Iran Confirms Drone Sale To Russia – But What Will It Buy In Exchange?

Drones are seen at an underground site at an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on May 28, 2022. Iranian Army/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

Moon of Alabama, August 13, 2022 — Small birds do not taste well and their small bones makes eating them a fickle. I will have overcome that though as I will now have to eat some crow.

On July 12 Moon of Alabama headlined:

No, Iran Will Not Deliver Armed Drones To Russia

In March this year we were treated to an onslaught of obviously false claims that China would deliver weapons to Russia for the fight in Ukraine.

Now an equally stupid claim was launched by the very same liar who launched the fake Chinese weapons claim.White House: Iran set to deliver armed drones to RussiaAP – Jul 7, 2022

Russia has absolutely no need to buy drones from Iran. Besides that it is dubious that Iran would be able to deliver some and certainly not ‘several hundreds’.

The whole issues is just a talking point designed to put Iran and Russia into the same ‘baddies’ binder for Biden’s talks in the Middle East. The countries there may not like Iran but they will certainly not allow for a condemnation of Russia. The whole idea is, as many others Sullivan had, stupid to begin with.So no, there will not be any Iranian drones going to Russia or fly over Ukraine.

I, like the other Iran-watch writers I quoted, was wrong.

Elijah J. Magnier, who has excellent contacts within the ‘axis of resistance’ led by Iran, reports:

Russia buys 1,000 drones from Iran and expands the level of strategic cooperation

Iran and Russia had expanded the level of their strategic cooperation in various fields, most recently in space when a Russian rocket launched an Iranian satellite into orbit from the Russian launch facility in Kazakhstan. Iran will undoubtedly benefit from renewing its bank of objectives and identifying more targets related to its enemies based in the Middle East, mainly the US military bases and Israel. Moreover, Russia has signed a contract with Iran to buy 1,000 drones after Iran delivered a few planes and a simulator on which Russian officers trained: they successfully used the first drones in Ukraine. This move is considered unprecedented for a superpower to buy its drones from Iran. Tehran considers this to be recognition of its advanced and effective military industry, achieved despite 43 years of US sanctions on the “Islamic Republic”.

The buy seems to be about bigger long endurance drones, not small tactical ones like the Orlan 10 which Russia mass produces itself. Writes Magnier:

According to well-informed sources in Iran, “the purchase of drones by a superpower like Russia is an important indication confirming the quality and development of Iranian industry, which has succeeded in producing the most advanced drones such as the Shahid 129 which can fly for a period exceeding 24 hours. This is what attracted Russia, especially for use in its war in Ukraine.”

Russia has developed a number of drones for itself. The Orlan-10 is good for artillery observation and electronic warfare on the tactical battalion level. Then there is the 200 kilogram Korsar which has a tactical strike role. There is also the ZALA-421-16E5, a …

… tactical operation unmanned aerial reconnaissance system. The UAV flight duration is 6-7 hours, the flight range is up to 150 km, the monitored area can exceed 21,000 sq km in a single launch.

That is better than the Orlan 10 but still at the basic tactical level.

Anything above that, an operational-tactical drone that can stay up for a whole day and night and continuously cover the front of one or more brigades is something that Russia has not had so far.

The Iranian Shahed 129 is an equivalent to the U.S. MQ-1 Predator. It has infrared and day optics, a laser designator for precise targeting and it can carry four precision-guided bombs. Its range is 1,500 kilometer which is significantly more then current Russian drones have. Since 2014 these drones have been used by Iran in Syria so Russia will already have has some direct experience with their battle field performance.

I am sure though that Iran will take several years to deliver 1,000 of those. But that may not matter. A few dozen will be sufficient enough for now to continuously cover the whole 2,000 kilometer frontline in Ukraine at the necessary depths.

It is unusual for Russia to buy weapons from other states without any other compensation. I therefore suspect that this is not a one sided deal but that Iran has promised to buy some significant Russian systems in exchange.

An order of several dozen of the most modern version of the Suchoi Su-35 air superiority fighter would make sense. They would finally allow Iran to get rid of the way too old U.S. made F-4 Phantoms and Grumman F-14 that it has been flying (and crashing) for ages.

Iran and Russia may want to wait for the outcome of the still ongoing nuclear agreement negotiations before any official deal will be announced. It simply would be unwise to disturb that process now and to give hawks in the U.S. more arguments to let the deal fail.

The further cooperation between Russia and Iran though is independent of the outcome of the nuclear agreement negotiations. It will succeed as nothing that the U.S. could throw up against it is able to influence either side.

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