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Putin Is Smiling: Iran Is Sending More Drones and Missiles to Russia

Russian Su-34 fighter-bomber. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Russian Su-34 fighter-bomber. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Russia is leaning on Iran for more weapons in the fight against Ukraine. The newest arms shipment from Tehran will be around 1,000 munitions featuring more Iranian combat drones and short-range ballistic missiles. The surface-to-surface missiles are believed to be precision-guided, and this would be the first time that a country has provided such weapons to Moscow. A press secretary for the Ukrainian air force said on November 1 that the Iranian missiles could be “disastrous,” and would have the range to hit Kyiv.

Expect More Attacks on Power and Water Production Facilities

This would enable Russia to continue attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure that provides electricity and water to civilians. Many parts of the country have been plagued by power outages and water shortages with constant drone, missile, and rocket bombardment by Russia.

More of Those Deadly Loitering Iran Drones

The new batch from Iran is expected to number around 450 loitering munitions – also called kamikaze or suicide drones. The Ukrainians said they are shooting down hundreds of these Iranian-built drones, but they are quickly using up their supply of surface-to-air missiles. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly asked for more air defense systems from allied countries. The United States is considering sending the HAWK anti-aircraft launcher to address the continued drone threat.

Suicide Drones Employ Relentless Tactics

The drones may arrive sooner than the ballistic missiles, but CNN has reported that the Iranian missiles would be sent by the first of the year. The loitering munitions are an immediate concern for Ukraine. These craft circle up above a location, find their target, and quickly dive down to the ground and explode on impact. These are small, easily carried, and launched. Iran may have sent its own personnel to Ukraine to better school the Russian military on their effective use. The Russian military is controlling many of the suicide drones from Crimea, according to U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States is attempting to “break up” networks of Iranian arms shipments to Russia.

Iran: A Thorn in the Side of the United States 

The Russia-Iran nexus puts the United States in a difficult circumstance as it negotiates with Tehran to re-institute the Iran nuclear agreement. The Biden administration said on October 31 that it will no longer push talks since the Iranians have been cracking down on protesters who are demonstrating across the country for regime change. This unrest has been sweeping the country since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amani at the hands of Iranian morality police in September.

Iran Weapons Support Coming at the Right Time

Meanwhile, Russia is running low on its own cruise and ballistic missiles so the Iranian supply will be welcome. Iran has one of the most advanced ballistic missile programs in the world with numerous models for various ranges and purposes. It is not clear whether Iran will provide launchers or if the missiles can be fired from existing Russian launch systems.  

Marriage of Convenience Between Russia and Iran

Russia has been looking for a reliable ally to help it fight Ukraine. The Kremlin approached North Korea for more howitzer ammunition and rockets earlier in the war but that has not proved to be decisive. However, loitering munitions and ballistic missiles can make a difference on the battlefield and Iran is demonstrating that it can supply these weapons to a high degree.  

Iran Missiles

An Iranian missile is displayed during a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran April 29, 2022. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

This further shows that Russia is desperate for an injection of new arms as its military-industrial complex is gasping for air due to Western sanctions. The production lines must also pump out new tanks and armored vehicles that have littered the battlefield. Iran could prove to be a reliable partner that can readily supply Moscow with the drones and missiles it needs to terrorize the Ukrainian populace and make it more difficult to survive the harsh winter with future power blackouts and water shortages.

Expert Biography: Serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

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Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.