Ukraine: Western components discovered in Shahed drones

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Ukraine shared with G7 members a report on parts found in the carcasses of Shahed suicide drones. These, made in Iran, are used intensively by Russia in Ukraine. Problem: numerous electronic components of American, Canadian, Japanese or even European origin have been identified in these drones despite the sanctions.

A 47-page report

During the month of August 2023, the Ukrainian government submitted a highly confidential report to the G7* governments. This document, called “Barrage deaths: report on Shahed-136/131 UAV’s“(Barrage of deaths: report on the Shahed-136/131 drones), summarizes the analyzes carried out on the remains of Iranian-made suicide drones used in Ukraine by Russia.

Sanctions circumvented

The English newspaper The Guardian was able to have privileged access to this 47-page document. In total, nearly 52 electrical components produced in the West were found in the debris of the Shahed 131 suicide drones. The Shahed 136 also flies with Western parts: 57 components were also identified. The parent companies of the identified manufacturers are located in countries that have sanctioned Russia since the invasion of Ukraine:

  • Germany
  • Canada
  • Japan
  • The Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Swiss

However, the report does not point out any error on the part of the companies identified: Iran circumvented its own sanctions by importing commercial products by diverting/cannibalizing them from their basic use. These products were notably imported from Costa Rica, India, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkey and even Vietnam. Some companies even responded to The Guardian that their products are not sold in Iran or that they do not under any circumstances authorize the diversion of their production for military purposes.

A spokesperson for U-blox – a Swiss company whose GPS chip was found in an Iranian drone – reacted to this discovery:

U-Blox strongly condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Immediately following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, U-blox stopped all sales in Russia, Belarus and the territories occupied by the Russian Army in Ukraine. Recently, U-blox also decided not to sell to EAEU members (Eurasian Economic Union).

Thus, these announcements confirm that sanctions are useful, in the sense that they limit sources of supply. On the other hand, they do not prevent the importation of civilian equipment used for military purposes. This use theoretically brings a reduction in the quality of the system but, in the case of Shahed suicide drones, the basic quality does not require having top quality materials (like missiles, planes, etc.).

All-round production

The report also denounces the diversification of production sites, with the creation of a factory in Syria or in Lelabuga (Republic of Tatarstan, Russia). Syrian production is also directly transferred to the port of Novorossisk (Krasnodar Krai, Russia). However, both sites remain dependent on Iranian production. As for the Shahed produced in Iran, they transit through the port of Amirabad (Mazanderan province, Iran) to cross the Caspian Sea and be unloaded at the port of Makhachkala (Republic of Dagestan, Russia).

In addition to this information, the report offers suggestions, including the delivery of means capable of destroying these production sites. However, with the formal ban on attacking Russia with weapons supplied to Ukraine, this suggestion will very quickly fall into oblivion. However, Ukraine can always deploy commandos directly in Syria, Iran or in the heart of Russia in order to sabotage these installations!

An admission of failure in Russia?

Russia uses Iranian-made suicide drones very intensively, to the point that production is becoming insufficient (according to the 47-page report). But this intense use also demonstrates an industrial deficiency within the Russian aerospace industry itself: apart from the Zala Lancet, very few Russian-made suicide drones were used en masse as part of the invasion of Ukraine.

Moreover, in order to reduce Iran’s trace, the Russian Armed Forces decided to rename these drones Geranium 1 and Geranium 2. And in order to reduce possible identification of the electronic components, their markings were erased with a laser, making their possible tracing much more complicated.

*Bringing together 7 countries: Germany, Canada, the United States, France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the European Union, invited to each meeting.

John Walker Avatar