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What to know about Shahed-136 drones, which Iran used to attack Israel

Shahed-136 drones were the centerpiece of Iran’s attack on Israel on Saturday.

Iran, in its first direct attack on Israel, launched a five-hour barrage of drones and missiles in response to an Israeli strike that killed two Iranian generals at a diplomatic compound in Damascus, Syria, on 1 april.

Iran deployed 170 drones, 120 ballistic missiles and 30 cruise missiles on Saturday, according to Israeli army spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari. About 99 percent of the incoming munitions were intercepted by Israel’s missile defense system, supported by American and British warplanes and American military assets stationed in Iraq and the Eastern Mediterranean. No one was killed in Saturday’s attack, but a 7-year-old girl was seriously injured when shrapnel fell on a Bedouin community in the Negev desert, southern Israel.

More than 80 of these drones were destroyed by US and European military forces before reaching Israeli airspace on Saturday, according to a report. statement by U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. operations in the Middle East.

Measuring 11 feet long and weighing 440 pounds, the Shahed-136 uses a lightweight frame – with the same carbon honeycomb structure as China’s high-speed trains – to transport more than 100 pounds of explosives to pre-programmed targets up to 1,500 miles away.

In the growing field of drone warfare, “size, range, warhead weight and engine” distinguish the Shahed-136, according to Fabian Hinz, an Iran analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies from Berlin.

“The Shahed-131 was first observed in 2014 at an exhibition in Iran,” he said. said. “Then the Iranian military wing, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, improved this model and extended it to the construction of the 136.”


These self-detonating drones carry out one-way attacks, delivering small payloads of explosives. Analysts say they are relatively accurate, long-range and inexpensive compared to the missiles used to shoot them down.

Length: 11 feet

Max. speed:

115 mph

Approximately. weight: 440 pounds

Range: Approximately 1,100 to 1,500 miles

Its nose contains a warhead and can be equipped with a camera.

Sources: Défense Express, AeroVironment

WILLIAM NEFF/THE WASHINGTON POST

These self-detonating drones carry out one-way attacks, delivering small payloads of explosives. Analysts say they are relatively accurate, long-range and inexpensive compared to the missiles used to shoot them down.

Length: 11 feet

Max. speed: 115 mph

Approximately. weight: 440 pounds

Range: Approximately 1,100 to 1,500 miles

Its nose contains a warhead and can be equipped with a camera.

Sources: Défense Express, AeroVironment

WILLIAM NEFF/THE WASHINGTON POST

The drone uses a satellite guidance system that “you would expect to be accurate down to about five meters (16 feet),” according to Jeremy Binnie, Middle East analyst for Janes Defense Intelligence. The guidance mechanism, combined with spoof-resistant antennas, allows the drone to maintain a precise flight path well beyond the range of drones controlled using radio signals.

“The Shahed-136 warhead would weigh 50 kg (110 pounds), which doesn’t seem like much when compared to the smallest standard bomb on a military aircraft, which weighs 500 pounds,” Binnie said. However, “if you can hit the target accurately, you don’t necessarily need a big warhead.”

Combining relatively light explosives with a commercial satellite guidance system allowed Iran to produce Shahed-136 drones at unprecedented cost.

“They’re quite slow and quite noisy, but they’re cheap,” Binnie said, estimating that a Shahed-136 drone costs $50,000 to produce. A cruise missile of similar range typically costs more than $1 million. “If you can get your opponent to use a surface-to-air missile that costs $1 million to shoot down a drone that costs you $50,000, then that’s a good trade.”

The firing of a Shahed drone barrage could indicate that Iran was more determined to send a message to Israel than to strike specific military or civilian targets. Compared to other precision missiles, the Shahed-136 drone is often less lethal, as the distinctive buzzing noise gives people time to seek cover before an explosion and the explosion radius is smaller than that of precision counterparts of Shahed.

“The Shahed is a slow, low-flying drone: Iran knew this drone would be shot down,” said Samuel Bendett, a fellow in the Russia studies program at the Center for Naval Analyzes in Virginia. “It’s a cheap way to let your opponent know that defending against the Shahed will be stressful and expensive.”

Iran’s drone fleet is ideal for the type of strikes it carried out this weekend, working in concert with larger munitions in coordinated air attacks.

“When the Shahed-136 first appeared, people called it the poor man’s cruise missile because it was cheaper and simpler. But if it’s cheaper and simpler, you can also build a lot more,” Hinz said. “It’s a question of concepts and priorities: the Shahed is not only used at a tactical level: it is used alongside more strategic long-range weapons.”

Iranian officials agreed to transfer the drone’s design and key components to Russia in November 2022, allowing Russian forces to pair the Shahed-136 with larger touch-sensitive missiles to overwhelm Ukraine’s defense forces and target the civil infrastructure. Western officials have since revealed Moscow’s plans to manufacture 6,000 units of drones that would be variants of Iran’s Shahed-136 by 2025, improving the Iranian prototype.

Defense collaboration between Russia and Iran has continued to expand.

As recently as March 29, Russian military forces launched more than 90 drones and missiles at Ukrainian energy infrastructure. The high volume of drones “forces Ukrainian defenders to expend their resources,” Bendett said, even though Ukrainian forces have learned to take out drones with truck-mounted machine guns. “Ukraine has reduced the cost of its defense against the Shaheds to a manageable amount, but each attack is still very expensive. »

Iran’s decision to deploy more than 100 Shahed-136 drones alongside a smaller number of ballistic missiles may reflect a similar calculation.

“It is likely that at this point the Iranians are learning from the Russian experience in Ukraine,” Bendett said. “And the Russians probably also learned a lot from Israel’s response. »



News Source : www.washingtonpost.com
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