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UK intelligence warns of dangerous modifications to Shahed drones

UK intelligence warns of dangerous modifications to Shahed drones Shahed drones of new modifications attack Ukraine (Getty Images)
Author: Liliana Oleniak

Russia is trying to improve Iran's Shahed kamikaze drones based on the experience of strikes in Ukraine. They are painted black and use Ukrainian SIM cards with a 4G modem, according to the UK Ministry of Defense on X.

Since mid-2023, Russia has begun to produce its drones, similar to Iranian Shaheds. Now Russia is trying to make improvements to the design of drones based on operational experience.

In particular, at the end of November, it was reported that the downed UAV was equipped with a Ukrainian SIM card and a 4G modem. "This is likely a Russian improvised modification to improve real-time guidance using cell towers to reduce reliance on satellite navigation," the report says.

According to British intelligence, there is a real possibility that Moscow is also trying to circumvent Ukraine's electronic warfare measures. Some of the other Russian-made kamikaze drones are likely to be black, making it difficult to visually recognize approaching drones at night.

"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," the UK Ministry of Defense says.

The danger of Shaheds

In an interview with RBC-Ukraine, Colonel Yurii Ihnat, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force Command, said that Russian Shaheds are a difficult target for fighter jets because they fly low and slow.

"Yes, they are more difficult for fighters to shoot down. But as for other means, we cannot say that they are more difficult to hit than cruise missiles. Both targets are complex. Both targets are designed to overcome air defense systems. It all depends on the circumstances, on the conditions, on the terrain," Ihnat says.

According to British intelligence, Russia is using kamikaze drones to launch massive attacks on the territory of Ukraine to weaken the air defense system. One of Russia's goals was likely to weaken Ukraine's air defenses to create a battle space before any concerted winter campaign of attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure.