Defence & Security

Iranian Drone Industry Is Getting Stronger Rising On The Back Of Conflicts: Why Iran Is Becoming A Global Drone Producer?

The Iranian revolution, also known as the Islamic revolution of Iran, occurred in 1979 and isolated the Iranian regime from the rest of the world due to severe sanctions imposed on the country during a hostage crisis that lasted approximately 1.5 years since the revolution. 

Since then, Iran has faced a variety of sanctions imposed by various countries. After 1979, Iran began developing and upgrading its nuclear facilities in order to enrich uranium and build nuclear missiles as a deterrent against its regional adversaries, particularly Israel and the United States. 

Iran was the most sanctioned country in the world until it was surpassed by the Russian Federation on February 24, 2022, following its invasion of its neighbor, Ukraine. 

Even recently, the US has imposed new sanctions against the Iranian regime and Iranian weapon systems due to its drone delivery to Russia, which is being used by the Russian forces against Ukrainian military and civil installations. 

Why did Iran develop its drone industry, and how did it become lethal?

Several sanctions imposed by the international community, particularly by the United States and its European allies, diverted Iran's attention away from drone development and channelizing their effort to push Iran to acquire costly multirole aircraft, but the US and Europe failed miserably to prevent Iran from developing cheap and lethal drones. 

That was the first reason Iran was encouraged to develop something small but affordable to counter bigger powers because they did not have the funds to acquire or buy something expensive from any bigger power due to sanctions on their country. 

The other reason was the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, as a result of which they began developing drones seriously and at a larger scale.

Iraq's sweeping invasion caught Iran by surprise and unprepared. During that time its military was centered around American weapons such as F-14 Tomcats, M60 Tanks, and AH-1 Super Cobra Helicopters, which were bought from the US during the rule of Reza Shah Pahlavi's regime, which was a proxy of the US government. 

But the real issue arose when well-trained Iranian pilots refused to return to Shan's Iran, and some of the weapons purchased during Shah's regime never made it to Iran due to sanctions imposed by several countries.

Furthermore, Iran was unable to obtain spare parts from Western suppliers, limiting their ability to launch a counter-offensive against Saddam Hussain's Iraqi regime.

As a result, during the war and after their victory over Iraq, Iranian authorities began building their indigenous capability to avoid reliance on any overseas powers for asymmetric technologies to circumvent the fact that Iran did not have access to the most modern, expensive platforms on which many of Iran's adversaries relied, the most prominent example being Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia is the largest importer of American defense weapons and the US is the de facto protector of Saudi Arabia.

Iran started developing its own technologies for its navy, army, and air force. Their efforts transformed Iran's defense manufacturing into smaller defense goods that are effective and inexpensive during times of conflict. 

For the navy, Iran is relying on speed boats that are far smaller than the US aircraft carriers and destroyers. Iran understood that a head-on collision with the mighty US navy could not be won. As a result, Iran is upgrading and manufacturing such economical and low-cost boats to swarm the water against the mighty navy ships. 

Iran is also producing and developing state if art ballistic missiles under its ballistic missile program. They are investing in it because they do not have a meaningful air force due to the lack of quality fighter aircraft. Therefore, Iran is building long-range missiles command under which the missiles will be operated and these commands are capable of striking the country's adversaries without crossing the geographical border of the nation. 

The most formidable and solid aspect is that Iran is producing cutting-edge Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in order to build UAV fleets. Iran is also conducting research and development on drone technology in order to overcome constraints and end the US drone industry's global dominance. 

Iranian UAVs have been among the last publicized Iranian asymmetrical, until recently, despite the fact that they are among the Islamic Republic's oldest, having been in service for 42 years, since their inception in the 1980s.  

The Iranian military is also using its drone fleet for three main reasons: surveillance, reconnaissance, and attack. 

Journey of Iranian drone:  

Iran first used their Ababil-1 and Mohajer-1 drones to supply against Iraq. Iran used those drones to spy on the Iraqi position behind the front-line trenches in the year 1985, Iran-Iraq war.

Iran also felt the importance of having cheap and lethal drones when the US navy inflicted heavy losses on Iran's navy and airforce during Operation Praying Mantis in 1988. During that misadventure, the Iranian strategists realized that they can not openly confront the US by water. 

Since then, the Iranian government became serious about its interest in Unmanned aerial vehicle research and manufacturing. 

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace is the primary operator of Iran's growing UAV fleets. 

In September 2016, Iranian Major General Baghari announced a new long rage drone with the capability of precision bombing. On the same day, the present US government imposed new sanctions targeting Iran's weapon development program as well as its nuclear development program. 

During Donald Trump's presidency, the Trump administration withdrew from the JCPOA nuclear deal. Following the withdrawal from the JCPOA, the US government reinstated sanctions against the Iranian regime that had been lifted as part of the nuclear deal. 

On 29th July 2021, the US government imposed new sanctions targeting Iran's ballistic missile program. Despite the reimposition of sanctions, Iran unveiled "Kamikaze" drones developed for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the same day. And on the same day, they flew that drone into the pilothouse of the Merchant tanker, the incident famously known as the July 2021 Gulf of Oman incident. 

Iran is supplying drones to Russia by boat through the Caspian sea. Iran delivered Shahed 131 and 136 drones, which have been broadly used by Moscow in kamikaze attacks against Ukrainian infrastructure, the higher-flying drones are able to deliver bombs and return to base. Iran is also supplying Shahed 191 and 129 Kamekaze drones to Russia, which also have an air-to-ground strike capability and has been used relentlessly to swarm the Ukrainian sky to eliminate the threat of surface-to-air defense missiles for its fighters. 

US defense intelligence report on Iranian drones:

The US government's report comes a day after the UK government's submission of evidence of sending weapons to Yemen's Houthi rebels by the Iranian regime in a violation of international law. 

The US Defense Intelligence Agency released an unclassified report on Tuesday that compares Russian-made drones in Ukraine to Iranian-made drones in the Middle East. 

The seven-page document is based on open-source imagery and serves to confirm what US officials have been saying for months: that many of Russia's drones used in the Ukraine conflict are actually Iranian-made. 

The report reveals the use of Shahed-136s, Shahed-131s, and Mohajer-6 drones in Ukraine by Russia. 

The next move will be, the US with its allies will build a strong case against Russia and will submit to the UN to impose sanctions against the Russian and Iranian regimes. 

But it has proven one thing and that is Tehran has emerged as a global leader in producing cheap and lethal drones to deter the western attack.