The Russian military’s newly-acquired suicide drones are inflicting heavy losses on Ukrainian forces, The Wall Street Journal reported on September 17.
The report claimed that the Russian military is using Iranian-made Shahed-136 suicide drone, repainted in Russian colors and rebranded as Geranium-2, to target Ukrainian armor and artillery positions in the Kharkiv region.
Colonel Rodion Kulagin, commander of artillery of Ukraine’s 92nd Mechanized Brigade, told the New York-based journal that his forces lost two 152 mm self-propelled howitzers, two 122 mm self-propelled howitzers and two BTR armored personnel carriers over the past week as a result of attacks by Russian suicide drones.
The commander went on to reveal that last month the Russian military destroyed a US-supplied M777 155 mm towed howitzer with a suicide drone during an apparent test.
Russian suicide drones fly at a very low altitude which makes extremely hard to detect and shot down, according to Col. Kulagin, who plead for help from the United State.
While The Wall Street Journal said that the suicide drones were Iranian-made Shahed-136, they may be a “Russified” version of the drone. Russia may be manufacturing or assembling Shahed-136 drones locally under some agreement with Iran.
The wreckage of a suspected Russian-made version of the Shahed-136 drone was showcased by Ukrainian forces earlier this week.
The Shahed-136 has a range of more than 2,500 kilometers and can be armed with a warhead weighting around 50 kilograms. The drone is guided by a satellite-aided inertial navigation system. According to The Wall Street Journal report, the drone has high resistance to jamming.
Last month, US and other Western intelligence officials claimed that Iran had transferred at least 300 UAVs to Russia. However, according to the officials, these were Shahed-129, Shahed-191 and Mohajer-6 combat drones. None of these types have been spotted in service with the Russian military, so far.
The Russian military has been using suicide drones, like the locally-made KUB-BLA and Lancet, to a great effect since the start of the special operation in Ukraine. The introduction of longer-range suicide drones similar to the Shahed-136 will only make the situation worse for Ukrainian forces.