Weapons and Kit

Iranian-supplied 'suicide drone' being used increasingly by Russians

Russia has been using the 'suicide drones' increasingly against the Ukrainians.

However the munition in question is, in fact, not a drone – the Iranian Shahed-136 is a loitering munition.

Dr Matthew Powell, RAF College Cranwell's Air Power Expert, says the Shahed-136 is being implemented by the Russians due to them "finding the air space increasingly contested over Ukraine", and their assets are being too easily targeted.  

Dr Powell says: "This is a lighter, smaller, harder-to-target asset that then makes it more effective on the battlefield and allows the Russians to at least contest the control of the air and perhaps conduct some ground attack at the same time.

"It's a relatively low-cost asset to produce and to purchase... its propulsion is largely propeller based... it can take large amounts of damage in the field – it's light, it's difficult to target from the ground and from the air due to its size.

"So, it has perhaps more of an effect than a fast jet which is easier to target through ground-based defence systems."

However, the loitering munition can carry only a limited payload, between 5 and 30kg. 

The Shahed-136 can cause "destruction, it can cause confusion, it can attack cities, it can attack towns, it can attack formations" but the expert highlighted that the loitering munition's effect is rather "limited in terms of the actual description it does and its ability to turn the tide of the war".