What are Kamikaze Drones? Russia Strikes Near Kyiv Using Iranian-Made Shahed-136 Drones

Russia used Iran-made 'kamikaze drones' to strike locations near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, the latest reports have said. The drone strikes happened on Tuesday night at Bila Tserkva, which is 90 kilometres away from the Ukrainian capital city, a regional governor said, according to Euro News. Several people have been injured in the attack, the report said.

The aircraft used in the attack were Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones, regional governor Oleksiy Kuleba said. "At night, the enemy attacked Bila Tserkva with kamikaze drones of the Shahed-136 type. A total of 6 hits and explosions ... One person was injured. The infrastructure was also damaged," Kuleba wrote on Telegram.

Kamikaze drones
A Turkish STM kamikaze drone Wikipedia Commons

The attack comes days after Russian lawmakers formally approved the annexation of four occupied regions in Ukraine. The Duma voted unanimously in favour of legislation on Monday, completing the technical formalities for Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to formally join the Russian Federation. Members of the Kremlin-loyal lower house of parliament, the State Duma, all voted to incorporate Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia with no abstentions or votes against the annexation, its website showed.

What are Kamikaze Drones?

Kamikaze Drones or suicide drones are different from regular drones in that they carry their own warhead and and blows themselves up after hitting the target. Regular armed drones launch the weapons and then return to the base. The 'switchblade' kamikaze drone up are highly effective in blowing up out tanks and armored vehicles.

A weapons expert explained to CBS News that the drone is called Switchblade as it is essentially a missile placed in its launcher with its wings folded. "It fits inside this tube. At the bottom we have what is known as a gas generator. It pushes the Switchblade out. Once it's clear of the tube, the wings automatically flip out, and it happens very quickly, just like a switchblade ... Once it finds the target, the operator has the ability to essentially dive bomb into the target and take out the target ... It's a one-way mission," the expert said.

In a nutshell the kamikaze drones do not 'fire' missiles, they are the missiles instead. "But unlike typical missiles, they can circle above a target, wait for the ideal moment and strike with incredible precision," explains an NBC news article.

Loitering Munitions

That is precisely why the kamikaze drones are also called 'loitering munitions'. The drones zero in on the target and loiter around it before the attack is launched. This makes it highly suitable for attacking hidden targets or targets hard to detect.

"The loitering munitions fit in the niche between cruise missiles and unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs)," says Flykit. Israel, the US, South Korea and China also make kamikaze drones, the report says.

Ukraine had accused Russia earlier also of using kamikaze drones. Last week President Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused Iran of supplying the drones to Russia. "Today the Russian army used Iranian drones for its strikes. The world will know about every instance of collaboration with evil, and it will have corresponding consequences," Zelenskiy said, according to the Guardian.