Iranian Drones Give Russian Forces in Ukraine a Battlefield Boost

Dimitri Simes | October 6, 2022 | 6:39pm EDT
Text Audio
00:00 00:00
Font Size
A building destroyed by Russian forces using Iranian-made drones in an attack on Bila Tserkva, near Kyiv on Wednesday. (Photo by Sergei Supinsky / AFP via Getty Images)
A building destroyed by Russian forces using Iranian-made drones in an attack on Bila Tserkva, near Kyiv on Wednesday. (Photo by Sergei Supinsky / AFP via Getty Images)

Moscow ( – Iranian drones are increasingly providing Russian troops in Ukraine with a boost on the battlefield.

Several explosions were reported in the northeastern city of Kharkiv and the Black Sea port of Odesa in the early hours of Thursday due to an attack by Geran-2 kamikaze drones.

Russian forces also used Geran-2 drones the previous night in a strike against a military base in the city of Bila Tserkva, located near Kyiv. Videos on social media appeared to show the barracks engulfed in flames and local authorities said that the attack resulted in the destruction of infrastructure facilities and at least one injury.

Ukrainian officials reported encountering the Geran-2 on the battlefield for the first time on September 13. Since then, Russian forces have used the Iran-made drones on numerous occasions to conduct strikes on Ukrainian artillery systems near the frontlines and military headquarters in major cities

The Geran-2 is believed to be a slightly modified version of the Shahed-136, a kamikaze drone produced by the Iranian Aircraft Industrial Company. Officially adopted by the Iranian armed forces in 2021, the Shaheed-136 reportedly has a flight range of 2,500 kilometers and can carry up to 50 kilograms of explosives. Iran has previously been accused of supplying the drone to its Houthi rebel allies in Yemen and of using it to attack a Israeli-managed oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman.

Ukrainian military officers told the Wall Street Journal and Politico that their air defense systems struggled to detect incoming Shaheed-136/Geran-2 attacks due to the drone’s small size and low flying altitude.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has also claimed that Russian forces have begun using Iranian-made Qods Mohajer-6 drones, which are capable of performing either reconnaissance work or delivering up to four precision-guided munitions. The drones have reportedly been used to coordinate other Russian air strikes.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters in July that the U.S. had intelligence indicating Iran was preparing to provide Russia with several hundred drones for its troops in Ukraine. The Biden administration claimed the following month that the first batch of Iranian drones had been delivered to Russia.

Shortly thereafter, Ukraine downgraded its diplomatic relations with Tehran, revoking the Iranian ambassador’s accreditation and significantly cutting the number of diplomatic personnel working at Iran’s embassy in Kyiv. Meanwhile, the U.S. sanctioned four Iranian companies that were reportedly involved in supplying the drones to Russia.

Both Moscow and Tehran have denied the allegations that Iran has supplied drones to Russia, but some Russian state news personalities have alluded to the Geran-2’s Iranian origins.

During an arms exhibition last month, Islamic Revolution Guards Corps commander Hossein Salami declared that “a number of the world’s top ranking powers” had begun purchasing weapons from Iran. “Indeed, this process has materialized as they are currently using [the Iranian arms] and receiving training,” he said.

Yevgeny Rasskazov, a Russian nationalist who fought in Ukraine as part of the Rusich combat group, argues that the Iranian drones provided Russia with more options for conducting long-range strikes against Ukrainian military infrastructure. In a post on Telegram, he said that previously Russia had to rely overwhelmingly on the more expensive Kalibr cruise missiles for such attacks.

“We really need cheap and massive weapons and great depth in order to permanently inflict tangible damage on the enemy,” Rasskazov wrote. “If everything goes well, in the future there should be enough drones to hunt gun crews, air defense systems, and other equipment.”

“We will see after a while whether [the Russian Defense Ministry] correctly selected the priority targets. However, the impact of the drones so far has allowed us to accumulate a greater number of cruise missiles, which are now not being wasted in single strikes.”

Since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, Russia and Iran have moved to strengthen their energy, industrial, and logistical ties in an effort to ease the burden of U.S. sanctions against them.

During Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Tehran in July, the two countries signed a $40 billion oil and gas cooperation deal.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was one of the few global leaders to openly defend the Kremlin’s decision to send troops into Ukraine, declaring that if Russia "had not taken the initiative, the other side would have caused a war on its own initiative."

Last month, Iranian Air Force commander Hamid Vahedi told state media that Tehran was looking to acquire the fourth-generation Su-35 fighter jet from Russia. The Military Watch magazine later reported that Russia could provide Iran with up to 64 Su-35 fighters for a price tag of $5 billion.

See also:

On Eve of Mideast Trip With Iran Threat in Focus, Sullivan Says Iran Will Provide Armed Drones to Russia (Jul. 12, 2022)

mrc merch