Russia to Swarm Ukraine's Air Defenses With Fresh Batch of Iranian Drones

Russia will look to "swarm" Ukraine's air defenses as the country reportedly receives a new batch of Iranian-made Shahed drones, according to a Ukrainian military intelligence official.

Vadym Skibitsky, the deputy head of the Main Intelligence Directorate within Ukraine's defense ministry, told Ukrainian outlet RBC that Russia will shortly receive another delivery of Shahed-131 and -136 drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, from Tehran.

Skibitsky could not specify a time scale for the reported delivery, but suggested that previously, Russia had received batches of between 250 and 300 "suicide" or "kamikaze" drones.

"Stocks need to be replenished," he said, adding that Russia was attempting "to use what they have left in the most effective way."

Shahed Drone Above Kyiv
A drone flies over Kyiv during an attack on October 17, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Moscow is looking to use "a very large number of drones" to break through Ukraine's air defenses, according to Vadym Skibitsky. Sergei SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images

Skibitsky said Russian forces have "used approximately 660 Shahed drones" to date, but will be expecting to have up to 1,750 at their disposal.

The deputy chief of Ukraine's military intelligence said Russian forces were looking to send the drones in "swarms" that look to breach Ukrainian air defense systems.

Skibitsky added: "If you run a small amount—5 to10 [UAVs]—there will be no such effect."

On Sunday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Kremlin was progressing with plans to build a new Russian factory for the production of at least 6,000 Iranian-designed drones.

An Iranian delegation travelled to Moscow earlier this year to pay a visit to the site slated for the project, according to the report.

Tehran long denied supplying the drones to Moscow, but admitted in November that the regime had sent a "small number" of UAVs to Russia "months before the Ukraine war." U.S. officials had previously said Tehran had supplied the UAVs to Moscow.

The secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, told the Kyiv Post last month that Kyiv's intelligence services had identified possible sites for a Russian domestic production line.

Ukraine's defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said in a Twitter post on January 6 that Russia had used up 88 percent of its supply of Shahed drones.

The following day, the Institute for the Study of War think tank said Moscow's forces will "likely be able to conduct only a handful of massive drone attacks" until "Russia receives from Iran another delivery of drones."

Back in December, the U.K. defense ministry said it was likely that Russia had used up its previous stocks of "several hundred" Shahed-131s and 136s, and had received new units to replace them.

The Shahed drones (also known by their Russian names of Geran-1 and Geran-2) are known for the low buzzing sound they make upon approach. They are capable of carrying a warhead that shatters or explodes when it reaches the intended target. The smaller Shahed-131 has a shorter maximum range than the larger 136, thought to be around 550 miles for the former and around 1,200 miles for the latter.

In a media briefing back in October, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the drones also served as "psychological weapons used to create fear."