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​Black Shahed-136: russian Painted the Suicide Drones for a Nighttime Attack on Kyiv

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​Black Shahed-136: russian Painted the Suicide Drones for a Nighttime Attack on Kyiv

The black Shaheds differ not just in color but the hull is made of new material, too

During the largest to date drone attack on Ukraine's capital, at least several of the Shahed-136s launched by the russian invasion forces were black-colored. For now, it is unknown how many of the total 75 loitering munitions were painted but first visual evidence has already appeared online.

Wreckage of a black-colored Shahed-136 shot down on the night of Novemer 25th
Wreckage of a black-colored Shahed-136 shot down on the night of Novemer 25th / Photo credit: OperativnoZSU on Telegram

Read more: Record Number of Enemy Strike UAVs Launched Against Ukraine This Night, Kyiv Main Target

The available data suggests these are not some kind of new modification or the originally black Shahed-238, showcased the other day in iran: those are more dangerous due to being equipped with a jet engine and a homing head.

Shahed-238
Shahed-238 / Screenshot of a video published by iranian media

The black drones downed in Ukraine are the same Shahed-136 with a replaced airframe. It's made of a new material, this fact in itself is no news either as russians have done similar experiments before: examples we could see in July with a new "K" marking of drones instead of the usual "M."

The idea is to repaint the drone so it becomes less visible in the night sky, and the Ukrainian military admitted this enhancement made the Shahed-136 less conspicuous indeed. Spokesperson of the Ukrainian Air Force Yurii Ihnat said at the national We Ukraine telethon that it "makes the job more difficult for air defense, specifically, complicates the visual tracking of the target by mobile fire groups."

Mobile fire group of Ukrianian air defense
Illustrative photo: mobile fire group of Ukrainian air defense, armed with a ZU-23-2 AA gun / Photo credit: General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

The thing is, although a Shahed is seen by radar, some of the mobile fire groups operate anti-aircraft guns and the operators need to aim at the drone themselves, using azimuth and distance, looking through night vision goggles or thermal imagers. Once the target is found, one of the soldiers illuminates it with a searchlight, so the gunner or gunners can start shooting.

Objectively, making a loitering munition black and thus harder to see does cause inconvenience although how effective it was in practice, the statistic speaks for itself: 74 out of 75 Shahed-136s were shot down, or 99% of the total.

Illustrative photo: a Ukrianian mobile fire group looking out for an aerial target with a searchlight
Illustrative photo: a Ukrainian mobile fire group looking out for Shahed drones with a searchlight. December 31st, 2022 / Photo credit: civil_defense_squad on Instagram
Read more: What EW Systems and "Drone Killers" Has Ukraine Received to Counter Lancets and Shahed-136 Combat UAVs?