HESA SHAHED 136 gallery

The Shahed 136 UAS was officially presented in 2021, but it is known that they were used in an attack against the Saudi oil plants of Abqaiq and Khurais in mid-September 2019. They are considered as loitering munitions although they can also carry out missions of reconnaissance with the installation of suitable equipment. They are shaped like a delta wing and have control rudders at the tips of the wings. At the rear of the fuselage is a piston engine that drives a two-bladed propeller in a “pusher” arrangement and the warhead is installed in the nosecone. They are very similar in appearance to the Russian Zala KYB suicide drone.
HESA Shahed 136 is made of paper hardened by immersion in synthetic formaldehyde resin (Getinax), which gives it lightness and high resistance. In addition, this material reduces the radar signature by being less reflective than metal. Although the fuselage is of Iranian construction, these drones use a multitude of Chinese, American and European components obtained by Iran bypassing international sanctions. The drone weighs about 200 kg and is launched into the air using rocket launch assistance (RATO). The Shahed 136 is brought to the firing zone in a 5 units rack installed on a truck, the rack is raised to the firing position and then they are launched towards the target. Usually, the attacks are carried out by firing large numbers of these UAVs with the intention of saturating the enemy defenses and ensuring that some drones reach their target.
This loitering ammunition is powered by an Iranian 50hp MADO MD-550 piston engine, with which it reaches a top speed of about 185 km/h. The exact range is unknown but it is estimated to be between 1,000 and 2,500 km, although this figure seems a bit exaggerated. These engines are known to be very loud and are audible for miles. The Ukrainians nickname these drones “flying mopeds” or “lawnmowers” and although their stealth is more than doubtful, they cause quite a bit of terror among their victims, in the purest style of the famous Ju-87 Stuka dive bombers or the V-1 flying bombs. Its powerful warhead is composed by a 30 or 50 kg HE fragmentation charge capable of destroy heavy armoured vehicles.
Shahed 136 has a GPS inertial guidance system but it cannot be controlled remotely since it does not have optical elements, however it can be sent coordinates of newly located targets by other reconnaissance or combat drones. The drone flies along a sequence of geographic points guided by GPS or the Russian GLONASS GNSS system. In addition to the main guidance system, it has a secondary inertial navigation system that allows it to maintain the established course if the main system is interfered with.
Despite their almost certain baptism of fire in 2019, it was after the Russian invasion of Ukraine that these UAVs came to the forefront of the world. Initially, Iran denied that it was exporting these devices to Russia, but after the downed of a Shahed 136 over Ukrainian soil, all suspicions were confirmed. Russia calls these aircraft as “Geran-2“, perhaps in a vain attempt to deny the evidence, or perhaps because the UAVs shipped by Iran are being upgraded by installing a more accurate and reliable Russian military guidance system. It is estimated that from mid-September to mid-October 2022 Russia launched more than 200 of these drones against Ukrainian targets, and has been known that Rusia has order another 2,400 on those dates. In addition, Russia intends to manufacture these drones under license.
The price of the Shahed 136 ranges from 20,000 to 50,000 dollars per unit. In this way, although these drones are not as effective as cruise missiles, they are good enough for attacking static targets at a much lower cost with a good degree of efficiency. Likewise, it also allows not having to carry out expensive air attacks with expensive high-precision weapons. Russia is using their Geran-2s as flying bombs, being able to reserve their Kalibr cruise missiles for high value or highly protected targets. Also, due to the low cost of these loitering munitions, Russian attacks are massive, using dozens of them at the same time, which makes any type of defense really difficult.

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