As many as 200 components of the Iran-built drones that Russia uses against Ukraine originated in Western countries, including the United States, Europe and Israel, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
The drones’ infrared lenses are made in Israel, their motors made in Japan and as many as three-fourths of their other components made in the U.S., according to a report by the Kyiv-based Independent Anti-Corruption Commission non-profit, which it made available to the WSJ.
The Ukrainian investigators based their report on Iranian drones that had been hacked in mid-flight, downed and analyzed.
The various components reach Iran through front companies and third-country proxies.
A high-resolution infrared lens that is used in the Mohajer-6 drone is identical in appearance to a lens made by the Israeli firm Ophir Optronics Solutions Ltd., according to photos examined by the WSJ.
Other parts are not under export control and can be found and purchased online easily, then shipped to Iran through other countries.
The drone camera was first linked to Oregon-based firm Sierra-Olympic Technologies, which uses Ophir lenses; however, company founder Chris Johnston told WSJ that it is possible that parts were taken from Western aircraft downed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Parts from Arizona-based company Microchip Technology were also found in the drones.
Schemes (“Skhemy”), the investigative arm of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Ukrainian Service, discovered that the Mohajer-6 drone had components from at least 15 technology companies from Europe, Japan, Taiwan and North America, including from the U.S.-based Texas Instruments firm. In its defense, Texas Instrument said it does not sell parts to Russia, Belarus or Iran.
Daniel Salisbury, a senior research fellow with the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, told RFE/RL that Iran runs a global procurement operation through third countries. An exporter might get a request from “the United Arab Republic” and not discover the real client is a company in Iran.
In October, CNN and Ukrainian media reported that a Mohajer-6 downed over the Black Sea had engines built by the Canadian Rotax company. Following an investigation by the company, in cooperation with a Ukraine-based partner, the company announced it had identified the engine and confirmed that the firm’s distributors had not sold it to Iran nor Russia.
In addition, in October, the Institute for Science and International Security examined open-source information from downed and captured Iranian drones used by Russia. During the analysis they discovered parts originating from Austria, Germany and the U.K. and that the U.S. Western-made parts were key components in the Shahed-136, Shahed-131 and Mohajer-6 drones.
“A priority is to understand how foreign parts are ending up in Iranian drones,” the Institute stated. “Discovering Iranian procurement networks can start with the Western suppliers, who would be expected to cooperate with authorities. From there, authorities need to systematically expose Iran’s procurement network, identifying trading companies, distributors, shipping companies, agents friendly to Iran and, ultimately, those in Iran organizing these purchases. In parallel, governments should rip out ‘root and branch’ these procurement networks as they are discovered."
Investigators also learned that Russia is using drones against Ukraine that contain Chinese copies of Western parts or components based on Western designs.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.