New Russian drones-'lawnmowers': what threat do they pose to Ukraine?
Several nights in a row, Russian forces attacked Ukraine with a new, unidentified type of UAV. These drones sound like lawnmowers and are different from the traditional means of terror - Shahed-136
This is reported by military expert Oleksandr Kovalenko, according to Obozrevatel.
A bet on drones
Over the past year, Iran's Shahed-136 drone has become Russia's major terror tool against Ukraine.
However, Russia has been faced with the need to use more 'mopeds' (Ukrainians nicknamed Shahed-type drones 'mopeds' for the noise they make - ed.) each month than Iranian facilities can produce and transfer. As a result, Russia, just as with cruise missiles, was forced to save Shahed-136s by stockpiling them and only then conducting peak mass raids.
Amid growing demand for Shahed-136, the Russian enemy tried to localize the production of 'kamikaze' drones in Tatarstan, and even set an ambitious plan to produce an installation batch of 100 Shahed-136 units in the first half of 2023. But the plan failed as the production faced a shortage of smuggled spare parts.
It is therefore not surprising that the Russians decided to compensate for the shortage of Shahed-136-type terror assets by means of their own production.
What is known about 'lawnmowers'
Very little is known about this drone today, but judging by the information that ripples in space, we are talking about the so-called 'product-54', aka Italmas.
Italmas is a 'kamikaze' drone developed by ZALA, and it is very similar to the reconnaissance drone produced by the same company 421-04M, but with a 'kamikaze' function.
Even before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, ZALA demonstrated the 421-04M version with a range of up to 150 kilometers and the ability to stay in the air for up to 3.5 hours. The drone's speed ranged from 65 to 100 km/h. Navigation was carried out by INS with GPS and GLONASS correction.
These characteristics are very similar to those of the Italmas drone, which is estimated to have a range of up to 200 kilometers, and it also has a 'flying wing' scheme and engine placement on the nose.
Drone use: risks and threats
"In fact, Italmas is a 421-04M on steroids. It has increased in size and has slightly better characteristics, but still this Russian drone is far from the Shahed-136 level," Kovalenko writes.
After all, Italmas has a shorter range, lower speed, and lower yield. Consequently, it cannot fully replace Shahed-136 in terms of functionality, but it can compensate for or enhance the effect of raids.
The relatively small warhead still poses a danger both to civilians and to facilities where the explosion of 3-4 kilograms of explosives can detonate something much larger. For example, this 'kamikaze' drone is quite suitable for attacks on oil refineries, fuel transporters, etc.
In addition, if the Russians succeeded in their AI experiment, then suppressing the drone with REB would not be effective, meaning that Italmas could also be used to defuse air defense assets.
What's with the production
Thus, this cheap and very primitive at first glance drone carries serious risks.
Italmas is manufactured in Izhevsk, at ZALA's facilities, located in a shopping center...Italmas, which was emptied after sanctions were imposed on Russia. Other ZALA designs, including the most famous of them all, the Lancet barrage munition, are also produced at the same facilities.
And despite the fact that the Lancet is considered to be the most successful and most effective weapon in the ZALA lineup, its production has never been able to be brought to a large-scale production level. It's not the large-scale production of thousands per month. No, we are talking about much smaller figures, which is due to the lack of automated processes and the impossibility to significantly increase the production of such items in the conditions of sanctions, technically and technologically.
"All this suggests that in the near future, even if the Italmas tests are recognized as successful, it will not be possible to see them swarming by the hundreds in the Ukrainian sky. But at the same time, we should not minimize the danger from these UAVs, and we should also remember that just two years ago it was an ordinary reconnaissance drone patrolling the Russian border and monitoring forestry, peat bogs and looking for poachers, but today it is already a means of murder and terror," the military expert summarized.
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