April 24, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran Sends Russia Artillery Ammunition

April 24, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran Sends Russia Artillery Ammunition

Latest Developments

Iran has supplied Russian forces in Ukraine with over 300,000 artillery shells, along with a million rounds of other types of ammunition, over the last six months, The Wall Street Journal reported on April 24. A vessel owned by a U.S.-sanctioned Russian company continued to ferry Iranian ammunition to Russia as recently as March, according to Middle Eastern officials and shipping data cited by The Journal.

Expert Analysis

“Availability of artillery ammunition has been a key driver of battlefield outcomes throughout Russia’s full-scale war in Ukraine. By helping Moscow mitigate its ‘shell hunger,’ Iranian ammunition supplies enable Russia to use a higher rate of fire and prolong the war as it seeks to defeat Ukraine’s upcoming counteroffensive and eventually take more territory.” — John Hardie, Deputy Director of FDD’s Russia Program

“Just as Iranian drones helped preserve Putin’s long-range strike platforms like cruise and ballistic missiles, Iranian ammunition exports conserve Russian artillery stocks and keep Putin in the fight longer. Sales of ammunition and artillery shells represent the second major military transfer from Tehran to Moscow. As Iran’s conventional arms proliferation radius expands, Washington will need to crack down on this source of illicit revenue generation by Iran.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

Artillery Ammunition Is Vital to Russia’s War in Ukraine

Both the Russian and the Ukrainian armed forces rely heavily on artillery. During Moscow’s campaign in the Donbas last year, the Ukrainian military said Russia launched as many as 40,000-60,000 shells per day at its peak, while Western estimates put the number at around 20,000.

However, Russia and Ukraine both faces shortages of artillery ammunition, forcing them to conserve. The most recent estimates put Russia at roughly 10,000 to 15,000 artillery shells per day, while Ukraine is firing around 3,000 to 7,000. In March, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines predicted that if Moscow fails to secure “substantial third-party ammunition supplies,” Russian forces will increasingly struggle “to sustain the current level of offensive operations in the coming months.”

Moscow and Tehran’s Deepening Defense-Industrial Partnership

Iran’s ammunition shipments reflect a growing defense-industrial partnership between Moscow and Tehran. In addition to artillery shells, Russia has received roughly 1,000 Iranian-made suicide drones, a Ukrainian intelligence official said in March. Russia has used these drones primarily to target Ukrainian critical infrastructure, helping deplete Ukrainian stocks of air defense interceptor missiles in the process. Moscow, with Tehran’s support, is working to build a Russia-based factory to produce even more of the drones itself.

In return, Moscow has sent Tehran captured Western weapons for Iranian specialists to reverse engineer. Iran is also looking to procure advanced Russian military equipment, most notably Su-35 fighter jets. In an apparent sign the deal is moving forward, The Wall Street Journal reported on April 24 that an Iranian delegation had visited a fighter jet factory in Russia’s Far East, presumably referring to the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Plant, which manufactures the Su-35. The two sides have also allegedly mulled a Russian purchase of Iranian short-range ballistic missiles, although the deal does not yet seem to have materialized.

How Much Can Iranian Artillery Ammo Help Russia?” by John Hardie and Ryan Brobst

Further Evidence Emerges of Iran’s Support for Russia’s War in Ukraine,” FDD Flash Brief

Iran Agrees to Purchase Russian Fighter Jets,” FDD Flash Brief


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Military and Political Power Russia Ukraine