Images of a hitherto unknown Ukrainian kamikaze drone, ‘Rubak,’ have surfaced online, claiming to have been based on the Geranium-2/Shahed 136 loitering munitions.
The UAV appears to be a part of the ongoing Ukrainian domestic drone development program since the war began, throwing up other such aircraft that have been used as low-cost weapons.
Called an “operational-strategic” level weapon, posts maintain that the aircraft has seen wartime use. Other UAVs that have surfaced this way are the UJ-22 and the Beaver drones made by indigenous Ukrainian industry efforts, mostly following attacks in Moscow or its surrounding cities like Belgorod.
The war has entered its sixteenth month, and Russia is facing increasing pressure from Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the south and the east, particularly around Bakhmut (Artemovsk), which observers have noted Ukraine is trying to retake.
With a series of local counterattacks that led to some positions being lost, Russia remains in control of the territory it has taken from Kyiv, inflicting massive casualties on its manpower and Western equipment like tanks and armored vehicles, dozens of which have been destroyed.
Photos Show New Drone
Twitter posts showed the drone being personified in a birthday celebration, mentioning the range as 500 kilometers, a price of Ukrainian Hryvnia 550,000 ($15,000), and a warhead weight of 5 kilograms. According to murmurs in social media, it could be “an analog of the ‘Shahed’ with a warhead (of the) ‘Lancet.’
This implies the Ukrainians studied one of the several near-intact Geran-2 and Lancet-3 that they managed to shoot down. Looking at the drone’s simple design and overall mid-level engineering, the Ukrainians tried reverse engineering some of the Geran’s or the Lancet’s components and broadly replicated a part of the design philosophy.
The drone has a simple air-cooled piston engine in the front, which uses liquid fuel to be powered and has a storage tank inside its body. The Geran, however, has a push-propeller engine configuration, with the warhead housed in the nose.
The two-blade propeller does not appear custom-made or designed for the drone. It looks like commercially available ones installed on it as a ‘systems integration’ effort instead of a fresh ground-up design and development. The engine in the front means the warhead is behind it, and the guidance systems are even behind it.
The large delta-wing drone has two vertical stabilizers, which could be housing other flight control electronics. Other photos showed the flatter and wider top fuselage, looking like a fused wing-body design, placed on a catapult launcher.
Three large rectangular-shaped panels can be seen, indicating they house the core electronic and avionics like the guidance system, possibly an inertial navigation system (INS), and telemetry systems.
It is unclear if the drone can receive satellite navigation systems, but the aircraft doesn’t seem to have any protruding antennas from its body. But it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to assume that the UAV must be flying autonomously to the target, at least for most of the distance, after being fed the location before the flight.
Drone Revealed After Moscow Hit by UAV Strikes
The drone’s revelation comes just a day after Moscow was struck by three drones early on Sunday, which damaged a glass façade building. All three UAVs were shot down, with one of the drones shot down on the city’s outskirts. Two others were “suppressed by electronic warfare” and smashed into an office complex, a report in the Guardian quoted Russian authorities.
A security guard was injured, Russia’s state news agency TASS reported, citing emergency officials. “Ukrainian drones attacked tonight. Facades of two city office towers were slightly damaged,” Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin posted on Telegram.
With Moscow being roughly 500 km from the Ukrainian border, the same as the drone’s advertised range, these drones likely must have been employed in the strike. However, there were no photos of the shot-down drones’ debris within Russia to compare whether they matched with the Rubak.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said these attacks on Russian territory were an “inevitable, natural and absolutely fair process” of the war between the two countries, according to a report in BBC. This has been taken as a confirmation of Ukrainian involvement in the attack on Russia.
Other Telegrams and Twitter posts said the drone had been used by Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (GUR). Russian observers said Ukraine’s strategy is to provoke Moscow into using heavy force on the battlefield, which might lead it to commit mistakes and possibly cause collateral civilian damage.