A joint investigation by the Protokol publication and the RVZRT YouTube channel says that in the special economic zone (SEZ) Alabuga in Tatarstan, preparations are underway to launch the production of kamikaze drones of the Iranian design of the Shahed family, which received the Russian name " Geranium". Now components for UAVs are supplied from Iran, and in Alabuga finished products are simply assembled, but within 2-3 years it is planned to replace a significant part of the components, train personnel and organize the technological process mainly on their own.
The total cost of the project is estimated at 115-130 billion rubles. Since the Russian leadership does not officially recognize the purchase of Iranian drones, the drones are called “boats” in internal documentation, and Iran is called “Belarus”. The authors of the investigation claim that the administration of the SEZ agreed to the project for the production of “Shaheds” in order to compensate for the losses from the sanctions and “pay off” from the requirements for the mobilization of part of the employees of the enterprises located there, becoming a contractor for the defense order. A significant part of the finances could be given by the head of VTB Bank Andrey Kostin, writes Protocol. Indirectly, this theory can be supported by the launch of VTB’s money transfer service to Iran in December 2022 and the opening of a bank office in this country, which became known in May 2023.
According to the publication, the following companies may participate in the production: Albatross, AviatestAero, SuperCam and Alabuga. All of them are somehow connected not only with the production of drones, but also with the special economic zone. The questions relate to the production of combat drones and their individual parts.
"Shaheds" (Shahed-131/136, they are also "Geran-1" and "Geran-2") - Iranian loitering ammunition, characterized by relatively simple technical execution, low cost and high accuracy. Since the fall of 2022, they have been widely used as part of the campaign of the Russian command to strike long-range fire weapons against infrastructure facilities on the territory of Ukraine. The effectiveness of the "Shaheds" is gradually decreasing due to the saturation of Ukrainian air defense with modern Western air defense systems and the adaptation of countermeasure tactics for them. If in September-December 2022 only 430 out of about 600 launched kamikaze drones were shot down, then in January-May 2023 - 640 out of about 700.
In the fall of 2022, it was reported that Western chips were found in Shahed kamikaze drones. Despite the fact that Russian (and Iranian) manufacturers have successfully circumvented export restrictions and, by hook or by crook, produce the necessary high-tech products, in the long term, the lack of a developed radio-electronic industry of its own put the Russian military-industrial complex in an unenviable position - until the launch of production in Tatarstan.