Suicide Drones

Russia could have exhausted its stocks of Iranian-made kamikaze drones, as the UK Ministry of Defense assessed on Saturday after more than a week of the weapon’s absence from the battlefield.

“There have been no reports of Iranian one-way attack unmanned aerial vehicles (OWA-UAVs) being used in Ukraine since around February 15, 2023,” the UK ministry said in its regular intelligence update.

According to the British Ministry of Defense, the Ukrainian army reportedly shot down at least 24 Iranian Shahed-136s between the end of January and around February 15. He pointed out that this contrasted with the dozens of unmanned aerial vehicles destroyed in the year’s first days.

“This lack of OWA-UAV deployments indicates Russia has exhausted its current stocks. Russia is likely to look for a resupply,” the ministry proposed. In early February, the Wall Street Journal reported that both states could build a drone manufacturing plant in Russia.

Russia is increasingly dependent on Iran.

Pentagon press secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder said Friday that Iran is trying to advance its defense industry ties with Russia. Russia’s reliance on Iranian war materiel, such as drones, indicates that it cannot depend on its own defense industry and other suppliers.

On Friday, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said that Russia was offering greater defense cooperation, including the Kremlin’s supply of fighter jets to Tehran.  Iran is also looking for helicopters and radar systems.

“Throughout this campaign, we’ve seen a kind of transactional interaction between Russia, which is looking for more munitions and drone capability,” Ryder said. “We know they’ve been interested in ballistic missile capability, for example.”

Ryder emphasized the significance of drones in modern warfare and the need for Kyiv to have the capability to confront Iranian drones.

Iranian drone issues are featured in Ukrainian military publications and social media. Anger over Iranian drones has been a fixture of Iranian-Ukrainian relations, which reached a fever pitch when Ukrainian diplomats taunted Iran when unknown persons attacked an Isfahan drone factory in late January.

For months, the Kremlin has been launching large barrages of suicide drones alongside artillery and missile barrages. In the dead of winter, Russia used these platforms to attack power infrastructure and other public services in Ukraine.

“Although the weapons do not have a good record of destroying their intended targets, Russia likely sees them as useful decoys that can divert Ukrainian air defenses from more effective Russian cruise missiles,” the UK Ministry of Defense assessed on Saturday.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine stated Sunday morning that missile and artillery attacks continued over the weekend. Kirby confirmed earlier reports on Friday that Iran had sent artillery shells to Russia in November.