According to reports, Moscow is working on creating its own version of the Iranian Shahed-136 unmanned aerial combat vehicle. (Related: Autonomous KILLER BOTS to dominate battlefields soon as war in Ukraine leads to significant advances in drone technology.)
The Shahed-136 can carry a 118-pound explosive payload toward a target programmed before its launch. It has a range of between 1,100 to 1,500 miles. Russia began using the Shahed along with other Iranian drones when it received its first shipment of drones from Tehran in the summer of 2022.
Russian drones have struck military targets deep within Ukrainian territory and have had a devastating impact on the country's war effort. The country's domestic and Iranian-made drones have successfully degraded Ukraine's air defenses and have allowed Moscow to preserve its more expensive stockpile of precision-guided missiles.
"Those drones are much cheaper to produce compared to the damage they cause, and this is a problem," admitted Vladyslav Vlasiuk, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
In the past three months alone, Russia has successfully attacked Ukrainian military targets with more than 600 Shaheds that were primed to self-destruct.
Now, Russia is making great headways in creating its own version of the Shahed manufactured domestically.
Documents have revealed the existence of a facility deep within Russia, in the Tatarstan region's Alabuga Special Economic Zone. The documents show that the facility's engineers are not only trying to manufacture Russia's own version of the Shahed but are also attempting to improve on Iran's dated manufacturing techniques using Russian industrial expertise.
Combining the existing technology behind the Shahed with Russian manufacturing expertise, the goal of this facility is to domestically build 6,000 drones by the summer of 2025. If successful in the endeavor, this would be enough to reverse the Russian Armed Forces' chronic shortages in combat and non-combat drones on the frontline, thanks to the steady stream of drones the West is flooding into Ukraine.
The Post's current estimates suggest that the Alabuga facility is at least a month behind its schedule, thanks to the embargo against Russia and Iran depriving them both of critical components for manufacturing drones.
Currently, the facility is only capable of reassembling drones provided by Iran. Its manufacturing capacity is limited to making only drone bodies, and researchers suggest that the facility is only able to manufacture a little over 100 drones per month.
Despite the delays, former United Nations weapons inspector David Albright noted that when the Alabuga facility is complete, it could have "a drone developmental capability that exceeds Iran's."
"Russia has a credible way of building over the next year or so a capability to go from periodically launching tens of imported Shahed-136 kamikaze drones against Ukrainian targets to more regularly attacking with hundreds of them," said Albright.
Learn more about the use of drones in warfare at DroneWatchNews.com.
Watch this short report on the capabilities of the Shahed-136 and what Russia is doing to modify and modernize the drone.