Ukrainian-Made Kamikaze Drone Hits Russian Targets as Mass Production Begins

Flying at low altitude, the Iranian-manufactured "kamikaze" drones are hard to detect. © Iranian defence ministry via AFP
Flying at low altitude, the Iranian-manufactured “kamikaze” drones are hard to detect. © Iranian defence ministry via AFP

Kyiv, Ukraine – November 6, 2023: Ukraine’s State Enterprise Ukroboronprom has embarked on the production of a high-powered kamikaze drone with an astounding range of 1,000 kilometers. This advanced unmanned aerial vehicle, also referred to as a one-way drone, has already demonstrated its effectiveness by successfully targeting Russian assets.

The genesis of this project was announced by Ukroboronprom at the end of 2022, marking a pivotal moment in Ukraine’s efforts to bolster its military capabilities. The drone, armed with a substantial 75-kilogram warhead, is designed to provide the Ukrainian Armed Forces (AFU) with a formidable long-range strike capability. Notably, it has been engineered to withstand Russian electronic warfare (EW) systems, making it a potent addition to Ukraine’s defense arsenal.

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While technical specifics about the drone remain closely guarded, Ukroboronprom emphasizes that the core components, including the design, software, communication, control mechanisms, assembly, and maintenance, are all handled by Ukraine’s own domestic specialists. This commitment to domestic expertise underscores the nation’s resolve to build its military capabilities independently while also sourcing critical components from undisclosed foreign suppliers.

The initial information about the project included limited imagery, with only a photo of the drone’s nose available to the public. This led to speculation in the defense community, with some experts drawing parallels between the Ukrainian kamikaze drone and the Iranian/Russian Shahed drone. However, this comparison is now overshadowed by the impressive range and capabilities of the Ukrainian drone.

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On June 20 of this year, Nataliya Sad, the press secretary of Ukroboronprom, took to her Facebook page to announce a successful test of the drone. The accompanying photo included key figures such as AFU commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny, Air Force Commander Mykola Oleschuk, and Ukroboronprom CEO Yuriy Husyev, underlining the significance of the achievement.

More recently, on November 6, Ukrainian news outlet Економічна Правда (Economic Truth) published an interview with Herman Smetanin, who assumed the role of general director at Ukroboronprom in June, as part of a broader reorganization of Ukraine’s defense industry.

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During the interview, Smetanin outlined his core mission, which revolves around ensuring the enterprise produces the necessary weaponry for Ukraine’s conflict with Russia in sufficient quantities and with utmost urgency. Notably, the interview highlighted the imperative of long-range strike capabilities in the ongoing conflict. Smetanin’s predecessor, Yuriy Gusev, had previously mentioned the drone’s existence but offered few details, leading to skepticism within the defense community.

In response to these doubts, Smetanin left no room for ambiguity, stating unequivocally, “It is in mass production, and has been ordered by our defense forces. The UAV has, in fact, hit its first Russian targets. The recorded combat range was around 1,000 kilometers.” This revelation solidified the drone’s status as a game-changing asset in Ukraine’s military strategy.

Smetanin was also asked if the Ukroboronprom drone was comparable to the Iranian Shahed. In response, he noted that “Many Ukrainian state and private manufacturers are making analogues of ‘shaheda’… we are focused on the production of more complex and expensive projects with higher performance and longer range.” This emphasis on sophistication and extended range sets the Ukrainian drone apart from its counterparts.

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Adding to the growing body of information about this remarkable development, a photo surfaced on the Telegram site of Insider Ukraine, purportedly showcasing the final design of Ukroboronprom’s kamikaze drone. This image fuels anticipation and intrigue surrounding the project’s capabilities.

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The entry of this Ukrainian-made kamikaze drone into mass production represents a significant milestone in Ukraine’s ongoing conflict with Russia. Its impressive range, resistance to electronic warfare, and successful strikes on Russian targets position it as a formidable addition to Ukraine’s defense capabilities. As the project continues to progress, it is expected to play a pivotal role in the nation’s ongoing defense strategy, demonstrating the power of indigenous innovation and engineering in a time of conflict.

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