Inside Russia's long-range suicide UAV production facility

Russian media published images of the Geran-2 suicide UAV production line, with a large number of aircraft waiting to be assembled and shipped.

Russian reporter Vladimir Soloviev released a 17-second video on March 5, saying these were exclusive images shot inside the Geran-2 suicide drone (UAV) factory. The recording time was not disclosed, but it is likely that the video was filmed in the Alabuga Special Economic Zone in the Republic of Tatarstan.

In the video, dozens of Geran-2 UAV body frames are lined up close together, including the regular light gray version and the gray-black “dark” model. They have not yet been fitted with engines and electronic systems, showing that these are UAVs in the process of being completed.

“Russia has deployed a large number of UAVs copying Iran’s Shahed-131 and Shahed-136 series to attack Ukraine. However, images of the production line show that production efforts are focusing on versions based on the Shahed-136 model, which has superior size and flight range compared to the Shahed-131,” writer Thomas Newdick wrote on the US military website War Zone

The UK-based Conflict Armaments Research Organization (CAR) last year said that Russia had successfully copied and improved Iran’s Shahed-136 model and began producing its own domestic version of the Geran-2. The Shahed-136 prototype can attack targets at a distance of 2,000-2,500 km, carrying a warhead weighing 40 kg with a maximum flight speed of 185 km/h.

The factory manufacturing this aircraft will operate from March 2023, a year earlier than Western estimates. Experts at the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in the US said that the initial line only assembled UAVs from components made in Iran, but Russia has been producing its own domestic aircraft since May 2023.

According to leaked documents obtained by American media, the factory in Alabuga plans to ship 6,000 Geran-2 suicide UAVs before September 2025.

The group of experts at ISIS also believes that Russian engineers are looking to improve the technology of the Geran-2 series, taking advantage of domestic industrial capacity and capabilities to produce aircraft of better quality and scale. Larger than the Iranian line.

Suicide UAVs are designed to carry explosives and attack targets behind enemy lines. Unlike traditional large UAVs that can launch missiles, drop bombs and then return to base after an attack, suicide UAVs only launch a single attack.

Russia is deploying many types of suicide UAVs for the campaign in Ukraine, notably the Geran-2, with an estimated flight range of 2,500 km and the Lancet, which specializes in attacking targets in the front line.