After much speculation, Iran has officially confirmed they have sold drones to Russia– with a caveat. CNN reports that Iran has acknowledged that the Shahed drones widely used by the Russian Army in Ukraine are in fact Iranian drones, but Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahain maintains that the country has not sold drones to Russia since the start of the war with Ukraine, as reported by Politico.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pushed back against these claims in a statement reported by The Wall Street Journal, stating, “We know for sure that Iranian instructors taught Russian terrorists how to use drones, and Tehran is generally silent about it. And if Iran continues lying about the obvious, it means that the world will make even more efforts to investigate the terrorist cooperation between the Russian and Iranian regimes and what Russia is paying Iran for such cooperation.” The Iranian government has not issued a rebuttal to Zelenskyy’s claims. The U.S. government has also disputed Iran’s statement, alleging that dozens were sent to the Russian government this summer.
Iran’s Shahed-136 drones, known in Russia as the Geran-2 drones, have been increasingly valuable to the Russian military as the invasion has turned into a showcase of modern drone warfare. The cost of these drones is unknown, but most estimates, as reported by The Guardian place them between $23,000 and $56,000 – a miniscule cost compared to the $32 million price tag of the United States’ Reaper drone. This low and affordable cost means that Russia can afford to turn these drones into essentially kamikaze weapons, as reported by The Washington Post. It also pushes the boundaries of how drones can be used in warfare– low-cost drones used as impact weapons could become the future of warfare in the next few years. Drones carry much less risk to human life than other operations and are able to be controlled remotely, a massive asset for any military. This means that a fleet of drones, much like the ones that were recently used by Ukraine in an attack on the Russian frigates in the Black Sea, according to BBC News could see much more widespread use in the coming months of this war.
Ukraine has also made extensive use of their own Turkish-made drones in the war, although it has been reported that they have a much higher price tag than the Shahed drones. Curiously, this supplier versus supplier war draws comparisons to conflict within the Middle East– Ukraine versus Russia might as well be Turkey versus Iran. In response to the Shahed drones, Turkey has recently released their own suicide drone– the Deli drone, as reported by the Daily Sabah. There is a very likely chance that this drone will soon end up in the war in Ukraine as many parties have been sending their latest technology there to test it in combat, with Iran and Turkey being no exception. This showcases the trend of countries dropping large drones in favor of smaller, cheaper, and disposable drones for the battlefield, which will surely be seen in many other wars in the years to come.
Image Courtesy of Efrein Lukastky, Flickr