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Russia deploys carbon-coated Shahed drones in nighttime attack on Ukraine

In a tactical twist to hinder visual and radar detection, Russia’s latest drone attack on Ukraine featured black carbon-coated Shahed drones — a move that proved largely ineffective as Ukraine’s forces downed 74 of the 75 aerial targets.
Ukrainian air defense
Ukrainian air defense mobile group. Credit: Ukraine’s General Staff

On 25 November, Russia carried out its largest drone attack on Ukraine to date, deploying 75 Shahed loitering munitions against Ukraine, primarily targeting the country’s capital, Kyiv.

Ukrainian authorities and media have noted that some Iranian-supplied Shahed-136 drones bore a new black paint scheme rather than the usual light gray, aimed at reducing their visibility at night.

The total count of these black drones remains uncertain, although debris from the dark-hued Shaheds has been documented. Officials emphasize that these drones are not new models but the standard Shahed-136 equipped with a different paint job.

Black-painted Shahed drone reportedly downed on 25 November. Credit: Tsaplienko/TG channel

Ukraine’s Air Force spokesman, Yurii Ihnat, remarked: “Previously, improvements were made on these UAVs supplied by Iran, employing composite materials on their reflective surfaces. Now, we observe the use of carbon material—carbon is known for radar signal absorption, and the black hue serves a clear purpose. This presents an additional challenge for our air defense, especially for the visual engagement by mobile fire units.”

The dilemma lies in that while radar systems can spot drones, the mobile fire teams that use machine guns for defense require a visual lock to engage. The new paint could impede this visual detection in the dark. Nonetheless, Ukrainian forces successfully neutralized 74 of the 75 drones, indicating that their defensive measures are still largely effective.

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