While the world continues to jeer at Iran’s “New” aircraft developments, each seemingly an upgrade and aesthetical modification of the 1960s U.S. F-5 aircraft[1], the success of Iran’s indigenous drone program is no laughing matter for its rivals. Trends from the historical development of this program and the recent battlefield employments of Iranian drones pit the Iranian drone program as a serious threat to both its rivals and to the international drone marketplace.

The birth of Iran’s indigenous drone program dates back to the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s[2] where battlefield conditions warranted their development. The expansion of this drone program for purposes beyond reconnaissance roles through the 2010s was costly for the import restricted Iranians. The Iranian hedge on the value of continuing drone development has and will continue to pay rich dividends to the diplomatically isolated state. In fact, the program has been so successful that as recently as 2017, Russian drone development is said to be receiving Iranian support.[3]

In 2018, Iran has increased combat drone operations both domestically and internationally.  In June, the crash landing[4] of an Iranian Mohajer-6 combat drone armed with two Iranian made and developed smart bombs demonstrated the use of the drone by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Council (IRGC) against Al Qaeda affiliate Jaish ul-Adl within the borders of Iran. In October, Iranian strike drones bombed rebel targets in Syria alongside Iranian ballistic missile strikes as retaliation for an attack on the Iranian Military parade in Ahvaz in September[5]. Perhaps the most daring of Iran’s drone operations was an alleged April Iranian attack attempt on Israel with an explosive laden drone, sent from the T4 airbase in Syria, which was shot down and caused a massive retaliatory strike by Israel.[6]

Given the reality that Iran has progressed to using drones on combat missions, could Iran’s next step be to venture into selling these combat proven drones to other nations? The answer is yes. Iran is not export shy of its drones nor its technology. Hezbollah employed its first Iranian drone, a modified Mohajer-1, in 2004 for reconnaissance of Israel[7] while Venezuela received both drones and drone technology from Iran around 2012, including the Mohajer-2 which is also used by Syria.[8]

While China continues to export its CH-4 and other more advanced combat drones around the world, isolated nations that may want an alternative to procuring Chinese drones may turn to Iran for drones and perhaps even for an off the shelf drone development program for their own country, crafted by Iranian engineers with decades of tested and battle hardened experience.

The greatest Iranian drone client could realistically be terrorist or rebel organizations, those China would or could not supply for political reasons. The Houthi in Yemen are the newest force through which Iran can learn of their drones’ effectiveness against modern armies, like those in the Saudi led coalition. Much like Iranian drone involvement in Syria, such experiences will give Iranian drones a marketable history to prospective clients. With or without the global slew of sanctions on Iran, the Iranian drone program will continue to soar to new heights.

[1] https://www.newsweek.com/irans-new-fighter-jet-copy-us-plane-1960s-military-experts-say-1085804
[2] https://thebulletin.org/2017/10/decades-in-the-making-the-iranian-drone-program/
[3] https://www.foreignpolicy.com/2017/10/05/russian-drone-tech-may-include-help-from-iran
[4] https://www.twitter.com/BabakTaghvaee/status/1012750933892259840
[5] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/10/iranian-fires-missiles-syria-parade-attack-181001062636019.html
[6] http://www.timesofisrael.com/iranian-drone-shot-down-in-northern-israel-in-february-was-armed-with-explosives
[7] https://fas.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Hezbollah-Drones-Spring-2014.pdf
[8] https://www.jpost.com/Iranian-Threat/News/Iran-admits-exporting-drone-tech-to-Venezuela

Note: The Iranian drone depicted is the Hamaseh. The photo by Times Asi dates circa its release in 2013.

Copyright © 2018 Arin Kumar Ghosh. All Rights Reserved.

UAV DACH: Beitrag im Original auf https://www.uasvision.com/2018/12/07/why-irans-drone-program-should-be-taken-seriously/, mit freundlicher Genehmigung von UAS Vision automatisch importiert, Der Beitrag gibt nicht unbedingt die Meinung oder Position des UAV DACH e.V. wieder. Das Original ist in englischer Sprache.