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How to Counter Iranian Shahed-136 and Shahed-131 Kamikaze Drones, Used by russia to Strike Ukrainian Cities

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Iran's Shahed-136 / Open source photo
Iran's Shahed-136 / Open source photo

It was only a matter of time before russia began to strike cities with the Shahed-136 and Shahed-131 for the purpose of terror, and the search for cheap and effective means of countermeasures is more than urgent

The russian army, in its usual manner to continue terror, began to actively use Iranian kamikaze drones for attacks on Ukrainian cities. The first city to be hit by them was Odesa, which was previously shelled with Iskander, Kalibr and P-800 Oniks missiles.

And the problem of countering this new threat is becoming a point of growing importance. In particular, a detailed analysis of the Shahed-131 showed that it has a relatively low cost and uses civilian components. In fact, the russian federation, following the example of Iran, may set up a mass production of such kamikaze drones, while being under sanctions. Although, given the primitiveness and lack of guidance systems, the Shahed-136 and Shahed-131 are rather more correctly classified as aircraft-projectiles.

Read more: Iranian Shahed-136 Kamikaze Drones Already Used By russia (First Photos And Specs)
How to Counter Iranian Shahed-136 and Shahed-131 Kamikaze Drones, Used by russia in Ukrainian Cities, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
The Shahed-136 / Illustrative photo from open sources

Defense Express wrote that on the front line protection against these drones may be a set of measures in addition to strengthening the means of air defense: camouflage, creation of false positions, active suppression of GPS and countering the enemy's intelligence. But all these measures cannot be extended to protect cities.

Although such drone attacks cannot change the balance of power, the task assigned to them by russia is to terrorize the population with regular strikes. Unfortunately, due to the low cost of such kamikaze drones, such strikes may become systematic.

How to Counter Iranian Shahed-136 and Shahed-131 Kamikaze Drones, Used by russia in Ukrainian Cities, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
Illustrative photo from open sources

Of course, Ukrainian Air Force is quite capable of shooting down Shahed-136 and Shahed-131. And they have already been intercepted by means of anti-aircraft missile systems quite effectively. However, the missiles spent on shooting down thee drones are aimed to destroy aircraft and cruise missiles.

And the lack of missiles for such systems as Buk SAM, as well as for any others, is extremely dangerous in general for the defense capability of Ukraine.

But even in these conditions there are certain options for effective countermeasures. In particular, the most effective countermeasure in general is the destruction of the launchers, but the flight range of such drones is, according to various estimates, 500-900 km, while Iran declares about 2,000 km in general.

Putting anti-aircraft machine guns on the roofs and shooting the sky with rifle and machine gun fire is also a controversial idea from the time of the Second World War. Small arms damage is highly unlikely to destroy such a kamikaze drone in the air. And even if it is damaged, it will still fall somewhere in the middle of the city.

It is also unlikely that hundreds of cities and thousands of square kilometers of the country will be covered by means of GPS suppression. Regarding the possibility of covering only certain objects with such obstacles, this will only lead to simple deviation by several tens of meters of the Shahed-131/6 (because they have a primitive inertial system), which is not a problem at all for terrorist attacks in cities.

The option for guaranteed destruction of such drones is to strengthen air defense specifically against these types of targets, and at the same time cruise missiles. In these conditions, the AN/TWQ-1 Avenger may be the most effective option. Basically it’s Stinger MANPADS, but based on the HMMWV and has eight missiles at once, which allows even one complex to repel a fairly massive air attack.

How to Counter Iranian Shahed-136 and Shahed-131 Kamikaze Drones, Used by russia in Ukrainian Cities, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
AN/TWQ-1 Avenger / Illustrative photo from open sources

The main advantage of these systems over MANPADS is automation, when the launcher can be automatically deployed towards the target, which significantly reduces the time for its search and guidance. However the transfer of these air defense systems has not yet been discussed at all, even though dozens of Avengers needed.

Another rather interesting option is anti-aircraft artillery complexes, such as Germany’s Gepard, which can be quite effective in this case. But, again, everything rests on their quantity, as well as the resources of barrels and machine guns, which are also quite limited, as they were designed to destroy aircraft and helicopters.

How to Counter Iranian Shahed-136 and Shahed-131 Kamikaze Drones, Used by russia in Ukrainian Cities, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war

Germany's Gepard anti-aircraft gun / Illustrative photo from open sources

That is why, to combat this type of target, there have been created different projectiles with programmed detonation (AHEAD), which allow quickly destroy such targets. But the cost of these systems, as well as ammunition, at one time slowed down their development and production. And in fact, they still remain in a rather limited number.

Because of this, extremely promising laser systems capable of firing such kamikaze drones remain "overboard". That’s why the total number of manufactured such systems, for example, like the Turkish Alka, is quite limited.

In such a situation, it is quite possible to start considering the possibility of taking from storage the S-60 anti-aircraft guns, of course, if there is still a sufficient number of shells for them. And also, of course, to increase the number of ZU-23-2.

There are other possible options: APKWS laser-guidance kit. These missiles were primarily considered as a means of destroying ground targets, first for aviation, and then for ground launchers. But technically there are not that many obstacles that would prevent missiles from being used against a low-speed, low-altitude and non-maneuverable air target.

Another and even cheaper tool was introduced back in 2017 in Ukraine: ZRN-01 Stokrotka. A joint project created by one of the Ukrainian state-owned enterprises and the Polish WB Group, it consisted of the RS-80P rocket with a programmable detonator, the data of which was entered by the Polish control system, which measured the parameters of the target with a laser range finder.

How to Counter Iranian Shahed-136 and Shahed-131 Kamikaze Drones, Used by russia in Ukrainian Cities, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
ZRN-01 Stokrotka / Illustrative photo from open sources

Target search was carried out by a radar and a GS400 optoelectronic head. The striking range was declared at the level of up to 4 km. For the destruction of such barrage ammunition it is more than enough. But this project was accepted with skepticism. Therefore, it did not receive funding.

But the correct response to countering such drones should be a whole set of measures, including airspace surveillance systems in general, an increase in the number of air defense systems, an expansion of MANPADS posts, possibly an increase in the number of anti-aircraft artillery systems, the purchase or lease of some samples of laser complexes, etc.

Read more: 213 Days of the War: russian Casualties in Ukraine