What are Shahed 136, the kamikaze drones Russia uses?

Russia has bought hundreds of drones from Iran because it is no longer able to produce such aircraft domestically in large numbers due to Western sanctions. These include kamikaze models, which were recently used in attacks on the centre of the capital Kiev.

The models in question are called Shahed 136 (“Shahed” means “martyr” in Persian) and were designed to be disposable. They are the much lower quality equivalent of the American Switchblade drones used by the Ukrainians.

The vehicles produced in Iran by the HESA company are cruise missiles rather than aircraft. Before being sent against a target, drones can stay in the air for several hours. The Shahed 136 is propelled by a propeller and reaches a maximum speed of 185 km/h. Usually several units are launched at once (a minimum of five) to make it harder to stop the attack.

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Damage caused by a kamikaze drone in Kiev on 17 October (Photo: Profimedia Images)

The technology used by these suicide drones is not very advanced. Many of them are equipped with GPS systems that can be found even on the Alibaba platform.

Like any drone, the Shahed 136 is difficult for conventional anti-aircraft systems to intercept. However, Ukraine has started to receive IRIS-T SLM systems from Germany, which are very effective against such threats.

Kiev claims to have already destroyed dozens of Shahed 136 drones.

Shahed 136 – key features:

Weight: 200 kg
Length: 3.5 meters
Wing span: 2.5 metres
Weight of explosive carried: 40 kg
Engine: internal combustion
Maximum speed: 185 km/h

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Drones purchased by Russia from Iran have numerous technical problems, according to Biden administration sources. Apart from Ukraine, the Shahed 136 has also been used in the ongoing civil war in Yemen.

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