Russia reportedly seeking to procure Iran-made combat drones to fill a strategic gap exposed in the Ukraine war.
Russia is a Cold War powerhouse that still possesses nuclear weapons, strategic bombers, and strategic nuclear submarines. Although it has one of the top three drone strengths in the world, it is not as strong as the country. In the Middle East, Iran is a significant player. We sanctioned it for decades until splitting up with them in the late 1970s, greatly diminishing its power. Unmanned aerial vehicles, on the other hand, are booming in this industry.
There was a time when ties between the US and Iran were at an all-time high. At that time, Bell supported Iran in establishing an aviation company centered on the factory that repaired helicopters. Tallash-1, a very straightforward low-speed target drone with a traditional layout that uses compressed gas for launch and is collected with a parachute, was developed as the first unmanned aerial vehicle. The next drone is the useful Mohajer-1, a compact, 50 kg double-tailed UAV that takes off and lands using rockets and parachute recovery—possessing excellent tactical reconnaissance ability.
Iran initially established a relatively complete drone aviation industry early in its development. After 2000, due to the US involvement in the chaos in the Middle East, Iran had the opportunity to access advanced American drones. For example, the wreckage of the MQ-1 “Predator” drone, the wreckage of the Israeli “Harpy” suicide drone, and even in 2011 and 2018, the RQ-170 drone and the MQ-9 were captured by Iran by using electronic warfare. It develops UAVs with different systems and functions, ranging from surveillance to attack, from small to large, and from conventional to stealth.
In May this year, the 313th underground drone base was unveiled outside Iran. As the first underground facility dedicated to drones in Iran, it not only covers a large area but also displays a large number of drones. Nearly 100 models and supporting ammunition were revealed, including the drone air-launched cruise missile that has been publicly seen for the first time. It can be said that Iran was still picking up US drones for imitation, and now it can be launched in a large-scale system. New products and even the level of development exceeds that of Russian-made drones still using SLR cameras. Moreover, when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates attacked the Houthis in Yemen, many Rainbow-4\5 and Wing Loong-1\ drones were shot down. Iran can also obtain wreckage research.
Therefore, the outside world believes that after obtaining similar equipment from China and the United States, Iran’s drone technology has improved for at least 20 years. According to Iran’s statement, it is now one of the world’s top five drone manufacturers. Take the models in the UAV base as an example, including the Kaman-22 large-scale inspection and strike integrated UAV that was successfully copied in 2020. The aerodynamic layout resembles the MQ-9 “Reaper” and the Wing Loong-2. The combat radius is 1,500 kilometers, the maximum range is over 3,000 kilometers, the flight altitude is over 13,000 meters, and the payload is 300 kilograms. Equipped with Haidar-1 air-launched cruise missile, there are rocket-powered and turbojet-powered versions. The maximum range of 200 kilometers is not bad for drones.