BSNIranRussiaUkraine

This is how much an Iranian drone costs in Kyiv

On February 4, 2024, the hacker group PRANA Network announced that it had managed to crack the mail servers of the Iranian company IRGC Sahara Thunder and stole valuable data about the negotiation process for the acquisition of the Shahed-136. On February 6th, the story gained widespread public attention through online articles. Here we try to provide an overview of the chaos of Date.

From Nicolai Bruckner and Enno Lenze

Iranian Shahed drone

The drones are primarily used for attacks on Ukraine. The papers refer to the “Dolphin632 Project” and “Boats”, which is probably the code name for the drones. After Russia had previously purchased the drones directly, they now want to produce them under license. The contract calls for 6.000 drones in two and a half years. 

How much does a drone cost?

The list price of the Shahed 136 drone should be around €350.000 per Shahed. Russia negotiated €270.000 apiece, according to another document.

Invoice to China not paid?

But there are also a lot of emails in the bundle of data, which will probably have to be evaluated over the coming weeks. For example, they explain the rental of ships and tankers and describe visits from customers. In an email, the Chinese Airborne Missile Academy complains to Iran about an unpaid invoice.

Drones Diversify

However, what becomes dangerous for all of us and not much fun is the sales brochures for drones. In addition to the previously relatively simple Shahed 136, a whole group of new drones is coming onto the market. The leaked documents also contain, among other things, presentation documents about drones with the names MC-236, M-236, M-237, 107B and 107C as well as a decoy system that is intended to specifically destroy Ukrainian air defenses.

The published documents include April 2023 as the date. In the period from April 4 to 8, 2023, a delegation from the Russian company Alabuga JSC visited Iran. The aim of the trip was to enable Russia to soon produce the drones mentioned above in its own country. During this visit, the Russian delegation received documents with the technical data of the drones and even got a demonstration of the systems at night and in bad weather.

Here is an explanation of the individual drones that Iran is currently offering its customers.

The lure from the 1940s

Old Plane and Shahed Threatening. AI generated icon image

The most bizarre finding is that Russia wants to use an An-2 aircraft as a decoy for Ukrainian air defense. This aircraft was developed during World War II and is actually in museums today. It is supposed to pull a kamikaze drone behind it on a steel cable. 

Since the Ukrainian air defense changes its position after each launch, the Russian army finds it difficult to combat these systems. The large An-2 is therefore intended to serve as a decoy so that the air defense reveals its position, and the kamikaze drone is intended to destroy it. It doesn't matter whether the An-2 is destroyed or not, because the main target is one of Ukraine's very valuable Patriot, IRIS-T, NASAMS or Crotale systems. 

Illustration from the brochure

Russia calls this bizarre combination of past and future: “Medium and Long-Range Air Defense Fighter System.” As absurd as this idea may sound, the drone has a full battery at the start of its flight under its own power because it was towed and still has a lot of range when it separates from the An-2. It is unclear why so much emphasis is placed on an electronic drone. 

Optionally, such a mission should also be accompanied by a reusable reconnaissance drone. This should give the kamikaze drone the target, but should not be shot down itself. This would save further costs on the destroyed kamikaze drone. 
To be reusable, the An-2 is expected to fly high enough (at least 4.000 m) to avoid being caught by shoulder-launched rocket launchers (MANPADs). 

The document also notes that it is easy to convert an An-2 to remote control. In addition, the An-2 would still be produced in China and spare parts would be easy to obtain.

MC-236 Seeker: 2.000 km range with seeker head

  • Flight range: 2000km
  • Length: 3,5m
  • Wingspan: 3m
  • Engine: internal combustion engine
  • Antenna: automatic tracking
  • Load weight: 50kg
  • Type of charge: warhead+seeker
  • Flight duration: 12 hours
  • Speed: 170km/h
  • Service ceiling: 4.500 m

This drone has a seeker head that is designed to work both day and night. In contrast to the 136, an active target selection takes place here. The seeker is reminiscent of that of the Iranian Fatter missile, a clone of the American Sidewinder. This drone is simply called MC or MC-236 in other documents and is said to have a hit accuracy (CEP) of 3 to 5 meters.

M-236: The Relay Drone

The M-236 variant also has a warhead, but unlike the MC-236, it does not have a seeker, but rather a repeater, which forwards the signal from the ground station to other drones. This enables an MC-236 drone to communicate with its operator up to a distance of 220 km.

Which data is correct?

These documents raise various questions: The technical data largely correspond to the publicly known information on the Iranian Shahed 136. Only the wingspan should be 136 meters for the Shahed 2,5, but 236 meters for the M(C)-3. Is the MC-236 a further development of the Shahed-136? Did Russia just buy the M-236 without a seeker head? Because so far it is not known from Ukraine that Shahed-136 were used with a seeker head. Details that will become clear over time.

M-237 Jet: 600 km/h fast

  • Flight range: 1000km
  • Length: 3,5m
  • Wingspan: 3m
  • Engine: Turbojet
  • Load weight: 50kg
  • Type of charge: warhead + optional guidance system
  • Speed: 600km/h
  • Service ceiling: 9km

The M-237 is a 600 km/h jet drone with a turbine that is designed to fly at an altitude of 9.000 m, which essentially makes it a cruise missile. In Ukraine, the Shahed 170, which has a speed of just 136 km/h, is often shot down by mobile teams who, after spotting a drone, try to position themselves in front of it on the possible flight route. This is no longer possible with the M-237. 

A disadvantage, however, is the high fuel consumption, which makes the stated range questionable. However, the 120kg increase in the drone's weight could indicate a larger tank. At the beginning of 2024, such a drone was shot down for the first time in Ukraine.

The drone is unique because it is also intended to be an anti-drone weapon. Equipped with a thermal imaging camera, this version is intended to hunt Ukrainian drones. The higher speed is also relevant for this. 

107B: Reconnaissance with cameras

  • Flight range: 1400km
  • Signal range (video, telemetry): 150km
  • Length: 2,5m
  • Wingspan: 3m
  • Engine: internal combustion engine
  • Load weight: 4kg
  • Type of charge: Camera (1080p 30x optical zoom), Thermal camera (640×512 10x digital zoom)
  • Speed: 130km/h
  • Service ceiling: 3000m
  • Flight duration: 10 hours

The 107B is a reusable reconnaissance drone, but has not yet appeared in Ukraine. Its signal range indicates that it is used in the frontline area. This reconnaissance drone was also tested during the Russian delegation's visit to Iran. It is particularly emphasized here that the drone operated very well in bad weather and provided clear images even at a distance of 80 km despite cloud cover. 

The 170C is said to be a kamikaze drone with a range of 150 km, but there was no test report for it. Thanks to a thermal imaging camera, it can be used day and night. 

The Russian customer visit in full text

(Machine translation of the entire document)

From November 5 to 14, 2022, a delegation from Alabuga visited JSC, including
Airframe, avionics, engines and IT specialists, the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Objective: Acquire technology to produce Dolphin 632 boats and components
for their rapid localization in the Russian Federation in the amount of 6.000 units.
During the visit the following factories were visited:

  1. Avionics
  2. Engines
  3. Gliders
  4. Assembly production and quality control.

Due to the threat of air strikes, all factories have two located throughout Iran
Backups, the final assembly is in a secret tunnel under a mountain near
Tehran.
Due to the sanctions regime, a 90 percent localization of all was actually achieved
Components achieved. The imported components used are only public and not
clearly.

Avionics system:
At the entrance there is a two-layer substrate on which components are in one
automated line of Korean and Chinese production. Afterward
The boards are used to create avionics elements (flight control system, power distribution system, etc.)
assembled. The board architecture and software were developed independently by the Iranian side. The TMS 320F28335 processor is not an isolated case and is available for free sale in the Russian Federation, for example, in a quantity of 10.000 units.
The capacity is approximately 10.000 boards per year.

Engine factory:
At the entrance are aluminum and steel ingots and foundry equipment made in China.
Another 24 processing machines (3 and 5 axis CNC machines, turning and milling production in China, Iran, Germany, Taiwan). Localization 90%, with the exception of simple spark plugs from China and bearings from France (available commercially in the Russian Federation).
Detailed documentation of the MD-550 engine was created in the SolidWorks program and
step-by-step assembly instructions are examined. Your factory also produces
Jet and other engines. The capacity is approximately 5000 engines per year.

Glider factory:
At the entrance there are carbon fiber and fiberglass fabrics from China (also made in Alabuga),
HoneyComb Nomex honeycomb, epoxy resin.
Equipment 24 matrices.
The technology is simple and not automated.
The capacity is approximately 500 gliders per year.
An agreement was concluded which stipulated the following:

  1. Technology transfer, design documentation, source code of the Dolphin632 project.
  • Planner 632
  • Engine MD-550

Avionics systems:

  • AirData navigation system
  • FCU flight control system
  • Sadro inertial navigation system
  • Nassir-2 anti-jamming system
    JATO 632 ground command center
    Rocket booster
    Bumper M632.

Delivery of all necessary equipment for 90 percent localization of production of 2400 boats per year (only processors, spark plugs and bearings are not included, everything immediately available in stock in the Russian Federation, taking into account the availability of fiberglass and carbon fiber in Alabuga) . 6000 components have to be assembled over a period of 2,5 years.

Full localization plan:

  • Handover of the source documentation including source code – advance payment on the day of receipt
  • Glider from 4 months.
  • Avionics engine from 12 months.
  • Rocket launch system, bumper from 16 months.

Delivery of components:

  • 3 sets per month for the first 100 months.
  • 4-30 months 211 sets per month.
  • Spare parts for 6.000 boats with full supply for 30 months.

The first 10 sets will be transferred on the day of advance payment and can be assembled in Alabuga within 10 days. The agreement calls for 300.000 man-hours of training in Iran and 300.000 man-hours in Alabuga.

The Iranian side announced a starting price of 23 million rubles per unit ($375.000 per unit). During negotiations, an agreement was reached of 12 million rubles for 6.000 pieces ($193.000 each) (or 18 million rubles or $290.000 for 2.000 pieces). The total price of the contract (technology, equipment, 6.000 sets, source code) is 108,5 billion rubles ($1 billion 750 million). The cost of 6000 products is 72 billion rubles, 50% advance is 36 billion rubles.

JSC Alabuga's investments amount to 48 billion rubles (36 billion rubles + 12
billion rubles building complex).

160.000 m2 of finished production space is required for production. After
Technology transfer is planned to increase production to 10.000 boats per year.

Conclusion

The documents show how far diversification has progressed and how cheap the murderous drones are. The killer robots from the old science fiction films are becoming more and more reality and are demanding their victims. We can expect to see these and other drones in use in Ukraine later this year. 

In this and other wars, Iran and Russia are learning more and more about the use of the devices, which were previously a niche topic. 

Advertising