China and Russia are collaborating to develop an attack drone similar to Iran’s Shahed, European officials say

China and Russia are collaborating to develop an attack drone similar to Iran’s Shahed, European officials say
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Iranian-made Shahed-136 drone flying over the sky of Kermanshah, Iran
Iranian-made Shahed-136 drone flying over the sky of Kermanshah, Iran, in March 2024.

  • Russia has relied heavily on Iran’s Shahid drones to overwhelm Ukraine’s air defenses.
  • Russia is collaborating with China to build its own version, European officials told Bloomberg.
  • Companies started designing and testing the drone this year ahead of a shipment, the officials said.

Russian and Chinese companies are working together to develop an attack drone similar to Iran’s lethal Shahed, Bloomberg reported, citing unnamed European officials.

According to the officials, the companies held talks last year and began designing and testing a version of the drone earlier this year, to prepare for shipping to Russia.

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The drones have yet to be deployed in Ukraine, the officials told the outlet. They didn’t specify which companies were involved.

The move would be a worrying one for Ukraine and its allies.

Russia has relied heavily on Iran’s Shahed drone and its newer and customized variants to overwhelm Ukraine’s air defenses since it launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

In January, Russia was suspected of using an Iranian jet-powered Shahed-238 — a significant upgrade in speed and altitude over the Shahed-136 loitering munition.

Russia has developed its own version of the Shahed drones, known as Geran-2 drones, which are similar to Shahed-136s but made with different materials, researchers at Conflict Armament Research told The New York Times last year.

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However, officials told Bloomberg that one concern about the reported Russia-China partnership is that China could develop the drones at a much higher rate than Iran or Russia.

It would also be another sign of Russia’s growing reliance on China as it grapples with crippling Western economic sanctions, and would be further evidence that China has become a key enabler of Russia’s war in Ukraine, despite claims of neutrality.

The European officials did not name the drone being developed, but media outlets and Chinese defense websites have reported China is working on the Sunflower 200, an exploding attack drone that is described as similar in appearance to the Shahed 136, according to Bloomberg.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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