Russia Sent Captured Weapons to Iran – Coming Soon, Iranian Copies: Even as the government in Tehran continues to claim that it didn’t supply Moscow with unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drones, after Russia launched its unprovoked and wholly unwarranted invasion of Ukraine, the two nations seem to be developing even closer ties.
As Beijing’s support for Russia’s war has been waning and was never all that strong in the first place, Iran seems poised to be among Moscow’s closest allies.
The ties between Russia and the Islamic Republic appear more robust than ever.
Javelin Missiles, NLAW and Stinger, Headed to Iran
On Tuesday, Sky News even reported a Russian military aircraft had secretly transported €140 million in cash, along with captured western weaponry, to Tehran in exchange for dozens of drones. The military hardware included a British NLAW anti-tank missile, a U.S. FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile, and a Stinger anti-aircraft missile.
According to a source who spoke with the British news agency on the condition of anonymity, the items, and cash, were delivered to an airport in Tehran in the early hours of August 20.
The weapons had been part of a shipment of UK and U.S. military hardware initially intended for use with the Ukrainian military and likely was captured in the fighting in the eastern Donbas region sometime over the summer.
Iran also reportedly has supplied Russia with more than 160 drones including 100 Shahed-136 and 60 smaller Shahed-131 drones – the latter has been described as a “suicide” or “kamikaze” drone as it explodes on impact with the target.
Coming Soon – Iranian Copies
There is now little doubt that the three man-portable missile systems could make their way to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which will likely study the western technology and even copy it.
“They will probably be reverse-engineered and used in future wars,” the source further told Sky News.
This would hardly be the first time that the Islamic Republic has copied western weapons. For decades, almost all of Iran’s “new” weaponry is little more than a copy of an older American, British, Chinese, North Korean, or Russian design.
Though a lot of the hardware is actually quite effective, some of the “knockoff” small arms and other equipment have been considered embarrassingly bad. The great worry is that over time, Tehran’s efforts could slowly improve and would eventually be as capable as anything made in the west.
One factor is that some of the country’s weapons have been found to utilize imported components. This has been the case with the Shahed-136 drones, which appear to contain knock-offs of western computer chips made in China. It remains unclear how Tehran obtained those boards, but it also shows the resourcefulness of Tehran and Beijing to skirt international sanctions. The drone itself was likely reverse-engineered from a U.S. UAS that was captured in 2011.
A new report from the Institute for Science and International Security warned that China is now playing a larger role than previously assessed in enabling Iran to manufacture the drones that are aiding Russia’s war efforts. Thus while Beijing may have backed off on direct support to Moscow, it is aiding Tehran, which in turn is helping the Kremlin.
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.
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