August 18, 2023 | Flash Brief

Russia Plans to Locally Produce 6,000 Iranian Suicide Drones

August 18, 2023 | Flash Brief

Russia Plans to Locally Produce 6,000 Iranian Suicide Drones

Latest Developments

A Washington Post investigation published on August 17 sheds new light on Russia’s efforts to expand its supply of Iranian suicide drones for use against Ukraine. The report details how, with extensive help from Tehran, a state-owned Russian company has launched a three-stage plan to localize production of Iran’s Shahed-136 drone, which Russia dubs the Geran-2.

“Tehran agreed to sell Moscow what is effectively a franchise, with Iranian specialists sharing project documentation, locally produced or reverse-engineered components, and know-how,” the report notes. The Russian company aims to deliver 6,000 drones by September 2025, far outstripping Iranian production capacity. Along the way, the Russians will improve the Geran-2 while increasingly substituting Iranian-supplied components with ones made or sourced by Russia, although the drones will continue to rely heavily on Western-made electronics. The Post concluded that “despite delays and a production process that is deeply reliant on foreign-produced electronic components, Moscow has made steady progress toward its goal.”

Expert Analysis

“With the Geran-2, capacity is the name of the game, and the new factory will expand Russia’s stocks. Although relatively easy to shoot down, these drones can overwhelm air defenses if launched in large numbers and can facilitate strikes by more expensive missiles. Perhaps most important, they deplete Ukraine’s stocks of air defense interceptors, potentially granting greater latitude to the Russian Air Force.” — John Hardie, Deputy Director of FDD’s Russia Program

“Russia’s localized production of Iran’s Shahed-class one-way attack drones can reduce bottlenecks when it comes to drone transportation and transfer. It can also limit the number of entities susceptible to sanctions. But it would be a mistake to see the decision to localize drone production as ending imports from Iran. If anything, diversification and redundancy in military planning are an asset, not a liability.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

Building on Other Recent Evidence of Russian Localization

The Post’s investigation provides context for other recent evidence indicating Russia has begun producing or assembling Geran-2 drones. As FDD’s Long War Journal reported, Geran-2s recently downed in Ukraine — including one used to attack Ukraine’s Izmail port — sported distinct markings and components not used by previous, Iranian-made drones. Independent researchers found further evidence that Russia has begun swapping out some Iranian-supplied components with Russian ones.

Among other things, Russia appears to have built its own airframe for the Geran-2. According to documents obtained by The Post, the Russians aimed to begin producing airframes in stage two of their production plan, scheduled to begin on April 1. In phase three, set to commence in January 2024, the plan calls for Russia to source most other components, too. The Alabuga company has reportedly faced production delays due to various challenges, including staffing shortfalls, which it has sought to remedy by deploying students from a local university. However, the Russians may be ahead of schedule in some areas. Notably, while the plan reportedly calls for the Alabuga factory to launch warhead production by late spring 2024, at least one of the Geran-2s recently used in Ukraine contained a more powerful, Russian-made warhead.

Has Russia Begun Producing Iranian-Designed Suicide Drones?” by John Hardie

More Evidence That Russia’s Making Iranian Drones,” by John Hardie

Iran Is Now at War With Ukraine,” by John Hardie and Behnam Ben Taleblu

Iran Aids Russia’s Imperialist War Against Ukraine,” by John Hardie


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Military and Political Power Russia Ukraine