Iran growing global drone producer after Ukraine war, claims US

Iran’s Evolving Drone Program

As per US officials, Iran is positioning itself as a prominent global producer of inexpensive yet lethal drones. Tehran, they claim, is exploiting the conflict in Ukraine as an opportunity to showcase its technological advancements.

Defence Intelligence Agency experts say Iran evolved from a Middle Eastern drone actor to Moscow’s biggest military supporter.

US and UK’s Efforts to Convince Sceptics

In response to Iran’s foreign ministry’s denials that its drones were utilised in lethal attacks in Ukraine, including against civilian energy infrastructure, the officials disclosed declassified intelligence indicating that Iranian drones employed in Middle Eastern attacksโ€”including one claimed by Iranโ€”were indistinguishable from those utilised in Ukraine in all material respects.

Tehran has emerged as a global leader in the production of inexpensive and highly effective drones, according to one official.

Iran’s Expanding Market for Drones

While the provision of Iranian drones to Moscow for its conflict in Ukraine has been widely reported and discussed in numerous US briefings that have attempted to depict the growing military collaboration between Iran and Russia, the officials underscored that the purpose of their briefing was to convince sceptics worldwide of the extent of intelligence the US had accumulated regarding Iran’s drone shipments.

Linking Iran to Violations of UN Resolutions

Iran claimed a September 2022 Shahed 131 drone strike in Iraq and an October 2022 Kyiv attack, which officials photographed. “While Iran has stated that it has sold drones to Russia, it has stated explicitly that they have not been used in this conflict and that if they were, they would not ‘remain indifferent’,” the official said.

With the exception of Russian inscriptions on the wreckage found on the drone that collided with Kiev, the images depict indistinguishable elements such as the rotary engine, wooden propeller, relay board, and hex screws employed for the prop’s attachment.

Additionally, the detritus obtained from a Shahed 136 recovered in Ukraine was compared to publicly accessible images of the engine of a drone that were showcased at the Iranian national aerospace exhibition in 2014. The images revealed that the ring gear, starter, exhaust, and heat sink of the two drones were identical.

The officials described the “compelling evidence” as “extremely recognisable debris from two very different geographical regions that originated from the same source.”

It appeared that Iran was “committed to resupplying” Russia with unmanned aerial vehicles, they added.

In a broader sense, the officials described the rapid evolution of Iran’s drone programme since 2014. Prior to that year, its drones were employed in much more restricted operations against Saudi Aramco and shipping. Including the 2021 Mercer Street tanker attack that killed a British bodyguard and the Romanian captain. However, by that time, these operations had expanded to encompass a significant conventional conflict.

Analysts said Tehran was quickly acquiring drone research data in Ukraine to improve its own aircraft.

A second official explained that Iran’s drone supply to Russia was declassified to allay any suspicions.

“The central argument is that the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs denies their use.” “Although international audiences may be sceptical, the US and UK will present facts,” they explained.

Linking Iran to Violations of UN Resolutions

Despite sanctions on Iran for sending drones to Russia, the US and UK are seeking international support for these operations.

Iranian media assertions that China is also a major market for its unmanned aerial vehicles heighten concerns.

Al-Monitor reported that an Iranian military intelligence official suspected that dozens of nations wanted drones. The remarks were reportedly uttered by the official at Imam Khomeini International University in the Qazvin city.

“Our strength has increased to the point where China is lining up to purchase 15,000 of our drones,” said the official, who was identified in the report as the director of the political research think tank of the intelligence ministry.

Iran smuggled advanced long-range armed drones to Russia via state-owned aircraft and boats for use in its conflict with Ukraine.

Iranian sources revealed that at least eighteen drones were delivered to Vladimir Putin’s navy in November. Following a special visit by Russian officers and technicians to Tehran, during which they were briefed on the complete spectrum of Iranian technologies. The ten-member Russian delegation selected six Mohajer-6 drones at that time.

The UK gave the UN information that Iran gave Houthi rebels in Yemen modern weapons in breach of UN resolutions.

This occurred subsequent to the discovery of images depicting experiments carried out at the Revolutionary Guards’ headquarters in Tehran on the hard drive of an unmanned aircraft that had been captured by British forces. Last February, British troops on HMS Montrose captured the unmanned quadcopter and missiles and missile parts.

The British Ministry of Defence gave the UN firearms and also other evidence to link Iran to Houthi weapons shipments in violation of security council resolutions.

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