Ukraine lost a MiG-29 jet after it was hit by a kamikaze drone shrapnel

But only after it had shot down five such drones and two cruise missiles.
Ameya Paleja
The wreckage of the MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter
The wreckage of the MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter

Ukraine State Bureau of Investigation 

The Ukrainian Air Force lost a MiG-29 fighter last week after its pilot was forced to eject from the aircraft. Now an investigation has revealed that the jet was hit by shrapnel from a kamikaze drone sent by Russia, Defense Blog reported.

On October 12, Ukraine Air Force scrambled its MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter in the Vinnytsia region after Russia attacked with kamikaze drones. In the early days of the conflict, Ukraine used drones extensively to hit Russian lines. However, as Interesting Engineering reported in July, as its forces have receded, Russia has consolidated its air defenses and made Ukrainian drones ineffective.

Instead, Russia has started using drones in its offense with the Iranian-made Shahed drones assuming an important role in its kamikaze attacks. Of late, Russia has been raining kamikaze drones on Kyiv, especially near the Zaporizhzhia, where a nuclear power plant is located.

What do we know about Iranian Shahed drones?

The Shahed-136 drone has been developed by Iran and was unveiled as recently as December last year. The drone belongs to the category of 'loitering munition' drones, which are a new class of weapons that are deployed first but only engage when a suitable target is identified.

During the conflict, the U.S. supplied Ukraine with Switchblade drones that fall into this category and can be launched from a tube-like ground control system. In comparison, the Shahed-136 is much larger and uses a rocket-assisted launch to get off the ground.

The fixed-wing drone is about 11 feet (3.5 m) long, with a wingspan of a little over eight feet (2.5 m). It weighs over 400 pounds (200 kg) and using a two-bladed propeller can fly at the speed of 115 miles (185 km) an hour. The engine of the drone sits in the rear while the nose contains the warhead.

The drone is autonomous and used in a swarm to evade air defenses and overwhelm ground targets and uses its optical system to identify and neutralize its target.

How Ukraine lost a fighter to drone shrapnel

On October 12, the Mig-29 Fulcrum fighter took to the skies to respond to a similar swarm attack. According to Ukrainian reports, the fighter took down five Shahed drones and took cruise missiles whose descriptions have not been disclosed.

However, the shrapnel from one of the drones hit the cockpit of the MiG-29 after which the pilot had to eject the aircraft. The State Bureau report also stated that the pilot steered the aircraft into a field to avoid large-scale destruction and civilian casualties. Following the ejection, the pilot was recovered and sent to a hospital, where he is stable.

A crowdfunding campaign raised $10 million in just 24 hours to buy kamikaze drones for Ukrainian Armed Forces, Defense Blog said in another post. As winter sets in, the fighting in the region is getting more intense.

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