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What Are Kamikaze Drones, the 'Suicide' Weapon Used by Russia Against Ukraine?

The drones were allegedly used by Russia on Monday, 17 October, to blast enemy targets in Ukraine.

3 min read
What Are Kamikaze Drones, the 'Suicide' Weapon Used by Russia Against Ukraine?
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The war in Ukraine shows no sign of abating. After a few weeks of a lull in the fighting, the war - ongoing for the last eight months - gained steam after an attack on the Kerch Bridge, which connects Russia to the strategic Crimean peninsula.

Moscow is said to have fired over 80 cruise missiles into Ukraine in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

Further, fighting began in the capital Kyiv, which had relatively witnessed reduced offensives in recent months. The attacks are said to have killed at least 19 people and injured over a 100.

As Russian President Vladimir Putin steps up his war efforts, one of the deadliest weapons allegedly used by the Kremlin against Kyiv is the Iranian-made kamikaze drone.

Ukrainian officials said that the weapon was used by Russian troops on Monday, 17 October, causing four explosions in Kyiv.

"The capital was attacked by kamikaze drones," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's chief of staff said on social media, adding, "The Russians think it will help them, but it shows their desperation."

Such drones have allegedly been used sporadically by Moscow over the last few months. On 14 October, three of the drones had blasted the small town of Makariv, located to the west of Kyiv, as per AFP.

What Are Kamikaze Drones? 

Kamikaze drones can be described as "loitering" missiles as they have the ability to wait for some time in an area identified as a potential target, and strike only when the enemy is identified.

They are small, portable and easy to launch. Perhaps their greatest advantage is that they are hard to detect and can even be fired from a distance.

Their name "kamikaze" comes from the World War II era's Japanese kamikaze pilots, who would carry out suicide attacks by intentionally crashing their fighter planes on enemy targets.

Similarly, these drones are disposable and destroyed when they attack a target, unlike the traditional military drones that return after releasing missiles. Hence, they are also referred to as "suicide drones".


On 7 October, Russia reportedly used the kamikaze drones, termed as Shahed-136, to hit Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia, which is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, The Guardian reported.

Does Ukraine Possess Kamikaze Drones Too?

Ukraine has been using RAM II kamikaze drones against Russia. The drones were developed by a consortium of Ukrainian firms with money crowdfunded by ordinary citizens, according to CNN.

Ukraine has also been relying on and requesting its western allies for more drone supplies.

The United States (US) has supplied different types of weapons to aid Ukraine in its war effort, including Switchblade drones - which also detonate on impact, like their kamikaze counterparts.

There are two such Switchblade drones in Ukraine's possession: the Switchblade 300 and the Switchblade 600. While the former can hit targets up to around 10 kilometres away, the latter has a wider range of 32 kilometres.

In May, the US had also reportedly supplied Kyiv with "phoenix ghost" drones. However, little is known about their tactical capabilities.

Kyiv has also been using the 850 hand-launched Black Hornet micro-drones, which is a loitering munition supplied by Britain, and the Turkey-made Bayraktar TB2 drone.

Apart from the US and Iran, the other countries that reportedly possess variants of the kamikaze drones are China, Israel, Armenia, and Turkey.

Ukraine's Ties with Iran Take a Hit Due to the Drones

In September, Ukraine said that it had downgraded its diplomatic ties with Iran and dismissed its ambassador over Tehran's "unfriendly" decision to supply the Kremlin with kamikaze drones.

"Supplying Russia with weapons to wage war against Ukraine is an unfriendly act that deals a serious blow to relations between Ukraine and Iran," a statement on Ukraine's foreign ministry website said.

However, Iran has denied supplying weapons to either side in the war. The country's foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian had asserted that Tehran "has not and will not" supply any weapon to be used in the ongoing war.

"We believe that the arming of each side of the crisis will prolong the war, so we have not considered and do not consider war to be the right way either in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria or Yemen," Amir-Abdollahian had said.

(With inputs from AFP, The Guardian, and CNN.)

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