A classified document presented by Ukraine to its allies in the West called for long-range missiles to hit industrial drone production facilities in Russia, Iran, and Syria. It revealed that the Iranian kamikaze drones employed in the latest attacks on Ukrainian cities were loaded with European components.
Although Tehran continues to supply the components, the production of drones is moving to Russia, to the central Tartar region of Alabuga, states a document accessed by The Guardian. It also notes that Iran had previously diversified its production using a Syrian facility delivered to the Russian port of Novorossiysk.
Among other suggestions for Ukraine’s Western allies, one calls for “missile strikes on the production plants of these UAVs in Iran, Syria, as well as on a potential production site in the Russian Federation.” This, however, looks like an overreach going by NATO’s publicly stated stance on attacks inside Russia.
The document further states: “The Ukrainian defense forces may carry out the above if partners provide the necessary means of destruction.” Kyiv’s forces have attacked territories under Russian control in recent months using its long-range Storm Shadow/SCALP-EG missiles. The leaked document also presents some peculiar information about the Shahed-class drones.
Running into some 47 pages, the document the Ukrainian government forwarded to the G7 in August notes that the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) used Western-made technology. Russian troops used these drones in more than 600 city raids inside Ukraine in the previous three months.
The classified document, which has caused global frenzy since it was leaked, stated that the Shahed-131 drone and the Shahed-136 model, which has a flight range of 2,000 km and a cruise speed of 180 km, were found to have 52 and 57 electrical components made by Western companies, respectively.
The primary producers of the detected components are listed as five European firms, among them a Polish affiliate of a British multinational. “Among the manufacturers are companies headquartered in the countries of the sanctions coalition: the United States, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, Japan, and Poland,” it claims.
However, there is no indication that the Western companies whose parts have been identified were involved in any wrongdoing. “Iranian UAV production has adapted and mostly uses available commercial components, the supply of which is poorly or not controlled at all,” the paper says.
An array of components produced by Western companies were found in drone models that Ukraine shot down. According to the paper, Shahed-136’s parts included a fuel pump made in Poland by the German company Ti Automotive GmbH, whose parent company is the British multinational TI Fluid Systems.
It also had a microcontroller with integrated flash memory, a very low-voltage drop regulator with inhibitor made by the Swiss company STMicroelectronics, and an integrated circuit of a buffer network driver and a transistor developed by International Rectifier, a division of the German company Infineon Technologies AG.
The G-7 group, presented with the document in a somewhat secret fashion, includes France, the US, the UK, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada, and the EU. They are yet to make a statement.
The revelation may be intriguing but not entirely shocking since several other weapon systems used in Russia against Ukraine were found to be fitted with Western components and sub-components, including sophisticated chips used in missiles. Over 450 foreign parts have been discovered in Russian weapons recovered from the battlefield.
More specifically for the Shahed-136 drones, previous reports found dual-use western components. Although Moscow has been coordinating efforts to produce a version of this drone locally, sourcing parts and electronics has been challenging since nearly 90 percent of the drones’ computer chips and electrical devices originate in the West and the US.
Meanwhile, Iran has already reportedly replaced the engines used on its Shahed-class drones. Russia has been using the Iranian-origin Shahed-class drones against Ukraine since last fall as they are cheap and expendable.
Shahed-136 Have Better Engines Now!
The Iranian military-industrial complex routinely modernizes older models of systems whose combat efficacy has already been established. On September 26, the first video from the test launch of a supposedly updated variant of the Shahed-136 UAV with a new engine surfaced on social media.
Until now, these drones were outfitted with the MD550 piston engine, producing a distinctive sound. The drone’s sound earned them the moniker “scooter.” However, the video led to the observation made by military analysts that the Shahed-163 kamikaze drone has been equipped with a new turbojet engine.
The newly-released footage shows a new generation of the Iranian-made Shahed drone, a type of loitering munition, successfully hitting a target. pic.twitter.com/6krFm15Gof
— Press TV (@PressTV) September 26, 2023
However, military experts who keenly follow the Iranian military noted on Platform X that the little turbojet engine would reportedly reduce the range of the killer drone but significantly increase the speed and lower the sound of the drone.
It will, thus, allow us to overcome enemy air defenses more. This is significant because the Ukrainian air defense forces regularly report shooting down most of the drones dispatched by Russia.
Today’s “Shahed-136-Turbo” unveiling, also means that, compared to the original Shahed-136, it would only be exposed ~ half the time to such AAA salvos
That’s what ~ twice higher speed brings to the game
➡️ But that propeller Shahed-136, made it through anyway pic.twitter.com/YfrCSGWqmD
— Patarames (@Pataramesh) September 26, 2023
Although the drone is only in the testing stage, and there are no reports that it would be sent to Russia, some pro-Russian netizens warned Ukraine of a “challenging winter ahead.” Russia had extensively used swarms of Shahed-136 drones to attack Ukraine’s energy infrastructure last winter, leading to long power cuts.
Earlier, Conflict Armament Research (CAR), a UK-based organization investigating weapons’ components, determined that they were powered by an engine based on German technology that Iran illegally acquired almost 20 years ago. It was able to establish that an Iranian company had managed to reverse-engineer the motor used in the Shahed-136.
Although the observation does not bode well for Iran’s military-industrial complex and its reputation, it did demonstrate Iran’s world-class capabilities of reverse-engineering complex Western technology.