In late 2023, Iran publicized its development of a new model of loitering munition, designated “Shahed-238.” The new prototype, of which at least four variations have been exhibited to date, resembles the Shahed-136 loitering munition, albeit with a significant modification in the form of a turbojet engine in place of the piston engine used in the Shahed-136 and other Iranian UAS. The turbojet engine, likely also of Iranian production, may provide the new UAV with a significantly increased flight velocity, rendering it much harder to detect and intercept, especially by basic anti-aircraft defense measures. Recent, albeit obscure documentation from Ukraine allegedly showed the debris of a downed loitering munition of a configuration resembling the Shahed-238. If credible, this evidence may indicate the imminent Russian use of an identical or similar UAS. A weapons system allowing Iran and its allies to overcome the drawbacks that impacted the optimal deployment of this UAS to date is a worrying development likely to provide a significant advantage over its adversaries and the countermeasures currently available to them.
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