Russia and Iran strengthen cooperation on drones production

By Arie Egozi

Israel and American intelligence organizations are closely following the very close Russian-Iranian cooperation focused on the development and manufacture of armed drones.

Latest data point to “meaningful” progress as a result of the new cooperation formed due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

According to a report in Iran International, a website operated from London by the opposition to the Iranian leadership, Russia is importing Iranian expertise for its drone factory being built to manufacture Russo-Iranian drones.

The factory in Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan will be fully operational as early as next year, with recruitment in full force.

Several of the jobs posted since April for the site are seeking Farsi speakers, based on research by Airwars, a conflict monitoring group based at Goldsmiths, University of London.

According to a report in the Financial Times, Iranian interpreters will be required to travel, perform simultaneous translation, and translate technical documents.

According to Iran International, located in a business park near the town of Yelabuga, Moscow has converted an agricultural unmanned aerial vehicle maker to supply its war effort in Ukraine. Images show the vast complex is well underway.

Albatross, the company operating on the site, has produced reconnaissance drones for President Vladimir Putin’s defense ministry, with roughly 50 delivered for combat in eastern Ukraine.

The factory, according to the report, is at the center of an expanding tech partnership with Tehran, whose expertise Moscow has relied on to establish a domestic drone-building capability to support its invasion and further skirt Western sanctions.

Samuel Bendett, an expert on autonomous weaponry at the Center for Naval Analyses, told the Financial Times: “If Russia wants to do something covert with Iran, this is an advantageous location. It’s on the river that flows into the Volga, so you can bring parts by ship from Iran covertly.”

According to US intelligence, Moscow has procured hundreds of suicide drones from Tehran.

Photos and videos from Russian social media and local media outlets indicate Albatross commenced some drone production at the site in January. Albatross described itself as a maker of commercial drones for agricultural purposes and mapping.

According to the report in the Financial Times, Iran’s drone program has been growing steadily since the 1990s. Bendett, from the Center for Naval Analyses, said: “The Iranians already have a mature, proven technology. Iranian drones are in that sweet spot between those very expensive drones that can range very far and those smaller drones that don’t fly more than 100km. It’s a fairly sophisticated enterprise.”

Iran has supplied UAVs to proxies and partner countries since the early 2000s, both through direct weapons transfers and through the provision of UAV assembly kits. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro confirmed in 2012 that his government bought drone manufacturing technology, as well as infrastructure, from the Iranian regime.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Nasser Kanaani, last month said the Islamic republic had not provided any sides at the war with weapons and called the allegations “politically motivated.” “Those who make these claims have not shown any evidence to prove their claims,” he said.



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