A report released by British news site, The Guardian, yesterday claims that Iran smuggled drones into Russia when Russian officers and technicians made a special visit to Tehran in November last year.
The report further noted that the Russian delegation selected several long-range drones on that visit for use in the conflict with Ukraine.
Russia has had limited success with so-called kamikaze drones and is seeking drones capable of high-altitude, air-to-ground strike capability. They reportedly selected six Mohajer-6 drones, as well as twelve Shahed 191 drones and Shahed 129 drones.
The Mohajer-6 is one such high-altitude Iranian-made drone, capable of carrying two missiles under each wing. It has around roughly a 200-km (125-mile) range. It can remain in the air for about 6 hours and can carry 40 kg (approximately 88 lbs.) of ordinance.
While Ukraine has successfully shot down Mohajer-6 drones, their high-altitude capabilities make them more difficult targets.
U.S. officials have warned that Iran was intent on selling and transferring drones to Russia since last summer, despite Iranian claims to the contrary.
The Guardian report stated that some of the drones were transferred to Russia by an Iranian vessel operating in the Caspian Sea. The remaining drones were reportedly carried by an Iranian-owned airline.
The report also identified the Isfahan manufacturing facility, which was struck by a drone attack in January, as the point of origin for these drones. While Iran has accused Israel of conducting the attack, Israel has made no comment.
In addition, some U.S. officials have also attributed the attack to Israel.
Western officials are concerned about the growing military and economic alliance between Russia and Iran. Recently, Iran and Russian agreed to connect their banking systems in order to skirt sanctions against their countries.
Western and Ukrainian officials are also concerned Iran is preparing to transfer ballistic missiles to Russia, which is believed to be increasingly desperate as the war drags on.
Ukrainian officials are particularly concerned about a renewed offensive on the anniversary of the war, with Russia attempting to seize the Donbas region.
The multi-use Shahed 191 drone is believed to be based upon technology recovered from a Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel drone, which was downed by Iran in 2011. The Shahed 191 is capable of carrying 70 kg (154 lbs.) and has the ability to stay airborne for five hours.
The multi-use Shahed 129 drone, in service since 2012, is externally similar to the Israeli Hermes 450 and British Watchkeeper drones. Despite its external similarity, it is not known whether it incorporates any foreign technology. It has a larger payload – 60 kg (132 lbs.) – than the Mohajer-6, but can only stay airborne for four hours.
Both versions of the Shahed drones are believed to incorporate modified western technology.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.