Historic! A kamikaze drone downs a fighter aircraft, Ukrainian MiG-29 crashes trying to shoot an Iranian Shahed-136 drone

Ukrainian MiG-29 crashed trying to shoot down an Iranian drone. Ukrainian armed forces have been using all available means to try and stop Iranian drones.

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Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna is a Defence & Aerospace analyst and is the Director of ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany with manufacturing units in Russia. He is Consulting Editor Industry and Defense at Frontier India.

Probably for the first time in history, a fighter aircraft was lost trying to shoot down a kamikaze drone in actual combat. A Ukrainian MiG-29 crashed while attempting to take down an Iranian Shahed-136 drone. 

Russia has bought unspecified Iranian drones that have been wreaking havoc in Ukraine. Ukrainian armed forces have been using all available means to try and stop the Iranian drones.

On October 12, the Ukrainian Air Force chose to use a fighter aircraft to combat the Iranian Shahid-136 called Geran-2 in Russia. The MiG-29 was scrambled over Vinnytsia, but the manoeuvre failed. The Ukrainian Air Force said the pilot ejected.

Watch Mig-29 crashing attempting to shoot down Shahed-136 drone.

Mig-29’s to shoot Russian drones

On October 5, Ukrainian MiG-29 fighters successfully shot down Iranian Shahed-136 kamikaze drones for the first time. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky himself stated this in a celebratory speech. In addition to air defence gunners shooting down three kamikaze drones, the pilots of the 204th Sevastopol Tactical Aviation Brigade, named after Alexander Pokryshkin, destroyed three more Shahed-136s. This brigade has MiG-29 and MiG-29UB combat aircraft. 

Experts speculate that the Mig-29 pilots probably used the same tactics they applied to destroy Kalibr cruise missiles mid-air. To detect enemy cruise missiles, the Ukrainian pilots have to turn on an electro-optical targeting system to see the missile’s thermal trace. The radio locator is sometimes unable to detect a target at low altitudes.

Ukraine’s efforts to down Iranian made drones

Yet, the skill of Ukrainian fighter pilots is not enough to provide absolute defence against Russian-Iranian drones. Ukraine needs the transition to modern air defence systems, which is only possible with the help of western allies. The spokesperson of the Air Force, Yurii Ihnat, stressed that Ukraine’s air defence must be echeloned to deter the drone threat effectively. And to create such an echelon system, the supply of such modern systems as NASAMS and IRIS-T is crucial.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a meeting of countries supplying armaments to Ukraine on Wednesday that more air defence was required to safeguard Ukrainian cities from rising Russian missile attacks. 

German IRIS-T SLM air defense system
German IRIS-T SLM air defense system. Image via Energoatom

In response to the Russian attacks, Kyiv has intensified its requests for Western partners to enhance its air defence capabilities. When asked what he intended to gain from the meeting of arms suppliers, Oleksii Reznikov, the defence minister of Ukraine, said, “Air defence systems.”

The Germans have already begun supplying IRIS-T SLM air defence systems to Ukraine. The long-promised systems capable of shielding a whole city were initially scheduled to be delivered by the end of the year. By the end of the year, Ukraine will get an additional IRIS-T SLM air defence launcher and three radar sites.

Next month, Ukraine will get two of the eight NASAM batteries the United States has pledged to provide. However, the additional six NASAM systems that the United States has pledged are being constructed from scratch and will likely not be ready for at least a year.

French President Emmanuel Macron said his country would provide Ukraine with anti-aircraft missiles and radars to defend against aerial strikes in the coming weeks.

In particular, speaking about Russia’s mass bombing of Ukraine on October 10, he said, “This is a new stage since the beginning of the conflict – bombings carried out from the ground, from the sea, from the air, as well as by drones against important infrastructure and against civilians (…) The goal of Russia these last days is obvious: to break the Ukrainian resistance”.

Iranian Shahed-136 drone

Despite its very big size, the “Shahed 136” or “Geran-5” UAV has a cheap manufacturing cost. This sort of drone arrives at its destination using GPS coordinates entered before launch.

Shahed-136 drones ready in the launcher
Shahed-136 drones ready in the launcher

The Shahed’s engine is modelled on those of actual lawnmowers. The engine is air cooled. It flies in a buzzing manner and cools itself, making it hard to shoot it down along the heat trail. Due to the low flying speed and altitude, air defence cannot detect the aircraft. Additionally, it is hard to shoot down with small arms since the composition of the wing “tightens” when struck by small guns. It may carry as much as 50 kg of TNT. According to Telegram channels, a Russian soldier rated the efficiency of the drone as “extraordinary.” The Ukrainian troops say they can hear the drone approach, which sounds like a motorcycle.

The Shahed 136 drone has a considerable psychological impact on the personnel of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, according to the chatter on social media platforms.

Despite the overwhelming evidence establishing the deployment of Iranian drones on Ukrainian soil, Tehran maintains that it is impartial in the war. Russia also denies delivery.

Added on 15/10/2022

As per sources, the UAV detonated and fragments hit the Mig-29 engine.


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