Russia, which used drones to terrifying effect in its initial 2014 invasion of Ukraine, appears in the current campaign to be losing both small and large drones at a rapid pace.
Jake Sullivan, the Biden administration’s national security advisor, said on Monday that Iran was preparing to send “several hundred UAVs, including weapons-capable UAVs, on an expedited timeline” to Russia. That’s on top of recent reports out of Russia where regional officials have vowed to dig into their general budgets to buy the Russian Army more quadcopters.
Russia has likely lost dozens of their signature strike drone, the Orlan-10, in the early days of the war, said Sam Bendett, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and an adviser at the CNA Corporation. They’ve also lost a large percentage of their small fleet of more sophisticated Orion combat drones. He put the losses for the Orion in the single digits but that still makes up a large portion of them.
Sullivan didn’t say what specific drones Russia was seeking from Iran. Tehran is under sanctions of its own, but is still able to manufacture the Shahed-129 and Mohajer 6 heavy-armed drones, the UK’s Royal United Services Institute has said. But if Moscow has requested hundreds of drones, they are probably mostly smaller ones, Bendett said.
“It's likely that Russians are getting lots of loitering munitions. One of the biggest lessons Russians took from the Nagorno-Karabakh war was that mass use of loitering munitions is key to military success,” he said.
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