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ISW: Russia deploys cheaper domestic drones alongside Shaheds to strike Ukrainian infrastructure

by Olena Goncharova October 25, 2023 5:41 AM 2 min read
An Iranian schoolboy takes selfie with Iran's Shahed-136 (L), and Shahed-131 unmanned aerial vehicles during his visit to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) National Aerospace Park in western Tehran, Oct. 11, 2023. (Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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Russian forces may have used new long-range Italmas drones and their variants for the first time in a recent attack on Kyiv Oblast, the Institute for the Study of War said in their latest update.

The Italmas drone reportedly offers significantly improved specifications in comparison to another Russian-produced UAV called Lancet. These purported upgrades encompass a larger warhead and an extended launch range of up to 200 kilometers. The drone is said to feature a gasoline engine, with its fuel tank integrated into the wing structure.

Russian sources noted that Italmas drones are lighter than Shaheds and are harder to detect and shoot down. Italmas drones are also reportedly cheaper, which means that they can be more widely manufactured and used, but that they deliver lighter payloads, which restricts their effectiveness in isolation. Russian sources said, therefore, that Russian forces will likely use the Italmas drones in tandem with Shaheds.

The reports come via speculation published in Russian media. However, with no photographic or confirmed physical evidence to date, it is too early to state definitively that Russia has deployed the new equipment.

ISW previously assessed that Moscow is likely trying "to expand and diversify its arsenal of drones, missiles, and guided bombs for strikes against Ukrainian critical infrastructure" in advance of the fall-winter season, and increased use of Italmas drones is likely part of the wider munitions diversification effort.

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