Ukraine’s military released photographs of what it claims was a destroyed Iranian-made drone operated by the Russian military on Tuesday, the first time one has been documented in use by Russian forces.
The photographs, initially uploaded by an Ukrainian soldier, show the remains of a small delta-winged drone with “M214 Geran-2” markings on a wingtip fin. The drone remains were recovered near Kupyansk, a city in Ukraine’s Kharkiv Oblast recently liberated following an Ukrainian offensive that has rolled back Russian forces in the region. Prior to the defeat of Russian forces in the area, Kupyansk had served as the headquarters of local Russian occupation authorities, and was a transportation hub critical to the resupply of Russian forces in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
The Ukraine Weapons Tracker open source investigation team has identified the drone as a HESA Shahed-136 loitering munition or a derivative of one, based on the wreckage’s similarities to released photographs of the Shahed in Iranian service. Variants of the Shahed have been previously seen in use by Iranian-backed Houthi militants in Yemen, and a United States investigation into a series of drone attacks on the Mercer Street oil tanker off Oman in July 2021 that killed two crew members also found remains of delta-winged drones of a similar design to the Shahed.
Confirmation of the Shahed’s use in Ukraine comes after statements by Western officials since July that Russia was procuring Iranian drones for use in Ukraine, owing to combat losses steadily draining Russia’s unmanned aerial vehicle fleet since the start of its unprovoked full-scale invasion on February 24.
At the end of August, a Western official that spoke to the Washington Post said that the Iranian-made drones had entered service with Russian forces in Ukraine, adding that they had experienced unspecified “bugs in the system” during early testing that left Russian officials unsatisfied with their performance.
According to the official, an initial shipment of two Shahed drone variants, the Shahed-129 and Shahed-191, as well as the Mohajer-6 reconnaissance UAV, took place in mid-August. Biden administration officials that spoke to the newspaper said they believed that it was the first installment of shipments that may ultimately total in “hundreds” of Iranian-made drones of various types.