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Ukraine Is Crushing Russia in a Drone War

TOS-1A. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The Drone Wars Shifts in Ukraine’s Favor: The Kremlin has been forced to “freeze” the use of its Iranian-made kamikaze drones in Ukraine as winter has set in.

Apparently, these drones are made of plastics and other materials that aren’t frost resistant.

As a result, the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) don’t operate all that well in cold weather.

The Iranian drones reportedly were last used in the middle of November, coinciding with the first significant snowfalls of the season. Given that winters in Ukraine can be cold, with temperatures below freezing between December and March, the drones are likely to be grounded.

Russia had been employing the drones in large numbers against Ukrainian urban centers and critical infrastructure throughout the fall as its stockpiles of missiles and rockets are being depleted faster than they can be replenished. Despite that fact, in recent weeks, the Kremlin has ramped up its missile strikes – seemingly to pound the Ukrainian civilian population into submission. 

Much of the country has been plunged into darkness as its energy grid suffers under repeated and prolonged attacks.

It was also just weeks ago that the British Ministry of Defence had suggested that Moscow was also running low on Iranian drones, including the Shahed-136. However, it could be that the stockpiles are not the issue, but rather Mother Nature apparently favoring Kyiv. Moscow is believed to have ordered thousands of drones, which could prove problematic for Ukraine come spring.

However, the winter could give the Ukrainians a much-needed respite from the drone attacks.

Kyiv is also being aided by multiple western nations with air defense systems, which are being used to address missile strikes and drone attacks. Among the recent platforms to see use has been the Gepard Flakpanzer, which was provided by Germany.

According to recent reports, Ukrainian crews have said they can detect the drones at a distance of 16 kilometers. However, they must use the Swiss-made ammunition – supplied by Germany – judiciously because Bern bans its export to Ukraine.

Attack of the Drones From Ukraine

Even as Russia may be forced to ground the Iranian Shahed-136 for the winter, Ukraine has successfully employed a number of Soviet-era recon drones in three strikes against Russian airbases this week.

While the satellite-controlled, missile-armed Bayraktar TB-2s that Kyiv acquired from Turkey have been used to great effect against Russian tank columns within Ukraine, the two strikes on Monday and the third attack on Wednesday were carried out using hardware dating back to the Cold War.

The Tupolev Tu-141S was developed for photo-reconnaissance missions for the Soviet Air Force, and was last used in the 1980s in Afghanistan.

As David Axe of noted, it wasn’t very sophisticated even by 1980s standards, and is far less sophisticated today.

However, what it lacks in sophistication, it clearly makes up for in speed. Able to fly 600 miles per hour, it is also large enough that it could be packed with explosives. By removing the camera, it essentially becomes a cruise missile. And in an almost ironic twist, the ramp-launched drones were originally built at a factory in Kharkiv, in Eastern Ukraine, and are now being used against Moscow’s forces!

The strikes on Russia’s airbases had been seen as a humiliation for the Kremlin, and even for President Vladimir Putin. The fact that these were Soviet-designed, and Soviet-produced weapons likely made it even worse.

The weather may have grounded the seemingly state-of-the-art Shahed-136, but the Ukrainians are more than making do with the Tu-141S.

A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.



  1. Big Crow

    December 7, 2022 at 7:13 pm

    Sure they are.

  2. Mr. Russian

    December 8, 2022 at 1:33 am

    “The Kremlin has been forced to “freeze” the use of its Iranian-made kamikaze drones in Ukraine as winter has set in.”
    Russia used them just yesterday, where did the author get this “information”, at Ukrainian defense ministry?

    About 30% of Ukraine has no electricity right now, factories are basically non-operational, electric trains are stopped on tracks but Ukraine is “crushing Russia in the drone-war”?

    This is some 1984 “Ministry of Truth” level of BS.

  3. Jonatgan

    December 8, 2022 at 10:34 am

    Excellent article with good insight. Thanks for writing.

  4. mcswell

    December 8, 2022 at 2:35 pm

    @Mr. Russian: the drones don’t need to plug into the electrical network. And in any case, 70% of Ukraine *does* have electricity by your own reckoning, hence so what? There are doubtless lots of factories in that 70% to produce new drones.

  5. Mr. Russian

    December 8, 2022 at 6:55 pm

    “the drones don’t need to plug into the electrical network.”
    The drones don’t make themselves do they? You need a place of production and means to deliver materials thus you need electricity and trains, and once you start building something it gets noticed and destroyed, it is clear that Ukrainian air defense cannot protect the country.

    Those 30% are not located in a certain area.
    In other words it’s not 30% territories that have zero electricity while other 70% have 100% of power, no.
    Ukraine connects different regions of the country to electricity for several hours, then disconnects them and connects other regions and so on.
    Factories are obviously targeted, your comment about “lots of factories in that 70%” is simply incorrect. Ukraine territory is not 100% covered by the factories, maybe only 1% of the territories are the actual factories and most of them are already severely damaged.

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