Sudanese paramilitary fighters affiliated with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have reportedly shot down a Mohajer-6 armed drone belonging to government troops over Khartoum . The RSF utilized man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) to intercept and shoot down the Sudanese Air Force-operated drone .
The Mohajer-6 is a single-engine multirole unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) manufactured in Iran by Quds Air Industries. It is capable of carrying a multispectral surveillance payload and/or up to four precision-guided munitions. The drone has a maximum takeoff weight of 600–670 kg and can carry about 100–150 kg armaments, depending on the model. The ground control station of Mohajer-6 has a range of 200–500 km, a max speed of 200 km/h, an endurance of 12 hours, and a ceiling of 16,000-18,000 feet.
Sudan fields the Mohajer-series drones comprising of the Mohajer-2, Mohajer-4, and Mohajer-6 being the latest of them. Sudan acquired four Mohajer-4s in 2011, four Mohajer-2s in 2008, and four Mohajer-6s in 2016 . The Mohajer family is primarily used for reconnaissance and is among the most mature and well-known Iranian UAVs ¹.
The RSF, previously under the Sudanese government’s umbrella, was officially labeled a rebel group by the Sudanese army last year. Tensions escalated between the two factions, primarily centered around disagreements regarding a proposed shift to civilian rule, culminating in recent clashes and movements that the army deemed unauthorized and unlawful. Last June, Sudan’s Military launched an offensive against RSF to retake key areas.
The downing of the Mohajer-6 drone by the RSF using MANPADS signifies a significant escalation in the ongoing conflict. The incident not only raises questions about the RSF’s sources of advanced weaponry but also the potential external support it might be receiving. Allegations have surfaced connecting the RSF with the Russian Wagner Group. Reports from leaked documents and insider sources, as well as from the United States suggest that the Wagner Group has been providing the RSF with training, equipment, and security services. Recent revelations from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) have brought to light a concerning development in Sudan’s ongoing conflict. The OFAC has disclosed that the Wagner Group, a private military contractor, has been involved in supplying surface-to-air missiles to Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to combat the Sudanese army. Although the report did not specify the type of surface-to-air missile system Wagner Group supplies to the RSF, however, it may likely be man portable (MANPAD), or short range air defence.
Although, Wagner Group has denied any involvement in Sudan and has refuted claims that it has been operating in the country or assisting the Rapid Support Force (RSF) militia. In June last year, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) shot down a Russian-made MiG-29 fighter jet over Khartoum, the capital city, even though the MiGs are vastly more capable than drones. This confirmed that the RSF actually possesses anti-air weapons.
The use of drones in the conflict in Sudan has raised concerns about civilian casualties and the potential for human rights violations. However, the Sudanese military has stated that it is using the drones in a responsible manner and taking steps to avoid civilian casualties. The use of drones in conflict is not new, but the proliferation of this technology in recent years has made it more accessible to smaller and less technologically advanced countries like Sudan. The use of drones has the potential to level the playing field in conflicts where one side has air superiority, and can also reduce the risk to pilots.