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Thursday, June 1, 2023

DIA Matches Iran Drones to ‘Kamikaze’ UAVs Used by Russia Against Ukraine Civilians

U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley responded to new report by stating, "The Iranian regime keeps denying it; the evidence keeps piling up."

The Defense Intelligence Agency released a report last week showing photographic comparative evidence that Iran attack drones have been used against Ukraine’s people since Russia invaded the country a year ago.

The release of the unclassified report comes shortly after the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated eight senior executives at Paravar Pars, an Iranian firm previously sanctioned by both the U.S. and European Union for producing Shahad-series unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force.

“Iranian entities continue to produce UAVs for Iran’s IRGC and military. More broadly, Iran is supplying UAVs for Russia’s combat operations to target critical infrastructure in Ukraine,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson said Feb. 3. “The United States will continue to aggressively target all elements of Iran’s UAV program.”

That action followed U.S. designations against individuals involved in Iran’s drone program levied Nov. 15, 2022, Sept. 8, 2022, and Jan. 6, 2023.

“Iranian UAVs are being transferred to Russia for use in its brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Feb. 3. “…Russia is using Iran-produced UAVs in attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.  The Iranian regime’s military support for Russia helps fuel Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine and has also resulted in violations of UN Security Council resolution 2231, which prohibits Iran’s provision of military UAVs to Russia without advance, case-by-case approval of the UN Security Council.”

“The United States will continue to use every tool at our disposal to disrupt and delay these transfers and impose costs on actors engaged in this activity,” he added.

The DIA report “Iranian UAVs in Ukraine: A Visual Comparison,” which the agency said contains current information as of Oct. 27, 2022, utilizes open-source images such as news agency photos of drones and components used by Russia against Ukraine. These are compared with recently declassified images of Iranian UAVs that have been used to attack U.S. and partner interests in the Middle East.

Drones included in the report are the Shahed-136 one-way attack UAV, renamed Geran-2 by the Russians; the Shahed-131 one-way attack UAV, renamed Geran-1 by the Russians; and the Mohajer-6 multirole UAV.

In 2021, the Liberian-flagged M/T MERCER STREET, operated by Zodiac Maritime Limited, was moving through international waters off the coast of Oman when it was attacked by two of the Shahed-136 “kamikaze” drones. The next day, another Shahed-136 attack killed the ship’s master, who was a Romanian citizen, and a UK-citizen security officer. U.S. Central Command’s report on the incident found that the “second attack required calculated and deliberate retargeting” to strike the ship.

“The use of Iranian designed and produced one way attack ‘kamikaze’ UAVs is a growing trend in the region. They are actively used by Iran and their proxies against coalition forces in the region, to include targets in Saudi Arabia and Iraq,” the CENTCOM report said. “…US Experts concluded, based on the vertical fin being identical to those identified on one of the Iranian designed and produced one-way attack ‘kamikaze’ UAV family, that Iran was actively involved in this attack.”

Noting that Iran also has shared the Shahed-136 system with Houthi rebels in Yemen (who have publicly displayed the drone), the DIA report concludes that “the images circulating in open press of UAVs in Ukraine clearly show the features of the Shahed-136’s delta-wing body and vertical stabilizers.”

In addition, “Shahed-136 (Geran-2) wing stabilizers recovered in Ukraine are consistent with the size, shape, and markings of the Shahed-136 wing stabilizers observed or recovered in the Middle East.” That includes a comparison to debris found on the M/T MERCER STREET.

“Shahed-136 (Geran-2) engines recovered in Ukraine appear to be Iranian produced MD-550 engines, the same engine model used in the Shahed-136,” the report continues. A photo of an engine found in Ukraine was compared to parts of a MADO 550 engine displayed at the Iranian National Aerospace Exhibition in October 2014.

Recovered components of the Shahed-131 attack drone in Ukraine and the Middle East “appear to be very similar; some components even fractured in the same manner after impact.”

On Oct. 27, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stood next to a Shahed-131 (Geran-1) kamikaze UAV that had been recovered in Ukraine. He said at the time that hundreds of Shaheds had been intercepted and shot down by Ukrainian forces, but some of the “metal monsters” that did reach their targets have killed and wounded civilians.

After denials that they were supplying the UAVs to Russia, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said in November that his country “provided Russia a small number of drones months before the Ukraine war.” That claim was rebuffed by U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley, who tweeted, “They transferred dozens just this summer and have military personnel in occupied Ukraine helping Russia use them against Ukrainian civilians.”

Malley responded to the DIA report by tweeting Wednesday, “The Iranian regime keeps denying it; the evidence keeps piling up; Iran’s drones are being used in the region and by Russia in its brutal war of aggression against Ukraine.”

DIA noted that the Mohajer 6 “has been displayed publicly in Iran and Iraq, and can be easily identified by its distinctive tail, as well as the attached surveillance equipment and guided munitions.”

“In October, Ukraine captured a mostly intact Mohajer 6 from the Black Sea, and it appears to be indistinguishable from the Mohajer 6 systems photographed in Iran and Iraq,” DIA concluded. “Components recovered from the wreckage display very similar markings to those observed in Iran.”

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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