Ukraine reaches parity with Russia on production of deep strike drones, says arms maker

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine said on Wednesday it was producing the same number of deep strike drones as Russia, claiming to have reached parity on a key type of weapon that Moscow has used for long-range attacks for much of its invasion.

Unable to rapidly match Russia's vast arsenal of cruise and ballistic missiles, Kyiv has focused on developing and producing long-range drones so it can hit back at Russia, which has bombed Ukraine throughout the 26-month-old invasion.

"In 2024, Ukraine caught up with Russia in terms of the production number of kamikaze drones similar to the Shahed-131 and Shahed-136," Herman Smetanin, head of Ukraine's state arms manufacturer, told the defence ministry's media outlet, ArmyInform.

Shahed drones, which Kyiv says were initially procured from Iran before some production was localised in Russia's Tatarstan region, have become a staple of Russian air strikes since they were first used against Ukraine in the autumn of 2022.

The drones, which are packed with explosives and detonate on impact, are nicknamed "mopeds" by Ukrainians due to the whirring sound of their engines that can be heard flying in the sky.

Smetanin said his comment about production numbers applied to other types of attack drone as well. He gave no figures.

Ukraine has launched dozens of drone attacks on oil refineries deep inside Russian territory this year and also targeted military facilities and the Black Sea Fleet on the Russian-occupied peninsula of Crimea.

One Ukrainian drone strike targeted the plant in Tatarstan, according to a military spy source in Kyiv. Russia said that attack had hit a dormitory at an industrial site in the Volga region.

Ukraine's military intelligence agency says that Russia is capable of producing up to 350 Shahed drones a month. Russia does not reveal production figures and regards such things as secret.

(Reporting by Yuliia Dysa and Kyiv bureau; Editing by Tom Balmforth and Gareth Jones)