Poland’s new HAASTA UAV to counter deadly Russian drones

With a 20 HP ICE-electric hybrid engine, the drone claims a speed range of 74 to 170 miles per hour and can soar to altitudes over four miles.
Rizwan Choudhury
HAASTA on display.
HAASTA on display.

Source: SavunmaTR via Twitter 

As the global landscape of drone technology experiences rapid innovations, Poland sets a new benchmark by unveiling the HAASTA unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at the annual International Defence Industry Exhibition (MSPO). Designed to counter smaller airborne threats, this drone is a significant milestone for Poland in defense technology, particularly in the context of the evolving drone capabilities in nations like China and Russia.

As per a Breaking Defence report, the Polish government, in its official announcement, delicately cited “insights gained from recent years of combat operations,” hinting at the Ukraine conflict. Given Russia's use of Shahed-type drones in Ukraine and developments in similar technologies by countries like China and Iran, HAASTA is seen as Poland's response to this growing aerial threat. The UAV adheres to the new STANAG 4703 standard, tailored explicitly for fixed-wing light unmanned aircraft.

Shahed drones in the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine war

Shahed-type drones have lately received widespread attention. China and Iran have collaborated on the Shahed-136, referred to as a 'kamikaze drone,' capable of carrying out suicide missions by crashing into targets. Produced in Iran and often utilized by Russia in its war with Ukraine, these come equipped with explosives and are programmed to hover in the sky before plummeting into a designated target. These drones offer a cost-effective solution for hitting fixed objectives compared to more precise weaponry.

The Shahed 136 is an advanced version of its predecessor, the Shahed 131. With a range extending up to 1,500 miles (2,500 kilometers) and a top speed of 115 m/h (185 km/h), it carries an estimated 66-110 pound (30-50 kilogram) warhead. This drone can autonomously navigate to its target and self-destruct upon making contact. Measuring 11 feet (3.5 meters) in length and with an 8-foot (2.5-meter) wingspan, the Shahed 136 weighs approximately 440 pounds (200 kg).

Interestingly, even Russian teenagers have demonstrated their capability to build Shahed-136 drones, underscoring the drone's potential for state and non-state actors. HAASTA aims to neutralize such airborne threats, equipped with a 5.45mm underbelly-mounted machine gun specifically designed to bring down Shahed-type drones.

Coming to the specifics and as per earlier reports, China has replicated the Shahed-136 from Iran and has reportedly planned to deploy and manufacture it. Domestically called the Sunflower 200, China may also supply these to its ally.

Confidential papers reveal that Russia is allocating $2 billion for its drone program, with half of this amount—$1 billion—going to Iran for technology transfer. The objective is to supply Russia's armed forces with an additional 6,000 kamikaze drones by September 2025, with two-thirds manufactured domestically.

Various news outlets have reported alarming labor conditions at Russia's Geran-2 (domestic version of Shahed-136 ) drone production facility. Managed by Alexey Florov, the director of Albatross LLC, the factory is said to engage teenagers in what human rights group Protokol has called a "forced labor scheme." These teenagers, working 12-hour shifts, assemble drones from Iranian-supplied kits.

Moreover, students who refuse to participate in what is claimed to be a volunteer work-study program face expulsion and fines. The factory, which aims to produce large numbers of Geran-2 drones, has not met its goals and currently produces 200 drones per month. Meanwhile, experienced Russian drone builders have criticized the project for its limited profit potential. Amidst these issues, Russia continues to use these drones to divert Ukrainian air defense resources, even as it plans to expand and automate the factory by 2024.

Advanced capabilities of HAASTA

Conceived in partnership between Poland's Łukasiewicz Institute of Aviation and the Italian firm EuroTech, HAASTA boasts advanced technical specifications. With a 20 HP ICE-electric hybrid engine, the drone claims a speed range of 74 to 170 miles per hour (119 to 274 k/h) and can soar to altitudes over four miles (six kilometers).

Unlike traditional UAVs requiring complex airport infrastructure, HAASTA can be launched from the air and land using a skid or a gliding parachute. On the communications front, it has an operating radius of 90 miles (30 km) with standard radio, extending to 50 miles (80 km) in a mesh system and 106 miles (170 km) with LoS link directional antennas. When connected to a satellite, its range becomes limited only by its fuel capacity, featuring an endurance of up to 10 hours.

Beyond military applications

The drone's capabilities are not solely military. Alongside its primary mission of neutralizing Shahed-type drones, HAASTA has the potential for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions. It can operate deep within enemy territory, penetrate air defenses, and swarm to befuddle anti-aircraft systems. Civilian applications, including monitoring long-distance infrastructure and cargo transport, are also on the horizon.

HAASTA has successfully passed a series of stringent flight tests, according to the Institute of Aviation. Though still in the concept demonstration phase, its introduction at the MSPO defense trade show is likely to garner attention from potential customers, both military and civilian.

With its advanced capabilities and potential for multi-role functions, HAASTA not only reaffirms Poland's growing role in the global defense landscape but also serves as a countermeasure to the evolving drone technologies worldwide. In an era marked by rapid advancements and the democratization of drone technology, HAASTA stands as a critical asset in modern aerial warfare and surveillance.

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