Russia opened a new launch site for its Shahed-136 kamikaze drones in Crimea, aiming to disperse its forces and complicate Ukrainian air defenses, the UK Defense Ministry reported.
On 12 December Russia launched at least 15 drones from the Balaklava district of Crimea, south of Sevastopol, marking the first recorded use of this area as an operating base. Crimea has become a Russian military base as well as other occupied territories and is used for further aggression
“This is a new OWA-UAV launch site to the south of Sevastopol,” the UK Defense Ministry reports.
Balaklava represents the fifth confirmed site for Russia’s drone operations against Ukraine, alongside existing locations at Cape Chauda, Yeysk, Primorsko, and Kursk.
According to British intel, the change in launch locations suggests Russia is “highly likely dispersing its OWA UAV launch capabilities across several locations as both a force protection measure and to complicate Ukrainian air defence efforts.” Russia would probably utilize more launch sites going forward, “forcing Ukraine to adapt to new transit corridors of these systems.”
On 5 December, Russian authorities also claimed to intercept 41 Ukrainian drone attacks near Cape Chauda, known to be an active Shahed-136 launch point itself,
According to the British Defense Ministry intel. As Russia’s bombardment campaign continues relying heavily on Iranian-made systems, switching between launch sites could make targeting more challenging for Ukraine’s defenses.