United States National Security Advisor Sullivan revealed to reporters today that they have reason to suspect that Iran will begin supply of unmanned aerial vehicles and training to Russian Ground and Aerospace Forces as early as the end of July. He told reporters that Iran may supply several hundred drones to Russia.
Beginning in the 1980s the Islamic Republic became heavily invested in unmanned combat aerial vehicles as well as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance drones. Iran first tested UAVs in 1985 with Mohajer-1 and Ababil-1 to use in the Iran-Iraq war after observing American use of small UAVs in South America. Since then, Iran has armed itself with several dozen variants of UAVs ranging in size and capability. With the most significant platform being the new Kaman 22 (UAV), which seems to be modeled on the U.S.-made MQ-1 Predator and with other features from the more advanced MQ-9 Reaper. The aircraft is also reminiscent of the Chinese CH-5 drone.
The Russian Federation’s use of drones in Ukraine has been unremarkable thus far considering the arsenal that they boast. This could be due to the concentration of Ukrainian air defenses and electronic warfare platforms. However it is worth noting that the Russian military only began providing training to its military officers on combat drones in 2021, due to a surprising lack of competence with the machines.
Iranian drones and training, while seemingly unimpressive, present an opportunity for Russian forces to throw more assets at the struggling Ukrainians in the Donbass as well as additional combat support from Iran.
It is also worth noting that the United States enforced arms and oil sanctions against Iran, so this also presents an opportunity for the United States to become directly involved in intercepting Iranian weapons bound for Russia.