August 23, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran Unveils New Combat Drone

August 23, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran Unveils New Combat Drone

Latest Developments

The regime in Iran unveiled a new drone on August 22, which it claims can fly higher and farther than other drones in its arsenal. According to Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency, the Mohajer-10 unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) can fly at speeds of 130 mph (210 kph) at up to 24,000 feet, carry a payload of 660 pounds (300 kilograms), and stay in the air for 24 hours. It can be equipped with electronic surveillance equipment, a camera, jamming equipment, and smart bombs.

Expert Analysis

“This new drone will increase Iran’s intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and strike capacity. We should expect this regime to use its finite resources to hone domestic oppression, build new weapons, and export terrorism, with the goal of conducting more attacks on U.S. forces as well as against America’s Arab, Israeli, and European allies and partners. The urgent need for a combined Middle East regional security architecture focused on air and missile defense is growing.” — Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power

“Whether reverse-engineered or a composite of illicitly procured foreign parts, Iran’s drones are a near omnipresent feature on the battlefields of the Middle East and increasingly beyond. But to treat all of Iran’s drones as ‘suicide’ or kamikaze drones would be to ignore the role that unmanned combat aerial vehicles, like the Mohajer class, offer Tehran. While the newest Mohajer’s range, speed, altitude, potential bomb array, and max cargo weight are yet to be independently verified, Tehran’s intent to improve its oldest drone class — which dates back to the Iran-Iraq War — should not be underestimated.” Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

Iranian Drone Program

The new drone bears a strong resemblance to America’s General Atomics MQ-9A Reaper drone, one of which killed Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, in 2020. While it is uncertain to what extent the Mohajer-10 copies the Reaper, Tehran has a history of capturing and reverse-engineering U.S. drones.

Iran’s unmanned aerial vehicle program manufactures multiple drone types. Iran first fielded the Mohajer line of drones in 1985. Unlike the better-known Shahed-series suicide drones that Iran has provided to Russia, the multipurpose Mohajer drones can return after completing their mission and be rearmed. Iran has provided Mohajer drones to Russia as well.

Threat to Israel

The Mohajer-10’s range would allow Iran to strike Israel from inside its territory instead of using proxies in Syria and Lebanon, which are vulnerable to Israeli airstrikes. A video introducing the new drone included the warning, “prepare your shelters,” apparently directed at Israel, written in Hebrew and Farsi.

Iran’s Priorities

The clerical regime has faced nearly a year of protests over human rights abuses, mistreatment of women, and economic decline. Rather than stabilizing its economy, Tehran prefers spending its finite resources on developing offensive drone capabilities. While the United States claims that Iran can only use the approximately $16 billion in unfrozen funds for humanitarian purchases, money is fungible, and the funds returned to the regime will allow it to continue developing its military capabilities to strike U.S. military personnel and America’s Middle East allies and to fund the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

Russia Plans to Locally Produce 6,000 Iranian Suicide Drones,” FDD Flash Brief

Iranian Shahed-136 Drones Increase Russian Strike Capacity and Lethality in Ukraine,” by John Hardie and Ryan Brobst


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