Espreso. Global

Russia enhances Shahed drones for precision attacks on specific targets. Column by Serhiy Zgurets

31 January, 2024 Wednesday

Russians have initiated the production of new Shahed drones with distinct characteristics. These include not only a manufacturing date from the end of last year but also a modified design featuring a cumulative incendiary combat unit

New drone design 

Yesterday, on January 30th, noteworthy developments about weapons have emerged. Firstly, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported the successful interception of an enemy Su-34 fighter-bomber in the skies over the Luhansk region. This aircraft was equipped with missiles used by Russia for attacks on Ukraine. That is good news.

Additionally, during the night, the Russian Federation conducted Shahed drone attacks on Ukraine. According to the Air Force Command, the enemy deployed a total of 35 kamikaze drones, of which 15 were successfully neutralized. This figure is lower than usual, prompting certain observations when analyzing the Air Force Command's statement. The report reveals that the invader directed some of these attack drones towards frontline territories, aiming to target infrastructure in the fuel and energy sector, as well as civilian and military facilities near the front line and the state border with the Russian Federation. The shift of focus to the front-line and border areas indicates that the mobile groups effectively countering these Shahed forces are compelling the enemy to refrain from strikes in the deeper territories, forcing them to direct drones to the front line.

There's a crucial detail regarding the enemy's efforts to enhance Shahed drones during this period. An analysis on the Defense Express website, based on National Police photos, revealed these new Shahed drones largely undamaged. The photos provided insight into the warhead used, originating from Iranian combat units and incorporating parts from outdated Russian missiles. With missile supplies running out, new warheads were produced with modifications, including a cumulative incendiary feature. The design changes aim to boost the warhead's ability to ignite targeted objects. Notably, recent attacks targeted our energy infrastructure and front-line facilities.

Conversely, Ukraine is advancing its long-range weaponry, particularly drones. Time magazine recently published an article by Simon Shuster on Ukraine's efforts to increase long-range weapons. Minister of Strategic Industry Kamyshin highlighted the use of domestically produced long-range drones since winter. Due to time constraints, these drones are deployed directly against Russian facilities without prior testing on training grounds. Successful strikes on Russian Federation terminals were carried out using these new long-range systems, showcasing a positive trend in our defense industry's development. The challenge now lies in scaling up production, increasing numbers, and optimizing their efficiency.

Armored vehicles for the Armed Forces

Combat readiness is not only crucial in the air but also on the ground. Tanks, armored personnel carriers, AFVs, and various armored vehicles play a vital role in our military operations. The Ukrainian army manages an eclectic fleet sourced from different countries, showcasing its ability to maintain and employ a diverse arsenal in active duty.

Recent reports highlight Kuwait's decision to transfer M-84 tanks, considered a licensed version of the T-72, first to Croatia and then to Ukraine. To shed light on this development, we turn to Mykola Salamakha, a military expert, armored vehicles specialist, and reserve lieutenant colonel in the Armed Forces. Salamakha discusses the M-84's characteristics, effectiveness, and the potential duration of repair and modernization.

Salamakha notes that key components of the tank, such as the 125-mm gun, autoloader from AZS-175, TPD-K1 sight, and V46M6 engine, will remain unchanged. However, there is room for improving armor protection and replacing sights to enhance the tank's firepower. Acquiring the M-84 is seen as a favorable decision, given Kuwait's substantial inventory of around a hundred tanks. With three battalion sets, it's anticipated that within a short span – approximately 2-3 months – three brigades could integrate a tank battalion into their composition.

An armored technology specialist highlighted that dynamic protection will be applied to enhance armor on all Leopard 1A5 tanks over time. Grilles will also be utilized to counter FPV drones, Lancets, and similar UAVs. It is essential to equip nearly all armored vehicle components with electronic warfare (EW) devices to counter FPV drones. Additionally, implementing camouflage measures and conducting radio-electronic reconnaissance are crucial in countering various enemy threats. Monthly adjustments are required in the tools used to combat FPV drones, with each new challenge prompting the improvement of EW tools and the suppression of drone control channels.

A military expert emphasized the urgent need for various assets for brigades lacking armored vehicles. Acquiring around a hundred units of Fuchs armored personnel carriers annually for the next 2-3 years is essential. Collaboration should be sought to manufacture or assemble these vehicles in Ukraine. Further production of wheeled vehicles, particularly the BTR-4, is crucial for the army. Recent footage showed a BTR-4 crew destroying a T-72 tank, highlighting its effectiveness. The BTR-4 also features a missile channel.

Salamakha advocated using tracks to increase the security of infantry fighting vehicles. With a limit on the load for one wheel, an armored personnel carrier with 8 wheels has a maximum combat weight of 30 tons. Tracks allow increasing the weight of the AFV up to 40 or even 45 tons, enhancing its capabilities.

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