Can You Shot a Shahed Drone With Igla Missile Fired From a Polish Piorun

Illustrative photo: a Ukrainian National Guard serviceman with Piorun MANPADS / Photo credit: the National Guard of Ukraine
Illustrative photo: a Ukrainian National Guard serviceman with Piorun MANPADS / Photo credit: the National Guard of Ukraine

Despite being derived from a Soviet missile, Piorun is a different weapon

Ukrainian army’s Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi reported on October 11 evening that 9 out of 11 Shahed-136 loitering munitions of Iranian origin were destroyed over the past two days. As he noted, "it was Poland who provided the systems using which with Soviet missiles Ukrainians shut down Iranian drones launched by russians."

The only air defense system officially supplied by Poland is the Piorun man-portable systems (MANPADS), which is a deep modernization of the Soviet 9K38 "Igla" missile. Yet it would be not that accurate to label the Polish missiles as "Soviet" ones. There are two reasons for that which we should highlight.

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Polish Piorun has received an upgraded control panel with various modes of fire / Illustrative photo credit: the National Guard of Ukraine

First, the Polish variant has undergone both missile and launcher improvements. The missile got an improved homing head that increased its range of target detection; and the modernized launcher received a better day sight and a thermal sight for night conditions and a characteristic mini-keyboard on the right side of the trigger module to set modes: pursuit or collision – depending on whether the target approaches or moves away from the operator’s perspective, adjust target type, weather conditions and more.

Digital keys for the Piorun MANPADS
Digital keys for the Piorun MANPADS, each one corresponds to a specific missile packed in the launching tube / Screenshot credit: Combat Raccoon

But what’s important in this context, Piorun has received an authorization system. Its primary role is to avoid the system being used by a stranger. But it also means that this system is not compatible with Soviet missiles. This authorization system consists of a digital key that is designated to a specific missile. So in order to perform the launch, you need a matching digital key.

Piorun control panel with the key attached
Piorun control panel with the key attached / Screenshot credit Combat Raccoon

That is what we can see from a video published by the Ukrainian special forces on how to use the Polish Piorun MANPADS. Videos such as these were released at the beginning of the russian full-scale invasion and not only allowed to take a close look at the foreign man-portable missiles but were also a source of practical knowledge for the Territorial Defense forces made up of recruits without that much of combat experience.

We can also see the same procedure of preparing the Piorun system for the fire in the video of how Ukrainian paratroopers managed to take two russian "Orlan" UAVs with these missiles. This one was taken long before the first Shahed-136 attacks but nevertheless illustrative.

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