Russia most likely has been supplementing Iran-supplied Shahed kamikaze drones with Russian weapons and modifications since mid-2023, British military intelligence reported.
“Since mid-2023, Russia has almost certainly augmented Iranian-supplied Shahed one-way attack uncrewed aerial vehicles (OWA UAVs) with similar weapons made in facilities in Russia. Russia is now almost certainly attempting to incorporate improvements to the OWA UAV designs based on operational experience,” the UK ministry of defense said in its war intelligence update.
The British ministry added: “In late November 2023, a downed UAV was reported as being fitted with a Ukrainian SIM card and 4G modem. This is likely a Russian improvised modification to improve real-time guidance using cell towers to reduce reliance on satellite navigation.”
The intelligence report stated: “There is a realistic possibility that it is also attempting to mitigate Ukrainian electronic warfare measures. Some other Russian-made OWA UAVs have likely to been given a black finish, making it harder to visually identify the incoming drones at night.”
The Ukrainian Air Force had reported at the end of November that dozens of kamikaze drones that Russia launched have an unusual black livery and are covered with carbon that absorbs radar signals.
The UK ministry said: “Russia is increasingly employing OWA UAVs in large raids in an attempt to overwhelm Ukrainian air defenses. However, Ukraine continues to successfully neutralize the majority of incoming weapons.”
In October, British military intelligence reported that Russia’s partnership with Iran has strengthened. “Iranian military aid to Russia’s campaign in Ukraine has included hundreds of one-way attack uncrewed aerial vehicles (OWA UAV) and artillery munitions. Iranian OWA UAVs have been a core element of Russia’s campaign of long-range strikes into Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, this week Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Lieutenant General Ivan Havryliuk said Ukrainian Armed Forces will receive “many times more” drones in December compared to November.
This comes as drone warfare intensifies between Moscow and Kyiv, with both sides using UAVs to strike the heartland of the other side, usually targeting vital infrastructure.