against Russia since the beginning of the conflict. “Western sanctions have created problems similar to Covid, which has disrupted global supply chains,” said Vikram Mittal, a professor at the US Military Academy at Westpoint.

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The Russians “no longer have access to Western technical components and their attempts to develop this type of device in series have failed”, replete with the same media, French researcher Jean-Christophe Noel at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI).

Nevertheless, the Kremlin deals with crafty ways, such as a Russian diplomat buying navigation systems from an aeromodeling shop anywhere in the world. “The parts will then be sent to Russia via diplomatic bag,” concludes Pierre Grosser.