A Ukrainian MiG-29 fighter jet has been brought down by an Iranian-made Shahed-136 kamikaze drone used by the Russian military. This is the first instance of a kamikaze drone bringing down a combat aircraft.
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The Ukrainian Air Force confirmed in a Facebook post that a fighter jet of one of the tactical aviation brigades crashed near Vinnytsia while carrying out a combat mission to destroy enemy kamikaze drones, ‘Shahed-136.’
The Air Force said that the fighter jet crashed because of an unspecified technical malfunction that led the pilot to lose control of the aircraft. Nevertheless, the pilot managed to eject and is currently hospitalized.
A video of this incident began doing the rounds on social media, showing a fighter jet using its cannon to shoot down a target. The target itself is not visible, and the aircraft is also not seen crashing.
Nevertheless, netizens supporting Russia celebrated this as a win for the kamikaze drone against the fighter jet.
Interesting! A Ukrainian MiG-29 shoots down a Geran-2, proximity suggests, using his cannon. The drone explodes on being hit and plummets to the ground. Apparently, the MiG-29 itself went down, likely due to shrapnel hits from the exploding Geran-2! https://t.co/2DlLwt7l1k
— Vijainder K Thakur (@vkthakur) October 12, 2022
Experts suggested that while the combat aircraft might have managed to shoot the kamikaze drone, the explosion of the latter must have hit the aircraft itself.
Veteran Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter pilot and an analyst/columnist with The EurAsian Times – Squadron Leader Vijainder Thakur suggested that after the MiG-29 shot down a Geran-2 (or Shahed-136) and when the drone exploded, apparently the MiG-29 itself went down, probably because of the shrapnel hits from the exploding Geran-2.
Ultimately, Thakur’s assessment proved to be accurate, as Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigation, which investigated this entire incident, concluded: “Fragments of a downed enemy drone hit the cabin of a Ukrainian plane.”
According to Russian media reports, this is the first known case when a combat aircraft was hit this way.
Use Of Fighter Jets To Strike UAVs
While the Ukrainian military mainly relies on its air defenses for shooting drones, it began using fighter jets to engage drones in early October.
On October 5, Ukrainian MiG-29s from the 204th Tactical Aviation Brigade of the Ukrainian Air Force shot down three Iran-made Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), marking the first time Ukrainian fighter jets were used against UAVs since the start of the Russian invasion.
President Zelensky commended the fighter pilots from the 204th Tactical Aviation Brigade for their precision while engaging with the enemy UAVs.
Ukrainian media outlets suggest the fighter pilots use the tactics developed to engage Kalibr cruise missiles in mid-air.
The enemy cruise missiles, like drones, have a small reflective surface. They usually travel at a very low altitude, making them difficult to detect against the ground using an aircraft’s radar.
So, the Ukrainian fighter pilots rely on the electro-optical targeting system to detect the missile’s thermal trace.
Iranian UAVs Overwhelming Ukrainian Air Defense Systems
Air defense complexes remain the leading systems for countering the drone and missile threat posed by Russia, which was witnessed on October 10 when Russia carried out over 83 missile and drone attacks all across Ukraine in response to the bombing of the critical Kerch Bridge that connects the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula to mainland Russia.
At the same time, Ukraine’s inventory of Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs) appears to be dwindling, which is very important for the Ukrainian military to deny aerial supremacy to the Russian Air Force.
Therefore, the Iranian-made Kamikaze drones employed by the Russian military have become an even more significant challenge for the Ukrainian air defense systems.
The kamikaze drones provide Russia with an expendable and cost-effective alternative to its precious and expensive aircraft and cruise and ballistic missiles.
Russia appears to be using kamikaze drones like the Iranian-made Shahed-136 to overwhelm Ukraine’s air defenses, particularly its prized SAM stockpile. Even if these drones are shot down successfully, Ukraine still loses its SAMs.
The Shahed-136 is designed to overwhelm ground forces and get past the enemy air defenses, produced by Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company. The drone is said to have a range of about 2,500 kilometers and can carry warheads weighing between five to thirty kilograms.
As reported by EurAsian Times, the Russian military has successfully conducted swarm attacks using Shahed-136 drones against Ukrainian positions located as far as Kyiv, deep behind Ukrainian frontlines in the eastern part of the country.
Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, was bombed by kamikaze drones "Geran-2" for the first time. The person recording the video can be heard saying "Suka" (meaning bitch in Russian). pic.twitter.com/b2jOsgRH3z
— Rakesh Krishnan Simha (@ByRakeshSimha) October 5, 2022
Notably, the Russian military achieved an element of surprise in these swarm attacks, thereby minimizing the chances of repulsion by Ukrainian air defense.
⚡️??️ After the visit of Geran-2 Kamikaze UAVs to the 72nd Brigade of AFU⚡️
The drones landed on their barracks in Bila Tserkva, #Kiev region.
You can judge for yourself the price of stories about "minor damage to the brigade's location"https://t.co/d9YpGcSFtz#UkraineWarVideos pic.twitter.com/XOYcINQYdg
— ???? SITREP ⚔ ?? – Rybar & Others in EN ? (@DeuNachrichten) October 5, 2022
This was probably due to the small size of these drones and because they typically fly at low altitudes, making them difficult to detect even by ground-based radars.