Russia May Run Out Of Iranian-made Shahed-136 Kamikaze Drones

Above, a Ukrainian serviceman stands next to a downed Russian drone and a police car after a strike in northwestern Kyiv on March 22, 2022. Russia is close to exhausting its current stockpile of Iranian-manufactured drones, Britain's defense ministry assessed. ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images

Russia is close to exhausting its current stockpile of Iranian-manufactured drones, Britain’s defense ministry assessed on Wednesday.

The ministry said in its daily intelligence update on the war in Ukraine that nearly ten months into the conflict, Russia has nearly drained its inventory of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) manufactured in Iran and will likely seek to procure more.

Since September, Russia has likely launched hundreds of weapons to attack Ukraine, primarily targeting tactical military targets, the Ukrainian electricity grid, and medical facilities, according to the intelligence report.

It referred to a barrage of attacks launched by Russia against Ukraine starting in October after an explosion caused the partial collapse of a key bridge connecting Russia to Crimea, damaging a vital supply route for Russia’s forces.

Ukraine did not claim responsibility for the explosion.

In response, Russia pummelled Ukraine with near-weekly strikes nationwide. Andriy Yermak, head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, said the attacks came from so-called “kamikaze drones”, also known as Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones.

Last week, Russia launched a wave of strikes on cities including Kyiv, Dnipro, and the Odesa and Kharkiv oblasts. That came two days after Russian forces launched some 90 strikes in what marked the largest attack on Ukraine since the war began in February.

“Russia likely conceived of the UAV campaign to make up for its severe shortage of cruise missiles, but the approach has had limited success. Most UAVs launched have been neutralised,” Britain’s defense ministry said.

Ukraine has shot down dozens of the Iranian-produced Shahed-136 drones in recent weeks.

“No OWA UAVs strikes have been publicly reported since around 17 November 2022. Russia has likely very nearly exhausted its current stock, but will probably seek resupply,” the ministry said. “Russia can probably procure UAVs from overseas more rapidly than it can manufacture new cruise missiles domestically.”

This week, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov also suggested that Russia’s missile stockpile is dwindling, and shared an illustration showing Russia’s high-precision missile arsenal as of November 18.

As of November 18, the country had 8,476 missiles left out of the 11,227 missiles it had when it first invaded Ukraine on February 24, according to an illustration of Russia’s ground-launched, sea-launched, and air-launched missiles.

The 8,476 figure included an additional 664 missiles that were produced throughout the course of the war, the illustration, which is based on Ukraine’s assessments, showed.

While Ukraine has been receiving military assistance from the West to fight against Russian forces, Russia has turned to Iran for support amid mounting losses.

Max Bergmann, the director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), told Global Defense Corp that moving forward, Putin will likely have to weigh how impactful each missile strike will likely be as the country’s stock depletes.

“Every time they (Russia) use a cruise missile, it raises questions about whether they can replace that cruise missile that they just fired, given the export controls, given the sanctions that are put in place. Many of these missiles are dependent on Western or imported microchips and sensors,” Bergmann said.

“It’s a question of both, how many of these missiles do they have in reserve? And how many can they produce given their potentially limited access to technology?”

Bergmann added: “[Russia will] have to weigh how impactful those attacks will be versus the cost and it strikes me as a calculation that I can easily see them just stop doing it.”

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